As Toys ‘R’ Us files for bankruptcy in the United States and Canada, it reminds us again of the brutal (and overcrowded) retail market today. The 69-year-old toy store cited “relentless competition from e-commerce and big box retailers” as one of the reasons for its insolvency.
But it’s not just the veteran stores, born offline, that are struggling to keep up with the ever-changing retail landscape; According to Fortune magazine, 90% of all online businesses fail (just look at Nasty Gal and Fab, for example).
So what can today’s retailers do to stay on top of their game and pave the way for long-term prosperity?
There is no simple answer to this question: From the quality of a brand’s product to the style of running a business, there are many factors that can determine whether a brand sinks or swims. What we can tell you, however, is that in 2017 the way you communicate with your customers is extremely important.
Today, we operate in a relational economy, where a consumer’s spending is determined by his relationship to a brand; that is, what this brand does for them and how it makes them feel. Consumers today want to be recognized by their favorite brands as individuals, whether it’s in the form of personalized recommendations or the exclusive perks for being such a great customer.
But how can a marketer build and maintain such a relationship, all on a large scale?
Below we have listed the seven steps of smart ecommerce marketing: start with the basic newsletters of yesteryear before moving on to the cutting edge and revolutionary technology available today.
To learn more about this topic, see Econsultancy’s range of e-commerce training courses.
Once upon a time, marketers approached communication with customers through the concept of a one-size-fits-all campaign. In other words, the same message was sent to an entire contact base, with the content shaped by generic information such as: trending products at the time, products merchandisers wanted to push, or just period of time. the year.
Since the 2000s, such campaigns have been sent out via email service providers (ESPs) in the form of a newsletter; for example, a brand launched a festive campaign in early December to promote its collection of Christmas party dresses.
But what if 20% of those who receive this campaign never wear dresses?
If we answered this question twenty years ago, the answer would be ânothingâ. Customers just weren’t expecting as much from marketing messages back then, and thanks to the reduced number of people sharing content online, their opinions weren’t as important as they are today to a company’s reputation. ‘A brand.
Oh how things have changed. Today, customer expectations are much higher, and if you have a disgruntled customer who receives a very irrelevant email, you will know it. Just like their entire Twitter account.
Newsletter subscription form by e-mail
But the above scenario is obsolete; it’s the original, old-fashioned way most marketers have given up or are (hopefully) at least doing it.
The next step in relation to batch and blast newsletters is segmentation; in other words, using a small amount of data to personalize emails based on basic demographic information such as gender.
Segmentation was particularly popular ten years ago, when it was seen as an innovative way to increase conversion by ensuring that at least some of the content sent to subscribers was relevant in some way or another. other.
However, it soon became clear that without automation, segmentation could be a tedious process; by doubling a campaign, marketers also doubled their workload: was it really worth it?
Fortunately, about five years later, technology stepped in to help in the form of marketing automation.
Marketers marveled at the concept of a marketing platform that could automate some of the manual and often technical tasks that were consuming so much of their time.
One of the first campaigns to take off was the Welcome campaign, closely followed by cart abandonment (a campaign to capture people’s carts and email them to get them to land the purchase).
Other automated campaigns quickly followed suit, such as after purchase, walk the abandonment and at risk.
But what was the process of sending out automation campaigns like back then?
Retailers typically try to send these campaigns from their courier service provider; however, since these providers were typically created about 15 years ago (for the sole purpose of sending a message to everyone), this would prove to be extremely difficult.
Therefore, marketers would buy an additional marketing automation tool which is next to ESP and should be connected to the database (because you can’t do an abandon cart campaign without knowing what’s in a basket).
4) dynamic content
Everything we have discussed so far in this list requires the creation of multiple campaigns (for example, the example of sending one campaign for men and another for women, etc.).
But the introduction of “dynamic content” is a game-changer by taking the whole process from basic segmentation to 1: 1 personalization.
As a reminder, dynamic content (in emails) refers to content that changes automatically based on a recipient’s customer profile. Based on the “if” conditions in the template’s HTML code (for example, recipient “if” has spent [x], the model will display [y]), dynamic content is done entirely within the user interface (UI), eliminating the need for any manual code changes. Common forms of dynamic content include dynamic offers and promotions, âheroâ header images, and product recommendations.
Most marketers will do this execution using a very advanced ESP that can handle the dynamic content portion (not all of them can), but usually a product recommendations provider is required as well.
Once you’ve plugged those two in (in order to track data), you end up with a pretty sizable tech stack, which complicates things a bit.
Dynamic email content
5) Unified cross-channel communication
So far we’ve only talked about email marketing, but – as most of you already know – it’s far from the only channel that consumers use.
From social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter to offline touchpoints like direct mail and in-store campaigns, there are many different ways a shopper can interact with your brand today.
Therefore, an effective ecommerce marketing strategy will bring all the different touchpoints together and look at them holistically to determine the best message to send on the best channel at the best time. So if a consumer spots a suede jacket they like on an e-commerce store, they can be retargeted with the same jacket on Instagram, and if they then buy the jacket in-store, a marketer can just stop. campaign and simply send a ‘thank you’ for your purchase ‘on their preferred channel.
For this to work, there won’t be any siled marketing teams (such as the âsocial teamâ or âemail marketing teamâ), but instead there will only be ‘a single team working together to share a consistent message and achieve the same goal.
To achieve this, a retailer will need the tech stack mentioned in the previous point, as well as logging into all the social platforms you need. Basically, an endless tech stack. But please be indulgent with us: it gets easier (ironically).
6) Taste profiling
Until now, everything we have talked about in this article has centered around human rules and logic, for example: “If a customer bought a waterproof coat, show [x] outdoor coats suggested.
However, this type of marketing (where one human is in control of all the shots) is unlikely to be so intuitive or precise. Looking at the example above, why would a customer want to see only outdoor coats, just because they bought one five years ago?
If a marketer really wants to understand a customer’s unique tastes and needs, they need a lot more data. For example: “What has this customer seen on the site recently?” “” What have they bought offline in the past two years? “” What items have they returned? “” What items have they left more than once in their basket? “” Did they buy a product through an advertisement or an email? “â¦ And so on.
But even once all of this customer information is available to a marketer, for them to actually use it, a whole different level of technology is needed: one that can run a model that not only has the ability to ” unite and store large amounts of data, but also use it to predict future behavior.
Is it AI? It’s something that can predict future behavior through a computer algorithm, so yes. And that’s the direction e-commerce marketing is heading.
7) AI Marketing
But it’s not just the content that AI can feed: the delivery of a message, in a cross-channel world, will also be machine-driven.
What does the concept of an AI-based algorithm look like to decide which message to send that actually looks like?
Take an abandonment cart campaign, for example. Now, your brand might already be sending this campaign, but how do you know whether to send a single email or a series? Or the number of days to wait after abandoning the cart before sending it? Or the incentive to include, if applicable?
All these questions are impossible to answer, for every customer, without the help of a machine. It’s an endless stream of (important) decisions that machine learning can support by quickly processing large data sets (leaving marketers to focus on innovation and strategy).
So how do you get your hands on said machine?
In order to start using AI in a brand’s ecommerce marketing strategy, a marketer needs a whole new technology that can be layered on top of everything else and ensure that the right message is sent to the customer. right message at the right time.
So, this all sounds good, doesn’t it? But you are probably thinking: “a good to have”.
But is it really just a good thing to have?
As mentioned at the start of this article, competition in the retail industry is already stiff. There is already a big “unsubscribe” box at the bottom of your emails, enticing unhappy recipients to click. And when the GDPR goes into effect next May, it will become 10 times more difficult: When someone says they don’t want your emails, you’re unlikely to get a second chance.