2019 was no different, with 11 teams taking part in dreaming – and building – the future of customer engagement.
Why dotdigital Hacks
Hack Week, now in its seventh year, gives our wider product and technology teams the chance to work on things that are just a little bit different from the day-to-day. It can be hard to take a step back and innovate when you’ve got your head down finishing a sprint, so Hack Week forces a pause in what we do.
The winners of 2019
2019 saw the introduction of a judging panel that scored every team, and our winners were the teams that scored highest. The judges were an excuse to introduce a little more role diversity – we had judges from Product Management, Customer Success, Engineering, Pre-Sales, and Training. These are the hacks they awarded most points too.
Voiceitronic Editor Control
Ever wanted to create an email campaign with your voice? For the two million people living with sight loss in the UK alone, it could make all the difference to their Engagement Cloud experience. The team used the speech recognition library annyang to allow EasyEditor to be controlled by voice – everything from selecting building blocks, moving them to a campaign, reorganizing them and, ultimately, sending, was included.
Creating on-demand Magento environments
Ok, so this one doesn’t have the catchiest name – but it solved a very real problem: creating test environments in a particular version of Magento with a specific branch of our Magento integration can be time-consuming (and just a wee bit dull). But it’s important, as we need to test our connector against all the Magento versions before we ship changes (otherwise some of you, understandably, get upset). And so the team set to using Docker to create a Slack bot that allowed the engineers to ask Slack to create a test environment using very specific configuration requirements. What’s more, it even added some sample data to aid the testing. That’s a 40-minute job taken down to seven minutes, on average.
In too deep
It wouldn’t be a hack week without machine learning being used for something, and so this team used TensorFlow Models hosted in BigQuery to provide real-time product recommendations on websites. It’s amazing what can be done with the data held in Engagement Cloud! (Incidentally, if you haven’t got your order data and product calalogs in your account yet, then you really should – once it’s there you can do many, many useful things.)
Interactive mobile landing pages
Ever think that simply sending a customer a discount code isn’t exciting enough? This team wanted to make the process much more fun, with scratch-off panels and spinners that revealed discount codes. The aim here, of course, was to gamify customer engagement, with the team working off the premise that, “humans like interacting with things that give them a reward.” Pavlov’s Dog not included.
Ok Google, how to win Hack Week?
And finally – the judges’ overall winner. This team created an entirely new voice channel for Engagement Cloud via the Google Assistant. What was really nice to see (and one of the things the judges loved) was that it was very consumer-focused. Using the data that lots of our users will already have in their accounts, it allowed someone to check in on order statuses, make changes, and so on. It really was the perfect mix of engagement, data, and innovation.
They also produced a nifty little video of it in action (I think they might be angling for an Oscar to go alongside their Hack Week win):
There’s actually one more hack from the team that won the ‘popular vote’ from live voting on the day. (We allowed staff from all around the world to vote via SMS using upcoming functionality that will be available later this year – so keep an eye out for that.) This team extended our pages and forms tool so that competitions could be built within a form, including questions that had ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers, and even a live tally of someone’s score. It’s very easy to imagine this in our product one day!
Our Hack Week is a yearly ritual. If you’d like to see previous hacks, check out the blogs from years past.
Join us and hack too
If experimenting with new technology and solving customer engagement problems in new and innovative ways seems like something you’d excel at, have a look at our open positions over at careers.dotdigital.com. You never know – maybe next year your hack will be featured here!
Because of that, we pride ourselves at dotdigital on helping you get your campaigns out lightening fast.
So, perhaps it seems a tad strange that we’d introduce a feature that slows our SMS sends down…
But hear us out.
Managing replies from campaigns
Marketing isn’t always just about the speed of getting your campaigns out. What’s more important than getting your campaigns out quickly? Getting back to customers that have reached out to you, quickly. Why? We live in a scary world where 90% of customers expect an immediate response when they have a customer services question. And by immediate, I’m talking 10 minutes.
If you combine that stat with the fact that SMS open rates are 95% within five minutes of receiving, it gets even scarier. But just like any time-sensitive event, this is something you can cash in on. Sending out an SMS campaign that nearly all of your customers open in the first five minutes opens up a whole load of opportunities: questions, interactions, engagements. That’s what marketing is all about.
The problem arises however when you don’t have a small army, ready and waiting, at the helm of your customer service team. Let’s face it, who does? But remember, you have 10 minutes. And not just 10 minutes to get back to one customer, but tens or hundreds or even thousands of customers. Oh no, your campaign wasn’t just average – it was super-successful. At the 20-minute mark, when you’re drowning in customer engagement, you might even start to chastise yourself for being such a great marketer.
It’sall about engagement, not just broadcast
Customers have so many touchpoints with brands these days. They can call, use chat, and email. And let’s not forget social media of course. As customers ourselves, we’ve all cheekily jumped on Twitter or web chat to ask a brand a question, knowing that the pressure is on for them to get back to us quickly. After 7 minutes of refreshing or checking each second to see if they’ve replied yet, you’re tired and frustrated. And I bet having customers who are feeling tired and frustrated is not the outcome you intended when you sent out your campaign?
This wealth of engagement is good, and it’s a good problem to have. But that doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t take control. This is where slowing things down can have its benefits. Sometimes sending out your campaign at a staggered pace that allows you to properly answer your customers’ questions and engage with them quickly is the best thing.
Dare I say all these brands should have done something to try and stagger visitors to their site? Of course, staggering a campaign is harder to do on Black Friday. I get it. Let’s be honest, you’ll spend weeks in the lead up prepping customers to visit your site on that day rather than just sending out one isolated campaign on the morning of Black Friday. This is not your first rodeo. But it again proves the point that sometimes marketers need more control. Sometimes you want to slow things down to focus on quality for every customer, rather than actively encouraging every customer to engage with you at exactly the same time.
Clearly, it’s all about quality interactions with all your customers. And to help with that, why not try our new SMS throttling feature that lets you send out your campaigns slowly over a period of up to 24 hours? Picture this: a happy customer service team, a website that never crashes, a happy boss who hasn’t just lost $700k in revenue, and you, with a coffee in hand and maybe even enough time to sneak a cheeky peek at the Black Friday sales on your lunch break. Bliss!
Reasons to abandon are almost as unique as your customers. Maybe it wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. Perhaps it was more expensive then they were expecting. Or they hadn’t seen how much shipping would cost. They may have added items to their cart with no intention to buy or accidentally closed the tab.
Whatever the reason, every single one of these customers is
still an opportunity.
The average rate of cart abandonment is around 76%. This means, for every 100 customers walking through your virtual door, 76 are leaving without making a purchase. You wouldn’t accept this in a brick-and-mortar store, so why put up with it online?
Not just for ecommerce
It’s important not to think of abandoned cart programs as
only applicable to B2C or ecommerce brands.
Abandoned browse emails can be used in a very similar way. For a B2B brand or service consider what your high intent actions are. Whether it’s filling in a form or viewing a pricing page, you can create abandoned browse emails to capture any of those who drop off without completing an action.
Program your abandoned carts
Abandoned carts or browse emails should be the backbone of your marketing strategy. Ultimately, it’ll help you recover more lost revenue and convert more visitors.
While the sound of a ‘program’ may feel complicated, the abandoned cart is a simple follow-up email. Browsers are reminded after exiting the window where they added items to their shopping carts.
But, to set this up, a couple of technical steps are necessary.
Integrating your ecommerce store or CRM with Engagement Cloud is essential. Through this, Engagement Cloud will know when a shopper abandons your site. This action will trigger your abandoned cart or abandoned browse program. The program, built in Engagement Cloud, will send these emails to your contacts every time they fail to complete your desired action.
Building your program is quick and painless, thanks to the product development team at dotdigital. Engagement Cloud comes fully equipped with over 30 pre-built programs, ready and waiting for you to switch on. Among these, you’ll find the abandoned cart and abandoned browse.
You can create more complex or specific abandonment programs in Engagement Cloud’s easy-to-use program builder. And, with our connectors like Magento and Shopify, you don’t even need to build a program. It’s ready and waiting for you to switch on in your account.
Once your program is in place, you need to create the email you want to be sent to your contacts. Depending on the program, it may be one email, or it could be three. But your design will also be dictated, in part, by the strategy you adopt.
All the best, most successful abandonment emails are using one or more of these tactics to achieve its goals.
Don’t fire out discounts every time
We know it can be tempting to include discount codes, but
don’t send them out every time someone abandons an action on your site.
Shoppers are savvy and they’re clocking onto this tactic.
Instead, consider factoring in some stipulations:
Where does the shopper fit into your RFM personas? Are they Champions, Loyal or Need nurturing? These are the perfect targets to offer discounts. For your Champions and Loyal segments, you’re rewarding loyalty. Need nurturing customers will receive the incentive they need to tip into your Recent category.
How much are they spending? What’s the complete value of the cart they’ve abandoned? Consider offering discounts for carts worth over $100. Or make the code conditional on spending over $50.
Optimize the potential spending power of your new subscribers or members by offering them a discount on their first purchase. By stating it’s on their first purchase, you’re also setting expectations, so they know not to expect repeat discounts, every time they abandon a cart.
US wine subscription company, Winc, offer money off first orders, but only for first-time buyers. With a clear understanding of the value of its proposition and knowledge that shoppers tend to buy more than one bottle in an order, this email prompts new shoppers to take the first step on their journey with Winc.
Keep it super simple
The best thing about abandoned browse emails and abandoned carts is that they don’t have to be complicated.
Actually, the simpler they are the better the impact they have. Why over-complicate the message? All you’re trying to do is push them to complete their purchase, so packing the email full of additional items or CTAs reduces its impact.
Beardbrand makes its CTA big, and bold, and impossible to miss. The brand also adds a sense of urgency with its phrasing ‘reclaim your cart!’. The body copy of the email emphasizes this further, explaining the cart is about to expire. With a clear time pressure and a clear spotlight being shone on a single product, the reader feels compelled to complete the action.
Use social proof to tip them over
Social proof is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. According to reviews platform, Feefo, 95% of people are influenced by reading reviews.
Adding social proof elements to programs like abandoned carts or browse can help you convert first-time visitors or uncertain buyers.
Adidas tap into its audiences’ fear of missing out, and desire for anything unique and personalized with this abandoned browse campaign. By adding a CTA to customize they’re giving shoppers even more incentive to resume their browse. Combined with its incorporated reviews, the reader is really inspired to return to the site.
Give them a reason to choose you
80% of consumers are willing to pay more or try a new brand if they offer a better customer experience.
You’ve already captured the shopper’s attention. They’ve been on your site, signed up for an account or subscribed to your newsletter. They’ve even gone as far as to look at a specific page or add items to their cart. But now, you need to show them why they should choose you, over your competitors.
While you may not think these programs are the place for this, Whisky Loot, a whiskey-themed subscription box, did just that. Using an abandoned browse email, it perfectly demonstrated the brands fun and quirky personality. It even addresses key issues that may have stopped the customer from completing their purchase. Overall, the email leaves readers smiling and thinking, ‘yeah, I will treat myself’.
Keep the revenue rolling by reviewing your abandoned carts
The strategy behind your abandoned carts or browse emails is essential.
To keep this program driving revenue, it’s important you
keep a close eye on it. If you see your ROI stagnating, it’s time to change it
Never be afraid to be different and try something new. How
else are you going to stand out from your competition? Make every experience as
unique as your customers.
In the immortal words of T.S. Eliot: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
Rand, Russ, Ruth, Rob, and Ross. Dana and Darren. Shannon and Sarah. We didn’t mean to (we swear we didn’t) but the first day of MozCon was littered with alliteration, takeaways, and oodles of insights from our speakers. Topics ranged from local SEO, link building, and Google tools, and there was no shortage of “Aha!” moments. And while the content was diverse, the themes are clear: search is constantly changing.
If you’re a Moz community member, you can access the slides from Day One. Not a community member yet? Sign up — it’s free!
Ready? Let’s make like Roger in his SERP submarine and dive right in!
Our fearless leader took the stage to ready our attendees for their deep sea dive over the next three days. Our guiding theme to help set the tone? The deep sea of data that we find ourselves immersed in every day.
People are searching more than ever before on more types of devices than ever before… we truly are living in the golden age of search. As Sarah explained though, not all search is created equal. Because Google wants to answer searchers’ questions as quickly as possible, they’ve moved from being the gateway to information to being the destination for information in many cases. SEOs need to be able to work smarter and identify the best opportunities in this new landscape.
Rand Fishkin — Web Search 2019: The Essential Data Marketers Need
Next up was Rand of SparkToro who dropped a ton of data about the state of search in 2019.
To set the stage, Rand gave us a quick review of the evolution of media: “This new thing is going to kill this old thing!” has been the theme of panicked marketers for decades. TV was supposed to kill radio. Computers were supposed to kill TV. Mobile was supposed to kill desktop. Voice search was supposed to kill text search. But as Rand showed us, these new technologies often don’t kill the old ones — they just take up all our free time. We need to make sure we’re not turning away from mediums just because they’re “old” and, instead, make sure our investments follow real behavior.
Rand’s deck was also chock-full of data from Jumpshot about how much traffic Google is really sending to websites these days, how much of that comes from paid search, and how that’s changed over the years.
In 2019, Google sent ~20 fewer organic clicks via browser searches than in 2016.
In 2016, there were 26 organic clicks for every paid click. In 2019, that ratio is 11:1.
Over time, you can see a trend of Google cannibalizing more and more clicks. In 2016 there were 26 organic clicks/paid click. In 2019? 11:1. Still big but a lot smaller. @randfish#mozcon
Google still owns the lion’s share of the search market and still sends a significant amount of traffic to websites, but in light of this data, SEOs should be thinking about how their brands can benefit even without the click.
MozCon 2019 off to a great start. First of many interesting snippets from Rand Fishkin: “More than half of all Google searches are now zero-click”.
And finally, Rand left us with some wisdom from the world of social — getting engagement on social media can get you the type of attention it takes to earn quality links and mentions in a way that’s much easier than manual, cold outreach.
Ruth Burr Reedy — Human > Machine > Human: Understanding Human-Readable Quality Signals and Their Machine-Readable Equivalents
It’s 2019. And though we all thought by this year we’d have flying cars and robots to do our bidding, machine learning has come a very long way. Almost frustratingly so — the push and pull of making decisions for searchers versus search engines is an ever-present SEO conundrum.
Ruth argued that in our pursuit of an audience, we can’t get too caught up in the middleman (Google), and in our pursuit of Google, we can’t forget the end user.
Optimizing for humans-only is inefficient. Those who do are likely missing out on a massive opportunity. Optimizing for search engines-only is reactive. Those who do will likely fall behind.
Optimizing for human-readable quality signals means even if something doesn’t turn out to be a ranking factor, you still haven’t wasted your time. #MozCon
Dana DiTomaso — Improved Reporting & Analytics Within Google Tools
Freshly fueled with cinnamon buns and glowing with the energy of a thousand jolts of caffeine, we were ready to dive back into it — this time with Dana from Kick Point.
This year was a continuation of Dana’s talk on goal charters. If you haven’t checked that out yet or you need a refresher, you can view it here!
Dana emphasized the importance of data hygiene. Messy analytics, missing tracking codes, poorly labeled events… we’ve all been there. Dana is a big advocate of documenting every component of your analytics.
She also blew us away with a ton of great insight on making our reports accessible — from getting rid of jargon and using the client’s language to using colors that are compatible with printing.
Love how @danaditomaso encourages the use of labels for her report names…
Very bold of Rob to assume he would have our collective attention after dropping something adorable like that on us. Luckily, we were all able to regroup and focus on his talk — how there are challenges aplenty in the local search landscape, but there are even more opportunities if you overcome them.
Rob came equipped with a ton of stats about localized SERPs that have massive implications for rank tracking.
73 percent of the 1.2 million SERPs he analyzed contained some kind of localized feature.
25 percent of the sites he was tracking had some degree of variability between markets.
85 percent was the maximum variability he saw across zip codes in a single market.
That’s right… rankings can vary by zip code, even for queries you don’t automatically associate as local intent. Whether you’re a national brand without physical storefronts or you’re a single-location retail store, localization has a huge impact on how you show up to your audience.
With this in mind, Rob announced a huge initiative that Moz has been working on… Local Market Analytics — complete with local search volume! Eep! See how you perform on hyper-local SERPs with precision and ease — whether you’re an online or location-based business.
If you use this method and you still aren’t sure if you should pursue a content opportunity, ask yourself the following questions:
Will it give us a positive ROI?
Does it fall within our circle of competence?
Does the benefit outweigh the cost of creation?
Will it give us shares and links and engagement?
Thanks, Ross, for such an actionable session!
Shannon McGuirk — How to Supercharge Link Building with a Digital PR Newsroom
Shannon of Aira Digital took the floor with real-life examples of how her team does link building at scale with what she calls the “digital PR newsroom.”
The truth is, most of us are still link building like it’s 1948 with “planned editorial” content. When we do this, we’re missing out on a ton of opportunity (about 66%!) that can come from reactive editorial and planned reactive editorial.
Shannon encouraged us to try tactics that have worked for her team such as:
Having morning scrum meetings to go over trending topics and find reactive opportunities
Staffing your team with both storytellers and story makers
Holding quarterly reviews to see which content types performed best and using that to inform future work
Her talk was so good that she even changed Cyrus’s mind about link building!
For free resources on how you can set up your own digital PR newsroom, visit: aira.net/mozcon19.
Darren Shaw— From Zero to Local Ranking Hero
Next up, Darren of Whitespark chronicled his 8-month long journey to growing a client’s local footprint.
Here’s what he learned and encouraged us to implement in response:
Track from multiple zip codes around the city
Make sure your citations are indexed
The service area section in GMB won’t help you rank in those areas. It’s for display purposes only
Invest in a Google reviews strategy
The first few links earned really have a positive impact, but it reaches a point of diminishing returns
Any individual strategy will probably hit a point of diminishing returns
A full website is better than a single-page GMB website when it comes to local rankings
As SEOs, we’d all do well to remember that it’s not one specific activity, but the aggregate, that will move the needle!
@DarrenShaw_ is on stage at #MozCon right now sharing all the awesome details of his case study on going From Zero to Local Ranking Hero. Get an inside look into the process, strategies, and tactics implemented on our site! https://t.co/7UXOpcwr5A
Russ Jones — Esse Quam Videri: When Faking it is Harder than Making It
Rounding out day one of MozCon was our very own Russ Jones on Esse Quam Videri — “To be, rather than to seem.”
By Russ’s own admission, he’s a pretty good liar, and so too are many SEOs. In a poll Russ ran on Twitter, he found that 64 percent of SEOs state that they have promoted sites they believe are not the best answer to the query. We can be so “rank-centric” that we engage in tactics that make our websites look like we care about the users, when in reality, what we really care about is that Google sees it.
Russ encouraged SEOs to help guide the businesses we work for to “be real companies” rather than trying to look like real companies purely for SEO benefit.
Thanks to Russ for reminding us to stop sacrificing the long run for the short run!
And it ain’t over yet! There are two more days to make the most of MozCon, connect with fellow attendees, and pick the brains of our speakers.
In the meantime, tell me in the comments below — if you had to pick just one thing, what was your favorite part about day one?
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Change is an important part of any successful business, so we thought it would be a good idea to give you some insight into our key roadmap items and how customer feedback influences what we build.
Behind the scenes
In our company’s infancy we were simply an Email Service Provider – or ‘ESP’ as it is now commonly abbreviated to. Although, once you start learning about ramp-ups and deliverability, email doesn’t seem so simple anymore – luckily, we have a dedicated team to help with that!
20 years on, whilst the market has crowded, and its players have converged – we’re still standing strong. Of course, this doesn’t happen unless you have a taskforce and customer base that are receptive to change.
I’m sure you’ve clocked our rebrand to dotdigital and I hope
you’ve also noticed our change in direction (in terms of what our tech can do).
Today, marketers can use Engagement Cloud to send omnichannel marketing
messages to the right audience, at the right time, and on the right channel.
We wouldn’t have come this far had it not been for you. Whether you’re fresh to dotdigital or a long-standing customer that we’ve served for 10+ years, we work extremely hard to understand how you use our platform and what we can do better to help you improve.
If you’ve visited our roadmap before, you might have spotted a green tab at the side for feedback and ideas.
We invite anyone, including our thousands of users, to tell us how we can make Engagement Cloud better. Some great developments have been put in motion thanks to some of the feedback we’ve received – one of which is RFM segmentation (coming soon!).
Besides our public roadmap, we use dotlives, webinars,
customer interviews, and other opportunities to gather valuable feedback. You
may have even received a beta program invite from one of our product managers;
betas are a way for us to get feedback prior to launch whilst giving our
customers the opportunity to shape the products they’ll be using in the future.
So, join us on the 27th of June when I’ll be running through the items on our roadmap in a little more detail. I’ll focus on the projects that are particularly relevant to the agenda on the day and fill you in on the beta programs we’re running. Most importantly though, please stick around and give me your two cents’ worth over a tea or coffee after the sessions!
Our Hack Weeks are about three things: pushing the boundaries of what marketing and customer engagement technology can be; learning new things; and having fun.
In 2018, our Hack ‘Week’ was four days long. That’s four days for planning, designing, engineering, and demonstrating. It encompassed 16 teams – widely formed of people who don’t typically work together. Here are the hacks that stood out the most.
The Best Hack award, as voted for live by the audience, went to ‘The Continuum of Automation’. The team was formed of software engineers James Marais, Luke van Blerk, and Terry Muyambo from our Cape Town office, and designer Sani Chan based in London.
They asked the questions: What happens when automation goes wrong? How could we give insight into what automations did in the past?
Their answer was a history button that served up every version of an automation program, with a graphical representation of what it looked like at the time. What’s more, they offered a fully interactive preview for each version. They showed how you could see the historical configuration of every node from the past.
Program testing can be challenging, especially when programs grow in size and complexity. This hack captured the imagination of an audience that had done their fair share of program debugging.
Our founder and original CTO, Simon Bird, is a frequent member of the Hack Week audience, so this year we gave him his own award. He judged based on innovation, the approach of solving a real-world problem, and potential customer impact.
Winning the Founder’s Award was ‘Contact Personas’. The winning team was formed of data scientist Sam Crawley and software engineers Grant Lodge and Joseph Appleyard.
The team built a way of ‘contact clustering’ – automatically separating contacts into groups based on what content they’re opening, what they’re buying, how often they’re ordering, and so on.
They did this by ranking every contact based on the percentile they were in for each metric being recorded (‘percentile ranking’). Those contacts were then clustered using vectors based on the percentile ranks. If I’ve lost you at this point, then no need to worry. Essentially, they used the data we hold on contacts to add them into common groups.
The team did this so that marketers could have a different way of looking at their contacts – not just who they are, but what type of customer they are: splurgers, regulars, special-offer hunters, and so on, and then target them with specific, relevant messaging.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that our users rarely work alone. Marketing teams are, well, teams. We had two entries this year tackle the subject of collaboration, both of which deserve a special mention.
‘Signal R’ll The Things’, featuring Darran Jugdoyal, Dawn Swan, Jesus Sanchez, and Dave Russell, looked at collaboration in our Program Builder, and used Signal R to allow real-time updating of the program canvas. They showed a nifty demo (check out the GIF to the right) of two users logged into the same dotmailer account, showing how each user could see what the other was doing with the canvas.
Team RKID (formed of Manchester-based software engineers Andrei Constantin and Tom Westwood) also put Signal R to use, but in EasyEditor. They crafted a way for more than one person to edit an email campaign simultaneously – and to see who else was viewing it. Special shout out to this team as both engineers have only been with us for a few months, and they’re already hacking the phenomenally complicated (under the bonnet!) EasyEditor. Impressive stuff.
You can be a dotmailer hacker, too
If you think you have what it takes to be a world-class customer engagement software engineer, designer, data scientist, UX designer, product manager, or pretty much any other product role, then check out our open positions. We look forward to seeing you at the dotmailer Hack Week 2019…
Discounting periods are proving costly for retailers the world over with UK-market leader, John Lewis, recently citing having to match twice as many discounting extravaganzas in 2018 as the key reason for a major fall in profits. The rising number of discount days retailers must acknowledge, combined with the lower lifetime value of a customer acquired during a discounting period, is a key reason why merchants must focus on securing longer-lasting loyalty from one-time shoppers acquired during the sales.
Let’s get started with five simple ways that you could be optimizing your email strategy in order to secure longer-term customer loyalty, both during BFCM and once the sales are over:
1. Segmenting your customer base from the get-go
When it comes to email, it’s tempting to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach and send the same messages out to everyone. It’s even more tempting to take this approach following BFCM, when you have a large collection of customers who have only purchased once, but you want to re-engage with as soon as possible.
You might not know everything about these customers just yet, but use the information that you do have to segment your customer base and send the most relevant emails.
Whether you segment by the type of products purchased or by the brand or collection purchased from, make sure that the first message that you send post-BFCM is highly targeted and relevant. Customers who believe that you understand their individual behaviors are more likely to return and engage again.
For example, celebrate with them each time they unlock a reward, qualify for a higher tier on your loyalty program, or reach a specific number of purchases with your store.
Whether you offer them simple discounts in return for their ongoing engagement, or offer them more exclusive perks such as free shipping or early access to sales or new product ranges, customers will appreciate the fact that they have received an email entirely unique to them and their actions or buying behaviors.
3. Re-engaging at-risk customers with incentives to return
Customers acquired during BCFM are proven to have a lower lifetime value than those acquired at other times of year. This means that they are less likely to return and make their next purchase, leaving them ‘at risk’.
In order to prevent at-risk customers from churning, ensure that you’re giving them reasons to come back and shop again. One approach is to credit customers with points within your emails.
Even if those customers do not immediately return to use those points, you have differentiated yourself by giving them something for doing nothing – something not many retailers will do. We recommend crediting enough points so that at-risk customers can instantly unlock a new reward.
You might also consider moving customers up to a higher tier in your loyalty program, allowing them to unlock more generous or exclusive rewards that are worth returning to use. There is no cost to this strategy, and also no doubt that your customers will be pleased they stopped to open that email!
4. Making the benefits implicit
Use emails you are already sending – such as post-purchase emails – to make sure that customers know what they are missing out on if they don’t return and repeat purchase. We don’t necessarily mean other sales or discounts they could be accessing, but instead, the rewards and benefits they could be unlocking with another purchase.
Use your post-purchase emails to show customers how many points they have or could have earned with their BFCM purchase, and remind them what that could translate to in terms of rewards and benefits.
You can also let them know how many points they would need to earn to unlock other, even more valuable rewards, incentivising them to come back to your store and shop again, sooner.
5. Reiterating your brand values
For many customers, purchasing decisions around BFCM are based solely on price, rather than shared values or beliefs. That’s why we encourage merchants to take the time to share their brand values once the shopping period is out of the way and customers are thinking more clearly.
Loyalty programs are all about community and relationships, and shared values are a key incentive for customers to join and engage more with your brand. Build messaging into your welcome and post-purchase emails, so that customers immediately see how your brand resonates with their own personal values. This is a key step to building longer-term relationships that will drive customer retention and increase lifetime value.
This year, all we want for Christmas is to see merchants making the most of every opportunity to turn Black Friday Cyber Monday into a resounding retention success story, rather than just a spike in acquisition. Have a chat with one of our team to find out more, or head to the LoyaltyLion Academy to learn more about improving the effectiveness of loyalty emails.
LoyaltyLion is a data-driven loyalty and engagement software for fast-growth ecommerce merchants. Thousands of retailers worldwide use LoyaltyLion to add their own fully customizable loyalty programs and increase customer engagement, retention and spend. Stores using LoyaltyLion typically generate at least $15 for every $1 they spend on the platform.
The annual event is hosted by Rich Insight, who provides a platform agnostic, fully managed service for online marketplaces.
Writing this blog post was a hard task for two reasons; the first, because there were way more than just three key takeaways from the experts that spoke at the event. The second, because I have never been a keen writer nor able to compete with the blog giants who so effortlessly articulate their wit (I am much funnier in person – I promise). Hopefully I’ve been able to provide three key factors surrounding the retail world, as well as valuable insights that were delivered by the expert speakers.
I want to start by thanking the whole team that contributed to Retail Recharged 2018. The event was full of great panels, innovative pitches and of course rich insight (no pun intended!). What a fantastic opportunity for brands, both starting out and already established, to gain expertise and share best practice.
I highly recommend attending if you haven’t before.
So here goes…
1. Leveraging AI in retail
The digital marketing world if full of buzzwords and they’re constantly changing year on year. AI is arguably one that has divided the opinions of marketeers more than any other. The term AI stands for Artificial Intelligence (sometimes called machine intelligence/learning) which is essentially intelligence demonstrated by machines. The English Oxford Living Dictionary defines AI as: “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making”, etc.
With the application of AI more prominent in digital marketing, and its ambiguity being lessened, it’s apparent that marketers are becoming more confident in utilizing the technology in their own marketing strategies today. A survey conducted by Salesforce indicated that 51% of marketers are actually already implementing AI in some way and a further 27% are planning to incorporate the tech in 2019.
The panel discussing leveraging AI in retail backed up the above stats: many marketers voted that if they weren’t already, they’d be implementing AI strategies in the coming months or years. AI is most definitely on the agenda.
The main message from the expert panel was clear: AI is a tool to enhance the data and processes you currently have available. But it’ll only be used to its fullest when you have the right tech stack. Understanding your data and the technological infrastructure within your organization is key if you’re truly going to leverage the power of AI in your marketing strategies.
One thing that also stood out was the worry that machines would make marketers redundant. This was something that the panel quashed, reiterating that AI empowers marketers to achieve their goals. Machine learning improves resource, efficiency and accuracy, allowing teams to better allocate their time and optimize their strategy.
To summarize, AI isn’t going to solve every business problem or deliver results automatically. Its effect will depend on what you put in. You need to know your tech, know your data, and know your goals.
AI, in whichever form, is the tool that will help bolster your results.
2. Evolving the physical experience
“Have you ever walked into a store and realized you’re the only person in there. You and the store assistant share awkward glances – will they or won’t they approach me? Oh god, the awkwardness. Only then do you promptly make an abrupt U-turn and leave the store immediately!” This was the question posed to the audience; almost everyone raised their hands and collectively let out a little chuckle.
So, how do we make our store experiences less intimidating, less awkward and more comfortable and personal – so that our customers don’t run in fear?
James Rutter from COOK talked a lot about creating a comfortable and friendly environment in store. The theme of community within their 90 store locations is something that, although a tough and somewhat daunting task, he believed to be one that kept the customers coming back and leaving happy. Training staff to be warm, welcoming and approachable was key in delivering the best in-store experience to customers.
Tom Broughton from Cubitts also talked about the importance of employees – specifically, when hiring, to refer to a list of values that candidates must possess in order to become part of the team.
Tom suggested “you can have all the experience in the world but if you don’t have our values you won’t be considered”. It was an interesting way of placing importance on the in-store experience. Beyond the fluffy aesthetics, it comes down to the staff who serve customers directly. That’s what matters.
The consensus of the panel was that opening stores can be a scary task. There’s so much more data readily available from ecommerce stores than physical ones, so consider this option very carefully.
However, if you do look to operate physical stores, investing in your employees can make all the difference.
3. Expanding cross-border
Can a business be global from day one? How hard is it to maintain this mentality? The answer…, as you can imagine, very difficult! Brexit? Culture? Customs? Returns? These are the issues retail marketers have to consider and ultimately overcome when tackling the prospect of globalization. A daunting task, right?!
But for those that get it right, the rewards can be impressive – extending the shelf-life of products and avoiding seasonal fluctuations being among them.
The obvious opportunities are in the US, Canadian, APAC and European markets. And let’s face it, these regions would keep you busy and your pockets full. But, since these are some of the most competitive markets in the world, it might prove more successful to cast your eyes on less competitive markets. Unearthing these opportunities does involve a lot more work, but could prove a quicker win.
How do we navigate this international minefield? How do we make our business a success in other markets? The answer was unanimous…planning and patience.
Plan your strategy to the nth degree. Plan for failure. Don’t scrimp on researching your markets thoroughly. You have interest from a few other countries: does this mean you need to expand right now? Patience is key.
The event put together by the Rich Insight team provided a fantastic mix of insight on retail trends and hot topics, along with some relevant innovative technology pitches to support these. A massive thank you again to all the team for a fantastic event!
Retail Recharged might be over for one year, but you can still get tons of marketing inspo at this year’s dotties! RSVP here.
We’ve gone behind the scenes to see how Bulk Powders, winners of this year’s Hitting the Mark, nailed its email marketing and customer experience. Mark Sherwood, Head of Europe at Bulk Powders, kindly agreed to an interview to go through their everyday practices and long-term strategy.
We’ve digested the interview into a two-part blog; the first is focused on the day to day, while the second deep-dives into the brand’s strategy.
The interview: part 2
How important is email in your marketing strategy?
For retention, it’s our number one channel for sure. We’re a pure-play ecommerce company, so in that regard, we’re limited in cost-effective channels. So, email has become and is our most important channel.
Email is very close to my heart, I’m an email marketer. Whilst I’m here, it’ll be an important channel. I feel some people are skeptical about email marketing, saying it’s in decline and there’s a death of email. I can sympathize in some regards – sending the same email day in day out to your entire list is in decline. But, if you can email customers with the relevant and targeted information they want to receive, then for companies like us, it’s the best channel for retaining your customers.
Presumably your martech set-up is pretty integrated. How do you manage all of your relevant data flows?
It’s very simple once you have everything set up. We have tags on the site that monitor consumer behavior; they track users’ product/category views and purchases. This all goes into our CRM platform – i.e. which products they’ve ordered and which discounts they’ve used. Then we have all of their historic purchase rates in once place.
Overlaid onto that, we have category information to see which products fall under which categories. This means we can very quickly create affinities and personas based on the web behavior and purchase activity of users.
It wasn’t the easiest thing to set up in all honesty; it perhaps took us a little longer than expected to be in the position we’re in now. But, on a day-to-day basis, there’s no work for us – it just runs seamlessly.
What would you say is your main marketing challenge?
My main marketing challenge is how to reduce my email volume. We are in a very crowded, very competitive market, and generally the sports nutrition industry is heavily saturated with emails. That’s a problem for the market.
What we’re trying to do is reduce the volume of our daily email sends without jeopardizing our revenue. This is a key goal for us in the next 6 to 12 months, and we’ll achieve it by doing more triggered and targeted emails (like those you highlighted in Hitting the Mark) and taking it to the next level.
There will always be subscribers getting the daily stuff. But more and more people will be taken out of that when they actively participate in the user journey and enter their own unique program. That’s how we’re tackling it. Ultimately, we know consumers get bored of emails if you hit them too hard.
Have you expanded into other channels? If so, do they seamlessly work together across campaigns?
We’ve launched into other channels – email, SMS and social are key from a retention point of view. They all work seamlessly with the same data (CRM). A year ago, we looked at each of those channels in isolation; we sent an email here, an SMS there. And maybe we put an ad on someone’s social timeline. Now it’s all joined up; so, people who open emails less frequently are more likely to receive an SMS than those who open our emails daily. There are points where we want to talk to people on their Facebook timelines, but we might not do that to those who are super-engaged on email. It all depends on what type of message it is. If it’s our replenishment program, we’ll try to hit them on email and their social timeline, as they work well together.
What are your plans for the future?
Good question. We’re a very fast-growing company. We’re a great company to work for, but fast-growing doesn’t come without its challenges. The marketing team needs to grow with the company. The key focus is to incorporate all the strides we made in our CRM into our front end as well. The real issue we have right now is that we have all these personalized, targeted and tailored messages for customers, but then when they land on the site it’s basically a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about how we can get that level of insight and one-to-one personalization on the front end as well. We’re also on the look our for any other channels out there that can help us with our ambitious growth targets.
For Bulk Powders, it’s really useful. When you’re ingrained in the business day in day out, it’s hard to take a step back and look at the outside world, to see at what others are doing – how their handling their email, their CRM, their customers. So, to have a report that looks at 100 brands in depth – at what they’re doing really well and what they could improve on – is a great reference for benchmarking. We can get some real tips and ideas and we generally use Hitting the Mark as a knowledge-sharing resource.
For us, it adds a great deal of value. Some of the things we’ve done in the last 12 months or so have come from us looking at the report and thinking ‘oh, well that’s an interesting angle. Perhaps we should try that’. We look forward to it coming out every year.
Think you’ve got what it takes to emulate Bulk Powders? Last year the brand came 34th. But after adopting some winning tactics, team Bulk trailblazed up to first place in 2018. Congratulations to them again!
Download the report here for the smartest tactics in email and marketing automation. Benchmark yourself against the competition, adopt better practices, and master customer experience.
We’ve gone behind the scenes to see how Bulk Powders, winners of Hitting the Mark 2018, nailed its email marketing and customer experience. Mark Sherwood, Head of Europe at Bulk Powders, kindly agreed to an interview to go through their everyday practices and long-term strategy.
We’ve digested the interview into a two-part blog; the first is focused on the day to day, while the second deep-dives into the brand’s strategy.
It was a surprise to start with, for sure. But we’re really over the moon. There’s a lot of hard work in our small CRM team. In the last 12 to 18 months we’ve put a lot of hard work into evolving from a batch-and-blast email sender to a personalized, triggered, event-based one. Although we do retain the bulk sends as we’re in a very competitive market.
It was a real reward for the team who’s put a lot of hard graft throughout the last 12 months. It’s really pleasing to see the work we’ve put in recognized outside the company. Once you’re ingrained in the company day in day out, you accept it as the norm. So, to have a company such as dotmailer, with its industry-wide reputation, recognize you for being good at what you do is really pleasing.
Moving into personalization happened over the last 18 months. We had a limited ESP, with regards to automation. Slowly over time, we migrated from ‘batch and blast’ to get as much personalization and segmentation in as possible.
How have you embraced personalization in your email campaigns?
Personalization for us is very key. We are a sports nutrition company that has changed a lot over the last few years. At the beginning we were a hardcore bodybuilding company – our demographic was male, 18-25; gym was their life. Our product range has expanded and, while sport nutrition is still at our core, we focus a lot more now on health and wellbeing.
We’ve an array of customer types – they need different messaging, and personalizing is the way forward. Someone who is gym-obsessed requires different communication to someone who comes to us to buy their month’s supply of vitamin tablets. Tailoring emails in this regard is how we do it – it’s all about imagery, messaging and content.
Our emails are fresh with content, recipe ideas, training tactics, nutrition tips and advice. There’s a wealth of information in our blog. We push the right articles to the right people. Simple as that.
What are the ways you use behavioral data to supercharge your sends?
The long-term goal is to have emails that are one-to-one and event-based. Whilst we’re not there yet, we’re moving away from daily emails to more event-triggered ones. We want subscribers to drive the interaction, not us.
There’re all kind of behavioral trigger examples, such as replenishment: because our product is a consumable product, people will buy it and then need to buy some more. We can work out roughly when they’re due to reorder it with an event-based email. These emails perform very well for us.
Then there’s your usual, behavior ones like abandoned cart and browse. We have a tag on our site to monitor web behavior, so we have visibility over which products users are interested in and categories they are looking at. It’s about getting the right content in front of the right person.
Then we can build up a persona based on what people are looking at: i.e. if you’re always looking at vegan products, that’s the content you get, while if you’re looking at weight-loss products, that’s the content you get. That’s the key aim we’re trying to achieve.
We loved your preference center. How important is generating customer insight for your programs?
It’s really important for us. The preference center you’re referring to is the one included in our welcome program. The survey helps us gather more information on new customers coming on board – very integral to the welcome program.
It gives us insight into new customers. While we expand and increase acquisition channels we are increasing customers and different types of customers. But, importantly, we need to make sure we’re acquiring the right customers. That’s where the preference center comes in.
Preference data feeds into an email and CRM database, so we get the content right. But this preference center is just the start of the process – it helps with the initial day-to-day emails but then quickly gets taken over by the consumer’s behavior.
What the consumer tells us and what they go on to do can be very different things. For example, they might tell us that they’re into bulking up and want to put on weight, and then they go and purchase weight loss products. Ultimately what their website behavior is and what they go onto buy gives us a greater indication of what they’re looking for, rather than the information they initially submitted.
So, the preference center helps with the initial outset and our customers’ on-site and purchase behavior gives us a better idea of who they are. Essentially, it’s combining your explicit and implicit data to better understand your customers. You have to start somewhere, and that’s the preference center.
How do you use email to nurture your leads into loyal customers?
For us, it’s all about the welcome program. Having a welcome program that isn’t just email is the way forward. We spent several months testing various different programs – just 3-4 emails, 5-10 emails, ones that last a week, two weeks, a month. Ones that include different channels…and that’s the one that works for us.
When you buy from Bulk Powders and participate in the welcome program, not only do you get an intro email, you’ll also get a welcome message on your social feeds. Our testing shows that when we adopt a multichannel approach, our customers are more likely to engage with us.
It’s all about nurturing rather than a hard sell. Making the customer feel part of ‘team bulk’ – that’s our aim, making them feel part of ‘us’ and being a customer-led brand.
Are there any tactics you use to re-engage lapsed customers?
For us, a lapsed program is slightly different to what you would imagine. This is purely because of the market we’re in – competitive and offer-driven, all of the time. All of the key players in our market constantly send out very aggressive offers.
Sending out another offer – as part of a lapsed program – isn’t going to cut the mustard, because that’s what we’re doing all of the time. It’s more about trying to re-engage with these customers, trying to find out why they stopped buying and if there’s anything we can do to help them.
Generally, our re-engagement approach is soft – we just inquire a little more about them. And perhaps it’s impossible to re-engage that customer because they’ve moved out of the category and they’re no longer interested in sports nutrition. Maybe they’ve moved elsewhere. Even if a customer’s impossible to win back, at least we’ve learned something we can adopt to improve retention in the future.
Were there any longer-term programs that our pseudonym, Harry Thomas, wasn’t enrolled onto?
The short answer is lots. Each of our programs has lots of different paths to go down, so you would have just experienced one journey depending on the actions you took (i.e. whether you opened and clicked). So, even if you were part of the welcome program, the route you took was unique.
If you unsubscribed after 6 months you probably wouldn’t have received our lapsed program, which aims to win back our ‘at risk’ customers – those who we think are at risk of permanently becoming lapsed. We have a further lapsed program for customers whose lapsing is almost certain.
You probably would have missed our replenishment program, too. This would’ve been based on what you purchased. Depending on your date of birth you might have missed out on our birthday program, too.
It would have been possible for you to do down any journey route. Some of our programs include SMS – and this multichannel approach to the journey depends on your very behavior. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
Keep your eyes pealed for part 2 of the interview!
Think you’ve got what it takes to emulate Bulk Powders? Last year the brand came 34th. But after adopting some winning tactics, team Bulk trailblazed up to 1st place in 2018. Congratulations to them again!
Download the report here for the smartest tactics in email and marketing automation. Benchmark yourself against the competition, adopt better practices and you’ll truly master customer experience.