How to Use Data to Build Ultra-Relevant Marketing Campaigns

By Sharon Shapiro

How do you run marketing campaigns that are so relevant they make it feel like you’re trying to help your customers shop, not just pushing your goals?

It’s a question every ecommerce marketer needs to ask — and answer — to create a winning experience that drives revenue and keeps customers coming back time and again.

So how do you do it? It’s all about using data to target customers differently.

A Case Study in Prioritizing Relevance & Value

When the marketing team at one leading apparel retailer set out to answer the question of how to run more relevant retail email marketing campaigns, they started by evaluating what they were already doing. As part of this evaluation, they found several missed opportunities to build loyalty with shoppers, including:

To capitalize on those opportunities and deliver relevant marketing campaigns that feel natural for customers, the team decided to focus on the email channel. They found email was the best place to start because it brings in the highest ROI of all their channels, has the most reliable form of identification and is the last owned channel not subject to algorithm changes.

Working within the email channel, the team took the following steps to meet their goal of increased relevance and value for customers:

1) Filling Engagement Gaps in the Pre- and Post-Purchase Processes with Triggered Emails

First, the team identified a variety of triggered emails as the fastest and easiest way to engage relevantly with customers at more touch points.

Using a combination of emails that react to customers’ onsite behaviors (e.g. cart abandonment, search abandonment and product abandonment emails) and emails that react to changes in product assortment (e.g. new arrivals, price decreases and back in stock alerts) proved a major win for the marketing team. These emails not only allowed the team to speak to customers more often, but their targeted nature ensured these communications would be extremely relevant for the customers receiving them.

As a bonus, the use of product-based triggered emails meant the marketing team didn’t have to wait for customers to interact onsite before reaching out, as they would with behavioral-based emails alone. Rather, with these unique emails, if they know a customer’s top category affinities and new arrivals in those categories hit the site, the team can reach out and create a new engagement opportunity.

2) Identifying the Best Product Recommendations for Individual Customers

Second, the team realized that triggered emails were only the tip of the iceberg for delivering more relevant marketing campaigns.

They also identified opportunities to make the tried-and-true batch email more relevant by adding in dynamic product recommendations and by getting more targeted with their audiences. For instance, instead of sending batch emails to their entire list, the team started pinpointing specific audiences for those emails based on customers’ demonstrated interests and predicted affinities.

3) Using Data to Optimize Performance

Finally, the marketing team looked for opportunities to bring data into the planning process for all of its campaigns.

This initiative included capturing customer and product data in order to inform its targeting efforts as well as keeping close tabs on campaign performance data in order to identify new opportunities based on what was and wasn’t working. Additionally, the campaign performance data provided the ammunition the marketing team needed to educate the rest of the organization about the value of reducing email send volume in favor of email relevance.

Putting It All Together: A Head-to-Head Test in Volume vs. Relevance

All of these efforts came together when the retailer ran a head-to-head test in volume vs. relevance for its weekly best seller email.

The retailer had always sent a weekly best seller email featuring products selected by the merchandising team that went to its entire email list, but the marketing team decided to test the results of scaling back on that send volume by targeting only customers with a demonstrated interest in or predicted affinity for the products featured each week.

Over the course of several weeks, the targeted version won hands down. Although the targeted emails went to seven million fewer customers, they produced over three times more revenue compared to the full file batch versions.

A Valuable Lesson on the Power of Relevant Marketing Campaigns

Not sending every marketing email to everyone in your database can be scary because it can feel like you’re leaving money on the table. And yes, if you send another email today, that will bring in more revenue right now than if you don’t send an email. But if you keep up that activity long term, it can create customer fatigue and lead to spikes in unsubscribes and dips in email engagement.

While you can never expect to move away from batch and blast emails completely — nor should you, because they do serve a purpose — it does pay to rethink how you layer in relevance when it comes to sending those batch emails.

And at the end of the day, the teams that come out on top will be the ones that use data to build an email program designed not only to achieve key business goals around conversions and revenue, but also to create a more relevant experience that helps customers shop, all in a way that feels completely natural.

See how you can power relevant marketing campaigns like these in our step-by-step playbook for email marketers.

Sharon Shapiro

Sharon leads Bluecore's content marketing program, collaborating with top retailers and strategists to highlight the latest trends in retail marketing, spotlight industry leaders and share advice on how marketers can stay ahead of the curve. An experienced story teller, she has spent her career building content marketing programs for B2B SaaS companies. Sharon has had works featured in MarketingProfs and Content Science Review..