Four Ways to Use Behavioral Data in E-mail Marketing

Behavioral data is just what it seems—data that reveals the buying behavior of our customers and prospects. It generally is associated with Websites where companies capture and analyze the clickstream of visitors.

The data will include relevant information such as what pages and products the visitor viewed, how long the visitor stayed, and how far the visitor progressed through the checkout process. But you can also find behavioral data in e-mail marketing and transactional records, for example.

All of this is valuable data for a marketer, and it makes sense for the e-mail marketer to use it. Analyst firms report as much as nine-fold revenue improvements from the use of behavioral data.

Sounds like a no-brainer, yet JupiterResearch also reports that the majority of marketers fail to use the behavioral data available to them. For example, less than a third of marketers use click-through information for audience segmentation – even though it will greatly improve campaign relevance by targeting engaged subscribers differently.

The trick is to make behavioral data actionable and put it to use while it is fresh. E-mail provides an ideal way to do this because of its recognized advantages – fast, inexpensive, measurable, provides the ability to segment, publish dynamic content and automate – and because it lets marketers connect anonymous Web behavior with individuals through a variety of identifiers, such as cookies, Website registration, transactions, etc.

Start with behavioral data by defining your marketing goals, strategies, and tactics. Ideally, you define your strategy and get the data you need to execute it. Often, however, marketers start with the data they can readily get from their existing e-mail marketing, transactional records, and Web analytics.

Once you know what that is, you can align it to one of four typical marketing goals:

  1. Increase repeat purchases: Offer cross-sell and upsell products based on purchase activity (obtainable without Web analytics) into purchase and shipment confirmation messages; inform customers of related products and new merchandise arrivals from same lines as previously purchased items.
  2. Encourage a first-time purchase: Send an alert about new products in the same categories as recently browsed or searched items; further educate customers about recently browsed/searched products, especially those that may require a longer decision-making process; send user ratings or product reviews; include a compelling offer/incentive to buy now.
  3. Increase customer retention: Segment your list by e-mail responders and non-responders; segment frequent visitors from those whose frequency is declining; target appropriate content and updates to each group to motivate the behavior you want.
  4. Find revenue in abandoned shopping carts: Send follow-up messages that reinforce the benefits he/she will receive from the purchase; include a discount and/or another incentive; describe new products similar to the products in their cart (in case they’re still searching for the perfect item); remind them of the limited time to take advantage of the offer; and reiterate your e-commerce security features and privacy policy.

A few caveats are in order, however:

First, whether you are overwhelmed by the abundance of behavioral data or worried that you don’t have enough, the key is to start simple. Just transaction history is enough to work with; a step better is e-mail open and click-through data; and ultimately, identifiable (not anonymous) Web browsing details give you the best profile of your customers.

Second the ability to query, analyze, and segment this data into useful audiences will help you organize and track behaviors. If you can take this a step further by integrating data from other channels such as point-of-sale, all the better.

Third, you need the content assets, workflow and messaging infrastructure in place to dynamically publish relevant content based on this data while it still is fresh.

Fourth, perform proper testing, reporting and measurement to see what’s working.

John Rizzi is president/CEO of e-Dialog, an e-mail services provider based in Lexington, MA.

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