Effective Marketing Triggers for Retailers

By Sherene Hilal

Retailers know by now that an abandoned shopping cart (AC) is an important trigger to incorporate into a multichannel marketing strategy. It takes a decent amount of effort for someone to visit a retail site, browse and add an item to their cart, yet the average cart abandonment rate is an incredible 70 percent, according to Baymard Institute. A well-timed email can be enough to nudge many of them to buy - with AC email conversion rates in the double digits.

Valuable triggers can and should be applied based on a lot of other shopper signals that are often overlooked by retailers - getting conversion rates up even further, not only with new shoppers but with first-time buyers and loyal customers.

Telltale Shopper Behaviors

Not everyone gets as far as adding a product to their cart before they decide to leave, but those other behaviors still have a lot of value. Knowing what someone is looking for and what catches their attention on the site can help with triggers and personalization designed to increase "customer movement" - moving visitors to become first time buyers, moving first time buyers to be repeat buyers, and moving loyal shoppers to purchase something more.

Abandoned Product: One approach we've seen a lot of success with is a trigger for an "abandoned product" email, also called "browse abandonment." After welcome emails and AC emails, it earns the highest revenue per click of any trigger, according to a Bluecore study. If someone takes time to browse a specific product, sharing a personalized email that gives them a chance to explore the product further can be enough to entice them to buy. Gen Z and millennials also put a lot of stock in product reviews, which are a great thing for retailers to highlight and can be a good way to engage visitors who have never purchased on the site.

Leather goods retailer, Frye, uses a browse abandonment strategy that employs a series of "thanks for stopping by" emails. The first email features the product that the person originally looked at. The second uses a different subject line and a bit of FOMO (get it before your size sells out). If that doesn't work, they ask directly "Is your Wifi working?" It's a bit direct, but it works for them! If that's a bit too much, retailers can also include a secondary recommendation block of similar products that they may be interested in instead.

Category/Product Preference: Shoppers who view or purchase certain products may have a preference for a specific category that is not immediately obvious (for example, if someone buys a TV, they could have a certain level of affinity to a sound system.) Steve Madden has found that category preference is an important input for automated triggers - and has used analytics to understand how different categories interact such as boots and heels or sneakers and sandals.

Retailers can use product preference insights to extend the reach of category specific messaging to reach new customers that may have never browsed or purchased within that category without risking customer fatigue or hurting list health.

Post-Purchase: Just because someone just made a purchase doesn't mean they aren't still in the market for other products. In fact, recent buyers are a great audience for triggered re-marketing. Retailers can turn more one-time purchasers into second-time purchasers with well-timed messaging that highlights related products. A recent purchase can trigger messaging like "Nice choice! Want some silverware to go with those dishes?"

Wishlist: Shoppers who have added items to their wishlist but haven't purchased them yet offer the best conversion rates for campaigns driving repeat purchases. Retailers can create triggered campaigns to remind people about what's on their list. For pricey items or timed for holidays, retailers can also send an offer to share a wishlist with friends and family.

Timely Alerts and Social Proof

There's nothing like a little FOMO to get a shopper to buy. Adding a sense of urgency to browse abandonment or wishlist reminder emails, with a message like "Those boots you checked out are going fast!" can increase conversions.

What's more, any of the above shopper behaviors can be paired with more timely messages that are based on inventory changes and sales like back in stock notifications and price decreases. In addition, retailers should look for changes in typical life cycle behavior. If frequent buyers have stopped visiting sites with high-volume purchases or if interested shoppers have abandoned their research for a high-consideration purchase, messaging can be triggered to get them back on track.

Back-in-Stock: Shoppers who viewed or carted an out-of-stock product but did not purchase are particularly valuable AC shoppers because they likely had a high intention to buy. Retailers can provide several different options to these shoppers, not only sending a triggered message when the item is restocked, but also sharing similar items, for example if their selected item won't be back in stock for a long time. NOBULL found that having an accurate view of their product catalog was a key factor for automating triggers and driving conversions. By being able to target based on things like inventory levels, they could filter out any products that were out of stock and focus on things coming back in stock.

Price Decrease: Retailers can test several different triggers around price decreases. Rather than send a blanked "sale" email to an entire database, retailers can be more targeted with their discount messaging. For example, testing a triggered email to shoppers who viewed or carted any product where the product price decreased recently. Retailers could also surface similar products that are on sale without having to offer a discount for the original item.

Test and Learn Is the Way to Uncover More Characteristics

While the above characteristics are tried-and-true for most retailers, every retailer is different. Retailers with very long purchase cycles and high-consideration products will likely have triggers that work for different stages of the purchase funnel, while companies with high-volume shoppers might have multi-tiered loyalty programs that provide opportunities to create targeted offers like sneak previews and opportunities to earn bonus points.

The goal for every retailer is not only to employ the obvious triggers for common shopper behavior, but to test and learn to understand the specific behaviors of their own shoppers.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Sherene Hilal is chief product officer at Bluecore.