E-Commerce Link: Smoothing a Bumpy Ride
So, where to start? Sophisticated technologies now exist to track visitor behavior on e-commerce sites and deliver tailored recommendations in real time, based on click patterns, IP information and regional demographic data. But merchants can make significant gains in loyalty by focusing on a single data set and deploying one of the simplest tools in their arsenal-e-mail.
E-mail: Basic but Effective
E-mail is often overshadowed by the hype of social computing. But despite the enticements of Facebook, YouTube and more than 100 million blogs, e-mail is still consumers' most frequent online activity. Ninety-one percent of online consumers have used e-mail, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, whereas social computing activities rate no higher than 36 percent.
By combining the effectiveness of e-mail with the relevance-boosting power of segmentation, online merchants can create a winning retention strategy that won't overwhelm the marketing budget.
Best Practices for Sign-up and Sending
To craft a loyalty-building e-mail strategy, merchants must convince shoppers to sign up to receive ongoing updates. Encourage new e-mail subscribers by following these best practices:
- A simple e-mail sign-up box should be available as a global element. Provide a benefit-driven statement near the sign-up that lets shoppers know what's in it for them, such as special offers and timely news.
- Don't be afraid to aggressively promote your e-mail sign-up using key merchandising space, where an invitation to sign up with an enticing discount offer for the subscriber's next purchase is displayed as a prominent homepage banner.
- Don't require registration with sign-up. Shoppers should be able to subscribe to e-mail without creating a username and password. According to the Email Experience Council (EEC), only 12 percent of merchants require that level of commitment for e-mail sign-ups.
- Ask shoppers to opt in, not opt out, and back up their choices with a double opt-in confirmation. According to eROI, only 30 percent of merchants take the extra step of e-mailing a verification link to ensure that subscribers are committed.
- Keep data fields to a minimum. Because purchase history is the key driver for loyalty, extraneous information only builds resistance to capturing new sign-ups. Forty-three percent of merchants use three fields or less for their sign-up forms, according to the EEC.
- Prominently link to privacy policies from the sign-up box. Reassure shoppers that their e-mail addresses won't be shared and subscribing won't bring them unwanted spam.
- Immediately send a welcome message that puts recipients on the path to purchase. Reiterate the value proposition to subscribers, reminding them of the benefits to receiving e-mail.
- Use subsequent event-based e-mails as merchandising opportunities, within reason. First and foremost, when shoppers abandon their shopping carts, e-mail them with a gentle reminder and invitation to complete the purchase. In 2007, 73 percent of merchants rated abandonment-triggered reminders to be somewhat or very effective, according
Three Buyer Types to Target
Merchants should initially focus efforts on three types of buyers who can contribute significantly to