By Jill Brittlebank, Senior Director, Zeta Interactive
It will come as no surprise to marketers and retailers that email is an effective marketing tool. We recently surveyed 3,000 UK consumers for our study Content, context and trust: identifying the golden customer opportunities for retail marketing and 74% of respondents stated that they have received emails as part of a retailer’s nurturing strategy.
A significant number (52%) have even gone on to make a purchase as a direct result of email communication. But, as retailers become more digitally sophisticated in their CRM approaches, how can they make email work even harder while integrating their communications strategy to make the most of other channels?
Often, retail brands are constrained in their marketing by legacy systems, disconnected data sources and, of course, pressures on their time especially as the demands placed on small, overstretched teams grow in line with the threat of digital competition. And yet it is clear from our research that shoppers place significant importance on stores giving them ‘added value’ when it comes to marketing communication. So how can retail marketing teams, whether at a large clicks and bricks retailer with big budgets to spend or at a small ecommerce business, use customer data to better inform their email marketing and beyond? The solution lies with automated, insight-driven and bi-directional data systems that enable timely and accurate predictions of your customers’ needs at a given moment, and give you the ability to respond to those needs automatically, shifting the marketing relationship to a trusted ‘personal shopper’ approach.
While the demand for such interaction is obvious, marketers seem to fall short on execution – when asked about their favourite retailers, either in store or online, only 40% of customers stated that they felt these stores and brands knew and anticipated their needs well. However, 67% of customers questioned said that they would be more likely to buy from a retailer who recognised items previously bought and made further suggestions.
At a basic level, retailers can employ simple recognition techniques like click and browse retargeting to drive customers to their site. Further communications can then be tailored by segment, based on categories like price sensitivity, product and brand preferences. Combining this with customer demographic and event data, such as an abandoned basket, will provide context and create deeper bonds between retailer and consumer through a rich experience at key points in a customer’s engagement. For smaller marketing teams, significant insights can be driven from web events, as well as email engagement, to further fuel tactics that drive value. Larger businesses should consider how effectively data is centralised to enable consistent cross-channel experiences and where the most appropriate touch point should land.
We’ve found that retailers have a clear opportunity to retain their customers. A huge 81% in our survey stated they would be more likely to buy again from their favourite stores if recognised as a previous customer and offered discounts or money off products they had browsed in the past. It’s critical that retailers recognise the importance of connecting disparate data sources and ensure their customers have an experience that reflects their history with the brand. Customers have expressed a strong desire to be acknowledged and valued by their chosen retailers, so recognition and relevant rewards will help you stand out against your competitors.
It’s also important to remember that shoppers are not only influenced by marketing communications, but also by pressures on their time, the sheer plethora of brands and stores to choose from and the overwhelming number of options available to the modern customer. The easier you make the experience, utilising all available data to guide the customer towards relevant options and point to the right product for them, the better your chances of becoming an anticipated presence in the inbox rather than just another message in the crowd.
The effectiveness of email as a retailer touchpoint can’t be ignored, and building on this with cross-channel campaigns will present fresh opportunities for standout marketing. As stores become more data savvy and digitally-mature, they can integrate context-based techniques such as triggering messages that reach customers who are physically near stores to entice them inside. This needn’t be arduous for the modern retail marketer. Systems are now in place to streamline this process for time-pressured teams.
It is clear that the modern retail landscape offers a wealth of options for both store and shopper. Potential exists for retailers to reach customers through a near endless variety of channels. But it is the retailers who focus on harnessing methods to capitalise and act on their shopper data, and use it to drive personalised experiences through meaningful communications, that will stand the best chance of developing long-lasting and fruitful relationships with their customers.