Email marketing feels like one of those vestigial parts of the Internet that hasn’t changed much over the years.
Think about it: even though the Web (and how we use it) evolves on a practically constant basis, all of us are intimately familiar with “email blasts”—those one-size-fits-all messages that don’t give us even the illusion of a personal touch.
In answer to this trend, user behavior has become the catalyst behind a new kind of email marketing, which you may hear referred to as “automated” or “triggered.” You might think that automating your outreach might make you come across as cold or distant, but nothing could be further from the truth! By homing in on your customers’ individual behaviors and needs, you can actually make them feel much more valued and, therefore, more likely to convert. In fact, for every dollar spent on email campaigns, the average ROI is $44.25.
So how exactly can you leverage user behavior in your email efforts? Let’s take a look!
Automation = Personalization
It’s true: data-driven automation can actually make for a considerably more personal experience for your customers.
The key, of course, is that you’ll be better equipped to understand your customers’ needs, rather than sending catch-all emails that don’t take them into account.
There are two approaches to this. The first is to simply ask your prospects for information. This starts with an email address, of course, but you might also consider (gently) requesting basic demographic data—age, place of residence, employment details, etc.—or insight into their interests.
The other approach is to use a marketing automation platform, which helps you mine customer behavior for insight at regular intervals, and all behind the scenes.
In either case, what you come away with is a better understanding of your customers and their place in the purchasing cycle. In the coming sections, we’ll take a more detailed look at what’s possible when you take this kind of hands-on approach to email outreach.
How to Leverage the Customer Lifecycle
Again, the most important point I’m driving home here is that an effective email campaign is not one-size-fits-all. At any given time, you’ll have a variety of customers at different points in the buying cycle—or lifecycle, if you prefer—and, as a result, you’ll want to treat each type of customer just a little bit differently. Here’s a look at the three major points in the customer lifecycle, and how to effectively leverage each one:
Reeling in New Prospects: It’s no secret that first-time visitors account for a very small percentage of purchases. If they’ve taken the first step toward signaling their interest by plunking down their email address, then your next move may be the most critical.
Customers who have expressed interest in what you have to offer will benefit from a general welcome message, or perhaps an educational email that clues them into the benefits of your service. Think of this as a kind of nurturing phase, where you gently stoke their interest until you make them an offer they can’t refuse.
Like most of what we’re discussing here today, the nurturing phase can be highly data-driven. You can set up triggered emails to contact visitors who watched one of your videos, by sending them the next one in the series. Or, if they’ve spent a particularly impressive amount of time researching one of your products, you can follow-up with an email that highlights some of its lesser-known features or benefits.
Remember—this is their first time, so be gentle! If your customers sense desperation, they’ll get turned off in a hurry.
Courting the Engaged Customer: On the other hand, prospective customers who are actively “engaged” can be sent more detailed emails that concern things like upcoming events, personalized discounts based on their activity on your site, price breakdowns, or case studies and testimonials from past and present customers.
One thing you can consider at this stage is the “special occasion” email. This is one way to impart a sense that the customer is taking part in something fleeting, or exclusive. Maybe you send a specialized email to celebrate their birthday (if they’ve provided that piece of information), or perhaps you’re celebrating your company’s birthday instead. You can mark the occasion with discounts, giveaways, or anything else your imagination might suggest.
Whatever the occasion, you’ll be surprised by how many customers respond to an invitation to take part in something out of the ordinary.
Following-Up with the Strays: Finally, don’t forget the customer who’s been away for a while. Anyone who makes their living in eCommerce knows the unique frustration of coming this close to sealing the deal. Sometimes this takes the form of an abandoned shopping cart, or a surprisingly sprightly bounce rate.
Unless they’ve chosen to cut ties altogether (by unsubscribing from your newsletter), you might consider sending them a discount or other incentive to revisit your site, or perhaps even a survey to pick their brain for the reasons they chose not to commit to their purchase.
It’s All About Engagement
This really can’t be stressed enough, even though it’s something we hear often enough that it’s become a cliché. Engaged customers are committed customers, and are much more likely to stick around for the long haul. According to a recent Harris Interactive survey, 77% of online shoppers admit that they’re more likely to make a purchase if the vendor in question sends them personalized emails.
This, in a nutshell, is why brick-and-mortar stores are here to stay: because customers can be assured of a personalized experience. It’s time we learned to emulate that in the eCommerce world.
If that’s not a strong call to action, I’m not sure what is! But if we’ve learned anything today, it’s that sending triggered emails based on customer behavior isn’t the Herculean effort it might sound like. With a bit of know-how, or perhaps some professional assistance, you can fine-tune your email techniques until they’re humming like a well-oiled conversion machine.
Shane Jones is the Director of Earned Media at WebpageFX, ranked the #1 Best Internet Marketing Agency by Heardable. You can also follow Shane’s work on his columns at Search Engine Journal, Econsultancy and KISSmetrics. Follow him @ShaneJones15 on Twitter.