How Personalized Marketing Can Increase Your eCommerce Sales

How Personalized Marketing Can Increase Your eCommerce Sales

Marketing doesn’t end after you’ve attracted new users to your website. Marketing doesn’t end after you’ve made the sale.

If you’re interested in increasing customer lifetime value, know the real journey begins after that first sale is made.

Personalized marketing – messages and actions tailored to the visitor based on their previous viewing & purchasing behavior- is the key to all of this.

Here’s an example you may be familiar with:

Amazon.com Books

It seems so simple, but even Apple, the most valuable company on the planet, isn’t taking full advantage of personalized marketing.

A couple weeks ago, I bought an iPad Air on Apple’s website, and when I go back, you know what I see?

An iPad Air. Just like everybody else.

Apple knows I bought an iPad Air, so why show me again? Why not feature a case, or some nice manly accessory to go along with my new purchase?

Macintosh HD:Users:josek:Desktop:apple-store.png

Though price may be a barrier for some companies, it certainly is not for Apple, so why not include personalized marketing into their online shopping experience? Part of it may be due to the mentality of marketers as a whole.

According to a joint study by Econsultancy & Adobe, 63% of companies surveyed do not have the ability to target personalized web content in real time & 27% disagree that it’s even important.

That mentality left over from the world of physical retail stores, where adding featured products near the point of sale – think two-for-one promotions, or cheap up-sells – is enough to increase the amount of products in a customer’s shopping cart.

front display at store, no personalization

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The reason this works in physical stores is because real-life employees are there to answer questions & make recommendations based on what they observe about the customer.

Online though, this “one size fits all” approach however removes any sort of personality from the experience, and it makes your customers mad. In a study by Janrain, it was found that 73% of consumers were fed up with being presented with irrelevant content.

 

How Can We Make Online Buying More Personal?

Though the potential number of visitors to your online store might be infinitely higher, according to Deloitte’s report “The Changing Nature of Retail: Planting the seeds for sustainable growth,” the conversion in a physical store usually is much higher.

That’s because in an online store we loose a lot of the direct communication between buyer and seller.

Even though we have tools like live chats or phone assistance, to bring a more human element to the online experience, in a conversation with oLark, a popular live chat tool, I discovered only between 1-10% of visitors ever take advantage of the technology.

customer_service_channels_satisfaction-blog-full

It’s a shame because live chat has the highest satisfaction ratings over all other forms of communication. My guess is most customers aren’t using it because retailers haven’t figured out a way to trigger the chat window based on user intent.

Therefore, if we want to provide optimal service, we must explore other avenues.

The Case For Personalized Marketing Automation.

Amazon and other large online retailers use personalized marketing automation tools to give recommendations like an experienced, well trained employee.

Some of these tools include:

The following infographic, “eCommerce Goes Personal” summarizes just how personalized content can yield significant improvements in our business objectives.

ecommerce goes personal
image source

This Überflip infographic, “Marketing Automation: Popular Tools & Trends, explains additional benefits associated with personalized marketing automation and customer relations.

marketing automation

There are obvious advantages for your business KPI’s, and even more if  you consider the savings in effort and staff once we have configured the tools and processes to follow.

Automating The Journey From First Click To Final Purchase

So, how can we automate interactions with our customers throughout the buying process?

Below are a few examples of applications of personalization tools and marketing automation in an online store.

1. Obtain Customer Emails For Direct Communication.

According to Monetate, email still provides the best conversion rates when compared to other traffic sources in eCommerce.

Monetate Conversion Rate By Traffic Source

Once you have a customers’ email addresses, you can take advantage of other tools (such as email retargeting or triggered email campaigns) that can lead to additional shopping experiences, thereby increasing conversions & sales for your online store.

Don’t take this lightly. According to Experian’s 2013 Email Marketing benchmark report, personalized emails generate on average 6x more revenue than non-personalized email. Yet surprisingly, 70% of brands do not personalize.

It’s too bad, because the open & click rates across nearly every vertical are also significantly higher.

Experian-email-marketing-study-personalized-subject-lines-600x324image source

We’ve covered plenty of ways to capture email addresses before, so you won’t be surprised to hear that for B2B businesses, a good way to capture leads is by regularly publishing high quality content.

Mint is a prime example of using “high quality” content marketing to generate leads, as their personal finance blog helped them to grow to 1.5 million users in 2 years.

Our friends over at Vero have compiled a great list of other blogs that create “high quality” content, you should take a look.

Other popular tactics  you may be familiar with are:

For B2C eCommerce businesses, the user usually comes with some purchase intent, so it doesn’t always make sense to use such tactics to capture emails.

Hopefully, you’re already generating content like product sheets, testimonials from other users, etc., but additionally, you may want to consider:

  • Requesting an email address after the visitor has displayed some intent to buy. For example, once an item is added to the cart, asking for their email to be notified of upcoming promotions – or to invite them to join your loyalty program.
  • Offering an irresistible first time offer, like 20% off your first order or free shipping after reaching a purchase threshhold.

Pool Fun Store offer

2. Define Email Workflows & Guide Customers Through The Funnel.

According to MarketingSherpa, over 70% of leads are not ready to become customers, primarily due to a lack of nurturing.

One of the main tools offered by marketing automation is the ability to create lead nurturing workflows that will adapt based on how the lead interacts with the content.

email workflow

With tools like HubSpot, Intercom, or Marketo, you can define workflows as follows:

Step 1: When the user gives you their email address, send them an introductory email to introduce them to the brand and build trust. In this message, it is important to explain your return policy, free shipping, security of payment, etc.

Step 2: If the user has not made any purchases after one week, send them a coupon code and try to encourage their first purchase.

According to Forrester 30% of eCommerce repeat purchases come from email marketing, which is why it is critical to make the most of the channel while the lead is still warm(ish).

5mimitos.com did this and increased their revenue by 13.5% within 1 month.

Step 3: If the user still has not made a purchase within 2 weeks, you can send content that may be of interest to them. Send them reviews of the item they were originally browsing, a link to a report, or even a list of new products in your store that may be of interest.

Workflows should be adjusted to the needs of your business, as well as to each segment of your customer database. That being said, the previous workflow allows us to have a clearer idea of how to marketing automation tools. Exact Target Workflow

image source

3. Completely Personalize Email Communications Based On User Behavior

Going a step beyond email workflows are  transactional communications, which are generated as a result of the user’s actions on the site.

With email retargeting tools, we can maintain automated communication with a high level of personalization.

Some ideas:

  • When a visitor adds a product to their shopping cart but does not complete their purchase, send them an automated email inviting them to look at the items they have in their shopping cart, while also recommending complementary products.
  • When the user views various products in a category but does not buy any of them, we can send an email that features top sellers from this category, reminding them of their need while offering interesting options.

Cart Abandonment
image source

Because email retargeting allows us to send emails tailored to the behavior of almost any (registered) user on the web, we’re able to stay top of mind as the user is trying to meet a need (searching for a specific product on our website, adding it to their cart, etc.).

Amazon has been able to use trigger based personalization technology to great effect by sending personalized newsletters.

Amazon Personalized Newsletter

According to a study by my company BrainSINS:

  • Recommended products automatically get 73% more clicks than products that we choose to be included in newsletters.
  • Recommended products automatically generate 46% more revenue than products that we select.
  • The time that it takes to create the newsletter decreases between 30% and 90% (depending on whether or not there is any kind of editorial intervention).

This type of communication has two major advantages.

First – Each user sees only those products that may interest them.

Second – You can define the frequency of newsletters based on the level of user activity in our store.

This is to say that we can send more frequent newsletters to users who are accessing our store every week, and have more sporadic communications with those users who go for a month at a time without visiting our online store.

Not only can you personalize the content of your newsletters, but we can also adjust their frequency according to varied levels of user interest using tools such as the ones we provide at my company BrainSINS.

personalized News Letter Dashboard

 

4. Modify Your Website In Real Time Based On User Behavior

Tools like Behavioral Targeting allow you to define user segments based on their behavior and take action to change your website for each of these user segments.

In this way, you can customize the user experience in your store almost any way you want. Some rules of Behavioral Targeting that are commonly applied in eCommerce:

  • If a user accesses your online store from the UK but you’re unable to ship overseas, you can inform them of a more appropriate shop based in their country.
  • If a user has visited your store before, rather than simply showing top-selling products on your homepage, you can feature products that the user viewed during their previous session.
  • If a user has made more than 3 purchases in the last month, we can reward their loyalty by offering a discount towards their next purchase.
  • If a user has entered through a specific AdWords campaign, we can redirect them to a landing page associated with that campaign.
  • If a user did not purchase products that they placed in their cart during a previous visit, we can show them a pop-up with the products in their cart.

Modify Behavior in real time

In general, Behavioral Targeting allows you to define the type of behavior we want to target (including new users, users who have completed more than 3 purchases in the last month, unregistered users, etc).

You can determine what type of modifications you should make to your website for that user segment. Broadly, you can modify a website in the following ways:

  • Display a pop-up with specific content for specific visitor segments.
  • Display a pop-up with a form to capture unregistered user emails.
  • Replace one banner/image with another banner/image.
  • Replace existing web content with different web content.
  • Add an item to the website (content, image, etc.).
  • Delete an item from the website (content, image, etc.).

Conclusion

There are many tools and options to automate various marketing processes on your eCommerce site, such that you can automate communication with your clients from the time of their first visit to your website until the end of their experience as customers.

Most of these tools are affordable, and the process of integrating them into online stores is tried-and-true, so they will not be a hindrance as we apply them to your business.

Having these tools & the proper knowledge of how they work can increase your conversions, the lifetime value of your customers, and sales within your online store.

Join the Conversation Add Your Comment

  1. Great work!

    This can really increase a company’s sales! Advertising also has a big impact on developing more sales. Great customer service will also get shoppers in to purchasing the product.

    1. Thanks for the good feedback, Scott :)

      As you say, there are a lot of things that help us to increase sales, and if you want to succeed you have to master most of them: advertising, SEO/SEM, affiliation marketing, etc.

      From my perspective, the problem is that most people know they need to get more traffic (ads, SEO, etc.) but they don’t put the same emphasis on personalization+conversion. I think we need to establish an equilibrium between traffic acquisition and conversion, so we can get the best possible results.

  2. Great article, solid points to consider. Why don’t you make a pdf guide out of it. It could be more awesome and add to your content marketing and re-purposing. So that we could learn in more details on this topic.

    1. As Tommy says, a good idea :)

  3. Hey Jose,

    Very insightful post. Thanks for putting it together. I had no idea that so many marketers think it isn’t important to personalize users’ experience. Most of them will have to come around on that view, or their sales will suffer as their competitors continue to make user experience more personal.

    I think the more personal the lead nurturing and buying experience seems to each customer, the higher the conversions across the board. Copy becomes more effective because it does a better job of speaking directly to the reader. I don’t even want to think about how many times I ended up buying a book based on Amazon’s personalized emails; they’re certainly effective on me!

    Thanks,

    Corey

    1. Thanks, Corey :)

      I’ve talked to hundreds of marketing and eCommerce managers in the last years (since I founded BrainSINS). 2/3 years ago, 90% of them were only worried about traffic acquisition. In the last year and a half, I have seen that most of them have started to “master” traffic acquisition so they worry more about conversion and personalization. The problem is that most of marketing/eCommerce manager think that you need to be a really big retailer to get the most of personalization. But there are a lot of tools that helps to personalize the customer’s experience, even if you are a small or mid-sized online retailer.

      I have also bought a lot of books, CDs and videogames just because Amazon wonders me with their personalized emails :). They are so good at personalization that each time I receive an email from Amazon I’m sure that if I open the email I’m going to buy something. When you receive an email from any other online retailer, you think of that emails as “spam” (in most cases), but when you receive a personalized email from Amazon you perceive that email as an added-value service, and at least you pay them some attention.

  4. I came to this page via your email “Juicy bits about explainer videos, conversion flows and personalization”
    I wanted to read about Explainer videos, but can’t. Looks like there is a linking error, same article has been linked twice and Explainer video article is missing.

  5. Hi José!

    Great post!

    All you’ve said is true, it’s great to rock conversions and it’s what is coming… but for Medium to Large companies. That’s a huge problem, because an online shop, run by a Small Business, can’t afford content customization.

    Hubspot has it on their Software… but Small Businesses can’t pay for that plan. And if they do, they will need for sure implement an e-commerce platform working together with Hubspot’s software.

    They can do Email Marketing, with workflows for sure… what how about the real content customization, like personalize products listings, or if you bought an iPad showing you at the homepage a case or another accessories?

    How can, a Small Business owner, implement content customization, if he is running a Woocommerce or a Prestashop, for example?

    Again, great post!

    Y un abrazo desde Argentina! :)

    1. Hola, Francisco! :D

      As a substitute for Hubspot, in BrainSINS we use Intercom.io, which is more focused on B2B companies, but can be adjusted to work on a eCommerce website (and is really affordable).

      If you are looking for a eCommerce personalization solution, you can check the solution we offer at BrainSINS, that includes personalization of product listings, personalized email marketing, etc. Our focus is on small and medium eCommerce websites, and we have several plugins to integrate with Magento, Prestashop, etc. (and working on a Woocommerce plugin too ;) )

      Un abrazo!

  6. Nice post to read the background on how some eCommerce sites accomplish the things you see on their website and in their email. Booking.com is a very good example for this too.

    However, it’s also funny to read this and then find out you don’t fully take advantage of your own recommendations either. I am subscribed to your newsletter, so I clicked through to the mentioned articles. On the first page, there was a message in the top right sidebar to subscribe to your newsletter to get the ‘Complete Guide to A/B testing’ and scrolling down I got the same message in the ‘popup’ on the bottom right. This while you (should) know that I am already a subscriber.

    I decided to give my email address again because I wanted to get that guide. Then I clicked a link to go to another page on your site and there it was again. The same message in the top right sidebar and the same popup in he lower right.

    I don’t really mind the subscribe messages in the sidebar as I usually don’t even notice them. However, I find it super annoying that seconds after clicking on a link in a newsletter, you get a popup message asking to subscribe to that same newsletter (your slide-in message in the lower right is bit less annoying then the real popup messages some sites display.

  7. Thanks for defining the clear and accurate meaning of conversion rate optimization. I am looking for some ways to improve this factor as I just launched my website.

    1. Glad you find the article interesting, and hope it serves you to improve the conversion rate on your website :)

  8. This is truly a great read for me. you article is very interesting and informative.

    1. Glad you liked it :)

  9. Fantastic article. Really comprehensive and interesting.

  10. Excellent information on marketing. Customer loyalty and communication is huge.

    1. Artex, you’re right, customer loyalty and communication is pretty important, and most eCommerce (and other kind of business) can improve (a lot) what they are actually doing ;)

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How Personalized Marketing Can Increase Your eCommerce Sales