Back in 1895, Italian philosopher and economist Vilfredo Pareto noted that 20% of Italy’s population controlled 80% of its wealth. That ratio lives on today in business; the overwhelming majority of a brand’s sales come from their top customers. One way retailers can cement that loyalty is with post-purchase emails.

Reaching out to consumers at the point of purchase offers a powerful opportunity to make a mark. Still, many retailers miss it. Research from Support.com found that 40% of consumers believe post-purchase experiences are the most memorable aspect of the overall brand experience.

Given this consumer state of mind, a purchase is not just a purchase. It’s also an opportune moment for a trigger that helps brands increase revenue from email. Post-purchase, the brand knows something new about the customer, and should incorporate that information into their subsequent messaging strategy. Here are five tactics:

Recommend products in the first post-purchase emails

The first post-purchase emails generally arrive within minutes of a sale: order confirmations. There are also shipping updates and confirmations, as well as messaging around in-store pick-up and returns. Confirmation emails generally have far higher open rates than the average marketing email so why not capitalize on this valuable real estate with personalized product recommendations? By the time someone has made a purchase, you have an idea of what they like… and what would complement that first purchase. With advanced personalization, you can do even more with post-purchase emails, recommending products based on the customer’s local weather.

Boost engagement

Start with a thank you. Make someone feel even better about their purchase and they may be more inclined to engage further. That could mean leaving a review, downloading your app or joining your loyalty program. Once someone is a member, there are ample opportunities for personalized messaging. With moment-of-open technology, Ulta ensures that Ultamate Rewards members receive the most accurate, up-to-date loyalty information when they open the emails.

Increase incentives over time

Ten days after a sale, for example, an email could contain a personalized product recommendation that complements the item previously purchased. A month after a sale, the customer could be offered a discount. And then on day 45, he or she could be offered a more substantial discount — but only if the purchase is completed that day.

Add real-time data to post-purchase emails

Data feeds provide endless opportunity to personalize post-purchase emails. Connect email with your social media channels to feature user-generated content, giving the customer inspiration for their next purchase. You can also include live maps, which include helpful information about the customer’s nearest store such as hours and location. People frequently return online purchases in brick-and-mortar stores, so this little bit of personalization can go a long way.

Look ahead

Post-purchase messages are inherently reactive — but they don’t have to be. With predictive technology, marketers can look beyond what a customer did and tap into what they’re likely to do. Predictive technology identifies the likelihood that someone will make a purchase, including when and how much. Recommend products accordingly.

Amazon is the world’s largest retailer with a customer base that includes just about everyone. That brand loyalty, which has its own Black Friday-caliber sale each year, is massive but not so unusual in theory. Brands’ loyalty program members generate 12 to 18% more revenue per year than non-members. Of course they do. Loyal customers are the best customers with the strongest retention rates.

For the best way to reach them, look no further than email. According to iVend, 62.9% of consumers prefer to receive communications from brands via email. That makes email the perfect channel to enhance loyalty programs and nurture membership. Here are four tips:

1. Include your loyalty program in the welcome series

If someone signs up for your email list, they’re telling you that they want to hear from you. Naturally, welcome emails have sky-high open rates relative to other marketing messages. Your welcome stream is a perfect place to highlight your values and what sets your brand apart. The same applies to your loyalty program. Strike while the iron is hot and make sure your new customers know about any loyalty program perks such as free shipping and early access to new products.

2. Actually, include it everywhere

Welcome emails are a great place to highlight your loyalty program. So are… every other kind of email, even if it’s just a brief mention at the bottom of your template. If someone doesn’t know about it, they can’t participate. Make sure the customer’s status and points balance are on display on the order confirmation emails. When following up post-purchase, leverage the loyalty program perks to nurture the next sale.

3. Leverage loyalty program data to personalize

Loyalty members provide a lot of valuable data. You can see whether someone prefers in-store or online shopping and what kind of promotions appeal to them, in addition to their purchase history. Use all that data to personalize, creating the best possible experience for your most valuable customers. Loyalty programs can also fuel proactive triggered emails, reminding customers that they have rewards balances or access to special sales, or sharing recaps

4. Enhance the in-store experience

The “in-store experience” looks vastly different in 2020, which impacts brand loyalty. Surveying 5,000 consumers in September, Liveclicker and Sailthru found that 78% consider it at least somewhat important that brands have a strategy in place for social distancing and staying within CDC’s recommended guidelines. By communicating about curbside pickup options, and incentivizing customers to use them, you have the opportunity to let loyalists know that you’re taking their safety seriously.

Gone are the days of people finding personalization intrusive and creepy. Today’s consumers appreciate — and even expect — personalization. Of more than 2,000 consumers surveyed by Formation.ai, 79% agreed that the more personalization tactics a brand uses, the more loyal they are to that brand. Today’s technology allows marketers to take it even further with deep personalization.

We all have our own individual preferences and patterns. Deep personalization allows for consumer experiences to acknowledge and benefit from that, ensuring they constantly improve over time as companies learn more about individuals. That happens through a combination of people’s complete history with a brand and any contextual clues from a specific moment.

For example, if I’m in the market for a new winter coat, a brand using deep personalization could predict this based on my website browsing behaviors. Real-time insights available can help brands drive deep personalization, informing marketing messages in the future. In addition to sending browse abandonment messages for winter coats — ideally the one I am predicted to purchase — that item can be featured in regular campaign emails, brought to the front of the mobile app and mobile messaging.

Adjusting to Deep Personalization

Consumers are increasingly aware of the data they provide to brands. While they don’t understand every process their data goes through, they do expect to exchange it for relevance. Keeping pace with consumer demands requires an investment in deep personalization.

Deep personalization is a transformation. Brands need to break down silos between marketing, sales, customer service, merchandising, and other channels to create a single experience. It can happen in bits and pieces, but ultimately, it requires full dedication to data-driven, AI-driven marketing.

Deep personalization requires data and content, and the tools to operationalize both of them within and across channels. Brands need to invest in consolidated consumer profiles, make consumer data easy to access across marketing and sales channels, and upgrade to advanced personalization. This is already happening in many industries with the increase of in-house data warehouses, data lakes, data science teams, and more. Companies are also increasingly seeking solutions that connect to these owned data assets in near real-time so that partner technologies are as much a part of this internal ecosystem as possible.

Where Does Deep Personalization Work Best?

Think about your entire customer journey. Deep personalization is best-suited for all of it as it enhances any experience driven by data.

Acquisition touchpoints can be personalized using data from your retained customer base and pre-acquisition engagements with your brand. You can personalize first conversion engagements based on acquisition source, collaborative algorithms, and more. Retention and loyalty engagements can be personalized using the data you have collected from the lifetime of engagement with the individual consumer.

When deploying deep personalization, there are four big things to consider:

Retailers have traditionally relied on the RFM model, segmenting customers by the recency, frequency and monetary values of their purchases. Sometimes they also bucket people by the categories they typically shop, whether someone is a dress buyer or more of a fashion buyer, for instance. Rarely do retailers segment by how a customer shops, which increasingly includes click and collect: curbside pickup and buying online, picking up in-store, otherwise known as BOPIS.

Click and collect, BOPIS and curbside pickup have been steadily growing in popularity for years, accounting for more sales every holiday season. Adoption was naturally accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, which all but decimated brick-and-mortar foot traffic in many parts of the U.S. A survey by market research firm Ipsos found that consumers are using BOPIS and curbside pickup 78% more than they were pre-pandemic.

While click and collect is important — especially as you think about retaining those holiday shoppers — it’s a mistake to think of these shopping behaviors as simply being another channel. Click and collect isn’t a channel; the customer is the channel. There are different personas to keep in mind and along with our sister brand Sailthru, we’ve identified four particularly important ones:

These four personas represent unique customers who should be engaged differently. Though some messaging tactics warrant more emphasis with some personas than others, some apply to any click and collect shopper. Communications should always be clear, timely and accurate before, during and after the pickup experience. Personalization is also always important as strong click and collect messaging enhances the personalized customer experience, giving people a say in how they receive their purchases. This is also where advanced personalization really shines. Moment-of-open technology ensures customers see the most up-to-date information when they open a message — not when the retailer sent it.

Understanding the nuances is challenging, but a worthwhile endeavor. Consumer behaviors have evolved in response to the pandemic, and many of the brands having strong years — Target, Best Buy and The Home Depot, to name a few — owe much of their growth to strong click and collect experiences.

Optimizing yours is a must, and along with our sister brand Sailthru, Liveclicker is here to help you do it. Download The 4 Curbside Customers to Know in 2021 to learn more about the four click and collect personas, and the different messaging tactics that work best for each, featuring examples of the brands doing it best.

Since nothing about 2020 has been normal, we expect to see atypical holiday shopping patterns. With a significant decline in foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores, Deloitte projects ecommerce sales to surge by 25 to 30%. As retailers rely on email during the holiday season, deliverability is more important than ever because the ISPs become more strict with filtering as senders change their audience, list size and cadence.

We have some guidance on how you can mitigate the risk of a deliverability issue with all of those factors in play.

Sender Reputation Is Key

With this influx in send volume, ISPs must make adjustments to how they accept and deliver mail. All senders are competing for more limited inbox placement, so ensuring your sender reputation is, and remains, healthy is critical.

Metrics that ISPs look at when scoring your sender reputation include:

What to Monitor to Avoid Deliverability Issues

Open rates should be consistent across the top ISPs. If one is significantly lower than the rest, you may have an inboxing issue at that top domain. Are soft bounce rates higher than usual across any major ISPs? That may mean they’re blocking your mail due to abusive metrics or poor sender reputation.

Specifically within Gmail, you can use the Postmaster Tools. If your IP and/or domain reputation dips below medium to low or bad, that is usually indicative of a sender reputation issue at Gmail, resulting in mail being filtered to the spam folder.

Other metrics to monitor to ensure you’re not at risk for deliverability issues include:

Most holiday strategies involve sending to less engaged users or users at a more regular cadence, which often results in hard bounce and complaint spikes, and decreases in user engagement. If these metrics are atypical, it’s important to ensure your delivery and inboxing aren’t impacted.

Helpful Recommendations

With holiday deliverability nuances, we have some recommendations to keep in mind during the season.

  1. Don’t introduce any new lists to your ESP.
  2. Avoid mailing older lists you have not consistently mailed.
  3. Do not fully remove suppression lists. If you want to begin sending to lesser engaged users, slowly begin well before the holiday season starts. That way, issues can be mitigated before Black Friday.
  4. Be cautious of new acquisition sources. Test them prior to the holiday season and ensure they don’t result in hard bounces and complaints.
  5. Edit your signup and opt-out pages carefully.
  6. Be careful changing your sending cadence. ISPs will penalize you for an inconsistent spike in send volume, so increases in cadence should happen slowly. Provide preferences to allow users to opt down from increased marketing.
  7. Do not change your sending domain.

Download Delivering Results to the Inbox, our sister brand Sailthru’s ultimate deliverability playbook, to learn more about all the essentials, including the complex path messages take en route to the inbox, how deliverability drives revenue, the importance of sender reputation and more.

If you think your customers don’t care about getting personalized emails from your brand, better think again. The proof is right there in the numbers, this time in a new report from Formation:

These consumers aren’t talking about the basic tactics for personalized emails like mail-merging their first names into the subject line or greeting or varying content by gender. As the study notes, “75% of consumers said the marketing emails they open frequently contain segmentation, indicating these are now table stakes.”  

That’s a solid conclusion, which concurs with findings Liveclicker reported in 2019 from a study by The Relevancy Group.

The business case for 1:1 personalized emails

That study, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, revealed the business case for advanced personalization: Every $1 you spend on advanced personalization returns at least $20 of additional revenue that’s over and above email’s already amazing ROI of $44.

But, just as basic personalization doesn’t move the needle for consumers, it won’t generate that eye-popping ROI, either. What does? The advanced personalization that shows customers you know who they are as individuals, not just records in your database.

1:1 personalized emails that are cool, not creepy

The Formation study, which studies factors that affect customer loyalty, includes a key data point not often found in personalization studies: 

Personalization tactics that increase engagement and loyalty, such as personalized emails, web sessions and location-based mobile messaging, can also turn customers off.

How you use that personalization can make or break your campaign. Meaningful personalization will increase loyalty, but failures (the dreaded “hello first-name” error, wrong locations, segments or buying/browsing history) can make customers distrust your messages and transfer those ill feelings to your brand.

The solution: Let strategy guide your choices

Personalization succeeds when it creates messages that help your customers shop more successfully, or with fewer frustrations. Start by identifying the pain points you want to address, and then look for ways you can combine real-time moment of open technology with behavior and inventory data that can help take the pain away.

Although there are dozens of ways to use this data for meaningful personalized email, the three suggestions below are all tactics you can test now to see how which can help you achieve better results in the hectic holiday months to come:

1. Real-time shipping progress: Holiday ecommerce will be bigger than ever this year, but if shippers face capacity shortages, that means packages could get delayed unexpectedly. Real-time shipping updates keep your customers in the loop and off the phone to your call centers, wondering where their goodies are.  

2. Live offer and inventory updates: Clicking on an offer in an email and then finding the promotion expired or the product is sold out isn’t just frustrating for customers – it can actually drive them to your competition, looking for a similar deal. Using time of open allows you to swap in a comparable item or substitute a new promotion for an expired one.

3. Local weather: Whether you’re able to start promoting outdoor events, you can help attendees decide whether to attend by letting them know what kind of weather to expect, using both time-of-open and location data. This data can also help you choose appropriate images or product assortments, such as promoting flannel PJs for customers in wintry climates and lighter-weight sleepwear for warmer locations.

Wrapping up

Using data creatively – but appropriately – is your key to the kinds of 1:1 personalization that customers crave and which makes them feel as if you know them without worrying that you’re looking over their shoulders constantly. Testing different levels and uses of personalization now can help you create more effective campaigns, whether you need them for day-to-day marketing or the all-important holiday months.

Email is like a digital Swiss Army knife. Sure, the actual tool has what you expect: knives that stay sharp for years. But the add-on tools, like a bottle opener, screwdriver and tweezers, help you survive everything from a battlefield to a picnic. (Thanks, corkscrew!) Email also does just what you expect: It sends important messages to your subscribers and customers. When you plug in an amazing collection of tools, you extend email’s utility and reach way beyond the inbox, creating cross-channel experiences and bringing scattered audiences together. 

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Below are six ways email can add power, connection, utility, discovery, information and value. These cross-channel experiences giving recipients more reasons to open (and reopen) your emails and buy from you instead of a competitor.

1. Add the people’s voice 

Bring in fresh content and outside voices from your social channels to give your emails added impact and inject the human touch that makes a standard campaign email more like a conversation than a sales pitch.

Besides boosting your email messages, your social channels get exposed to a new audience and the repurposed content gets a second life in email. Win-win for everybody.

2. Offer event reminders

Everybody needs a little nudge, whether it’s to show up at a major real-world game, concert or store opening or to head online to a virtual event. You can’t rely on your customers to keep opening your email to find out when and where they have to be.

An add-to-calendar function is perfect for cross-channel experiences. With just a tap or click, your customers can add your event to their calendar apps. Then, just before “go” time, they’ll get a calendar or email reminder about your event. Smooth!

3. Tap to text

People used to say that SMS and text would kill email. Turns out they link up beautifully on messages that are more effective delivered via text. A tap-to-text function lets customers reading your email on a mobile device tap a link, which automatically populates a text message with offers or other content.

Your desk-bound customers aren’t left out, either. A tap-to-text function should include device detection, which can deliver a message with instructions for joining the text program to readers on desktop or laptop browsers.

4. Create audio experiences

Email delivers more brand-building value when it can keep recipients in the message as long as possible while also giving them something to do while they’re there. Create a custom branded Spotify music playlist to promote an event and embed the live feed in your email. 

Bonus: Allow your subscribers to share your playlist with friends to gain viral exposure to untapped audiences.

5. Ask for opinions

Everybody has one (or many). Knowing what’s on your customers’ minds these days can help you tap into the zeitgeist and shape your content and message focus. You can do this two ways:

6. Show a video

It worked for your exhausted high-school teachers, and it works in today’s red-hot video climate. Adding video to email raises response and conversion rates, and new technology and email standards mean more subscribers will be able to see the video instead of a static image.

Retailers, see what you can do

Download our retail playbook for step-by-step suggestions on how you can deliver hyper-relevance, capitalize on the multichannel experience and then surprise and delight your subscribers and customers with cross-channel experiences that bring them back to your message again and again. 

A lot of marketers would categorize email as the cozy sweater to social media’s black dress. While not as sexy as some newer channels, for years, email has taken the top spot in marketing ROI, and in a 2019 Econsultancy survey, respondents still picked email as the most effective marketing channel, with social media ranking only fifth.

But, why compare email and social media when they actually work better combined? Social media content, in particular, is a great resource for spicing up email, especially now, when marketers are looking for fresh content to use in their online communications. With a treasure trove of fan photos, reviews, and video clips, social media can help subscribers get inspired, connect to other fans, and engage in new channels.

Authentic Social Content When Marketers Need it Most

In the early days of the pandemic, many advertisers quickly put together serious (often too serious) campaigns pledging their solidarity with their customers. Memes were shared widely that mashed up these stock-photo-heavy commercials featuring empty beaches, empty streets, nurses, doctors and family embracing. These relatively generic messages didn’t resonate nearly as well as ads that were pulled together from real user content on social media. Oreo in particular was smart about encouraging people to post their videos, which they quickly turned into a commercial.

It doesn’t need to be a prime time commercial to highlight social media content, brands can use social content in good email campaigns to resonate with customers just as effectively. Social content breaks through the stagnant feelings people have of the generic imagery they’ve been seeing lately. And with so many companies limited from shooting new content by social distancing, it can be the catalyst to variety and creativity.

‘Wichcraft, the high-end sandwich chain, features social posts of customers eating their food outside in their “simplest of pleasures” email campaign that encourages some fresh air time at lunch. BistroMD pulls in their real-time Instagram social feed featuring healthy meals customers receive as part of their plan, as well as success stories and a variety of nutrition topics.

New Ideas For Old Fans

It might feel safe to simply reuse old images or pull from a stock photo library, but it’s actually a bigger risk than incorporating UGC. The IAB notes that numerous studies indicate that authenticity is key for people to trust brands and that UGC is among the top-rated content online. Right now, many consumers are changing their shopping habits, and loyalty is at risk. Jumping ahead of the pack and embracing a chance to connect authentically with UGC is a good way to keep old customers engaged and to inspire new customers to keep coming back.

Don’t leave all the best images on Pinterest – pull them into an email template for immediate engagement. Create an evergreen element to your newsletter that highlights recent five-star reviews, or images from Instagram with more than 100 likes.

Furniture retailers Made.com created a campaign in April called “Stay Grounded,” which included an Instagram-based hub of photos from customers’ own homes. The imagery is the perfect mix of inspiration and authenticity and fits nicely into a newsletter campaign that encourages subscribers to vote on their favorite images. TrustedHousesitters features real-time Instagram photos in their conversion emails to engage with potential members, particularly Housesitters. Potential customers are typically drawn to the inspirational pictures of pets and homes within email campaigns, alongside educational messaging about house sitting and TrustedHousesitters as a whole.

More Feel-Good Engagement

Part of the value of authentic content is that it can lift people’s spirits during a stressful time. From weight loss clinics featuring real-life success stories to a roundup of funny pet videos, authentic content can make people feel good when marketers are unsure what exactly they can say directly without sounding out of touch.

Some brands are creating their own events to get their customers engaged. Taubman Centers brings fun to the inbox with Spotify playlists. GrubHub is offering discounts to people that sign up for virtual concerts on their own YouTube channel, promoting the event in email newsletters. The best clips can be used in email as playback to get people to check out what they might have missed.

With a record number of people online, doing a record number of things online, UGC and social media in general, has become an even bigger source of information, communication and entertainment for people. Brands should make sure to spread the love. There’s no reason for social media to be separated from the traditional creative-driven channels like brand advertising and email. The two, when put together well, can enhance authenticity and drive customer loyalty.

This article originally appeared on Advertising Week 360.

As an email marketer, you want your messages to show up when subscribers will see them first – at the top of the inbox instead of buried under a mountain of competing messages. Figuring out when to send emails so subscribers will see them is a starting point for email optimization. But if you stop there, you’ll miss a huge opportunity to use this data for greater segmentation and personalization. 

That’s what will make your email break through cluttered inboxes and attract attention and engagement.

Aren’t send time and open time the same?

Not quite. Send-time data uses message opens as a proxy for checking email and suggests general sending times when subscribers are most likely to see them. But this method could mislead you into basing important decisions on faulty data:

If the subscriber doesn’t enable images, the email won’t send the ping, and the open won’t get recorded. You could end up missing a big chunk of data if a sizable number of subscribers seldom or never enable images.

That’s why you need to factor in “moment of open” data. It detects and reports opens based on proprietary elements within the email that get activated when a subscriber opens the message. 

How open-time data can optimize for accuracy and engagement

Send time tells you when someone opens your email. (See the note above about inaccuracy and under-reporting). Open-time data, integrated with dynamic content, opens the door to deeper segmentation and personalization that can drive the results you want – more clicks that lead to purchases, registrations or whatever action your email should deliver.

You can use open-time data in many ways to drive greater insight and engagement, but these three use cases illustrate how it works:

1. Make email personalization more personal and urgency more urgent.

Adding a first name to the subject line or message copy barely moves the needle these days for engagement. What does? A dynamic content module that changes time-of-day greetings (from “Good morning, Jacinta” for someone who opens an email at 9 a.m. to “Good evening, Jacinta” at 9 p.m.) 

Open-time data also helps you get customers moving by using temporal terms (“today,” “tonight,” “tomorrow”) instead of expiration dates, which can be more abstract in the imagination.

2. Test to find the highest engagement time. 

Many people check their email first thing in the morning, even before they stumble out of bed. But is that when they’re buying?

Suppose you send a juicy upgrade offer for a mobile phone service. People might see and open your email at 9 a.m. but not be prepared to act on it.

If you set up sending times using open-time data, you might learn your email gets more traction when your recipients are on their lunch hours or in the early evening, when they have time to consider it seriously.  

3. Keep customers updated on key developments.

This can be a game-changer this holiday season, especially if expert predictions come true about a surge in online ordering, home delivery or curbside/in-store pickup. 

Suppose you send a shipping notice at 3 a.m., based on STO, and your customer opens it at 2 p.m. In the intervening team, the package got delayed at noon. That 3 a.m. email is out of date, but your customer won’t know it based on your email.

Using open-time info, the customer who opens the email at 2 p.m. will see the updated content showing the revised delivery date. 

Making this data work for you

We’re making it easier and more effective to access and tap into this data for your email campaigns and journeys with our new tool, Insights. Want to learn more? Request a personalized demo!

According to a 2019 Econsultancy survey, email is the most effective marketing channel, and it’s also an important link to other customer experiences on site, in store and on mobile apps. Getting email just right means making the entire customer shopping experience that much more relevant and effective. Hot Topic certainly does this, which is why the retailer won a MediaPost EIS Awards for Email Marketing Excellence in the Interactive Emails category.

Hot Topic used to have an animation in an email that looked like a scratch-off ticket, but wasn’t interactive. While the imagery was creative, it didn’t drive clicks to the site, and created a disappointing experience. The team knew that an interactive email experience could get people to go to the site at higher rates by increasing engagement

Working with Liveclicker, Hot Topic created a fully interactive email design that would click to reveal a personalized, integrated offer based on data inputs from past purchase behavior. The emails showcased seasonally themed animation teasing either a 30%, 40%, or 50% discount that the customer would reveal by clicking.

Hot Topic -- Interactive Offer

The retailer then added both “copy to clipboard” and “shop now” calls-to-action to drive customers to the site easily. Similarly, if a customer can’t finish shopping in that session, a “remembering” feature ensures that the next time they open that email, the offer is already revealed and the code is waiting. 

While Hot Topic and Liveclicker had done scratch-offs and coupons separately, the combination was new and innovative for the Hot Topic team. Liveclicker helped to streamline the back end experience so that both the engaging “scratch” interaction and the underlying coupon assignment could be integrated at moment-of-open in a consistent experience for all customers, and with minimal back-end work for the Hot Topic email team. 

Hot Topic measured click-to-open rates and click-through rates to see if the new interactive feature was successful at driving engagement. Comparing the interactive mystery scratch-off emails to other campaigns that promoted equivalent offers showed just how valuable the concept was for Hot Topic. The newly interactive mystery campaigns on average saw a 30% increase in click-to-opens, 25% increase in click-through rate, and because they were driving more people to the site, a 14% increase in conversion rate over equivalent campaigns without the new feature.

This wasn’t the only EIS Award win for CM Group, either. RevZilla and Raise, two of our sister brand Sailthru’s customers, won awards as well.