Using Email And Analytics To Gain Customer Loyalty And Executive Buy-In
Customers don’t always do what you want them to.
Posted on 04-22-2018
Using Email And Analytics To Gain Customer Loyalty And Executive Buy-In
Let’s face it. Customers don’t always do what you want them to. Life is busy. They’re easily distracted. This is the challenge that gave birth to remarketing, but there’s no reason it should stop there. With the right combination of email strategy and customer intelligence, you can not only keep your customers engaged, you can prove internally the new potential of this veteran channel.
A roadmap to revenue.
Email marketers are in a tough spot. They know the value of email, but sometimes it feels like they’re the only ones. For example, they understand that when it comes to return on investment, email is always at the head of the pack. According to Econsultancy, email has a comfortable lead over channels like display advertising.
But ROI notwithstanding, email marketing doesn’t get the attention — or the investment — it deserves. According to Forrester’s U.S. Digital Marketing Forecast, companies consistently invest 10 times as much in display as they do in email. So email marketers are in a bind. They need to delight their customers and convince their executives of email’s value, all with limited resources.
One demonstrably good answer is email remarketing. Study after study demonstrates the effectiveness of emails sent in response to customer actions. But more importantly, remarketing is a strategy that allows you to start with what you have and prove consistent value, then scale into ever increasing accuracy, finesse, and success. A good remarketing strategy is like a road map into the future, guiding your email marketing — and your company — into a world of context-driven messages, engaged customers, and increased revenues.
A subtle but powerful experience.
The idea behind email remarketing is pretty straightforward. When someone starts an action you want them to take and then stops for some reason, you send an email to encourage them to finish. The most obvious example of this is the abandoned shopping cart.
A customer comes to an e-commerce site, puts a product in their cart, decides to think about it, and ultimately forgets it’s there. Later that day, they get an email from the company, reminding them the product is in their cart. This prompts the customer to complete the sale.
It’s a basic but effective tactic. But despite the popularity of the abandoned shopping cart use case, the idea isn’t limited to retail. Financial institutions and B2B companies often use the same tactic to follow up with would-be customers who abandon application forms and such. Other industries use similar applications — see the following list for a few examples.
- Abandoned trip itinerary (hotel, cruise, airline, etc.)
- Partially filled out form (application, sign up, gated content, etc.)
- Interrupted service interactions
- Payments (bills, donations, etc.)
- Download fails
- Prolonged interest (in a product, trip, etc.)
- Video interruptions
But when you deconstruct a remarketing campaign, you find that the principles behind remarketing go way beyond a simple reminder of an abandoned interaction. At the end of the day, remarketing is about understanding your customer’s intention and then taking action on that knowledge. Why is your customer putting products in their cart in the first place? What are they trying to do?
When you know the answers to questions like these, you can send them messages they actually want to read because you’ve proven that you understand and respect them. And it’s subtle — but powerful — experiences like this that build customer loyalty.
The art of intention.
Before we explore remarketing that goes beyond the cart, let’s examine its underlying principles in greater detail. As you consider your remarketing strategy, here are five questions you’ll want to answer.
Why are you sending the message? The beginning of a good remarketing strategy is a clear “why.” To get there, you need to ask other questions, like what customer intention are you trying to respond to? What do you want them to do? The more specific you can get, the better. For example, knowing that you want to reach out to customers who have left products in their cart is good. But knowing why your customers are leaving products in their cart is better because it allows you to tailor your message to a more relevant need.
Who is receiving it? Understanding your audience is crucial. And again, the more specific you can get, the better. Every piece of information you can gather on your customers — everything from purchasing history to behavioral data — can help you create a remarketing message that works. Remember, the goal here is to understand your customer’s intention. The more you understand your customer, the better you understand their intentions.
What is the right timing and cadence? Once you understand your audience and your why, you can determine when you should send your message and how many follow-ups you think you’ll need. The internet is full of advice about the “right” time to do everything, including sending remarketing emails. The truth is, the right time varies from situation to situation, but you need to be prepared to respond quickly to take advantage of their motives. “The more you reduce the time distance between when somebody took and action to when you send an email,” says Jose Cebrian, senior vice president of digital messaging at Merkle, “the more money you make.”
How are they receiving it? To send the best message, you need to know not only how your customer will be reading it, but what they’ll do as a result. This question is becoming increasingly difficult to answer as new technologies come into play and the online and offline worlds become ever more entangled. Obviously, mobile devices and desktops are the two main channels now, but as wearables and the Internet of Things become more prevalent, good data on your audience consumption behavior will become ever more important.
Is your content simple and useful? Again, this question goes back to your audience and your why. In order to be useful, you need to approach your emails from a customer-centric perspective. You need to understand what they’re trying to accomplish so you can solve their problem. At the same time, if your messages are too complicated, you may be trying to do too much. Go back to your audience need and your purpose and see if you can refine it more.
Guided by these principles, you can launch a basic remarketing campaign pretty easily and get good results. Consider moments where your customers are on the cusp of conversion but don’t quite make it. Then reach out to them and offer a solution. If you’re honest about what’s wrong and put yourself in your customer’s place, you’ll see results.
For example, one national hardware retailer had an e-commerce site and adopted a basic abandoned cart campaign. But they weren’t seeing the results they expected, so they dug into their analytics data and started looking more closely at what their customers were doing.
They quickly discovered that their customers were putting big-ticket items in their carts as a way to research products and compare prices, but then they were purchasing those items in physical stores. With this new insight gleaned from cross-channel data about the actual behavior and intent of their customers, they reworked their campaign to focus on reminders instead of purchases, with much better results.
But as you’re successful, you can’t sit still. Because good remarketing relies so heavily on the context in which your customers receive it, remarketing is a great, ROI-friendly catalyst for transforming your entire email strategy.
A real no-brainer.
The thing that makes remarketing really interesting is data. In their core, all remarketing campaigns are basically the same — a way to capitalize on customer intent. But their success really depends on the data you bring to the table and how creatively you take advantage of that data. In other words, your success with remarketing — and email in general — depends on the audience insights you can gather and the innovative action you take on them.
The amount of data you need to run a basic remarketing campaign is pretty small, but as we saw with the hardware store, even a little more data can change your approach and improve the result.
Integrating an email platform with the necessary inputs to take advantage of advanced analytics can take an investment. So in the beginning, you may need to get creative to find and use the right data. But if you plan and execute your beginning campaigns with integration as a goal, you can send great emails and demonstrate the unequivocal value of insight-driven email marketing to your leadership that will make the needed investment a no-brainer.
Simms Jenkins agrees. “Businesses typically underestimate the effort it takes to modify existing email tools when integrating new data sources,” the CEO of the email marketing agency BrightWave says. “But we also encounter challenges such as resource availability and justification of the effort. For example, companies have the resources but are unable to quantify the benefits of integrating data in advance to justify the level of effort required. We have resolved both problems successfully by manually integrating data for a random segment of the audience and using it to prove the value of integration, which allows the case to be made for allocating existing or contracted resources.”
Analytics all the way.
The value of analytics to remarketing — and to your email strategy in general — can be seen in a variety of ways. First, it helps you understand your customer. Not just who they are and what they do, but the context in which those actions are made. This gives you the insight you need to provide real value. But analytics also gives you the ability to notice those moments when conversion falters and then act quickly and automatically.
In today’s digital culture, there is an incredible amount of data you could be gathering about each of your customers. Consider the following:
- Website behavior
- Offer performance
- Mobile behavior
- Display performance
- Search data
- Email performance
- Social media usage
- Direct mail
- Physical stores
- Call centers
- Loyalty programs
This is a wide variety of data, and it doesn’t even include second- and third-party data. You may not be collecting all of this information yet, but the more of these sources you can bring together, the more accurate a picture of your customer you’ll get. By including behavioral, preferential, and demographic data as well, you can develop educated ideas about why a customer may be dropping off and what their intentions may be. Then you can start sending emails that speak to real needs.
But there’s an even bigger picture here. By bringing all this data together, you can start creating accurate maps of each customer’s journey. This is obviously invaluable to everyone in a company, but it’s especially important to email marketers. Because email is so ubiquitous — 43 percent of respondents to one Adobe survey admitted to checking their email in the bathroom — it is with customers at every stage of their journey. This gives email marketers a key role in helping customers move toward purchase, loyalty, and beyond. And since every step of that journey is a conversion, remarketing is the perfect tactic to rely on.
A second broad value that analytics brings to remarketing comes in the form of triggers — preprogrammed criteria that prompt an automated response. In the abandoned shopping cart, the trigger is the customer leaving the site with products still in the cart. But with the much more detailed picture of the customer journey that your analytics can provide, suddenly the number of potential triggers is massive.
Obvious examples are triggers like site or app abandonment, but with a comprehensive view like this, email marketers can start really pushing the boundaries of what remarketing can do. Maybe the customer started a video but never finished. Or they called your call center and you want to follow up on their experience. Or they checked into your brick-and-mortar store but never bought anything. With a little creativity, you can use triggers to both your customer’s benefit and your own.
“Even though we’re sending out so many more emails, we’re seeing lower unsubscribe rates and higher click-through rates,” says Otto Rosenberger, CMO at Hostelworld Group, who went from sending 300 emails to 1 billion per year. “The difference is we’re using segmentation to target customers with only the deals and information that they’ll find interesting. By improving the customer journey through personalization, and remarketing in real time, we’re helping to retain customers with 61 percent of bookings coming from repeat Hostelworld customers.”
While some basic triggers — or trigger hacks — may be available in standard email platforms, the robust suite of triggers that gives you control of the whole customer journey is something only analytics can provide. Because analytics software is constantly monitoring customer behaviors across channels, it’s able to notice when the proper criteria has been met and then activate something like an email system.
But analytics software does more than just identify triggers. As we saw with Hostelworld, it helps you take advantage of them with greater finesse. By allowing you to segment your audiences at any level of detail, you can act on specific triggers in ways that are appropriate to different audiences.
“One company I worked with had a goal of driving in-app transactions,” says Jenkins, “with an emphasis on one particular method of transaction. The desired transaction required a higher commitment to the brand and app usage, however, so the audience was segmented based on past app engagement. Customers who had never transacted within the app were encouraged to adopt the lower commitment transaction, while customers who had transacted with the lower commitment method were encouraged to adopt the higher commitment transaction through benefit messaging.”
Way beyond the cart.
As you continue to invest in more powerful analytics and integrate it more fully with your email platform, your remarketing efforts — and your entire email marketing strategy — will leave the simple abandoned shopping cart in the dust.
Here are a few of the possibilities.
Use context-driven cross-channel marketing. With analytics and email working together, you’re in a position to start applying the same principles to your messages through other channels. Especially as you deepen your understanding of your customer and gain better insights about their preferences and behaviors, you can reach out to them through the channels that make most sense with messages tailored for each specific context. Even better, you can reach out through different channels in a coordinated effort to reinforce the value you’re offering. And as they interact with you through different channels, your understanding of them will continue to develop, and the cycle starts over again.
“What you get is the ability to orchestrate a flow by resolving all the data to the individual first and then choosing the channel later,” says Cebrian, senior vice president of digital messaging at Merkle, Inc. “All your data goes in and when you want to send the campaign to somebody, it doesn’t have to be in a single channel. For example, suppose you have a customer who does something you want to respond to, but that customer doesn’t always respond to your emails. The idea is that you can act on that behavior through other channels too, using the same data.”
For example, with detailed segments, Hostelworld can reach its customers through the right channel at the right time. If someone books a trip to Barcelona, Hostelworld can deliver recommendations for activities through banners or its mobile app. When the traveler reaches the city, the mobile app will offer further suggestions through push notifications.
Take advantage of machine learning. Most companies have so many customers and such a flood of data that the ability of their data scientists to truly understand their customers is limited. Machine learning mitigates a lot of this by performing complex analysis that leads to real, actionable insights. A basic, transactional example of this is that the machine evaluates the purchasing behavior of two segments and determines that one is more likely to buy than the other, allowing the email marketer to tailor separate messages with greater relevance. Or even better, the machine segments your audience for you based on how likely they are to do whatever it is you want them to do.
But this kind of analysis can go beyond individual transactions and help evaluate customer behaviors throughout their entire journey. Imagine you have a high-value segment that you want to keep a close eye on. With machine learning, you can analyze their engagement and predict the likelihood of them becoming less interested or falling away. This allows you to reach out to them before they make the decision to leave — even before they’ve started disengaging — and strengthen their loyalty. This kind of analytical power at scale is beyond human ability, and it gives you incredible opportunities to understand and react to the intentions of your customers.
Always make the right offer. With all this analytical horsepower, the ability of email marketers to understand the needs of individual customers is a reality. And this means that when a customer engages with you, you can automatically send an offer and know that it’s the right one. This ability to understand the context of each customer and respond to all of them automatically with a relevant and personal message is what email was born to do.
Welcome to the 21st century.
When it comes to email, it’s easy to get stuck in the past. But a lot has changed in both technology and strategy. Email marketers may feel like they’re only ones who’ve noticed, but with a smart, forward-thinking remarketing campaign, they can bring the rest of company into the 21st century.
You may not be ready to launch a machine-led, analytics-rich remarketing campaign today and that’s okay. Start small. Focus on providing value to your customers and proving the value of your efforts up the chain. Build incrementally. Integrate data sets as they make sense. As you reimagine what remarketing could be, you can bring real value to your customers, which means real value to your company.
Adobe can help.
When it comes to remarketing and email using analytics, Adobe has you covered. By combining Adobe Campaign with Adobe Analytics through the Adobe Experience Platform, you can develop integrated customer profiles, detailed segments, and useful triggers that you can then use to send beautifully designed and relevant emails to the right people at the right time.
Adobe Campaign. This set of solutions helps you personalize and deliver campaigns that take advantage of both online and offline channels. It is considered best-of-breed campaign management software by both Forrester and Gartner. It excels at sending personalized, right-time emails — and coordinated cross-channel messages — that improve the entire customer experience.
Adobe Analytics. More than analytics, this product is all about customer intelligence. Adobe Analytics is an industry-leading solution that empowers you to understand your customers as people — what they want, need, and believe. Discover your most valuable customer segments and use these insights get the context you need to act on customer intent and send relevant messages through the right channel — like email — every time.
“Email Marketing Industry Census 2016,” Econsultancy, April 2016.
Jose Cebrian, personal interview, October 2017.
“Hostelworld: Experiences for Passionate Travelers,” Adobe customer story, August 2017.
“Q1 2017 Email Trends and Benchmarks,” Epsilon, 2017.
Shar Vanboskirk, “US Digital Marketing Forecast: 2016 to 2021,” Forrester, January 24, 2017.
Simms Jenkins, personal interview, October 2017.
Topics: Experience Cloud, Trends & Research, Insights Inspiration, Digital Transformation, CMO by Adobe