New Forrester Report - Tailoring Emails to Recipients’ Prior Purchase Behavior

A new Forrester report, published 25/9/12, concluded that "Ecommerce businesses should concentrate more of their efforts on traditional online marketing tactics like search and e-mail than social media ... The study found that less than 1% [of orders] could be traced back to social networks like Facebook or Pinterest." - Mashable. And here's Dilbert's take.

This is a great boost for email, which is what we do. Forrester advises: "For repeat shoppers, e-mail is the most effective sales influencer: Nearly a third of purchases from repeat customers initiated with an e-mail. As such, businesses should up their efforts to collect e-mail addresses, and tailor their e-mail marketing messages to each recipients’ device and prior purchase behavior." - Mashable [my emphasis added].

Exactly! But why are some companies not producing tailored emails?

  1. Mainly it's about data. Most email and eCommerce systems are not fully integrated, so emails can only be personalised using email system data, such as clicks and opens, but not the 10x or 100x greater volume of eCommerce data, such a browse and cart events. This means that many email marketers don't even have the right data to recognise active customers who can be upsold, vs lapsed customers who must be re-engaged. Also, if marketers try to push 10x more data into their traditional email marketing system, there's a real risk that the techology won't cope - requiring significant extra spending.
  2. A lot of behavioural marketing must be real-time: for example, a Welcome program for new customers, or a purchase follow-up, or a cart abandonment recovery email. These are much more effective if they arrive at the right time (e.g. a welcome email should arrive immediately) and can be downright embarassing if they arrive at the wrong time (e.g. a follow-up email for an order arrives after the purchaser changed the details). This means that everything must be loaded in real-time: the request to send the email, *and* the data needed to personalise it. Definitely not overnight, like traditional bulk emails.
  3. Campaign design, HTML design, copywriting and testing can be more complicated than with static newsletter-style emails.

These issues are not a problem for the biggest Web stores, such as Amazon, because they have huge in-house resources. But it's entirely understandable that marketers for some other retailers have put the whole issue onto the "too hard" pile. If this applies to you, try to tackle the problem one step at a time.

Fresh Relevance integrates your email and eCommerce system "out of the box", using cloud technologies to cope with big data. We work with partners such as Zettasphere to assist on campaign strategy, design, copywriting and testing. And there's nothing vague - our reports show you exactly who was contacted and whether they returned and bought.

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10/01/2012 How-tos