one and done buyer


Converting the One-and-Done Buyer: A Conversation with Top Retail Marketers

By Julia Michaelis

74% of a retailer’s buyers will make one purchase, then disappear — meet your one-and-done buyer.

One-and-done buyers are a huge problem, but they’re also a huge opportunity. Converting just 5% of that 74% into two-time buyers represents a potential revenue opportunity of $898,000 over the next two years. That scales tremendously when you continue to build lifetime value with new shoppers. So how do you get them back?

We sat down with marketers from Volcom, ULTA, Hammacher Schlemmer, Lucky Brand, Quiksilver and CITY Furniture to learn more about how they approach their one-and-done buyers.

Here’s what we learned:

Retention Starts Before the First Purchase

Before a buyer makes their first purchase, marketers need to have a next-purchase strategy in place. Two tried and true avenues for retention-focused strategies you can implement ahead of the first-purchase are loyalty programs and your marketing workhouse — email. Marketers need to stay agile and meet and retarget shoppers wherever they are across channels, but depending on your brand, doubling down on email isn’t a bad thing. If your brand’s audiences and demographics are highly likely to engage with email over other channels, then dig into that with a personalized post-purchase series to get your shopper thinking about their next-best purchase. Reacting to the first purchase could also include a personalized, mailed thank you note to start them on their journey with your brand.

To continue their journey with your brand and make sure they keep coming back, loyalty programs are key. Whatever your loyalty program mix — tiered, early access, points, rewards or credit cards — these incentives keep shoppers coming back for more. But don’t leave non-members in the dark. Rather, figure out which non-members have potential and which might not.

To Nurture or Avoid

Retailers are always going to lose some of their first-time buyers. To move forward with a retention plan is to acknowledge that fact and build outreach around those groups. With predictive analytics, you can identify buyers that can be nurtured into multi-time buyers and separate them from those that aren’t likely to come back so you’re not wasting any dollars on one-time-buyers-turned-lost-causes. Once you’ve segmented your buyers to avoid, you can begin nurturing shoppers with the highest likelihood of coming back to your brand with one-and-done buyer outreach. 

Trust Artificial Intelligence

Launching specific one-time buyer campaigns with journeys personalized to each of these shoppers at scale has to be enabled by AI-driven technology. With this type of intelligent technology, you can leverage all of your first-party data with data models that serve up product recommendations to your shoppers wherever they spend time online across channels. Further than product recommendations, your marketing team should run specific one-time buyer promotions to keep shoppers coming back. For example, if buyers abandon their carts after a third touch, issue a coupon. Adjust the discounts based on different touches in the one-time buyer journey and use analytics to determine whether the individual shopper has an affinity for responding to discounts. This way, you can strike the balance between discounting and protecting your bottom line in winning back your one-and-done buyers.

The kink in this plan? Shoppers change all the time. Sometimes they don’t want to hear from you and they unsubscribe, then the next month they’re responding to all of your outreach. Technology needs to be fluid and self-learning to move at the speed of the modern shopper. It needs to connect every single touchpoint to drive toward the outcome of a loyal, multi-time shopper. But all of this assumes a perfect state of data — one that feeds every single piece of data back from every single channel and outlet to one place. This isn’t always the reality when data and information is contained within channels and teams.

Bridge the Gaps

There are three bridges that we need to create in order to achieve a coordinated retention strategy. One for data, one for channels, and one for team structure. 

Traditionally, marketing teams are organized by channel. But as the commerce landscape changes and technologies arise that can connect the gaps not only between your teams, but between your channels, marketers need to evaluate their team structure alongside their tech stacks (including granting access to data more widely in your company). By building a team that can work cross-functionally and identifying new role opportunities that are dedicated to retention, you bridge those cross-functional gaps and drive towards retention-focused outcomes and measurements like rebuy rate, ID rate and click through rate. But again, you need all of that data bridged to run agile multichannel retargeting campaigns and that’s easier said than done without the right investments in technology. 

The Long and Short of It

Does a completely unified data system that executes across all channels heal all one-and-done wounds? Probably not, because you can’t get them all. But reconciling an ideal state of completely centralized and democratized data with your marketing program won’t happen overnight either. Seizing opportunities that you have in front of you right now to get your one-time buyers back by introducing shopper-centric retention strategies and analyzing the return on those investments while investing in data centralization and democratization will get you well on your way to reducing your one-and-done buyer problem.

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Julia Michaelis

Julia is Content Marketing Manager at Bluecore. Julia has been telling stories about personalization and interoperability in data and technology for three years in education, and is excited to do the same in retail. Julia lives in Brooklyn with her terrier Lee and loves shopping, paddleboarding, and reading (in that order).

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