Let’s talk about 2019 email marketing planning. When you sit down with your marketing director and they you how to increase email revenue by five-plus percent, increase your repeat customer rate, and slow customer churn; what’s your answer going to be? It can’t be to just, “send more email.”
To achieve sustainable success means you will have to create and optimize different aspects of your email marketing program. If you’re looking for a good place to start, might I suggest focusing on a post-purchase message strategy?
When it comes to post-purchase email marketing, it is a severely underutilized yet powerful tactic. A strategic, well-thought-out series will impact your day-to-day promotional email strategy and lifecycle messages, and it can do all three things your marketing director asked of you above.
A Little Context
The model of the customer journey that resembles a straight line from consumer to purchase, with some marketing tactics dotting the line between the bookends, no longer exists. Today’s consumers have more choice than ever. They shop on a variety of different channels, oftentimes during the same purchase. They are always connected, meaning they’re exposed to more influences and distractions, and they expect more personalization from marketers.
Today’s customer journey model looks more like something produced with the old-fashioned Spirograph toy, with lines that zig, zag, intersect, and circle back multiple times over. It’s a mess. And here’s where it gets even more complicated: when a consumer makes a purchase, they are simply recycled back into this complex and crazy customer journey.
How are companies expected to secure repeat customers, much less create loyalty and advocacy?
Here’s an everyday example. Have you ever made an online purchase only to receive one, two, or even three promotional emails the following day? Yep, me too. Let me translate this interaction. “Thanks for your money. We don’t know who you are, and we don’t care if, or what, you bought from us. We just want you to buy some more stuff, today.”
Does this scenario help create loyalty? Does it help create advocacy? Does it make the customer feel valued? Does it provide any reason whatsoever to immediately think of your brand the next time they decide to buy?
The first step to go about treating customers as people and not commodities is to understand how your customers are actually interacting with your emails. Only until you understand this can you strategically design an effective post-purchase messaging strategy.
Here are some ways to begin the process of creating a strategy that cultivates a stronger brand-customer relationship.
Segment Your Customers for Everyday Sends
One of the commonly-cited challenges of creating post-purchase messaging is time and resources. This is often the same reason retailers don’t segment their daily promotional emails.
Segmenting and setting up automation aren’t hard to execute. Creating the excess email creative can be. So, before you jump head-first into creating post-purchase messages, start by using easy-to-execute segmentation alongside your daily emails. This can help determine how your emails are impacting your customers and will lay the foundation for your post-purchase campaign.
To begin, create segments of your current email subscribers to determine what portion of your list has made zero, one, two, and three purchases; and how many have purchased within the past 12 months (I am using three purchases and 12 months as examples — this will change based on your products sold). Doing this will give you a better idea of the makeup of your overall email list.
Next, create segments for purchasers based on last order date. For the first month after purchase, you can break these contacts down in one-week increments. For example, one segment would be for contacts who purchased within the past seven days, one for 8-14 days, and so on. Month two and three can live independently as an entire month. Group month 4-12 together and finish off with 12+ months. Repeat this for each group of total number of purchases, stopping at a number that makes sense for your business.
Turning Buyers Into Repeat Buyers
Now that you’re equipped with some purchase-related segments, send your promotional emails as you normally would. But instead, send to these segments. Now you will be able to see how these messages performed with each customer group. What do you notice? You might find that recent purchasers have a 60% open rate within the first week after purchase.
While that might sound good, if they don’t click or convert you wasted an opportunity to engage them. You may find these contacts are unsubscribing at much higher rates, likely because they are being asked to buy again and are receiving irrelevant messages.
Looking at this data can inform the decisions as to how to construct your post-purchase messaging. If you know customers are engaging, but not purchasing, within the first 10 days post-purchase, this signals the time period you can engage them with meaningful messages, such as with “thank you” and product care messages. How does this behavior shift for first-time, repeat buyers, and won-back customers? What messages would matter to each of these customers at these moments?
Pay attention to the ripples. If you find repeat purchases are happening five months after purchase but your win-back campaign is sending at four months since last purchase, you should adjust that win-back strategy. Consider sending a message or two at two months for first time purchasers just to check in and ask if there is anything they need.
Is your win-back strategy effective for first-time customers or only for repeat customers? Maybe you’re trying to win back a customer you haven’t actually won. Use post-purchase messaging to help win them over and save the win-back for when they truly lapse.
What’s Your Answer?
Ultimately, the answer you are trying to uncover is what will make the customer feel better about your brand and their experience. It will likely come back to how often the customer buys to start with.
If your average customer makes a purchase 2.7 times per year, what’s going to drive the third purchase and beyond? If they haven’t reached the threshold of the “average” customer, you have not won them. They need to be nurtured, not “won back” with deep discounts.
Understanding how your day-to-day email marketing messages impact your customers is critical. Ask for help if needed. If you don’t have internal resources to draw upon, find an email partner, like Oracle Bronto, that offers execution or strategic professional services in-house.
A former client of mine once activated a three-message, non-incentivized post-purchase series designed to engage, help, and inform recent purchasers. These emails accounted for less than one percent of their yearly email sends yet drove nearly five percent of their yearly email revenue.
They got their five percent. How will you get yours?
Greg Zakowicz is a Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst at Oracle Netsuite