Get wise - personalise, says Darren Vengroff
By Darren Vengroff, Chief Scientist and VP of Product, RichRelevance
1 Aug 2011: When done strategically, personalisation has been proven to considerably improve the bottom line. In addition to providing a unique and relevant experience for every customer, a comprehensive personalisation solution can also generate millions of pounds in attributable sales. As one of the key touchpoints in the customer lifecycle, email marketing is an important element of any ecommerce personalisation strategy.
Among the barrage of marketing emails consumers receive today, you can be sure that those with generic content are most quickly diverted to the trash. Personalising your email campaigns will enable you to provide relevant, timely and meaningful content that fosters trust while promoting customer engagement and loyalty. Here are top dos and don’ts to remember when implementing a personalisation strategy for your email marketing programme:
Do: Test, test and test again
Experimentation is a critical key to success in email marketing. For example, let’s say you have a group of customers that you’ve segmented based on past behaviour: shoppers who have purchased in both the baby department of your store and in the electronics department. You have two campaigns to send out, one for a sale on televisions and one for pushchairs. How do you know which email these overlapping customers should receive? One option is to send the television campaign to half and the pushchair campaign to half—and hope for the best. A better strategy is to run an exploratory sub-campaign where you send each message to five percent of the overlapping segment. Then, based on how those two groups react, you know what is more likely to be effective with the 90 percent that have not gotten either message yet. If you can do this within 24 hours, you can make very effective use of the larger group by sending them only the campaign that performs best.
Don’t: Forget to integrate offline shopping behaviour into your campaigns
Email marketing has to be fed with data and if you’re running a standalone programme your analysis will suffer from the lack of user information that you can absorb from all cross-channel customer interactions (website, store, call centre, etc.). If you have a loyalty card scheme in place, you should be able to track both online and offline shopping behaviour, giving you a more accurate profile of each customer. If you send an email about a sale in the morning, a customer might choose to duck into your store on her lunch break or journey home rather than click through online. The campaign may have been successful – but you wouldn’t know it. Once you have a 360-degree understanding of customer behaviour, it becomes actionable. For example, you can take a customer who is accustomed to shopping in-store and encourage online conversion by sending a web-only offer.
Do: Integrate personalised product recommendations
Personalised product recommendations enable you to provide relevant, timely and meaningful content that is reflective of a shopper’s recent behaviour, their click-through activity from earlier emails as well as your product pricing changes and inventory shifts. In addition to improving sales on recommended products, personalised recommendations generate longer and more frequent sessions. Even if a customer goes in a different direction once they arrive on your site, sales generated from the visit can be attributed to your product email. Not only that, but by offering personalised suggestions you become a trusted advisor and a source for ideas to your customers.
Don’t: Ignore the power of product attributes
One of the keys to delivering relevant recommendations is to break down each product into its component attributes—rather than considering it as a single atomic unit. For a DVD film, attributes would include the stars, the director and the genre. Even without any information about a first-time shopper, you can make recommendations based on the attributes of the products they are searching for, like “Julia Roberts” or “romantic comedies.” The more a customer interacts with your site, the more information you can gather about their preferences. This information can then be used to segment email campaigns and deliver personalised content and recommendations.
Do: Use shopper affinities and predictive analytics
The more you collect and analyse your customer data over time, the smarter your campaigns will become. Take a shopper who has browsed shoes on your website on several occasions. That customer is an obvious choice for a shoe-based email campaign. If a shoe campaign is not running, you can target the customer with the handbag campaign based on the strong affinity between shoes and handbags. Finding the strongest association between how an individual user has behaved from previous views and purchases helps to accurately identify the best campaign to send.
An email marketer’s biggest fear should be the unsubscribe button. If you think a low response rate for a campaign isn’t hurting you – think again. Email marketers know that expanding the audience to less relevant shoppers results in diminishing returns, but it is important to realise that the net value can actually be negative in the longer term. When you lose a customer because of a poorly targeted email campaign, you’re not only losing a sale but the lifetime value of that customer.
Marketers need to get into the mindset of not wasting their customers’ time with generic content and recognise that sending an email to a smaller, more focused group is often the best strategy. If you don’t have a good campaign for a specific customer, it may be more advantageous to skip the email. Remember, no one customer is going to respond to and purchase based on every single email you send– you should focus instead on the lifetime value of that customer.
The ultimate goal with email marketing programme is for your customers to look forward to your name popping up in their inbox. By using your customer data to create fine-grain segmentation and deliver relevant and personalised content, recommendations and offers, you’ll be able to build a trusted relationship with your customers that results in significant long-term business value.
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