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Perry Pearcey

13th November 2020

How Email Marketing Automation Can Transform Your Customers' eCommerce Journey: Part One

68% of businesses use automation in some way and 67% of marketing leaders are currently using an automation platform. If you’re not using marketing automation yet then odds are that you’re either missing out on key opportunities with your customers or you are spending far too much time on manual marketing efforts. It’s even more likely that it’s both of those things! In this article, we'll be looking primarily at segmenting your markets for automated content and behaviour triggered marketing, and offering advice on how these strategies can help your customers’ eCommerce journey and your overall sales. 

"May it be a light for you in the dark places, when all other light goes out." - Galadriel

As we’re looking at journeys, and as this is a three-part blog series, we’ll be shamelessly using references from the greatest journey story of all time: The Lord of the Rings, to demonstrate what we’re talking about. 

The customer journey

It’s important to remember that all of your customers are on a journey and they’ll all be at different stages within it. Some of them may be brand new customers who are looking for as much information about your company and products as possible, whereas some will be long term customers who keep coming back to you. Both of these will need very different types of marketing delivered to them to encourage them to purchase and as such you’ll need to know exactly who you’re marketing to and where they are in their journey so that you can get it right. 

You even have to consider ex-customers - people who haven’t purchased from you in some time for whatever reason. They’re still on your journey - thought they might not feel like it - and will need something different to entice them into purchasing from you again. 

When you get a new customer on board, it’s always useful to send them an automated welcome email to connect with them immediately. Set their expectations so that they know what sort of content they’ll be seeing from you in the coming months. This will help them stay engaged with you and your products, or it will make them unsubscribe from your emails. If they unsubscribe then there’s not a lot you can do, but you shouldn’t worry too much about it.  If they engage with your initial email then you can automate the journey to follow up with content based on what they engaged with, to further deliver personalised, optimised content down the line. 

Believe it or not, both of these are useful to you. You don’t want to be marketing to people who don’t want to hear from you as they’ll just end up with a feeling of a bad experience down the line. Plus, as a marketer, it will impact your key metrics overall if you’re delivering content to people who don’t want to see it and will be a detriment when you’re analysing your performance data.  Depending on the product, automation could also include an alert which tells your sales staff that they need to contact the buyer and speak to them to ensure they’re getting the most from their purchase and find out if they need any support. An automated alert in your CRM that triggers a week or so after purchase and prompts your staff to chase up can be ideal for larger purchases or if your brand has a more personal feel to it. And because it’s automated, your sales team won’t have to manually search every day to see which customers have purchased and when. 

Segment your customers to deliver the right journey

Segmenting your customers is at the core of marketing automation and if you get your segments right then half of the epic battle is done. Ensuring that you’re delivering the right content and journey is important. We’ve all received those homogeneous emails which feel like they’ve been sent to everyone in a database (because they have…) and are pretty meaningless to us. This is something you want to avoid with your valuable customers and potential customers.

It can be useful to create personas for your customer segments, based on their shared past behaviours and demographics, and you should look to put your customers in as many segments as is appropriate for them. The more accurate you can be, the better you can deliver an optimised journey and increase your conversion chances. 

There are as many segments as you can imagine, and they should be tailored to your business but below are a few that we’ve used to look at our examples coming up.

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Long Term Customers (customers who have purchased a number of times before)
  • New Customers (customers who have just completed their first purchase)
  • Ex-Customers (customers who have not purchased in a defined time)
  • Extended Decision Makers (a long browse-to-sale time)
  • Fast Decision Makers
  • Product Categories

Kicking off properly with our Lord of the Rings theme, let’s look at some of the good-folk of Middle Earth and how we’d segment them if they were customers.

Dwarves

  • Older age
  • Long term customers
  • Extended decision-makers
  • Most purchased products: Beard oil

These would go into a long term customers segment, as well as an extended decision-maker segment as you know based on their previous purchasing that they take a longer time to make purchasing decisions. This segment could be those whose browse-to-purchase time is somewhere in the high 25% compared to your other customers, and as such, you should consider how you’re communicating with them. Let’s say if the average purchase time for your product is 3-5 days, these folks will be looking closer to 7-8 days, perhaps.  

They won’t appreciate constant, daily emails with ‘buy now’ plastered all over them, but they will appreciate content which helps them to make an informed decision over time. Consider sending them automated follow-up emails with product reviews a couple of days after they’ve visited your site, and then incentive to buy emails closer to the 6-day mark where they’ll be in the final decision stages. 

As older customers based on their age segment, they might appreciate content delivered to them in a more image-heavy format with larger font sizes on emails, for example. It gets dark under the Misty Mountains so a simple thing like making your marketing easier to view could just tip the scale in your favour. 

Finally, as you know that their most commonly purchased product is beard oil, you could also enter these into personal or male grooming or product categories so that you can deliver them any updates or offers that you may have for related products in the future. 

Hobbits

  • Younger age
  • New customers
  • Quick decision-makers
  • Most purchased products: Recipe books

98% of people ages 16-25 in the UK are using smartphones, and as a younger customer based on the age segmentation, it’s a safe assumption that these customers are using a smartphone for most of their purchases. As such, you’ll need to make sure that the journey you’re delivering them (or perhaps more fittingly, the epic quest they are being sent on) is optimised for mobile usage. Studies show that over half of people will unsubscribe immediately if the layout doesn’t display well on smartphones, so a simple check can be the difference between keeping this customer as a contact or losing the chance for further marketing to them. 

They’re quick decision-makers, so cart abandonment emails are perfect to capture these flighty shire-folk. Reminding them that they’ve still got items they haven’t purchased yet and are sat in their online basket - perhaps with an incentive offer to buy - could net you that all-important sale. 

As new customers, you’ll want to help build brand loyalty with them, so automating content to them that promotes this will be some of the first things you’ll need to do. Emails with links to reviews, loyalty offers such as subscriptions or promotions, and things like blogs and social media links are the right kind of things to be sending to these new customers to hopefully put them into the long term customer segment.

They’ve only bought one thing from you so far, but it was a recipe book so you know that you can put them into the home cooking product category for now. Perhaps you’ve got books from the same author you could promote to them, or even blog pieces around the best recipes in other books you sell. Marketing these to them is a great way to encourage a cross-sell and help to turn these into long term customers.

It’s important to note that you need to be regularly reviewing your segmentation to ensure that it’s up to date and relevant to not only your company needs but to changing markets. Remember that customers may move between segments during their time so you’ll need to ensure that you’re delivering the right content. 

Elves 

  • Older age
  • Ex-customers
  • Quick decision-makers
  • Most purchased product: Garden bulbs

The elves left Middle Earth (in this case, your revenue stream) a long time ago and haven’t purchased with you in twelve months, so now your segmentation considers them an ex-customer. However, you want to get them back so you need to look at hooks for bringing ex-customers back into the fold. 

As you know that they purchased garden bulbs most frequently before they stopped buying with you, you have segmented them into gardening and outside plants segments of your CRM, and this month you’ve got a new buy one get one free promotion in these areas. By automating marketing to go to contacts which fall into both ex-customers and gardening segments, you can deliver marketing which shows this promotion, along with dynamic content like a return to purchase incentive such as a 10% discount. This would be delivered just to these elves, while the rest of your gardening data segment only receives the original offer. This means that you can repurpose or make dynamic content which serves the right segments without having to manually send to specific customers. 

If you’ve had any new information pieces that you’re created in the past twelve months, then an automated email to all ex-customers showing the relevant content could also be perfect for sending to this segment as it could be the thing that brings them back into the fold. 

The road goes ever on and on...

Carefully thought out email automation can make your products as irresistible as the One Ring itself, and segmentation is just the first step in our automation journey. Part two is here and part three here, where we’ll be continuing our own epic saga and looking at how behaviour-triggered automation can help you to hit your customers with timely marketing and how automated life-cycle emails can help to improve brand loyalty and keep them coming back to you.

‘It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.” – Samwise Gamgee

If you need any support with your marketing automation then we have expert strategists at SilverDisc who can help you to grow your business. 

Contact us for more information. 

 

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