13 Multichannel Marketing Tactics (of 35) to Improve E-Marketing Profitability Tomorrow
At the Retail Marketing Virtual Conference & Expo, hosted by our sister magazine Retail Online Integration, Kevin Hillstrom, president of multichannel marketing consulting firm MineThatData presented a session called The Bucket List: Technology's Impact on Catalog Marketing — 35 Strategies That Will Improve Company Profitability Tomorrow.
Hillstrom focused on what he calls "multichannel forensics," analyzing customer interactions as they buy from various channels and brands. Over the years of the study, he's been able to extract many conclusions and trends from the data, from which he assembled this bucket list. "Five years from now," Hillstrom said, "our customers are going to be very different ... I want to be able to test different strategies today so I can have my business prepared for 2015."
While Hillstrom's session focused on these strategies from a direct mail/cross-channel point of view, many of his 35 strategies contained good advice for any company engaged in e-marketing and commerce. Here are 13 of the best; for more, sign up to listen to this session and others on-demand.
Strategy No. 3: Order Starters
"Strongly consider doing an ‘order starter’ analysis," Hillstrom advised, to "identify items first entered when customers make purchases." These items cause customers to start orders, so featuring them in email or on your homepage will lift overall orders.
Strategy No. 6: Online-Only Shoppers
"Customers who purchase exclusively online are often different than customers who shop via traditional direct marketing advertising channels," said Hillstrom. He likens this segment to bank customers using an ATM: "It's like a self-service audience. The customer doesn't necessarily want assistance, and ... customers who don't necessarily want a lot of assistance often don't want to have a deep relationship with your business. They may want to buy one or two items and move on," so you don't have to spend too much marketing to them.
Strategy No. 11: Know Email Productivity
"Almost every company I work with either significantly overstates or significantly understates email marketing productivity," because the metrics used to track email success — open, clickthrough and conversion rates — often don't reflect shopper reality, Hillstrom said. According to Hillstrom, customers often receive an email, see it in Outlook and visit the website later to buy something.
To accurately assess email's impact, Hillstrom advocates using email mail/holdout tests to measure the medium's true incremental value "beyond the click."
Strategy No. 12: Merchandise + Email
"Segment your housefile into groups of customers based on merchandise preference," Hillstrom advises. "Then develop an email strategy with customized panels allowing variable merchandise presentation. Or at least have multiple versions of email campaigns targeted to customers with specific merchandise preferences."
Hillstrom said this effort can increase results by 20 percent or more.
Strategy No. 15: Investigate Other Business Models
Bubbleroom.se is a Swedish website that doesn't engage in any traditional marketing. Instead it has "six product managers read 2,000 blogs a day," according to Hillstrom. "The company identifies [fashion] trends, designs [and sources] products [based on them] and has them delivered from China in two weeks! Thirteen thousand paid bloggers earn 8 percent of their orders if customers click through their blog, which are syndicated on the Bubbleroom website. Thirty percent month-over-month growth."
This sort of nontraditional business model is something Hillstrom feels all marketers need to be aware of. "There are other ways to get customers to engage and shop."
Strategy No. 16: Merchandise Paths
"Know the paths customers take as they move from a first to second to third purchase," said Hillstrom. He's found that new customers tend to buy existing products they know they can trust, while repeat customers tend to buy new products. In other words, each customer's purchase habits evolve over their lifetime. Your contact strategies should evolve accordingly.
Strategy No. 18: The iPad
"Own an iPad? Seriously. Go buy one, now," said Hillstrom. "Has there ever been a device more tailor-made for a digital catalog? You flip pages with your index finger, tap an item you want and execute a one-click purchase, potentially without ever visiting a traditional website. The iPad can be a mobile mailbox" for the delivery of marketing materials.
Strategy No. 20: Marketing = Humans
"In every multichannel forensics project I’ve worked on, customers who have actual contact with live human beings have increased long-term value over self-serve online customers," said Hillstrom, who considered this the third most important message in his 35 strategies. "While it might be expensive, do anything possible to make your business warm (i.e., human) instead of cold, templatized and algorithmic."
Strategy No. 24: Map the Future
"Thoroughly understand how customers are likely to evolve over the next five years, and use this behavior to reduce marketing expense among segments," said Hillstrom, noting that this has been his most popular client project in 2010.
Strategy No. 28: Months One to Three
"The analytics I perform strongly suggest that months one, two and three are critically important in the development of new customers," said Hillstrom. "If there was ever a time for human contact, it's then. For many businesses, half of all newbies who will ever buy again do so in this three-month window."
Strategy No. 29: Merchandise Categories
"Too often direct marketers focus their marketing efforts on channels — catalogs, email, search, social, mobile, etc." Hillstrom advised marketers to instead focus their efforts on merchandise categories. "Customers who buy from multiple merchandise categories are often more valuable than customers who buy from multiple advertising channels."
Strategy No. 31: Filtering
"Existing customers will increasingly determine the communication strategy they want," according to Hillstrom. "Some will want catalogs and direct mail; others search, email and websites; others mobile and social media; and still others the iPad. All will consume media." Learning those media preferences and filtering contacts by them will let you trim waste from your marketing communications and generate more profit.
Strategy No. 35: Digital Profiles
"We need to combine the channels customers buy from with the merchandise they purchase," said Hillstrom, to create "digital profiles." These are models of how each customer looks when shopping, and Hillstrom points out that they're actionable. "We know that certain customers have certain online behaviors and like certain merchandise, and we can tailor their online experiences to these behaviors."
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