Recommendations Reach Far Beyond the Cart Page

Monday, July 20, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

Marketers have been using personalization to increase engagement and conversions for many years, starting with the interjection of first name in email subject lines and direct mail pieces. Today, with access to a wealth of data and marketing automation at their fingertips, retail marketers are able to make personalized product recommendations at every touchpoint to provide each shopper with a truly one-on-one brand experience.

What is Personalization?

For many retailers, personalization takes shape in the form of recommendations on the website, such as the popular and effective upsell and cross-sell recommendations on the cart page. But just as marketers have quickly learned that product recommendations – when contextually relevant – have a place on other pages of the website as well to help move the customer closer to a purchase, they are also learning that to keep customers truly engaged and purchasing, they must offer a personalized experience not just on-site, but at every touchpoint.

While most retailers realize the need to offer personalized customer experience across channels to compete, many find that the cost and time spent developing their own product recommendations algorithms are prohibitive. Fortunately, technology exists so that digital marketers can quickly and easily launch a personalization product recommendations program that reaches far beyond the cart page, test it, iterate on it and optimize the results.

Personalization's Impact

Many retailers work hard to generate great content for websites, blogs, in store signage and more, but when treating all shoppers the same and presenting the same experience and conversation, conversion rates can be low and overall customer experience can suffer. Relevance is critical, and the more relevant retailers make interactions with shoppers – be it in-store, online, in email or display ad - the more likely they will convert.


Emerging technologies such as Mobile beacons and wearable devices are changing retail dramatically.  Beacons are equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy technology, so they can wirelessly communicate and transmit data with mobile devices with Bluetooth turned on. This not only allows retailers to track a customer’s path to purchase, but also to send relevant product recommendations to her while she’s shopping in-store.

A recent report from Google found that 85% of shoppers would be more likely to shop in stores that offer personalized coupons, 64% in stores that offer product recommendations and 54% in stores that offer recommendations based on what friends/family have purchased.


It’s no surprise that including product recommendations throughout a retailer’s website drives increased sales. In fact, in a Listrak-sponsored Harris Interactive Survey 67% of consumers reported that they find it useful when a retailer recommends product on the pages of its website. The key to providing a truly relevant online experience is to personalize as many pages of the website as possible with products that are truly meaningful to the visitor where she is in the customer journey.  A poorly chosen recommendation can be worse than no recommendation at all.

Online shoppers have grown accustomed to seeing product recommendations presented on a retailer’s cart page, product detail pages and homepage, however, there are many other on-site opportunities to personalize the shopping experience. For example, placing relevant product recommendations on a search page when no results are presented improves the experience and may keep the visitor on the site. Category landing pages are additional areas of opportunity for retailers to personalize the customer journey by showing recommendations that are contextually relevant and that meet the retailers’ business goals. And of course, any custom campaign landing pages should also include product recommendations or personalized content to engage the customer and enhance her experience.


Many retailers have indicated they want to increase the level of personalization with their current email marketing efforts, and it’s a wise move. In the same Harris Interactive Survey referenced above, 80% of consumers reported that they find it useful when retailers send emails featuring products based on previous purchases and 71% on what they have browsed but not purchased.
Adding personalized product recommendations to emails allows a retailer to send a unique, relevant message to every individual subscriber without investing a significant amount of time developing different email creative for different list segments. Recurring automated campaigns combine the benefits of marketing messages and personalization and present each subscriber with a new array of products each time they are deployed without requiring any additional time or resources. Utilizing product recommendations in triggered email campaigns like Shopping Cart Abandonment, Browse and Abandon, Post Purchase and more can help to significantly increase click through and conversion rates, along with AOV.

Transactional messages are another area of untapped personalization opportunity for retailers. E-receipts and Order and Shipping Confirmation emails are some of the highest opened and clicked on messages, and customers often make additional purchases from them. Providing them with personalized recommendations based on their recent purchase or past purchase behavior can increase revenue dramatically for retailers. In fact, for some retail clients, cross-selling in post-transaction confirmation emails has more than doubled conversion rates.


Retailers are very familiar with display retargeting, a technology that has been widely adopted over the past several years. With the latest personalization technology, retailers can now personalize display ads with items most recently browsed or items left behind in a shopping cart. Additionally, display ads now allow consumers to interact with the ad to scroll and see additional product recommendations.

Retailers Take Control

Today’s technology allows retailers to have more control over the products and content being recommended. Retailers can now harness data from every customer touch point (in-store data, online behavioral data, mobile interaction, etc.) to recommend products personalized to each customer at every touchpoint. As competition becomes more intense, the retailers who will succeed will be the ones seamlessly blending promotional and informational messages across channels and delivering the right message at the right time in the right place with the right effect. 


Top Retailers’ Top Five Ways to React to Amazon Prime Day

Friday, July 17, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

There is much being written about how Amazon netted out with the already historic Amazon Prime Day. We thought it would be interesting to take a look at the marketing emails from top retailers to see what they did in response to the newest online shopping holiday: 

There were several approaches:

Declare it Christmas in July

While this theme is not a new one and many retailers already began using it earlier in the month, some like JomaShop (IR No. 203), reserved their Christmas in July promotions to coincide with Amazon Prime Day. Like Amazon, this retailer of luxury watches deemed it to be “better than Black Friday,” and, wisely, extended the sale to 48 hours.

Make Wednesday Black Friday in July

While Amazon promised more deals than Black Friday, many retailers, including fast fashion retailer Forever 21 (IR No. 306), simply deemed Wednesday “Black Friday in July” and pulled out the stops with significant savings and free shipping.

Approach it Subtly

Others took a more low-key approach, like popular outdoor outfitter Cabela’s (IR No. 63). You can almost here a “Pssssst…” before the subject line, "Fishing for deals?” There was no frenzy created in the email itself either, with its relaxed photo of friends fishing and even omission of exclamation point after the warning, “make sure these deals don’t get away.”

Tack on Free Shipping

A number of retailers simply stepped up summer sales already in progress by adding the always-popular free shipping for the day. Hanes (IR No. 687), for example, added a one-day email exclusive free shipping on all orders offer to the witty Change Your Underwear Sale that began earlier in the week.

Do Your Own Thing

Amazon Prime Day, what? The so-called new holiday and Amazon birthday celebration just happened to coincide with the birthday of (IR Social No. 12), who celebrated the occasion with subscribers by offering secret steals for all.

What did you see?


Meeting Customer Expectations On the Path To Purchase

Friday, July 17, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

The following blog post is being shared by our partners at Weblinc. You can download our joint path to purchase whitepaper on the Listrak website, as well. 

Although slightly less than one third of consumers are making purchases on their mobile phones, we know that they use their phones at many different points along the path to purchase: to discover new brands and products, conduct research, browse social media sites and compare prices.

Over time, conversions from a mobile device will surely increase, but until then it’s important to understand how to meet your customers’ rising expectations on mobile. Making sure your emails are in tip-top shape is a great starting point.

Your customers likely check email on their phones several times a day. So if you’ve got a can’t-miss promotion or sale event, make sure your email is optimized for mobile devices, tablets and desktops to get the highest conversion rate.

Most often, promotional emails include a mix of text and images. But if your customers’ email provider blocks images as the default view, you’ve got to get their attention with alt text. After all, you can have the sale of the century, but if no messaging displays, it’s dead on arrival.

Beyond ensuring that customers actually see the content of your message, consider best practices. Be sure to space links so they’re easy to tap with a finger and increase font sizes where necessary so content is readable no matter the screen size. No one wants to zoom in just to read an email. (Google’s mobile usability guidelines can apply to emails, too.)

Next, when it comes to the content of your email, simplicity is key. Choose words carefully and get to the point quickly. And as layouts go, a simple one-column format is easier to read on any screen, but especially on a smartphone or tablet. Most people reading emails on their phones aren’t going to be very patient.

And of course, make sure your email is on brand and on message. Your click-through rate will surely suffer if the message doesn’t “feel” like your brand. Large enough font and adequate spacing around clickable links, as well as simple content and layout, helps direct the reader’s eye to your call-to-action.

You need a strong call-to-action that is clearly visible and evokes a sense of urgency. A beautifully designed email and a compelling message isn’t enough to get your customers to click through. Keep your customers on their toes with strong verbs and enticing offers (flash sale, anyone?).

And if you have the opportunity to personalize emails to your customers, by populating things like customer name, location, and status level, your email conversion rates will soar.

About the author: Brandon Cohn is member of WebLinc's Client Advocacy team. He combines his background in front-end development, web design, and fashion retail marketing to develop strategy for WebLinc clients.


Connecting the Dots for Shoppers

Thursday, July 16, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

We hear a lot these days about “reducing friction” for shoppers. While achieving the effortless buy can manifest itself in infinite forms, my personal favorite is through some inspirational content.

You’re probably already used to seeing this in the fashion industries. Hi there, shopper. Here’s some shoes, a scarf, and a new dress. See how great these look on this model? Great! Here’s how you buy this look…

Yet we often ignore that this technique is by no means limited to fashion. Most brands sport an assortment of complimentary goods and there are plenty of great ways to showcase this outside the highly-effective “Product Recommended with This.”

Most customers, simply put, aren’t as imaginative as we’d like. They don’t have the familiarity to picture how your product or service would relate to their home, their wardrobe, or their life. It’s your job to paint the picture.

I’ve seen no finer examples than some emails I’ve received recently from three very different brands: Yoogi’s Closet, Things Remembered, and Viva Terra.

First, Yoogi’s Closet presents a very traditional approach to linking products together in a few cute outfits. Making matching easy makes purchasing email with this fashionable example.

For Things Remembered, they target a niche group (Groomsmen) to package an assortment of men’s products together in one themed email. While they still include isolated images of specific products, they use copy and a header image to successfully tie it all together. 

Finally, in Viva Terra’s email, an eclectic mix is made cohesive by a superlative-themed non-traditional gift guide. This is a far cry from the typical fashion-based approach to connecting products, but is effective nonetheless. It’s great to see images that capture products in-context, as it provides more footing for relatability.

Have you seen any great examples you'd like to share? Let us know!


Shopping Cart Abandonment Subject Lines

Thursday, July 09, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

We’ve all done it. While browsing through your favorite eCommerce site, you find a perfect new item. Well perfect…except for that price tag. So what do you do? You throw that almost-perfect item into your shopping cart. Then, carefully sidestepping any exit modals and launching a few new tabs, you pillage the internet searching for coupons and competitors that may put that item within the reach of your salary. Unfortunately, you find nothing and log off before your boss sees you shopping at work. Fast forward three hours.

If the site you browsed has been keeping up with Listrak’s blog, you’ve likely just received an email at an email address you provided while shopping. In it, lo and behold, your near-perfect item stares at you, mockingly expensive. Distraught at the hopeless situation, you swear to never open additional emails about that awe-inspiring find lurking in your shopping cart. 

Fortunately, companies often realize the value of shopping cart abandoners. Convincing you to purchase becomes a priority and keeping their product at the top of your mind is invaluable…but you’ve already sworn to stop opening their emails. What do they do? Well, they make sure their subject lines are so good they demand your attention.

While the ingredients for a high-performing email varies from brand to brand and audience to audience, Listrak’s looked into nearly 700 shopping cart abandonment emails and pulled out some statistics to help you, as a retailer, learn what the subject line norms are. 

1. Most brands formulate their attempts and recovering carts as a helpful reminder, rather than a failure or shortcoming on the side of the consumer.

2. Shopping cart emails tend to much more down-to-business than, say, a welcome series. Pleasantries, like “Hello!” or “Hey!” are almost double as likely in the former, according to our samples.

3. That cold approach continues when we look at what percentage of all words used were unique—that is, did not appear in more than one email subject line. Since we generally view uniqueness as a measure of creativity, it’s safe to say recovery emails stay on the dry side.

When the tracks of the majority are clearly displayed, a tougher choice arises. Do you follow it or reject it? On one hand, if a consumer sees a common subject they are likely to rapidly understand the contents. On the other hand, you’ll be just another email asking about “Forgetting something”. 


To Gobble or Not to Gobble: Thanksgiving Subject Lines

Wednesday, July 08, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

It’s that time of the year again: another national holiday that can easily be transformed into a capitalist fairy tale. Balancing the spirit of the season and the need to push your biggest sales, however, can prove to be the greatest challenge. You don’t want to be too pushy, too cheesy, or too mild…That’s a lot of “too’s” to worry about.

For your benefit, we decided it would be fun to look at nearly 1000 Thanksgiving email subject lines to give you the low down on the trends we’ve found in the sphere. (Fun gets a little nerdy in the digital marketing world.) Here’s what we realized:

1. Short and sweet seems to be out of style for Thanksgiving subject lines. The average length of a Thanksgiving subject line is longer than that of other types.

2. Patriotism loses out to vagueness. In fact, it’s almost eight times more likely to see the word “Holiday” than “American” in a subject line.

3. Apparently most people know that Thanksgiving Day is, well, a day. One fifth of emails choose not to remind them in their subject lines. Instead, this valuable real estate can be used for copy that has a great impact on the recipient’s experience. (Time to break out those turkey leg emojis.)

4. Finally, for the statistic that gives this post its name. It turn out, a surprising group of brands do decide to include a good hearty “gobble” in their subject lines. We found it interest that “gobble” was even more prevalent than the word “turkey” in our sample.


How do you balance holiday spirit with the bottom line?


Internet Retailer: Email 'Batch and Blast' is a Thing of the Past

Tuesday, July 07, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

In the July issue of Internet Retailer, Associate Director of Research Stefany Zaroban writes about how Listrak demonstrated how to connect in-store data with email at our booth at IRCE: 

Marketers have to be far more nuanced in their use of email marketing, IRCE attendees said.

When it comes to email marketing, the practice of sending the same message to all customers—known as “batch and blast”—has fallen out of favor. Given that inboxes are increasingly crowded with marketing messages, e-retailers have to become more creative if they are going to get customers to open their emails, let alone click through and buy something.
At least that was the message delivered by many e-retailers and email marketing firms roaming the exhibit hall at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition this year.
The most effective strategy, they say, factors in a customer’s purchase history, browsing behavior or social cues to email messages, which makes the communication far more relevant and more likely to entice consumers to buy, and buy again.
This trend toward connecting customer data with email can even tie into a retailer’s mobile apps or physical stores, as was demonstrated by email marketing firm Listrak in the exhibit ball. The Listrak booth featured a store mock-up for its client Giggle, which sells high-end baby gear in stores and online. Each store department in the booth, such as toys or baby gear, and products displayed throughout contained iBeacons tied into an iPhone app that Listrak built for IRCE.
Visitors could open the app and walk through the store as if they were shopping. When a shopper reached the toy department, the app would show her the online toy category page where she could click on products to order or learn more. If she stopped at the Sophie la Girafe baby toy, for example, the iBeacon would sense her location and show her more information about the toy, including customer reviews and consumer-generated images of other customers playing with the toy pulled from social networks with help from crowdsourcing technology company Olapic Inc.
Upon leaving the store, the shopper received an email thanking her for stopping by. It also showed her the Sophie toy, and other toys she might be interested in.
“These types of messages can create a real emotional connection with the customer, and make shopping a much richer experience when we can take into account all of these touch points,” says Shawna Hausman, Giggle’s vice president of e-commerce and digital marketing.
Other merchants at IRCE said they are using behavioral analytics technology to figure out which customers to email more often than others. For example, high-end shoemaker and online retailer Donald J Pliner uses the Propensity to Buy tool from behavioral analytics firm AgilOne. This scores Donald J Pliner’s customers from one to 10 in terms of how likely they are to buy at any given time. The tool factors in signals such as the length of time since the customer last visited the e-commerce site or how often she has made a purchase in the last six months.
When the merchant emails the people rated with the highest propensity to buy, the emails perform five times better than those sent to other segments that AgilOne determined were less likely to buy. “It’s clear now that these are our active shoppers, and at any given point in time, these are the people that are likely to buy something,” says Julian Chu, operating partner at Castanea Partners, which owns a majority stake in Donald J Pliner and helps to oversee its e-commerce program. “We get around 80% of orders from this group, and 20% from the three or four other groups.”
Plus, Donald J Pliner now knows to send fewer emails to shoppers less likely to buy, which prevents fatigue and a high number of consumers unsubscribing from its email program, Chu adds.


Hey or Hi: The Nitty Gritty of Welcome Email Subject Lines

Tuesday, July 07, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

When your copy is being blasted out to millions of people at a time, little details can generate a lot of added stress. Are you more of a gray or grey brand? Is the oxford comma classy or antiquated? Is that third exclamation point too much?

To prune away any blossoming email inferiority complexes, we at Listrak have quantified three Welcome Email trends by examining over eight hundred subject lines. Here’s what we’ve found:

The vast majority (almost 98%) of brands seem to avoid any kind of greeting eating up valuable subject line space but, for those who do, “Hello” seems to be the popular pick.

Speaking of wasting words…the subject of your email probably doesn’t need to self-reference. If they’re receiving an email, you can probably opt to just say “Thanks…” instead of “Here’s an email to say thanks!” Instead, save all those extra characters for making a stellar first impression, unlike almost 8% of the emails we reviewed. Don’t forget, only a limited number of characters are visible on a mobile device – make them all count.

But what words really make a difference to the recipient? From what we can tell, including the recipient’s first name seems to be a vetted approach by a significant portion of brands.

Are you guilty of some existential blasts? Have you found increased engagement when adding a quirky “Howdy” instead of the common “Hello”? We’d love to hear about it.


Finding Subject Line Swagger: Welcome Emails

Monday, July 06, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

Sometimes it feels as though omnichannel marketing is more of a science than an art. With each split test, heat map, and cookie, marketing has become riddled with technical jargon and best practices. However, when every company imaginable is pushing out those “Top Trends for <Next Year>” reports in the winter, there’s a much foggier choice to be made: Should you follow the trends or purposefully not?

To date, there hasn’t really been a right answer to this question. However, if your goal is to make an email that is interesting to a reader, we may have just found a telling correlation.

Subject lines— the suit and tie of your email’s first date with a potential customer — can be notoriously lame. But does it really matter? We think so.

After tracking over 800 welcome emails throughout 2014 and flagging interesting emails as we went, we’ve found a positive link between the uniqueness of subject lines and reader interest. (And if someone can truly dub an email interesting after flipping through several thousands of them, you know it must be good.)

First, let’s look at the top words used in welcome series’ subject lines, as seen in the chart. Not the most inspiring list, yet together those ten words made up almost half of all words used in these 800+ surveyed emails.

When ten words make up almost half of the vocabulary, it’s not shocking that only 25.84% of all words surveyed were unique. Interested in how this would stack up, we investigated our well-stocked pile of over 125 interesting emails spanning from 2013 to 2015.
Not surprisingly, we see a huge jump between welcome emails and the average for emails dubbed interesting by Listrak employees. Coincidence? We think not. It seems, for subject lines anyway, sticking with the trends and typical phrasing could lower your chances of interesting a reader.

Moral of the story? While a subject line alone is likely not the sole justification for an email’s level of intrigue, there seems to be correlation enough to take a second look before sending another soulless “Thanks for signing up!” or “Welcome to your new account!” Make the most of your subject lines, and see how your engagement levels change of time.

Have you experimented with your subject lines recently? What did you find?


Human Emails: Some Great Examples

Thursday, July 02, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

In a previous post, I spoke about the important of humanizing your brand through showcase your company culture and engaging with the external world. A few days ago, I stumbled upon a few great examples of this approach in practice. First, an athletic accessories company, Jaybird. In an effort to associate their goods with sports, they pair themselves with “Ambassadors” who promote and use the brand. Details aside, this week they added a new ambassador and decided to highlight that in their emails. From the subject to the images, the ambassador herself receives the priority. You’ll notice that background on this professional climber is then carefully mixed in with product information and images.

Next, a look at Lovesac reminds us that marketers like pop culture, too. The “Dad Bod”—a man who is not overweight yet carries too large of a belly to have visible abs –was a term that got a lot of attention late this spring. Coined by a student reporter at Clemson University, “Dad Bod” references rapidly polluted the nation as a comical and counterintuitive new ideal for male appearance. In Lovesac’s email, they show their social relevance by incorporating a reference to this in relation to their ultra-fluffy furniture. Their subject line read, “What do Pillowsacs and Fathers have in common?” By tying this into the upcoming Father’s Day and including an array of products at the bottom of the email, Lovesac really did a fantastic job.

Finally, here is a more political statement in solemn contrast to Rue La La’s usual colorful and lighthearted imagery. In this, Rue comments on the recent new stories about a massacre recently occurring in Charleston. Not stopping with drawing attention to Rue’s views, the message goes on to promote a new product for which nonprofits will receive all earnings. Providing information about the YWCA and The Martin Luther King, Jr Center for Nonviolent Social Change at the bottom almost overshadows the small “Shop Rue La La” link lurking in the bottom navigation email. While strong social statements that ask readers to, “Join us as we pause in solidarity with the victims of racial prejudice,” could seem out of place in email marketing, Rue took a firm position and, for many readers, may have earned a new level of respect. Rue showed an impressive step towards corporate responsibility by contributing publicity and funds to several worthy non-profits.

 What do you think? Is email marketing engaging with current events a best practice or a rookie mistake?


The Golden Rule: Content-Rich Emails

Wednesday, July 01, 2015 Listrak 0 Comments

Before even reaching double digits, we’re all taught about this enigmatic Golden Rule...the belief that “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.”

When we send marketing emails, we’re doing a lot of asking (or, depending on the quarter, begging) for engagement. We want dollars, birthdays, likes, friend’s dollars, friend’s birthdays, friend’s likes… In form alone, it’s a very one-sided conversation.

To build a level of interest, respect, or appreciation from your email subscribers, a little more giving could go a long way. While coupons and discounts are nice, sometimes some solid content can go even further.

For starters, here’s an example from Shoes of Prey, where the background images cycles through a woman trying on each pair of shoes until she finds her perfect heel. Besides the cute graphics, the brand provides an incentive for a click, gathers more data about the recipient’s preferences, and is likely to hide some more subtle product placement within the contents of the quiz.

Next we’ll tie in a case from Pegasus Lighting, representing a whole different industry. While far from impressive in terms of design, Pegasus seems to keep its handyman audience in mind when designing a diagram-filled message about perfect lighting for garages, and follows it up by suggesting specific products for each type.

Finally, here’s an example for the foodies out there. In their emails, Sur La Table really capitalizes on the content-rich world of food. By opening with a beautiful imagine and recipe overview, it begs for engagement to unlock the remaining information. Cleverly, the information featured with no click barrier falls to the bottom under the header “Get these to make the recipe”. Here, we see a wide array of product that connect with the given recipe. Overall, a very helpful email that shows a perfect balance of product and content.

What do you think? Let me know if you have any other great examples?