3 Ways You Can Turn Email Into a Retention Powerhouse
During COVID, many retailers have seen an increased number of customers buying online, which made 2020 the year of customer acquisition.
Many companies are now struggling to retain them. Email and customer loyalty teams need to transform new customers into long-term revenue streams.
Since email is the most commonly used tool to communicate with new online customers, companies need to leverage it to their advantage.
It’s also a great way to learn a lot about your customers from how they interact with your messages. Your list also is owned by your company (not a third party like a social network), and it’s more personal because it’s an opt-in relationship — much different from targeted ads or junk mail.
With the right strategy and implementation, email can be an effective retention tool.
Here are three things that top retailers are doing with email to retain new and valuable customers in 2021:
1. Tailor content to customers’ changing interests.
When people see themselves in the content, they're more likely to engage. If email marketing teams can deliver personally relevant content to customers — not content that's “universal” — they can engage and connect better.
Customers are not static beings; their behaviors and interests change over time. Traditionally, this has made it hard to personalize. By learning about customers’ preferences through how they interact with emails, you can do a much better job of predicting and adjusting to their behavior.
It helps you avoid simply putting them into a segment that won’t change until the marketing team updates their database, which could be years in the future, or maybe never.
The effect shows up in open rates and conversions.
2. Deliver an experience, not just promotions.
Another key to customer retention is an experiential approach.
Typically, personalization solutions are like a salesperson who sees you looking at an item and follows you around the store, screaming at you about that one pair of shoes being on sale. You might have noticed this in the case of online ads offering recommendations for a product that you already reviewed.
That's not the most effective approach. It gets annoying and doesn’t account for factors like changing tastes and needs.
A better way to look at personalization is like walking into your local retailer. As you walk into the store, they may know you by name and can provide recommendations based on what they know you like (from past purchases) while suggesting products that might be of interest that you have not yet bought.
If your company is constantly pushing the same promotions to everyone on its email list, many customers will get fatigued because the content is no longer attractive. It’s a waste of time and resources, increases unsubscribe rates, and harms retention efforts.
Instead, use email like a personal shopper who sends customers things that would interest them. That way, they’ll consistently receive content that they're excited to open.
3. Personalize the send time for each customer.
The time an email is sent is often underestimated. In many cases, the same timing is used across the board.
It doesn’t consider customers’ different routines, which determine the times they're most likely to open an email you send.
Personalizing send time allows you to be even more precise with creative assets. If you know the best time to send an email to a customer, you can be confident about putting your best piece of content in that email. Top content can be prioritized and given more exposure at the best possible time.
Send time personalization (STP) creates a profile for each subscriber, tracking when they're most likely to engage with emails.
One of our clients found that using STP for low and medium-engaged email subscribers over three months yielded increases of:
- opens, by 2.6 percent to 4.2 percent;
- clicks, by 6.8 percent to 11.8 percent; and
- conversions, by 6.4 percent to 11.7 percent.
The following chart shows the distribution of sends for a customer before and after they started using STP. Previously, it sent all their emails at 7 a.m. After implementing STP, their emails were more evenly distributed, resulting in a 3.7 percent lift in revenue per email.
This type of strategic change can make a massive difference in the bottom line and generate higher customer loyalty.
After a tumultuous 2020, retailers have a tremendous opportunity to keep new customers and make them bigger and better shoppers.
Retailers need to leverage the potential of email in their retention strategies, as it's the most used method of communicating with customers.
However, they have to use a thoughtful approach. Using a data-driven approach to tailor content to customers’ changing interests, create an experience, and personalize send times to reach customers when they're most likely to interact, marketers can build relationships and retain customers like never before.
James Glover is the co-founder and CEO of Coherent Path, an email marketing optimization and email personalization solutions provider.