Retail marketers have their work cut out for them as we quickly approach a holiday shopping season that remains full of question marks. Advanced personalization that uses dynamic content and moment-of-open technology will be even more essential in this challenging year to bring value to email campaigns and help marketers keep up in an uncertain, constantly-changing retail environment.
It’s never too early to start planning, especially this year when marketers will pull every available lever to drive traffic, sales and revenue without relying on deep discounts or margin-eating incentives.
Research from the National Retail Federation shows nearly 1 in 4 consumers say they start shopping in October or earlier. This year, you need to get ahead of these early birds to serve their needs and wants and retool campaigns quickly if conditions change.
Need some help to get started on your strategic holiday plan? Find it in the Liveclicker 2020 Holiday Lookbook, packed full of tips and tactics for sending emails that will get your customers excited about shopping this holiday season.
U.S. retail sales, including holiday, will fall 14% in 2020, eMarketer predicts, while ecommerce should rise 18%, bolstered by shoppers who discovered the convenience of curbside/home delivery and in-store pickup.
No matter what happens, retailers are in a stronger position today than they were in the early weeks of the pandemic. They have learned how to survive shutdowns and manage around product shortages and day-to-day changes.
With the holidays looming, marketers can put that knowledge to work by using dynamic content and moment of open technology to create high-value email campaigns that roll with uncertainties and get customers excited about shopping again.
Different parts of the country will be at different stages of recovery this year, from full reopening to partial or total shutdown. Your email campaigns must reflect these variations, especially if your company relies on physical stores for sales and customer service.
One email, many variations: Save time, money and resources by replacing all of your regional email campaigns with a single email template that includes dynamic content modules. These let you blend standard content for all shoppers with content that’s right for different regions.
A map of your nearby locations can update automatically based on where your customers open the email. Copy can list regional store hours or shopping policies. No worries about sending customers to closed stores or posting inaccurate information!
Many consumers are adamant that they won’t join the usual holiday throngs this year. Show shoppers you care about their health and safety by offering click-and-collect or “buy online, pick up in store” services that let them shop but stay socially distant.
Create a fun animation or short video that walks new users through the steps so they understand how the process works and gives them confidence to use the service, like this example from Tractor Supply Company.
Then, add it to a special promotional campaign or to purchase-confirmation emails if they choose the service at checkout.
Remember to add location data and dynamic content to the mix! With these you can target the locations where you offer the service and swap in substitute content for emails opened in regions where you don’t offer it yet.
Whether your online shoppers choose regular delivery or click-and-collect from a local store, keep them updated (and off your customer-service lines) with shipping updates that track delivery dates and times.
Add this content to a dynamic module in your regular or triggered emails, or send a stand-alone email they can refer to whenever they want an update.
Your copy of the Liveclicker 2020 Holiday Lookbook is as close as a click. It’s free and filled with great tips to help you leverage the power of dynamic content and moment of open technology for more relevant and engaging email. Learn more about these cool tools, too:
Use these subscriber engagement tips keep customers supported and engaged.
Whether your own company is shut down for now, operating on low speed or beginning to contemplate a cautious return to ‘normal,’ email marketers face a lot of unknowns these days. We’re all hopeful for a quick recovery; but when that will happen, and what it looks like, remains uncertain.
Even with all the ambiguity about the future ahead, we know one thing for sure: Your customers want to hear from you!
A Twilio survey finds consumers are eager to get brand emails that explain what’s changing, what to expect and how the company is faring:
Your marketing plan likely has changed considerably since January. Traditional promotions-heavy campaigns are less viable now, whether due to logistical reasons (stores and locations are closed, supply chains are disrupted) or more due to the sensitivity of the situation (it just doesn’t feel right to Sell Sell Sell!’ right now).
But don’t scrap all your ideas yet. Instead, retool your campaigns with content to keep your customers in the loop on your operations. Show them how much you value them, and remind them about the support you have to offer.
This use of email is becoming extra-important now that some states are beginning to allow certain businesses and public spaces to reopen. You must be able to respond fast to changing situations.
The Twilio study found customers want to know how your company is taking care of them, your staff and your community. They’re looking for information, for reassurance and even for help and distraction. This six suggestions can help you stay connected until you can open your doors again
1. Keep customers up to date on what’s happening with your company
If you operate physical locations like stores, restaurants, entertainment and fitness centers and other public spaces, keep customers in the loop about openings, hours, special conditions and anything else customers need to know. Customers want to know this crucial information:
If you use dynamic content modules in your email templates, add this content there and update it in real time using moment-of-open technology that refreshes the content each time your customer opens the email.
One last thing: Customers want to know what your company has been doing to support workers and to your local communities. Share what your company has done or what you’re doing now, and be specific about what you’re doing and the organizations your company supports. We love this powerful, authentic message from Everlane featuring a program to support Feeding America.
2. Ask people what’s on their minds
What do they miss most about visiting your locations or shopping in your stores? What’s their favorite stay-at-home activity now? What do they look forward to doing first once you’re back in business?
Add a live polling function to your emails to let people vote in the email and then see immediate results. This lets people express what they’re thinking and also gives you a fresh source of customer feedback. Or send subscribers to an interactive quiz to get in on the fun.
3. Use video to create virtual events
Add video content from influencers or company experts for demonstrations and DIY uses of your products. Fogo de Chao, which is selling home meal kits based on its menu, includes a video of one of its chefs demonstrating how to prepare one of the items on its special menu. It’s a smart move because it will help customers get more satisfaction from preparing the meals.
Or, shoot video footage of daily life while your business doors are closed and cut them into four or five videos. Show what your employees are up to behind the scenes, or what you’re doing to keep everyone safe and healthy. Embed one in each of your next email campaigns. At the end, use a poll to let customers vote for their favorite video.
Important: Use a video service that operates on moment-of-open technology to determine whether to play the video in the email or serve a screenshot with a link to view it online based on the reader’s browser.
4. Send personalized content based on loyalty programs and engagement
Recap their past year of activity with your brand with a personalized chart showing visits to your physical locations, purchases, total spent, membership tier in your loyalty program, how close they are to the next tier and the benefits they’ll gain.
Then, send an offer that’s personalized to their engagement levels for something they could buy now and use later, along with a default offer for members for whom you have no purchase or loyalty data.
5. Freshen up emails with social media feeds
Social media is a great way to keep your audience informed with your brand’s latest official updates and up-to-the-minute policy changes It’s also a phenomenal source of fresh content.
Keep your emails updated with the latest news, as well as new material from your social media team or user-generated content, with a live feed embedded in your campaigns. We love how Drizly uses social content here to build a sense of community and “in-this-togetherness” for customers adapting to the work from home lifestyle:
You can extend that capability to the auditory senses, too. Design a music playlist for your brand (or ask your customers for requests!) and embed it right in your emails so your subscribers can see what tracks you’re recommending.
6. Start the clock ticking
Got a firm reopening date? Or maybe another big event planned; like a huge sale at your ecommerce store, a digital concert, even a cooking class? Send an add-to-calendar invitation that people can use to add your event to their digital calendars.
As you get closer, add a countdown timer to your regular emails showing the time remaining until your doors open again. If appropriate and safe to do so, add a live map showing the nearest open location based on where your subscribers are when they open your emails. This will be essential if you are doing a rolling open, or if you have last-minute changes.
Keep track of all the responses to your new initiatives, from open and click rates to unsubscribes and spam complaints. We’re all learning about what works and what doesn’t.
Everything you do now to understand and connect with your customers can improve your email marketing down the road when you’re ready to start promoting again. Who knows – your email program could end up stronger than ever!
Enterprise retailers with major investments in brick-and-mortar locations are on the front lines of change in today’s economy.
In a time of dramatic disruption, many are turning to their digital operations to help them keep revenue flowing and the light at the end of the tunnel as bright as possible. Locations that remain open have their own set of challenges: balancing store traffic with managing employee and customer health and safety, and dealing with supply-chain disruptions.
As a marketer, you’re probably fielding many questions about how to make your digital channels even more effective and working overtime trying to find ways to increase your company’s bottom line while maintaining an excellent customer experience with your brand.
One answer – maybe not surprisingly – is email. The reliable workhorse that consumers prefer over other digital channels for brand communications in good times is emerging as the go-to connector in turbulent times for shoppers whose favorite stores are closed for the duration.
Updated data from BounceX show email open and conversion rates soared by early April this year – open rates were up 25% and conversions topped 40%.
However, business-as-usual emails won’t help retailers make up the revenue gap or connect with unsettled or stressed customers.
Advanced personalization and real-time communications will help you solve problems now and set the stage for even better performance after the lights come on and doors open later, as you can see with these five email marketing tactics for retailers:
1. Press “send” confidently even as conditions change. One of the biggest challenges retailers face in this uncertain economy is how quickly things change, whether it’s a product that suddenly goes out of stock, locations that open or close, or offers and messages that become outdated or inappropriate in a new context.
That means the email you send in the morning could well be out of date by the time your customer reads it even just a few hours later. It’s enough to make any email marketer anxious when it comes time to deploy their campaigns.
Gain the gift of the “take-back” with modules of editable email content you can change even after you send your campaign, using technology that lets you switch in up-to-date content based on when or where your recipient opens your email. You’ll send with confidence, knowing your audience is getting the right information whenever they open.
2. Offer real-time product recommendations: Products can fly off the shelves fast in turbulent times, and supply-chain uncertainty means shipments might not come in as regularly as before. This creates a bad customer experience even in good times. In bad times, it can quickly turn customers against your brand and even drive them to your competition.
Using real-time recommendations based on inventory levels will help you avoid promoting unavailable products online or in-store. Your messages can use adaptive product recommendations that change based on real-time inventory data.
3. Engage your loyalty-program members. Keep your VIPs and other high-value customers warmed up and ready to convert with personalized messages that build on their purchase or membership history or reveal their tier status and the benefits they’ll get when they move to a higher level. Give them advance notice of store specials or changes in hours or locations, and let them be the first to know when your doors will be open again.
4. Update triggered and transactional emails. Add value for the customers who do buy from you by including personalized recommendations, product advice or coupons based on browse or purchase history, predictive or “next logical product” models. If they’ve made an order online, include a real-time shipping tracker so they can keep an eye on their package as it’s being prepared and sent (bonus points: this can also relieve stress on your customer service center from customers calling in to ask where their order is!).
You might do this already for order-confirmation or cart abandonment emails, but look at the possibilities for including personalized or “moment of open” content in welcome emails or account-registration emails to accommodate any influx of new customers finding you online when they can’t access their preferred brands.
5. Add “tap to text” to expand email reach. Although homebound workers and students on desktops are driving up email open, click and conversion rates, their phones keep them connected to family and friends. “Tap to text” lets you reach these customers quickly with late-breaking news, updates and offers. An in-email call to action automatically populates a text when viewed on mobile or provides easy instructions to customers checking their email on desktops or other devices.
Advanced personalization and real-time messaging will help you stay connected with your customers now as we all weather the storm together. But once the world begins to recover, your email program will emerge even stronger, positioned to respond to and even anticipate your customers’ needs and wants and making your messages even more valuable to your customers.
Get even more actionable advice and tips for accelerating your retail recovery in this ebook made just for retail marketers helping their brands recover from the global crisis. Download Personalizing Your Customer Journey As Retail Returns today!
One of the most amazing pivots we’ve seen in recent weeks has been the lightning-speed turnaround in how people approach getting their food. Whether it’s from a box of groceries on the front porch or a bag from a local restaurant’s pick-up window, behavior is shifting quickly – and marketers need to adapt to keep up.
This rapid change means companies – especially those doing the crucial work of providing groceries – must scale up their customer communications at the same warp speed to keep their audience informed and supported.
Online grocery services have experienced rapid growth recently. Internet Retailer’s RetailX consumer confidence index found on March 11 that 14.2% of UK shoppers were buying more groceries online.
By March 25, that percentage had jumped to 25.8%, and shoppers using services like Waitrose and Ocado found themselves in virtual queues behind thousands of other shoppers as delivery times filled up.
Similar problems have cropped up in the United States for online grocers and delivery services facing surges in demand. An Axios survey found 41% of consumers report shopping more for groceries online. Brands find themselves balancing the difficult pressures of providing essential services while scaling up capacity in a manner that keeps their customers and employees safe.
This scramble to reinvent logistics services in order to keep customers stocked with their essentials doesn’t stop at the warehouse door. More than ever, companies need to communicate effectively with their customers as demand spikes or conditions change daily or even hourly.
Successful brands use communications strategies and technologies that they can scale up quickly, using sophisticated tactics like:
Cut the workload, increase personalization (essential for location-heavy services like groceries and takeout) and build loyalty with these email marketing strategies for online grocery businesses that make it easier to put your customers’ needs and concerns first:
1. Real-time product recommendations: High-demand products can fly off shelves in minutes. Using live inventory data lets you swap an out-of-stock item with an in-stock replacement on the fly (who expected yeast to sell out?) even after you send your email.
Real-time inventory integration updates message content based on when your customers open your messages. So, your email stays as fresh as today’s baked bread and reduces frustration for online and in-store customers alike.
2. Live delivery tracking: Here’s another great way that email can reduce uncertainty. Just by looking at the real-time tracker in their email messages, your customers can tell when their orders are being prepared, in transit or delivered. This is a great way to reduce strain on your call center and support team from customers wondering where their orders are.
3. One template, many versions: A campaign that resonates in a big city on lockdown might not apply to a rural community where shoppers may have different circumstances.
Use adaptive images, localization data and dynamic content to create nearly endless versions of a single message template with minimal effort. Instead of creating dozens of messages, you just add modules that change according to your automation rules.
Because the content changes based on where customers open your messages, you don’t have to worry about targeting segments with the wrong content.
4. Embed a social feed: As fast and flexible as email is, sometimes it’s easier to get the word out on crucial updates and changes by posting on your social media. These days, many people turn to social channels first to engage with brands for updates and questions.
When you embed a live feed of your social channels in your emails, you’ll make sure your customers always see the latest info. A properly embedded feed refreshes the moment your customer opens the message. So, you’ll know your emails will always feature the most up-to-date information, even after you send them.
No one knows how long the current emergency will last or how we will recover. Focusing your email program now to put your customers and their concerns first, shows them you stand by your commitment to them and gives them even more reason to trust your brand and products when the storm has passed. Get more insights and inspiring examples in this ebook for grocery marketers: Digital In Fast Forward: Email Personalization Best Practices for Grocery Retailers.
What is open-time personalization?
Open-time personalization tailors email messages at the moment of open in microseconds by utilizing local, on-the-ground conditions around location, device, weather and time. This technology brings a new level of relevance to email that behavioral and demographic data hasn’t accounted for.
Why add open-time personalization to email?
Three reasons: Generate more revenue, retain current customers, and position for future customer growth and acquisition.
Intro to time-based targeting
There’s no denying that we live in a highly digital world where we expect companies to anticipate our immediate needs. Simply put, marketers cannot expect to interact with their customers in real time without this very basic data point: time.
64% of consumers expect companies to respond and interact with them in real time – eConsultancy
If you’re just getting started with time-based targeting, the good news is that historical data is not needed to launch a successful email campaign. Take Black Friday and Cyber Monday, for instance, the busiest weekend for retailers who have planned a sequence of marketing promotions months in advance. The trend is to launch sales even earlier than the sale holiday, sometimes launching Cyber Monday promotions immediately following Black Friday. With time-based targeting, you can add both promotions to a single campaign and anticipate late openers. When time and time zone are detected at the moment of open, the relevant promotional offer is served. This is vitally important – and reduces a lot of complexity – especially for worldwide retailers who make frequent sale changes across the time zone spectrum.
Intro to geo-targeting
Geo-targeting is the use of IP detection to determine a subscriber’s location. Again, using geo-targeting methods does not require any historical data, as location is identified at the moment of open. One of the many reasons geo-targeting has become such a powerful messaging tool is that the use cases span every industry. Here are a few examples:
Technical limitations: What you need to know
Many email clients allow for open-time email personalization, but Google delivers all image data in its web client using a proxy, obscuring where the customer’s true location is. However, with new proprietary geo-targeting technology, Liveclicker is able to track past locations for each opener and predict where the most likely location of a subscriber is, when opened in Gmail. As this technology continues to improve and becomes more widely distributed, this limitation will become non-existent.
It wasn’t that long ago when marketers lived in an exclusively analog world, working months in advance to create direct mail content. This involved numerous groups and resources, an extensive project timeline, and a “hope and pray” approach to demographic targeting. As we became more digital, the opportunity to compress that cycle became more democratized, and messaging became more relevant and personalized. Yet, there are still limitations with current segmentation strategies: pulling from cumbersome databases or collecting and storing datasets without the appropriate infrastructure inhibit effective audience management. As a result, marketers are spending more time and resources to improve audience management.
“60% of B2B marketers say they’ve been more focused on improving audience segmentation and personas over the past 18 months.” – Salesforce
Now, with the ability to use open-time data in email marketing, brands can move beyond traditional segmentation strategies, utilizing technological applications that identify key data touchpoints and execute relevant messaging in real time. Additionally, open-time data is massively scalable and can be can be exported back to your CRM or ESP, composing a holistic digital body language profile for each subscriber. This is the era of hyper-personalization and the possibilities are endless.