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10 Tips to Increase Retail Engagement in January

By Steve DiNardo | December 26, 2018

What a difference a year makes. 2018 was the year Amazon chose its HQ2Circuit City made a comeback and Casper opened its first brick and mortar location.

Recognizing how much can change in a year, I decided to look back at the list I produced last December on the top 10 ways retailers can engage customers in January to see what advice 2017 Steve might have missed.

The result? Let’s just say 2018 Steve has a lot more perspective than 2017 Steve, so I decided to make a few additions. Here’s the latest and greatest:

10) Run a Post Purchase Series

In 2017, I said: As you round at the best six revenue-producing weeks of the year, don’t rest on your laurels. Try engaging customers who made a purchase recently through a post purchase email series that emphasizes co-purchase recommendations.

In 2018, I’ll add: Get sophisticated with your post purchase series by customizing streams for different types of customers. For example, take a look at everyone who made a purchase during the holiday season and split them into three groups: First-time buyers, second-time buyers and returning multi-time buyers. From there, you can get very specific in driving one-time buyers to make their all important second purchase and capitalizing on the two-time buyers who recently crossed the first purchase chasm.

9) Respect the Purchase Funnel

In 2017, I said: Without the holiday rush driving up sales, January puts a magnifying glass on your purchase funnel and forces you to look closely at your highest value campaigns to ensure you maximize revenue. Along the way, you might find that campaigns designed for customers with a strong purchase intent get cannibalized by larger, less impactful campaigns as a result of ill-advised frequency capping. Therefore, consider loosening those caps a bit.

In 2018, I’ll add: You still want to have some basic types of frequency capping in place so that you don’t send people seven emails a day, but it pays to get more granular in how you set those caps. For example, you might cap certain behavioral triggers against each other rather than against your entire email program. In general, you should avoid using global frequency caps as much as possible.

As you do get more granular, you might find that with all the types of emails you have running it can be intimidating to know where to start. To ease this challenge, try grouping like campaigns together (e.g. behavioral campaigns, merchandising campaigns, audience-driven campaigns, lifecycle campaigns, etc.) and then prioritize those groups against each other. From there, you can get extremely methodical about the caps you set so that you don’t prioritize a lower value batch campaign over a highly impactful cart abandonment email intended for someone with a strong purchase intent.

8) Take on Some A/B Testing

In 2017, I said: A/B tests are like oil changes: You need to run them every few months to keep things fresh. Review your subject lines, hero images, email copy and template layouts to see how you can keep things fresh for your customers in the new year.

In 2018, I’ll add: Wow, 2017 Steve really nailed it on this one.

7) Try Your Hand at Omnipotent Omnichannel

In 2017, I said: Up your marketing game by using audience insights to determine the best channel on which to reach each customer. For example, you might try a brand nurture campaign on Facebook for some customers or create a more personalized site experience for others.

In 2018, I’ll add: Don’t just go cross-channel because you think you’re supposed to. Think about how you can make your cross-channel marketing a truly strategic and connected experience. That might mean syncing audiences with Facebook, display or search networks to reach customers with highly targeted ad sets based on their product or discount preferences (much like you would over email) or using predicted lifetime value to adjust your bidding strategy for paid advertising.

6) Show Your List Some Love

In 2017, I said: Don’t overlook the opportunities that are right in front of you. Think about how you can do more with your existing customer base, whether that’s turning one-time buyers into two-time buyers or proactively re-engaging customers the moment they become at-risk.

In 2018, I’ll add: Think about how you can activate non buyers, as this group represents enormous, untapped revenue potential. Data reveals that 77% of unsubscribes come from non buyers, so it’s important to take your chance with this audience during the brief window of time when you have them hooked. Furthermore, think through your email capture strategy to not only help grow your email list, but also ensure you’re acquiring the most valuable shoppers for your brand.

5) Obsesses Over Personalization

In 2017, I said: It goes without saying, so let’s not say it…

In 2018, I’ll add: Yes, we all know how important personalization is and that hasn’t changed, but there’s a lot of questions about how to approach personalization. From gaining buy-in to successfully delivering personalization at scale, achieving the goal of personalized marketing isn’t easy. At a high level, I’d caution that obsessing over personalization doesn’t have to mean stressing out your team. There’s no doubt personalization requires an ongoing effort, but with the right solution, you should be able to personalize at scale and even streamline workflows so that you can shift your focus from tasks to more strategic goals.

4) Listen to Your Customers

In 2017, I said: If you look at the data, your customers are telling you what they want to see. So instead of just sending the next campaign on your marketing calendar without a second thought, think about how you can be flexible and pivot as needed.

In 2018, I’ll add: Over the past year, data has become smarter and even more important. And your customers have become wiser too. It’s critical to listen when customers “raise their hand” to tell you they’re interested in certain products and then target them based on those interests. On a bigger scale, continue to monitor performance data to understand what’s working and what’s not. If your data supports lowering your email volume this year, that’s okay — as long as you have a plan to maintain and even increase email performance alongside that shift.

3) Find (and Promote) Your Hidden Gems

In 2017, I said: November and December are all about volume, while January requires a more refined approach. As a result, finding and promoting your hidden gem products, or products that have a high conversion rate but low traffic, can help unlock new revenue.

In 2018, I’ll add: Finding and promoting your hidden gem products remains a strong strategy for unlocking new revenue, but don’t neglect your rockstars (products with the highest conversion rates and most views) and your cash cows (products that produce the most revenue). Across the board, this is another case where it pays to lean in to what the data tells you and to partner closely with your merchandising team to identify the best path forward.

2) Re-Consider Your Approach to Segmenting vs. Blasting

In 2017, I said: As you begin to replace more static blasts with personalized sends, consider suppressing customers who just received a personalized message from your next static blast. This approach should help boost customer engagement and create a better experience.

In 2018, I’ll add: Static blasts get a bad rap, but they still serve a purpose for retail marketers who are under pressure to deliver certain numbers on a weekly basis. That said, as you look for ways to further improve all of your emails — including your batch emails — think about segmenting the audience to which you send certain emails so that even if the content within the email is static, it’s more relevant to the shoppers who receive it.

1) Hone in on the Right Customer, Right Message, Right Time

In 2017, I said: To keep customers actively engaged, you need to treat them like individuals. The best way to do that is to use data insights from both the customer and merchandising fronts to deliver more relevant, unique messages to each shopper.

In 2018, I’ll add: Did I really use that phrase? Well, this is embarrassing. But the idea behind it still rings true today. Fortunately, over the course of the year, we’ve gotten smarter about how to achieve this type of individual messaging at scale. Retail marketers now fully recognize that the right product, content and offer combination will be different for every customer — it’s just a matter of having the proper technology in place to power those unique campaigns.

See You in 2019?

Well, this was fun. What do you say — same time and place next year?

In the meantime, check out what Bluecore CEO Fayez Mohamood has to say about the major advancements that will shape retail marketing over the next five years.

Steve DiNardo

Steve DiNardo

As the Manager, Customer Success, Steve helps retailers devise digital channel growth plans that tie directly to their core business goals. With a data-driven and results-oriented approach, he empowers customers to make more sophisticated marketing decisions.