Recapturing Lost Online Customers

Jan 22, 2007 10:30 PM  By

E-mail marketers are under constant pressure to cut through the noise and increase the performance of their campaigns. But when an online customer is unreachable because they changed their e-mail address, stopped reading e-mails or their messages are being filtered, a marketer’s options are limited.

With no effective way to re-engage out-of-touch buyers, e-mail marketers have come to accept that some customers are lost forever. That doesn’t always have to be the case, however. There are ways to recapture lost customers and drive them back to your Website or into your stores.

If an e-mail is undeliverable, sending further e-mails is unnecessary and costly. Another channel is needed to re-engage the customer who no longer responds to e-mails.

Direct mail is the logical choice, but traditional methods can be very time consuming and few marketers can justify doing it more than once or twice a year. And the longer it takes to reach out to a lapsed customer, the less effective the results will be.

But now marketers can combine the personalization of e-mail with the impact of direct mail to recapture lost costumers. With dynamic publishing and on-demand printing technologies, they have the ability to efficiently create repeatable, short-run, personalized mailings as a complement or an alternative to e-mail messages based on customer data or behavioral events.

Dynamically created direct mail pieces can be developed as postcards, self-mailers, or letters, and can be personalized with text and graphics that are highly relevant to an individual. Since one piece is printed at a time, small volumes can be produced without the large setup costs of traditional direct mail. And for measurement, a personalized URL, coupon code, or barcode can be generated for each printed piece, enabling the marketer to track the campaign’s response and deliverability online.

Let’s suppose a customer that fits into a retailer’s “best customer” segment has not opened any e-mail promotions for 60 days, so a business rule specifies that it’s time to send out a “we-miss-you” postcard.

A database query compiles an audience of customers who have not opened e-mails in the past 60 days. Their postal addresses, and any other relevant data to be used during the publishing step, are collected.

A creative design template is set up and variable data fields are mapped. Nearly every element of the creative, including type, color scheme, or even the graphical or visual imagery can be dynamically driven by data supplied with the target audience.

Once this step is completed, the process moves into automated data production. Here, the target audience data is merged with its corresponding template and sent to a print partner. The result is a customized postcard directing the subscriber to a personalized landing page where they can update their e-mail address and/or preferences to immediately receive –and continue receiving – exclusive offers from the company.

By combining customized direct mail with e-mail, marketers can quickly and effectively target lapsed customers, increase their engagement levels and move them to a desired action. Ideal applications for combined print/e-mail campaigns include customer reactivations, e-mail change of address, catalog requests and delivery confirmation, reminders, conversion campaigns, and loyalty program support.

When you can’t reach an online customer, you need to re-engage that customer before they have time to develop an attachment to any competitor. The faster a customer is reacquired, the less time that customer has to shop elsewhere, and fewer purchases will ultimately be lost.

Arthur Sweetser is SVP marketing and professional services for e-Dialog, an e-mail service provider based in Lexington, MA.