If you had a dime for each time you’ve been told you need to reach the omnichannel customer, you’d have at least $20. I think I’m up to $45.90. This relentless, finger-wagging nag isn’t unjustified. The always-on availability of cheap, high-speed internet connections and the warp-speed evolution of mobile devices has created a consumer that can get what they want, as soon as they want it and usually with free shipping.
Many retailers have tackled this criss-crossed channel chaos by focusing marketing on specific events that occur during a linear purchase path. A shopper leaves a product page — send a product abandonment email. A shopper leaves items in their cart —send a cart reminder. A shopper submits an order — send an order confirmation.
All of these messages use responsive design, of course, so they render nicely on any device. Store and site information are included to give the shopper the information they need to reconnect with your brand where they left off.
Is this connect-the-channel strategy enough? Is this approach meeting the instant gratification demands of today’s consumers? Not really.
Innovation is found by moving your marketing beyond the moment. This call and response along the ideally structured customer lifecycle simply doesn’t echo the way consumers want to shop. Yes, they will shop this way, but relying upon the consumer to take the next step introduces barriers and friction. Consumers have shifted their shopping instincts — perhaps it’s time for you to shift away from this kind of calculated automation.
Here’s how you can start to rethink and reposition those three marketing emails I mentioned earlier to anticipate the shopper’s next action and build a strategy that relies less on simply reacting to what they’ve already done.
Product Page Abandonment
Your products are probably already aligned by affinities such as brand name, style, price point, etc. Most of this data is used to create product recommendations during the site experience. Start your product page reminders by using this data, but take the time to factor in the shopper’s full, unified profile.
Past shopping and purchase data can go beyond lookalike or related items by factoring in incentives, promotions and message timing that can motivate a shopper to buy. While showing the product that was abandoned may give a visual cue, there are several behavioral data points that can truly influence the purchase decision.
We all know that leaving an item in a cart doesn’t always mean the shopper has abandoned all interest in completing a purchase. Many consumers use the cart to build a shopping list, either as a way to store items as they move between sites and stores, or simply as a way to momentarily pause their shopping. Marketing toward the moment of cart abandonment may be the wrong way to speak to these shoppers. Use data from their site interactions and past behavioral information to determine which actions they're likely to take next.
Perhaps the shopper loves researching items on your site, but always purchases in-store. Another shopper may load up a cart with plans to see what goes on sale over the weekend. All of this information can be used to build a message that predicts the shopper’s next steps and how they can be motivated to buy rather than simply reminding them about what’s in their cart.
Everyone sends order confirmations. They're so ubiquitous that they're often overlooked by both retailers and customers. The message, however, represents a crossroads of customer loyalty — especially for first-time customers. Rather than marketing to the moment of what was purchased, use data from a customer's unified profile to include content that will build a foundation for long-term loyalty.
With most retailers offering similar discounts and incentives (especially during the holidays), finding a way for your brand to stand out can be a struggle. Interactions in-store or on your site that were catalysts in propelling the shopper to complete their order can be used to create a dialog that goes beyond engagement and truly connects with the customer on a personal level.
This could mean the introduction of shopping tools that make purchasing again easy, such as style guides, personal in-store stylists, automated order replenishment, among other things. Interactions with apps, loyalty programs or customer service can also help to set the tone and content of these post-purchase messages.
The daily demands for retailers to meet the needs of shoppers and beat sales goals often leads to a focus on how to improve messages that already exist. Brands need to break this repetitive loop and face the reality of today’s retail environment. To be competitive, retailers must move beyond the moment, break with the concept of a linear purchase path and stay one step ahead of the shopper.
Sean Brady is president of the Americas for Emarsys, a marketing cloud for predictive marketing, personalization, analytics and marketing automation.