The Purchase Experiment: How to Romance Your Customers

Thursday, March 24, 2016 Listrak 0 Comments

Here on the Listrak Insights blog, we love to strategize ways to reel in customer. We could talk about subject lines, great design, or copywriting tips for days—no problem.

If you think about it, that makes us almost like professional wingmen.

Because, as the bachelors and bachelorettes out there can attest to, “Do you have a Band-Aid? I scraped my knee falling for you,” can only get you so far, we take you beyond the first impressions and ensure you’re the retail-version of Prince Charming.

With retail relationships, things move fast. After a modal or Refer a Friend gets you those “digits,” your courtship has already reached a pivotal moment. In our case, that’s the purchase.

No pressure.

So the question remains: How do romance your customers and keep them coming back for more?

To find out, I looked to my good friend, Excel.

Over the past few weeks, Listrak has embarked on an experimental purchasing study to see how top mall brands entice, complete, and follow up purchases on their online platforms. We’re looking at everything from modals to the return process and it’s been filled with surprises.

This is the first of a three-part series where I’ll break down some of the best and worst moments of the study as a means of holding you over until the final research publication. As a follower of Listrak Insights, I know you value the relationships you hold with your customers. With that in mind-- trust me-- you won’t want to miss that report.

Part 1: The Purchase Experiment: When Relying on Carrier Pigeon Would Be a Better UX

We’ve all had those moments.

You’re on a long walk down the hall juggling a pile of papers you knew you should’ve spread out over two trips. Suddenly, you hear your phone buzz.

It’s a text message.

You’re not a demanding person—you don’t want much. All you’d like to do is shoot a quick response—no wild text bombs, just a solid 30 characters. You fumble around, grab your phone, and then realize: Your thumb can’t reach the other half of the phone’s keyboard.

My point? Sometimes, technology fails us.

Technology can be incredibly enabling but, with small misalignments, provides unnecessary friction strong enough to stop thumb-challenged texters, and online customers, in their tracks.

As part of, “The Purchase Experiment,” I’ve been doing some professional shopping. (I know, my job rocks.) During this process, I’ve been both delighted and aghast by the websites I’ve seen.

So, for the sake of schadenfreude, I’ve collected an assortment of the most appalling website fails I ran into with my professional shopping spree. Enjoy!

1. The Case of the Hidden Cart

In this homepage, a simple error wrecked the visage of the entire site. You only get one chance at a first impression. If you want to be trusted with things as tightly-held as credit card information, you better make sure your façade is flawless – no matter what device shoppers are using. This website rendered perfectly on a desktop but the responsive design didn’t render properly on a mobile device.

2. Don’t Mind Me…I’ll Just Wait…On Your Competitor’s Site

We can all remember the day of dial-up internet but nostalgia for that little “loading tune” doesn’t leave us ready to go back. While shopping this retailer, I had enough time while waiting for the first page to load to complete almost half a purchase on another website. While I’m sure this isn’t a consistent problem, it does bring to our attention a factor important for all retailers to keep in mind. These days, no one’s patient. Online? Even less so. How are your load times looking? Here you can see the site before it loaded and after.

3. How Old Are You? Wait, How Old Are You? No Really, How Old Are You?

We know the value of collecting information about your customers, but the method does matter. When I was ready to make a purchase on this retailer, before I could fill in any valuable information, I was stopped by a safeguard asking for my birthday. When I accidentally clicked the wrong year, I got locked with a warning that I wasn’t the suitable age. Following that, I was forced to go back to the hompage, click on the cart and begin the checkout process all over again. I appreciate them trying to stop the honest 10 year olds out roaming the internet from making purchases on mom’s credit card, but maybe there could be a smoother way to get these details.

In my following posts, I’ll break down some of the best and worst moments of the study as a means of holding you over until the final research publication. As a follower of Listrak Insights, I know you value the relationships you hold with your customers. With that in mind-- trust me-- you won’t want to miss that report.


Segmentation 101: Setting up for Success

Monday, March 21, 2016 Listrak 0 Comments

Marketers have been talking about relevant emails for the past decade. But, unfortunately, targeting and segmentation, while considered best practices, are still not the norm for many retailers. Many of the solutions for dynamic content, segmentation and personalize have historically been difficult to use because the data was tough to access and utilize in a meaningful way.

But, fortunately, all of that has changed. Technology that truly automates personalization and makes segmentation available in just a few clicks is now readily available and is easy for marketers to use. As long as the customer data is accessible, messages can be highly targeted, deeply segmented and extremely personal to each recipient.

Retail marketers are sitting on a ton of customer data. The key to using it effectively to inform cross-channel campaigns is to make it easily accessible. The ability to leverage your data – whether it is email-specific, such as opt-in date or method, last open or click date, etc., or customer-specific, such as last browsed or purchased category or lifetime spend – makes all the difference when creating targeted messages.

One of the greatest – and easiest – things you can do to ensure your data is accessible is to keep a master email list.

Master List or Multi-List – Which is Right for You?

One of the questions we hear often from new clients is whether or not they should move to a master list. It seems many retailers are still keeping multiple lists that represent different customer segments. This could be because their previous email service provider didn’t offer robust segmentation capabilities or because it is just what they are used to.

Keeping multiple lists is not a segmentation tactic. You should only keep multiple lists to clearly define different divisions of your company where subscribers do not overlap. For example, a retailer that manages several different brand stores/ecommerce sites, such as Gap with Banana Republic and Old Navy, should keep separate lists for each brand. However, if a retailer sells different brands or categories of goods from a single store or eCommerce site, like a department store, a master list is your best option.

If you are still keeping multiple lists for each segment, it’s time to consider moving to a single list. Doing so provides so many benefits. You’ll save yourself time, resources, money and, in many cases, headaches or other general pain caused by the restriction of multiple lists. Not only that, but you’ll greatly increase your ability to track metrics and compare results over time across the different segments, easily create personalized and targeted messages and discover new trends and customer segments that you might not know even existed.

The Limitations of Multiple Lists

On the front end, it might seem like keeping multiple lists for different subscriber segments makes sense. But doing so has many limitations:
  • You have to manually add/delete subscribers as they move into your defined list segments
  • You cannot easily cross-sell or upsell customers
  • If you want to send the same message to different lists, you have to set up the message multiple times, wasting valuable time and resources
  • You can’t easily track results across the different lists
  • You can only target subscribers based on the list definitions – you can’t segment creatively or find new trends
  • You won’t be able to set up specific solutions or strategies across multiple lists as the data needed to drive these campaigns is list-centric

Segmenting Your Master List

Another question we hear often from new clients is how to get started with segmentation. We recommend starting with the basics and then gradually progressing to more targeted sends.

Reporting-Based Segments

A great place to start is by segmenting your master list by subscriber behavior and then sending the same content to both groups. Because all subscribers reside on the same master list, you only have to set up the message once. But by segmenting the list into two groups – such as subscribers who have purchased and have never bought – you will gain an understanding of how the two segments react to your email messages.

After analyzing the performance of each group, you can then split-test messaging to the segments to gather even more data. You’ll be able to generate ideas on the best ways to reach each segment as you move to the next stage.

Goal-Based Segments

As you become more familiar and comfortable with segmentation, create a simply matrix or a quadrant based on subscriber activity – and define each segment carefully so all subscribers fall into one section – such as:
  • New subscribers – opt-ins within 30 days
  • Active subscribers – email opened in past 60 days
  • Lapsing subscribers – email not opened in past 60 days
  • Inactive subscribers – email not opened in over 60 days

Listrak’s segmentation functionality makes it simple to segment subscribers in this way with just a few clicks.

After your list is segmented, create your message but use a slightly different subject line and header message for each segment. This allows you to speak to each group separately without spending hours creating different versions of each message. You’ll notice a huge bump in both engagement and revenue by segmenting your messages this way.

Behavior-Based Segments

Once you understand how your subscribers react to the targeted messages, you’ll be ready to segment even further. These messages are the true 1:1 personalized emails that your customers find the most useful. You can mix and match any of the subscribers’ data points to creatively target shoppers.

For example, you could target shoppers that browsed a particular category online but haven’t purchased from you yet, or shoppers who purchased from you at least three times in the past but haven’t clicked on an email within 60 days. The sky is the limit.


Retailers Should Be Making More Product Recommendations

Monday, March 14, 2016 Listrak 0 Comments

Producing our annual shopping cart abandonment study, where we look at the shopping cart abandonment practices of retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 and Second 500 guides gives us the opportunity to study other aspects of leading retailers’ digital marketing efforts, as well. With personalization being one of the most prevalently discussed topics by retailers, one of those additional areas we took a look at for our most recent study was use of recommendations both on-site and in email.

Here’s what we found and how and why leading retailers could be doing even more.

Recommendations Onsite

For leading retailers, the most popular page to feature product recommendations on is the product detail page, and the 70.4% of top one thousand retailers who do so are fairly evenly split among the Top 500 (37.1%) and Second 50 (33.3%).

After the product detail page, however, the usage of onsite recommendations falls surprisingly low, with fewer than half of the top one thousand retailers featuring them on the homepage (44.7%) and cart page (44.2%), and the fewest (15.8%) featuring them on the category page.

Suggested Strategies for Online Recommendations

Personalized recommendations can help to increase time on site, AOV and conversion rates. That type of impact can make a big difference on your bottom line, so it only makes sense to put recommendations on multiple points along the conversion funnel. That being said, the shopper’s experience has to stay top of mind, and the recommendations you make at each touchpoint need to support that experience in a meaningful way.

Homepage – For a shopper just landing on your homepage for the first time, lead with proven winners like best sellers or trending products. If applicable, highlight products with high customer ratings to support their value even more. For returning shoppers, make sure these recommendations are tailored to their recent buying signals. You can lean on brand and category preferences to aid in product discovery and mix in some recently browsed products as well.

Category page – For some shoppers a category page can be underwhelming - too many options, not enough clear direction. You can use this opportunity to highlight best sellers in the category or new arrivals for new shoppers who are just getting familiar with your product offering. For return shoppers, you can use the same merchandising tactics you would use for new shoppers, only now make sure you keep their style, brand or pricing preferences in line with your category specific recommendations.

Product page – Once a shopper arrives on a PDP you have a few different options. It’s a great opportunity to provide alternative options to the featured product, but when doing so, try not to offer discounted alternatives unless you are trying to specifically move inventory. You can also provide complementary options if your goal is to increase items per order. Including recently browsed items also has an impact on the shopper’s experience, because it keeps previously considered products top of mind and aids in site navigation.

Cart page – The cart page provides an opportunity to increase AOV by highlighting promotions like free shipping thresholds and recommending complementary products. Including options to add recommended products to the cart directly from the cart page can help to minimize distractions and keep shoppers traveling down the conversion funnel.

Recommendations in Email

For product recommendations in email, we specifically looked at the Welcome Series and Shopping Cart Abandonment campaigns of the IR Top 500 and Second 500 retailers. In a future study we will reveal how many of these top retailers actually send Welcome emails after acquiring a new subscriber, but it’s important to note here that fewer than six of 10 send any at all, and that number declines for each subsequent email in the Welcome Series.

Of those Top 500 and Second 500 retailers who do send Welcome Messages, however, surprisingly few use them to present personalized product recommendations to new subscribers, especially in the first and second emails. That being said, the third Welcome Series email, for the few top retailers who send one, is the most popular for recommendations - we might assume because retailers believe they have ample data on the new subscriber by the time it is sent.  

Of the little more than one third of Top 500 and Second 500 retailers who send at least one Shopping Cart Abandonment message, just 16.2% feature product recommendations in it. Of those who send a second email in the series, slightly more incorporate recommendations into the email, and for those who send a third Shopping Cart Abandonment email, it is the least popular for featuring suggested products. 

Triggered emails are a great opportunity to incorporate recommendations because the messaging is a direct response to a consumer action.  When you combine relevancy in timing and content, you set the stage for a significant boost in impact. 

Welcome Series - This is your first opportunity to prove that there is value in being an email subscriber of your brand. What better way to show that you can provide value than by personalizing the content to the individual subscriber? Many retailers are hesitant to include product recommendations in the first or second welcome email, and it’s a huge missed opportunity. This is a great opportunity to showcase the specific items they just browsed as well as recommendations based on that activity to help in product discovery. You can also include trending products or top sellers so that the content is continually updated based on the date the message is sent.

Shopping Cart Abandonment - Recommendations in cart abandonment emails should primarily focus on the insight gathered at the time of abandonment. What was the consumer considering before abandoning the conversion and how do you support that decision rather than detract from it? Testing whether or not recommendations make sense in this campaign is a must. 

Anything that aids either new or returning customers in moving smoothly down the path to purchase benefits both the shopper and the retailer. When used strategically, personalized product recommendations, whether onsite or in email, enhance the shopper’s experience and help retailers meet specific goals.


Perfect Partnerships: How to Run a Successful Co-Branded Sweepstakes

Monday, March 14, 2016 Listrak 0 Comments

On the customer acquisition webinar, account directors Cherrill Hartman and Paul Corey discussed the importance of perfect partnerships and how a well-planned co-branded sweepstakes can greatly increase your email list size in a matter of weeks.

Customer acquisition is always a top priority for retail marketers. Not only do they battle list attrition, which is about 30% each year, they struggle to re-engage lapsed subscribers and winback former customers who haven’t purchased in 9-12 months or more. While there are lots of methods they can use to re-engage these subscribers, it is just as important to focus on list building tactics.

It’s not enough to just focus on the growth rate of your email list, though. The number of subscribers hardly matter if those subscribers have no intention of engaging with and buying from you. That’s why we talk about customer acquisition, not subscriber acquisition. You must do everything you can to find the right audience and provide value to them so they opt-in to your list.

One of the greatest – and quickest – ways to do this is by partnering with a like-minded brand that shares your values and customer personas but doesn’t offer competing products. 

In the webinar, Paul shared the case study on Coyuchi and Naturopathica.You can download the full case study here. Coyuchi is dedicated to the mission of being the source for sustainable home furnishings that respect our natural surroundings and enhance the lives of every customer. Similarly, Naturopathica is dedicated to the health and well-being of skin, carefully curating every ingredient, finding inspiration in nature and drawing from traditional healing practices. Both organizations value organic materials and nature and sustainability, but one offers beauty products while the other offers home goods. Together, it is a perfect partnership. They teamed up to run an eight week sweepstakes with prizes from both organizations. You can see the results on the right.

Another successful perfect partnership was the match up of Jomashop and Jomashop offers luxury goods, such as watches, fine writing instruments, crystal and handbags while curates fine jewelry collections from leading designers, focusing on necklaces, pendants, earrings, rings and bracelets. It’s easy to imagine that both companies would have a similar customer base while they don’t compete in each other’s core business. They teamed up to run a co-branded sweepstakes and had great results.

How to find the perfect partner

If you are considering adding a co-branded sweepstakes to your customer acquisition strategy – and why wouldn’t you be?? – there are a few things to keep in mind. 
  • Look for organizations that have a similar target market to you but are in a non-competing industry. It’s not enough to just partner with someone who has a complementary product. While it could make for an interesting contest with great prizes, if your audience demographic isn’t the same, you won’t be reaching the people with the highest probability of turning into customers.
  • It’s also important for your two companies to share values, business practices and ideas. If one company is passionate about providing organic, sustainable products and the other isn’t, it’s probably not the best match.
  • The partner company should have a list size and site traffic that is similar with yours. If your list has one million email addresses and their list has 300,000, you won’t get the same value from the co-branded sweepstakes as they will.
  • If you aren’t sure how to go about finding the right partner, talk to your Listrak account manager to see what ideas he or she has. All of our account managers are retail strategists who work with a number of retail marketers. They’ll be able to help you with ideas and make introductions.

Running the perfect co-branded sweepstakes with your perfect partner

A well-planned co-branded sweepstakes will not only grow your list – and your partner’s – but will also generate new business as the contest entrants browse your site and learn about your organization. Here are some tips on maximizing results:
  • Give away your own products – The whole point of a co-branded sweepstakes is to introduce new customers to your brand. You and your partner should both offer your products as the sweepstakes prizes. While it might be tempting to give away a trip to the Bahamas or a generic Visa gift card, the contestants won’t necessarily be interested in the products you offer. Giving away your merchandise means you’ll acquire the email addresses for people who are interested in your product offering. You should also have second and third place prizes, or weekly prizes, to make the odds of winning more enticing to contestants. 
  • Only email active subscribers – The goal of a co-branded sweepstakes is to acquire the right subscribers who are interested in your offering and who are most likely to buy. You don’t want to skew results by adding a bunch of new subscribers who will quickly unsubscribe or who have no intention of engaging with you and your partner. 
  • Expand your reach cross-channels – Both you and your partner should email the contest out to your entire list but don’t overlook your social, mobile, display, site and in-store touchpoints. The more promotions you run, the more sign ups you’ll have. If you have a modal lightbox acquisition point on your site, consider updating it with the sweepstakes promotion. 
  • Share cookie pools - Get an even bigger boost by sharing the cookie pool of your best customers with your partner in exchange for theirs. This allows you greatly expand your marketing reach in front of the right audience.
  • Ask contestants to share with friends – Offer an additional entry to contestants who get their friends to sign up. This exponentially expands your reach and doesn’t add in any additional costs, making it a very low cost acquisition point with a potentially high return. 
  • Get the timing right – Consider running a co-branded sweepstakes this summer and fall as you ramp up for the holiday season and again during the holidays when shoppers are most engaged. Also, run the sweepstakes for at least 90 days to maximize sign-ups. 
  • Send a welcome series after the confirmation email – Be sure to clearly state that upon entry, contestants will receive marketing messages from both companies. Work closely with your partner to get the timing of your welcome messages in sync but do not wait to engage contestants. And be sure to 
  • Get the legal stuff right – Different states have different regulations regarding contests and giveaways so be sure to follow those rules. 

If you are focusing on growing your subscriber base this year, a co-branded sweepstakes can help you reach your goals. Let us know if you have any questions or if you want more details on this sure-proof acquisition tactic.


Get the Open: Our Top 12 Tips for Writing Grabby Subject Lines

Wednesday, March 02, 2016 Listrak 0 Comments

A subject line is the most important thing you'll write in your email. Period. Because if you don't get the open, nothing else matters. But never fear – there are a few proven tricks you can keep up your sleeve to make sure you've got a fighting chance.

Tip #1: 
40-45 characters is your maximum; any longer than that and you'll get cut off in some inboxes. See?

Tip #2:
Front-load your subject line (and your pre-header, too) with what's important/grabby/persuasive/different so you're leading with your strongest stuff.

Tip #3:
Be different! Contrast is everything
– and I mean with length and phrasing, not with color. Be the kid with the mohawk in a room of crew cuts. Many marketers stick to the 40-character guide and don't push the length envelope. You know what was the subject line of one of Obama's most successful emails during his re-election campaign? "Hey". That's it. Just "Hey". And it did brilliantly.

Tip #4:
Be clever with your phrasing, especially if you're advertising a sale. If I never saw the word “sale” again, I’d be a happy person. Nearly all emails that hit my inbox regularly have some iteration of "sale," "save %," "$ off,” or "BOGO" in them. I like saving money as much as the next person, but after a while they all blend together. These are a few of the better ones:

Tip #5:
Avoid using all CAPS and typical SPAM-trigger words. In addition to getting you flagged as a spammer, it's annoying and counterproductive. I should be interested in this brand's emails, but I just can't get myself to open for fear of more caps:

Tip #6:
Making up words (usually
portmanteau-style) or using abbreviations is surprisingly effective because it makes you pause and think. It stops you in your tracks as you're skimming through your inbox and piques just enough curiosity to get the open. Continue this through to your email content and you've got a stand-out winner.

Tip #7:
Write it last. Get through every single thing you have to say in the guts of your email (and your landing page, if you have one) and THEN write your subject line. You’ll know your content more thoroughly, and I promise it'll come out better.

Tip #8:
Come up with at least 5-8 options. It's really not that hard. Once you've figured out the most important/grabby thing your email, try different phrasings of the same thing, such as...

Questions/quizzes: If your equipment broke, what would you do?
Top # lists/reasons why: Top 5 reasons to maintain your equipment
Quotes: "I was really hoping my stove would break today!"
Curiosity-provoking: What you'll never hear a foodservice manager say...
Simple statements: Maintain your equipment with <<yourbusinessname>>

But wait! There's more! You need a pre-header, too.

Pre-headers support the subject line in the inbox and help introduce the topic of the email. You've seen them – they’re the typically gray preview text right after the subject lines that gives just a little more info, baiting you to open the email.

The pre-header is the whiz to your subject line steak sandwich. The rainbow sprinkles to your kiddie cone. The small medium fry to your cheat-day burger. Your email just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Tip #9:
Some people say a 90-character pre-header is the sweet spot, but this depends on how your email is designed – whether or not you’re displaying the pre-header in the email design or hiding it. 90 characters is an awful lot to design around if you're displaying it in the email itself, so take that into consideration. Only write as much as you need to. 

Tip #10: 
Try a different phrasing of your subject line and see what you come up with, or use the opportunity to call attention to a different attribute of your email. Regardless, the phrasing should be fluid and natural.

Tip #11: 
When designing for mobile (responsive), try styling it so it hides the pre-header the mobile layout. You want this valuable above-the-scroll real estate saved for the email's important body content, not a repeat of what they already read in the inbox.

Tip #12: 
Test, test, test! Try to find patterns in what your audience responds to, and use whatever data you find to your advantage.

Have you had any successes with subject lines? Share them with me in the comments below.