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 retail stores:
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it’s a product that suddenly goes out of stock, locations that open or close, or offers and messages that become outdated or inappropriate in a new context.
That means the email you send in the morning could well be out of date by the time your customer reads it even just a few hours later.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!
Sometimes, email works a little too well. That irresistible promotion or clever creative drew tons of conversions; maybe so many that you sold out before you could even send a reminder campaign.
Well done! But what about all your other email subscribers who will open your email an hour or day or even week later, rush to your site and find the dreaded “Sold Out” banner plastered over your irresistible offer? That’s a complaint just waiting to happen (not to mention a missed conversion).
It can happen any time of the year, but it’s especially likely now that we’re in the thick of the busy holiday shopping season, when inventory flies out almost as fast as it hits your store shelves and deals can change in a jingle. It sets up a poor customer experience, one that can drive customers to your competition if you don’t manage it well.
The same channel that drove all those customers to your site can also bring them back again when you offer to take their names and let them know when the product is back in stock.
“Back in stock” emails function like abandoned-cart messages. You’ll get more customer action when you give them detailed information about the restocked product, like this message:
This email is about as specific as you can get. It names the product, provides a photo and details, links to the product page and even reminds the customer why she’s getting the email.
“Back in stock” emails are popular with customers. They generate some of the highest open rates of any triggered messages – 47.6% to 65.32% according to different sources. For one brand, 7.7% of site visitors who clicked from a “back in stock” email bought the product, compared with the site’s 1.7% overall conversion rate.
Those figures are impressive. But, your customers are still hitting dead ends when they click from your email to your website only to find they’re too late.
Here’s an even better way: Use real-time data and content to replace the original email offer with an updated message when products sell out or some other catastrophe happens, like a delayed shipment from your supplier.
If you can integrate your inventory management and messaging systems, you can substitute a notice that the product has sold, suggest similar products or invite the customer to sign up for an alert when the product gets restocked.
Your customer might still be disappointed, but she won’t get an unexpected and unpleasant experience on your site and then go away empty-handed or click over to a competitor.
Pop-culture retailer Hot Topic uses moment-of-open technology that keeps its email customers up to date on new-product availability – not just when a product sells out but even before, when it becomes available in-store and online.
The content automatically updates when the product’s status change, as shown in this promotion for the hot collectible brand Funko :
If a product sells out, Hot Topic substitutes a grayed-out image that subscribers see at the moment they open the email message.
This tactic reduced customer complaints about missing out on hot sales and generated a 30% lift in clicks, longer browse sessions and higher sales. (Get more details in this blog post: 2 Wins and a Fail: Real Email Marketing Experiences and Lessons from Hot Topic.)
Dynamic content that updates when customers open their emails can mean fewer unhappy surprises on the website for customers. But what about people who find your site through search, by typing your site name into their web browsers or clicking through from your emails anyway even if the message says the product is sold out?
A well-done “back in stock” email can save that sale.
Offering to email customers when a product is available again is a standard feature on Amazon product pages. The product page will automatically disable color, size and other options and substitute a message like the one below:
Logged-in Amazon customers don’t have to type in their email addresses; the system adds those automatically. If you can’t provide that same seamless experience, ask for an email address so you can send a restock alert.
Collect that address in a form on the page, like Amazon’s, or in a pop-up form (often called a pop-over or overlay).
You don’t have to worry about complying with email or data-privacy laws like CAN-SPAM, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) or the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulation because you are emailing your customers at their request. That makes them transactional rather than marketing emails
But, while your have your browsers’ attention, why not invite them to join your mailing list? Highlight the benefits of joining – special offers and discounts, VIP notices, etc. – but assure them they can request a restock alert without opting in.
Also, remind customers why they should sign up for an email stock alert, such as being the first to find out when the product is restocked.
Be careful that your marketing-driven material is secondary to the restock reminder. Keep reading to see two ways to handle this.
1. Be specific: We mentioned earlier that “back in stock” email messages function like abandoned-cart notices. They work best when you get as specific as possible, beginning with the subject line.
Instead of saying “Your item is back in stock,” specify the product you mean in the subject line and list details in the message in case you need to jog your customer’s memory. This is important all year long, but it become crucial for holiday shopping when your customers can easily go into information overload.
2. Make them memorable: Many “back in stock” alerts look like a robot formatted them. Design yours to be as attractive as your other marketing messages by using a similar template and adding your brand logo and colors and a little marketing pizzazz, like product alternatives.
This Glasses USA email recognizes that the love affair your customer had with a product when it wasn’t available can cool off by the time it gets restocked, so it suggests similar items from inventory.
This email from Lyst gives customers the option to request similar product views by clicking the “Similar products” button. Consider this approach if you are concerned about adding marketing-driven material to a transactional email.
3. Build urgency: Persuade customers to jump on the alert. This Huckberry email stokes customers’ egos by noting that they are the first to learn about the restocked product and then ramping up the FOMO (fear of missing out) by reminded them that the new stock is limited. You don’t want customers missing out twice on a good deal!
No matter how effective your inventory-management system is, you can’t always avoid being sold out of a popular product. But you can retain more sales by using real-time data and dynamic content in email to get out in front of the problem before customers hit a dead end on your website.
Then, follow up with a persuasive “back in stock” alert that entices them to come back and close the deal.
According to new analysis based on groundbreaking research on marketing personalization, email marketers are getting creative about surviving in the Age of Amazon, Whether they go up against the ecommerce behemoth in head-to-head competition or work to gain traction on Amazon’s own platform retailers are finding new ways to compete on the basis of relevance.
These retailers aren’t just using personalization for the sake of personalization, like merging a first name into subject lines or the body copy.
Instead, today’s shoppers look for a superior experience with a brand on the major touch points, from the website, to email updates to in-store contacts. And, retailers are listening.
Delivering “a more relevant and enriching customer experience” is the No. 1 tactic retailers are using to compete successfully with Amazon, and advanced personalization is one of the tools retailers use to make it happen.
Advanced personalization uses data and automation to add localized and real-time data to regular email messages. This gives campaign emails the immediacy and appeal of transactional messages. They tell your customers that they aren’t just email addresses in a database – you know them as people.
Personalization is one of the areas where marketers think they can get an edge on Amazon, as our report explains. The ecommerce giant “hasn’t recently shown dramatic advances in personalization, and not in advanced personalization technologies.”
But Amazon does have two email tricks that are worth testing in your own email program:
Personalized customer newsletters. These aren’t Amazon’s usual browse-session follow-up emails. Instead, Amazon sends its Kindle Unlimited users personalized emails designed to encourage them to rent and buy more books and to continue paying for the service.
The newsletter features in-depth information about authors on the member’s rental, browse and wish lists and suggests other reads – some paid, others that the membership fee covers. Other newsletters, such as those sent to Amazon Prime members, don’t have the same depth of personalized content.
1. Reassuring package-delivery notice: Do you worry about porch pirates making off with your online orders? Your customers do, too. You can help them feel more secure by letting them know when their packages are delivered, not just when they leave your warehouse.
This notice from adidas is a follow-up to an earlier shipping notification. It goes out within a few minutes of delivery and includes both package contents and tips on resolving issues, including exchanges and delivery problems.
Bonus tip: Add detail to the subject line: This subject line from Woot! merges the delivered item into the subject line so your customer can see right away what’s in the delivery: “Rejoice! Your Apple 60W MagSafe 2 Power Adapter Has Been Delivered!”
2. Gamified data reports: CVS sends this monthly spending report to members of its loyalty program. But it raises the stakes by turning the report into a game by showing customer progress from one tier to the next. The email also includes an incentive (more Extra Bucks discounts) and suggestions on how to spend them – two moves that encourage shoppers to go back to their store and buy again.
3. Real-time weather triggered email: Using location data to generate email copy and trigger emails is one way to add relevance and build store traffic. You can add a map to an email or nearest store address to an email. Or, you can use location data to pull weather data and get out ahead of local events.
This email from a movie theater chain took advantage of a major winter storm forecast that affected several cities in its market to promote movie attendance. It sounds like a contradiction, but anybody who lives in snow country will tell you that snow might cancel school, but malls and movie theaters are usually still bustling.
4. App-email connection: This ecommerce personalization example looks like your typical abandonment email. But it isn’t.
Instead of triggering after an abandoned browse session, this email popped into a shopper’s inbox after she scanned a product in-store using her Target mobile app. Although she checked out a cartload of products, the candle she browsed stayed on the shelf. The email beat her home!
If you want to go for a seamless customer experience, this email can help you bridge the gap between the app and the inbox. Add some context that shows your customers why they’re gettng the email to make an even stronger impression.
You’ll learn more effective tactics that marketers are using successfully to compete with Amazon in our report, Using Personalization to Win in the Age of Amazon. Download it and share with your team!
Online retailers are talking about this holiday shopping statistic from Episerver’s global shopper survey: 42% of shoppers plan to buy most or all of their gifts from Amazon this holiday shopping season.
Yikes! But the survey also found that 47% of shoppers will buy few or none of their gifts from Amazon. Plus, 43% of shoppers will start their searches on a retailer or brand website, not just Google (29%) or Amazon (30%).
How can you boost your chances of getting more sales from the 42% of Amazon devotees and retaining your share of the 58% that will shop elsewhere?
One of the best battlegrounds to contend with deep-pocketed ecommerce competitors is the inbox. As recent research from The Relevancy Group shows, advanced personalization on this channel has become one of marketers’ secret weapons against giants like Amazon.
Beating Amazon at the Relevance Game
Give your customers something they can’t get from the retail behemoth: an email experience that shows your customers you know them as individuals, not just as files in a database.
Of course, Amazon already does email personalization. But marketers can still find room to go above and beyond to provide unparalleled relevance. In fact, according to ground-breaking research, 52% of retail marketers cite ‘providing a more relevant and enriching customer experience’ as their primary way to compete with Amazon.
Cohort recommendations (“people who browsed that item bought this item”) and next-logical-product suggestions (“People who bought that item also bought these items”) are Amazon hallmarks, as are browse- and cart-abandon email reminders.
All of these have also become standard offerings on many ecommerce platforms like Shopify.
But they don’t substitute for the kind of advanced email personalization that can help your customers shop more successfully, avoiding frustrating missteps like out-of-stock inventory on a hot promotion.
How Retailers are Winning in the ‘Age of Amazon’
The Relevancy Group’s groundbreaking study, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, discovered that advanced personalization drives multiple benefits for retailers of all sizes.
Most notably, it can add $20 – or more – in revenue for every $1 spent on it, on top of the added revenue from basic or purchase-based personalization.
But advanced personalization, which uses real-time, clickstream and open-time data to drive unique, highly relevant content for each email recipient, can also help retailers stand up to Amazon.
There’s a lot to be learned from the past and the experience of others—building off their successes and learning from their mistakes. In this 2 Wins and a Fail blog series, we’re inviting clients, partners, friends and thought leaders to share their email marketing stories; both good and bad.
In this edition we highlight Faith Bukauskas, Senior Email Marketing Analyst for Hot Topic, and show how this pop culture retailer improved its email marketing results with three innovative real-time personalization strategies. Two of these email marketing examples exceeded expectations; and while the third didn’t go exactly as planned, Hot Topic has already learned how to adapt and find success with future campaigns.
Hot Topic has been the go-to destination for music, pop culture, and fashion for almost 30 years. With more than 600 locations across North America, the brand strives to ignite customers’ passions by offering only the best, authentic merchandise. Faith has worked on the organization’s email program for 3 years, and her stories and experiences hold valuable takeaways for marketers in retail, ecommerce, and CPG industries.
Hot Topic is rapidly expanding its ecommerce presence and relies heavily on digital channels, especially email marketing, to showcase its giant assortment of products to its loyal fans and customers.
Recently Hot Topic needed a new way to develop and deploy product-centric emails that were not just personalized, but could be updated in real time to deliver better customer experiences.
In the past, Hot Topic sent product promotion emails as soon as a particular product became available on its ecommerce site. But sometimes these products would sell out before all recipients opened the email (or even received it, depending on what time zone they were in).
“It was a negative customer experience,” Faith said. “The experience confused and frustrated subscribers who weren’t able to act fast enough to get the product they wanted.”
Hot Topic’s marketing team considered sending these emails earlier so they would be in everyone’s inbox before their day started—no matter what time zone they were in. Yet they were concerned that customers would forget to act on them. Even if they didn’t, the original challenge remained: customers might still open an email with a link to a product that was now sold out.
A solution was found in the form of dynamic real-time content from Liveclicker’s RealTime Email platform.
“We designed a comprehensive time-based targeting strategy to handle this issue and deliver a better experience,” Faith said. “ We started using a dynamic image when announcing a product was now available in stores. Then when the product also became available online, we used moment-of-open technology to swap in a new image with that message and provide a link to encourage online shopping. And we also had a third ‘grayed out’ image prepared for when a product was out of stock, so openers knew whether something was available at the moment they opened the email.”
Hot Topic quickly discovered that this time-based strategy was a hit. These new emails produced a 30% lift in clicks, and Hot Topic saw a significant increase in click rates after the image was switched to show a new product was now available for purchase.
Customers were much more engaged and now spent twice as much time viewing each email. Recipients now clicked before, during, and after a product went on sale; an improvement that generated new sales and revenue opportunities, especially in the case of customers who visited Hot Topic’s site before a specific product was even available.
The single biggest success metric was the reduction in customers complaining about receiving promotions for products that were already unavailable. Hot Topic has seen such improvement that they now believe they have virtually eliminated the problem on email.
Hot Topic sells an incredible variety of pop culture-branded merchandise, including Harry Potter products. The retailer used to send all Harry Potter product offers to fans based on their past purchases of any and all Harry Potter merchandise.
Yet this approach still wasn’t segmented enough; large fan bases are often split among different styles and preferences. Which band member is most talented? Who’s the coolest character in the movie? Which book is the best in the series? Such questions can divide as much as they unite.
One way the Harry Potter fans are split is among their school ‘House’ affiliation (Gryffindor, Slytherin, etc.), and that can have a huge influence on the type of merchandise they want. Customer service even noted an increase in customer complaints. If you’re a baseball fan, compare it to a sports retailer sending Red Sox fans personalized offers for Yankees jerseys. You can imagine the kind of response that would get.
“We wanted to improve overall segmentation for the fan base, but didn’t have the data to accurately divide this group,” Faith said. “So we did the most obvious thing we could think of: we asked them!”
The brand did this by embedding a poll in an email asking about subscribers’ house loyalty. This equipped Hot Topic with the data it needed to segment its list and improve future relevance, and minimized errors that might have occurred if they had to make assumptions based on click-stream or purchase data.
All of these efforts paid off. Where past Harry Potter control emails had a 10% open rate and a 1.2% CTR, Hot Topic’s new house-specific emails had open rates up to 36% and CTRs of nearly 5%. This represented improvements of 260% and 300+%, respectively.
The poll email was Hot Topic’s third-highest email in terms of highest clicks sent in 2018. The company also saw more than a 90% increase on average in click-to-open. In fact, this was so successful, the company is now considering new ways to use Liveclicker’s LivePoll element to increase explicit data from its customers, which can then be used to improve future targeting campaigns.
Hot Topic freely admits that the use of geotargeting has been a challenge, especially since a significant portion of their database is made up of Gmail users. Gmail prevents geolocation information from being recognized and instead shows all users as being in Mountain View, California.
Hot Topic’s marketing team initially wanted to deploy an email campaign that would use geotargeting to send personalized messages to recipients near the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con event.
“It was a really cool idea,” Faith said. “We had all this location-specific messaging and creative that would be perfect for anyone who opened the email within a certain proximity to the event. Unfortunately technical limitations with Gmail meant we had to table that strategy. We ended up serving the default message in email even though we went through the work of creating the segmented campaign and creative.”
As a result, Hot Topic missed out on valuable opportunity to deliver personalized content that was more likely to connect and engage with its target audience.
Fortunately, good news is on the horizon. Hot Topic is planning on taking advantage of new Liveclicker functionality that will be able to anticipate a recipient’s location at time of open based on past behavior.
Since activating on Geo-Prediction in the last few months, there have been 1.3 million impressions that have been predicted by LiveClicker. This means geo-centric content and promotions can be sent to Gmail users, along with personalized messages that can even be further targeted based on their operating system, device type, and other factors.
We would like to sincerely thank Faith Bukauskas and Hot Topic for sharing these great stories and examples. For more information, you can download the complete Hot Topic case study and subscribe to Hot Topic yourself for more inspiration (and great deals!).
The holiday season presents an enormous revenue opportunity for retail brands. Sailthru found that 58% of retail marketers expect between 21-50% of annual revenues to be generated from holiday shopping.
But with that opportunity comes a long list of logistical, competitive, and technical marketing challenges that stand between you and your targets for the year. Left unaddressed, those obstacles hobble marketing effectiveness and threaten crucial revenue flows during the most critical time of the year.
Don’t let anything stand between you and your holiday revenue goals. Download the Guide: 9 Solutions (With Real-Life Examples!) to Retailers’ Biggest Holiday Email Headaches now!
Email is a vital part of the holiday marketing mix for retailers. After all, it’s one of the only channels that enables 1:1 communication with your audience at the volume and scale of a broad, elaborate holiday campaign. There’s a reason it consistently ranks among the highest ROI drivers of all marketing tactics.
Image from Campaign Monitor
Retail email marketing remedies a lot of problems for marketers, but it comes with its own difficulties. As one of the oldest digital marketing channels, email UX and flexibility hasn’t always kept up with its younger, flashier cousins.
The intensity and hubbub of the holiday season only exaggerates those difficulties. Some examples:
Fortunately there are answers to these and many other related retail holiday headaches. Combining dynamic content with real-time personalization, retailers can make email more powerful, and more effective, than ever–just in time for your holiday campaign planning.
Our latest ebook explains how you can overcome nine of retailers’ biggest holiday email challenges. It comes with real-life examples showing how other leading retailers combine creativity and innovative technology to make the most of their holiday season.
Download it now so you can identify and work around obstacles before they happen!
With the right strategy and technology, email can drive unprecedented revenue in a very short amount of time.
That’s the happy holiday news that fashion retailer Torrid received following one very successful holiday email campaign. A data-driven strategy and the addition of real-time technology came together at just the right time to deliver the highest revenue hour in the company’s history.
If that sounds like a gift your brand could use this holiday season, see how Torrid outperformed its holiday email goals and adapt these lessons for your own campaigns.
Torrid delivers sophisticated email campaigns throughout the holiday season. But like many retailers it puts a special focus on the Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping period.
The company had ambitious goals and set specific targets related to increasing traffic (both to the site as well as its online store), driving incremental revenue, and achieving other aggressive goals for the holiday season.
We all know how big these shopping days are, but their growth rates—and the opportunity they represent—can still come as a surprise. In 2018, an estimated 164 million people were planning holiday shopping sometime during the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday. Black Friday was the single busiest day, with 116 million people reporting that they planned to shop that day.
In 2018, Cyber Monday hit nearly $8B in total sales, making it the largest online shopping day in U.S. history, and topping even Black Friday ($6.2B) in terms of online sales. Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday demonstrated significant year-over-year growth (20% and 23.6%, respectively), leading many analysts and retailers to think that 2019 will be even bigger.
Torrid wanted to create an engaging new Black Friday/Cyber Monday email experience to achieve its goals of maximizing campaigns sales and overall revenues.
The retailer’s marketing team came up with an innovative approach: to build emails that displayed a countdown timer that counted down to the end of each one of the company’s special live (limited time) promotions.
Using the RealTime Email platform, Torrid designed highly personalized, extremely relevant content using customized messages and open-time data. When a specific promotion expired, the hero image disappeared, but it was replaced by a brief message telling the customer to visit the Torrid site to view the latest promotions and deals.
Torrid found that these new emails led to new levels of customer engagement and urgency, both of which increased sales—from the email promotion as well as the site—as well as total traffic. Most importantly, customers paid attention to the countdown timer and made their purchases before the promotion expired.
Swapping in dynamic content as offers changed over time enabled the brand to update its emails with the latest, most relevant messaging even after they were already sent and opened. This helped Torrid gain incremental revenue from campaigns sent days, even weeks, earlier.
Even expired promotions led to revenue spikes and new traffic to the retailer’s site, with 37% of opens and a 3.6% click-through rate occurring after the sale ended. An updated image and CTA after the sale had expired created a large and long tail of continued site visits and sales well into the holiday season.
Torrid’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday campaigns were a success by any conventional measure. Traffic numbers increased over company and industry benchmarks. Total clicks, total opens, click-through rates, and conversions surged.
But most important, Torrid hit the single highest revenue hour in company history and significantly exceeded its revenue goals. With Liveclicker, Torrid was able to achieve goals where they matter most: top-line revenue growth and a stronger bottom line.
For more details on Torrid’s holiday strategy and results, download the complete case study here.
The Torrid case study is just one example of how email marketing innovation can make this holiday season your most productive yet. For even more ways to drive greater revenue and overcome traditional holiday headaches, be sure to check out our ebook: Real-Time Solutions to 9 of Retail Marketers’ Biggest Holiday Email Headaches.
More than our gift to you, it’s your way to find other tips, tricks, and effective examples from leading retailers to reach customers throughout the holiday cycle!
As a retail email marketer, you are probably planning your year-end holiday marketing campaigns right now.
Anyone outside our industry may be surprised to hear this, especially since Black Friday and Cyber Monday—generally regarded as the first of the major winter holidays—are still four months away. Yet there are real advantages to developing your holiday marketing strategies as early as possible.
For example, a report from NRF shows that 40% of consumers plan on starting their holiday shopping before November 1, a number that includes a substantial 12% who reported that they will begin before September 1. When you think about it this way, holiday shopping could start in less than eight weeks!
Source: NRF’s Annual October Holiday Consumer Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics
It also looks like 2019 will be a banner year in terms of total consumer spending. The same NRF study found that in 2018, the average American shopper spent $846 on gifts, which represented a 14% increase over 2017. With the stock market, labor market, and consumer confidence numbers at, or near, all-time highs, holiday spending is likely to increase again this year.
On one hand, such positive news represents significant opportunities for retail marketers today, especially those who are contemplating their holiday campaigns now. Yet on the other, it may actually lead to more questions than answers. For example, many marketers may wonder:
The good news is that there is a way to accomplish all of these goals: real-time email personalization. The value of personalization is well documented, to the point where research shows that marketers who use advanced personalization tactics have greater email revenue than those that don’t.
Despite these results, a surprisingly high number of campaigns are still being deployed without meaningful personalization. For example, a 2018 research report found that nearly 40% of marketers said that they almost never personalized their emails in the previous year.
Even when brands do use some type of personalization, it is often limited to the same basic customization many marketers have been using for years: a first name in the greeting, a recent purchase in the body, or adding the recipient’s company name without much thought.
These tactics can be effective—and at least are a step in the right direction—but today’s consumers have come to expect much more. To catch their attention and gain a sustainable advantage over your competition, consider using email personalization in innovative new ways throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
For example, consider the following real-time personalization use cases to improve the way you engage with three very different segments of holiday shoppers: Early Birds, Seasonal Shoppers, and Procrastinators.
Help the Early Birds find the perfect worm
As described earlier, nearly a quarter of consumers will start shopping for holiday gifts before October 1. While they’re motivated to get it done, time is still on your side.
An astonishing 42% of companies don’t survey their customers or collect feedback. Consider using in-email polls or other interactive ways to collect valuable information about what is important to Early Birds and then use real-time personalization to create highly relevant email experiences.
In this case, you could create a poll where you ask them what special products are most appealing this holiday season. Here’s a great example from Taubman Centers asking subscribers what they love most about the new season:
Or you could ask other questions related to what they prefer most when purchasing holiday gifts, such as discounts, increased loyalty points, flash sales, special promotions, or free shipping. You can use polls to ask many different questions, so be as creative as possible.
These polls are delivered in the email itself, which leads to a fun, engaging experience your audience may not expect. Recipients click to answer the question and can see how their answers stack up to other responses in real time. You can even use this as an opportunity to offer initial discounts or holiday promotions!
But the real value is the specific information you’ll receive about each individual consumer. You can then send customized emails that give them exactly what they’re looking for. They’ll love it!l
Deliver ideal experiences for Seasonal Shoppers
Consumers who prefer to shop in October and November are looking for ways to get the best deals possible while making sure they don’t run into inventory issues.
It’s a real concern, since popular items tend to move fast during the holidays. If you’re not careful, you can send emails that feature products that are out of stock, priced higher than expected, or are temporarily unavailable.
This inevitably leads to a frustrating experience for customers who were ready to pull the trigger on a specific item or sale. Heavily promoted or discounted products can have out-of-stock rates of 10% or more, and out-of-stock experiences are consistently named among the most frustrating for consumers. An initial out-of-stock encounter results in a 30% chance of that customer turning to a competitor and not returning, a rate that increases to 50% and then 70% with subsequent experiences.
Real-time personalization can make the difference between success and failure. You can avoid promoting sold-out products by keep your customers’ favorite product categories up to date with the most appealing selections that are currently available on your website. Then you can create personalized emails that display their preferred items by scraping images and content directly from those web pages—in the moment of open.
Hot Topic used this tactic to reveal hot new products as they came available, and then swap or gray out items that became sold out:
In the case that a product is out of stock or removed from the category page, your email reverts to a graceful fallback option that serves up the next best option. Customers will never know, and they’ll even appreciate the additional options for the perfect purchase.
Give Procrastinators a way to save the day
When the clock is ticking, Procrastinators need as much help as possible. Yet with real-time personalization, desperate times don’t have to lead to desperate measures.
For example, you can send emails that use recipients’ geotargeting data to create maps that show your closest store location to save them time and effort. White House Black Market used this feature to drive subscribers in-store for New Year’s Eve dress shopping:
You can also add a countdown timer as a fun way to communicate important information, such as the last possible time to take advantage of extended holiday hours or a free shipping deadline. Once the deadline has passed, swap out the countdown timer with a link to buy an online giftcard instead. You can even add a deadline to their calendar to remind them to shop, but also to encourage them to shop with you.
It may sound a bit funny, but we’d like to wish you a happy holidays, and more specifically, a happy and productive holiday planning season. This year, consider innovative new personalization strategies to connect with consumers—no matter when they might be shopping.
It’s time for digital marketers to reconsider the humble coupon. This venerable marketing tool has drawn price-sensitive customers to businesses for decades. But too often, it gets overlooked and lost in the constant flood of shiny new tactics emerging from the world of digital.
In fact, if you know how to use coupons (and their close cousins, promo codes), they can be incredibly effective in driving conversions online, especially when distributed via email.
Emails with promo codes boast 14% higher open rates, 34% higher click rates, and 48% higher revenues than emails without them.
Statista reports consistent growth in digital coupon users over recent years, and predicts 145.3 million U.S. adults will be redeeming them by 2021.
Deal-seekers certainly don’t feel limited to clipping coupons exclusively from their weekly shopper. According to research from VoucherCloud, the enormous majority are willing to use digital coupons, too.
Emails already see widespread use as promotional vehicles for sales events and discounts. So why bother setting up a email coupon system?
Digital coupons bring unique benefits to marketers and and customers alike:
Digital coupons have myriad uses and enormous potential; so why aren’t more marketers using them in email?
Once the appropriate systems and support are set up, it’s easy enough to start acting on your coupon marketing ideas. But the upfront resources, time, and expertise needed to establish and maintain such a program are enough to dissuade many marketers from taking the dive.
Then there’s the tedious matter of setting up audiences, dividing up lists, and developing a different email for each segment and test. As Liveclicker VP Account Development Kenna Hillburn said, “Email marketers already have enough on their plates without having to manually segment and create several different deployment sends in order to serve certain coupon codes to certain individuals and find out what works.”
That’s part of what drove Liveclicker to develop our latest email marketing innovation: LiveCoupon. This flexible new element empowers marketers to generate unique, irresistible, personalized coupons that populate effortlessly in subscribers’ inboxes. The simple, user-friendly interface means anyone can start improving email performance with coupons.
With LiveCoupon, you can:
Leading brands are already using LiveCoupon and getting results.
“LiveCoupon enhances our ability to continue delivering personalized messages and incentives to consumers.” said Jennifer Chiang, Sr. Analyst, Email Marketing, BCBG. “LiveCoupon reduces operational complexity for such campaigns by automating the messaging of the promotions based on consumers’ previous engagement (with the same promotion). This further helps us with customer segmentation, making our program more relevant and effective.”
What creative coupon marketing ideas would you be able to pursue with this capability?
See this dynamic element in action and learn how to use coupons in email marketing to drive more sales. Contact us now to schedule a demo!
Marketing masterminds and retail trailblazers recently gathered in Las Vegas to learn, network, and (sorry) talk shop at the annual Shoptalk conference.
An enormous crowd (including the Liveclicker team!) made the pilgrimage to meet and discuss the biggest changes, challenges, and opportunities facing businesses in retail, ecommerce, CPG, and related industries. As always, the conference was overflowing with expert perspective on emerging trends and technology and needle-moving insights on email marketing for retailers.
Shoptalk this year was sold out—and even if you went, you probably weren’t able to attend every incredible session, round-table, presentation and forum relevant to retail email marketing. Either way, not too worry! We took careful notes for anyone who missed out so you can make the most of your email program in the coming year.
Among all the insights, reports, analysis and discussion, one theme dominated the Shoptalk conversation: the customer experience.
Today’s retail consumers live in an era of unprecedented choice. Shoppers have more options than ever: more products, more stores, more locations, more channels. Competition for their attention and favor is fierce, and delivering a compelling, relevant experience is one of the few reliable ways for a brand to differentiate itself and earn loyalty.
“Real personalization is not just about products, it’s about the whole digital journey of our consumers,” said Philip Thompson, Worldwide Tech Leader for Amazon Web Services during a presentation on AI.
Personalization would come up time and again as one of the most important ways to improve the retail customer journey from beginning to end. It’s an especially valuable lesson for making and deploying the best retail emails, since email as a channel has so much potential for 1:1 engagement and relevance.
For instance; email personalization can mitigate brand abandonment, a problem rampant in the retail space. Qubit founder and CTO Graham Cooke revealed during his session that 83.9% of retail shoppers only purchase once! He suggested an authentic customer experience, driven by personalization, could drive that number down—but also cautioned that tracking loyalty metrics can be difficult and implementing personalization throughout the customer journey requires well-equipped cross-functional teams.
Jana Eggers, CEO of Nara Logics, highlighted the importance of relevance and shared a personal story on how retail email marketing still has a long way to go. She recounted an experience buying a set of spoons from a home-and-kitchen retailer, and getting a follow-up email encouraging her to pair up her shiny new spoons with…”a jar of pot roast sauce.”
This is a great example of digital marketing gone wrong. The idea was right; a targeted email set to trigger after a purchase can be incredibly effective at engaging and upselling. But unless that message is packaged with real-time relevance, it will fall flat and tarnish your brand relationships. Eggers would go on to emphasize that marketing needs to be focused on what the customer wants and needs not what we want to show or sell them.
Looking for even more opportunities to power up your retail email marketing and network with the best retail marketing experts around? We’re hosting The Future of Email circuit right now! It’s totally free for email marketing professionals, and coming to a city near you! Learn more about the event and how you can register here!
Interested in learning how you can easily add real-time relevance to your email campaigns? Schedule a demo with us today!