How Retailers Can Make Better Connections with More Shoppers | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

How Retailers Can Make Better Connections with More Shoppers


The weeks leading up to the holidays can be stressful for retail marketers desperate to hit their goals, and that can lead many to throw good money after bad tactics to gain some quick traction. A common example is the focus on reach. Too many retail marketers focus on acquiring customer contact information (usually email addresses) to get in front of net new shoppers and hit acquisition goals without any focus on the relevant data that can help them turn those email addresses (read: shoppers) into first-time buyers.

In this common situation, retailers batch and blast discount emails to their new, big list, with low open rates and flat sales. And worse they think of this big list as their "reach," when only a small percent ever engage.

To end the reach spiral, marketers need to pull back on their "more is more" approach and instead start to focus on the signals they can gather that can inform a smarter outreach strategy for those shoppers, which will drive better sales during the holidays and build a foundation for better customer relationships next year.

Take a Step Back and Look

Even though email is one of the most established digital marketing channels, it still can be hard. A study from VB Insights found that 80 percent of marketers struggle to maintain or grow their emails lists. When that's the case, it's no wonder that many marketers are focused on acquiring emails - any retailer will struggle if their database isn't growing, or even worse if it's shrinking.

But acquisition isn't getting to the root of the problem. If a list is stagnant or shrinking, chances are there are some list hygiene problems that need to be resolved. Marketers should see what their mailing status is across the ISPs and see what kind of bounce backs they are getting. Even if it feels scary at first, the best email marketers regularly remove emails from their list. In addition to any email that bounces, marketers should also stop sending to disengaged recipients, such as anyone who hasn't opened an email in 30 days. Marketers can focus on a new metric to keep their list as healthy as possible - payback on acquisition cost. This ensures that marketers are measuring the value they get for every lead they add and makes it easier to remove inactives from the list.

After these basics are accounted for, marketers should segment their list. There is likely a group of customers who open everything and buy regularly. There's also probably a group that only clicks on sale lists, or on new arrival emails. And then there's probably a low value group that doesn't do much. The concept that marketing leaders want to avoid is "double paying." The same shoppers that usually click and open emails would likely go directly to the site to purchase anyway, so a discount is wasted on them.

Clearly, the active shoppers are the ones that retailers want more of, and that's where the fun begins.

From "More" to "More Better"

There's nothing wrong with acquiring new emails, as long as retailers have a good plan. Retailers need to build a foundation using insights about their most active customers. The more retailers know about their best customers, the more they can acquire more better customers.

A lot of insights can come from signals right on the website. Ideally the shoppers being acquired look a lot like a retailer's best customers. Usually they:

  • Show positive signals: Shoppers who look at higher-priced items or search for specific products are providing retailers with information that can be saved and used later for more relevant outreach.
  • Are engaged: A shopper that goes to the homepage and leaves is not engaged. A shopper who browses the "new arrivals" section for five minutes is engaged and might be interested in new arrival emails.

It's likely the more valuable customers click down into more product detail pages or read more customer reviews. Rather than simply slapping a pop-up on the home page to get an email address from every new visitor, retailers should test acquisition options that are deeper on the site to attract more active shoppers. (Or they could do both and test the two open rates and sales rates against each other!)

Time to Reach Out

With a focus on insights and better-quality acquisition, retailers are set up to get better results from their acquisition marketing programs, but things can still go south if every shopper is treated the same once they are acquired. According to McKinsey, 71 "percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76 percent get frustrated when this doesn't happen."

The term "personalization" can be misleading for many marketers. The goal is not simply to use someone's name on a batch mailing. Rather, customers want experiences that they want, and they don't want their time to be wasted. Retailers cannot waste the valuable insights they've collected on a poorly executed email strategy.

Instead, retailers can leverage those same insights to create much better outreach, based shopper signals, product data, weather, timing and more. By focusing on creating unique experiences, retailers can move from the concept of a monolithic customer database to a fluid group of shoppers that are moving from new visitor to first time buyer to loyal customer. When that happens, it's likely the focus on reach will be gone entirely, with a new focus on shopper movement as more "email addresses" become engaged, active customers.

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.