There is something special about visiting your neighborhood coffee shop where the barista knows your name and order. As traditional retailers move their businesses online, figuring out how to evoke similar emotions from customers via their email in-boxes could be key to improving customer engagement. While an astute barista can easily use her memory and social skills to create a positive customer experience, digital retailers must leverage individualized messaging opportunities to engage with customers based on their personal characteristics and interests. The trick is to deliver content that stands out as uniquely relevant amidst all the clutter.
Connecting with customers on a personal level and providing customized customer experiences is as important in a digital environment as it is in person. To offer individualized messaging with highly relevant content, online retailers need insight into the purchase behaviors of individual customers. Fortunately, the digital age offers marketers high-tech tools and strategies for engaging with customers based on their individual profiles and their recent purchase behaviors, and, because the processes are data-driven, a flair for creative messaging will serve a digital age retailer better than memory and social skills.
While digital marketers have been realizing the benefits of using behavioral marketing techniques to build relationships with customers for some time, the COVID-19 crisis has brought the efficacy of strategies such as data-driven personalized email messages to the forefront. Based on the actual behavior of a brand’s audience, personalized email marketing techniques use website activity, past purchase activity, and activities from third-party applications to monitor how customers engage with brands. This enables companies to build unique customer profiles for use in tailoring marketing messages that foster warm feelings similar to those evoked by familiar baristas. Companies learn the personal preferences and tastes of each customer through behavioral and real-time data collected from multiple channels and touchpoints. Insights such as search history, category filters, items reviewed/rated, cart items, abandoned cart items, price filters, preferred messaging channels, and past purchase data can be used to personally target each customer with the right recommendations and offers at the right time.
Getting Personal During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in customers making more of their purchases online, which has led to more sales opportunities for digital retailers. However, increased activity and growing in-box clutter have made it more difficult to reach customers through traditional email practices. Marketers must be increasingly creative with their messaging to break through the noise, and as a result, customers are noticing an influx of personalized emails:
“Jane, we noticed you left (this item) in your shopping cart and wanted to alert you that it is now on sale.”
“John, we’re listening! You recently bought (this item). Please tell us how you liked it.”
“Jill, yesterday you spoke to this contact center agent (name and photo provided). Please tell us how she did.”
Tone Sensitivity Is Crucial
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more competition for online retailers. As brands battle for survival during and after COVID-19, personalized communication has the potential to create customer loyalty. Conversely, messaging that makes a brand appear tone-deaf will ultimately damage a brand’s image and lead to a loss of loyalty. Today’s messages must be appropriate for uncertain times. Brands should acknowledge the pandemic and engage with users in a way that adds real value in these trying times. The audience wants to know how products or services will affect their lives amid changing conditions. Personalization reinforces such messages:
“Jen, subscribe and save. New! Get face covers delivered monthly – an easy way to stay safe!”
(Automated, yet personalized, follow-up to a one-time purchase of face masks.)
The Right Message Delivered at the Right Time
Consumers are more likely to click through to a brand’s website when emails are personalized to include content that is relevant to their interests according to a 2019 retail email benchmark report which found a 139% increase in click-through rates and an 84% increase in open rates for personalized vs. static (not personalized) one-time email sends . Sending the right content to the right people at the right time strengthens customer experiences. With personalized emails, marketers can reach out to different segments of their audience based on their profiles, ensuring the appropriateness of their messaging and making each customer feel special while enhancing conversion rates and driving customer loyalty:
“Jessica, here are some products you may like.” (Data-driven recommendations based on past purchases.)
“Jason, here are some movies you may want to watch next.” (Data-driven recommendations based on past selections.)
During the pandemic, one-to-one messaging is likely to be especially appreciated. Some customers may be hungry for higher levels of personalized recommendations and brand interactions. Brands that adopt a personalized approach will have a better chance of successfully engaging their customers amid the overflow of in-box clutter.
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- Bluecore. (2019) 2019 Retail Email Benchmark Report.