One demonstrably good answer is email remarketing. Study after study demonstrates the effectiveness of emails sent in response to customer actions. But more importantly, remarketing is a strategy that allows you to start with what you have and prove consistent value, then scale into ever increasing accuracy, finesse and success. A good remarketing strategy is like a road map into the future, guiding your email marketing — and your company — into a world of context-driven messages, engaged customers and increased revenues.
It’s a basic but effective tactic. But despite the popularity of the abandoned shopping trolley use case, the idea isn’t limited to retail. Financial institutions and B2B companies often use the same tactic to follow up with would-be customers who abandon application forms and such. Other industries use similar applications — see the following list for a few examples.
When you know the answers to questions like these, you can send them messages they actually want to read because you’ve proven that you understand and respect them. And it’s subtle — but powerful — experiences like this that build customer loyalty.
Why are you sending the message? The beginning of a good remarketing strategy is a clear “why.” To get there, you need to ask other questions, like what customer intention are you trying to respond to? What do you want them to do? The more specific you can get, the better. For example, knowing that you want to keep in touch to customers who have left products in their basket is good. But knowing why your customers are leaving products in their basket is better because it allows you to tailor your message to a more relevant need.
Who is receiving it? Understanding your audience is crucial. And again, the more specific you can get, the better. Every piece of information you can gather on your customers — everything from purchasing history to behavioural data — can help you to create a remarketing message that works. Remember, the goal here is to understand your customer’s intention. The more you understand your customer, the better you understand their intentions.
For example, one national hardware retailer had an e-commerce site and adopted a basic abandoned basket campaign. But they weren’t seeing the results they expected, so they dug into their analytics data and started looking more closely at what their customers were doing.
They quickly discovered that their customers were putting big-ticket items in their baskets as a way to research products and compare prices, but then they were purchasing those items in physical shops. With this new insight gleaned from cross-channel data about the actual behaviour and intent of their customers, they re-worked their campaign to focus on reminders instead of purchases, with much better results.
But as you’re successful, you can’t sit still. Because good remarketing relies so heavily on the context in which your customers receive it, remarketing is a great, ROI-friendly catalyst for transforming your entire email strategy.
In today’s digital culture, there is an incredible amount of data you could be gathering about each of your customers. Consider the following:
But there’s an even bigger picture here. By bringing all this data together, you can start creating accurate maps of each customer’s journey. This is obviously invaluable to everyone in a company, but it’s especially important to email marketers. Because email is so ubiquitous — 43 per cent of respondents to one Adobe survey admitted to checking their email in the bathroom — it is with customers at every stage of their journey. This gives email marketers a key role in helping customers move toward purchase, loyalty and beyond. And since every step of that journey is a conversion, remarketing is the perfect tactic to rely on.
Obvious examples are triggers like site or app abandonment, but with a comprehensive view like this, email marketers can start really pushing the boundaries of what remarketing can do. Maybe the customer started a video but never finished. Or they called your call centre and you want to follow up on their experience. Or they checked into your brick-and-mortar store but never bought anything. With a little creativity, you can use triggers to both your customer’s benefit and your own.
“Even though we’re sending out so many more emails, we’re seeing lower unsubscribe rates and higher click-through rates,” says Otto Rosenberger, CMO at Hostelworld Group, who went from sending 300 emails to 1 billion every year. “The difference is we’re using segmentation to target customers with only the deals and information that they’ll find interesting. By improving the customer journey through personalisation and remarketing in real time, we’re helping to retain customers with 61 per cent of bookings coming from repeat Hostelworld customers.”
But analytics software does more than just identify triggers. As we saw with Hostelworld, it helps you to take advantage of them with greater finesse. By allowing you to segment your audiences at any level of detail, you can act on specific triggers in ways that are appropriate to different audiences.
“One company I worked with had a goal of driving in-app transactions,” says Jenkins, “with an emphasis on one particular method of transaction. The desired transaction required a higher commitment to the brand and app usage, however, so the audience was segmented based on past app engagement. Customers who had never transacted within the app were encouraged to adopt the lower commitment transaction, while customers who had transacted with the lower commitment method were encouraged to adopt the higher commitment transaction through benefit messaging.”
Here are a few of the possibilities.
Use context-driven cross-channel marketing. With analytics and email working together, you’re in a position to start applying the same principles to your messages through other channels. Especially as you deepen your understanding of your customer and gain better insights about their preferences and behaviours, you can keep in touch to them through the channels that make most sense with messages tailored for each specific context. Even better, you can keep in touch through different channels in a co-ordinated effort to reinforce the value you’re offering. And as they interact with you through different channels, your understanding of them will continue to develop and the cycle starts again again.
“What you get is the ability to orchestrate a flow by resolving all the data to the individual first and then choosing the channel later,” says Cebrian, senior vice president of digital messaging at Merkle, Inc. “All your data goes in and when you want to send the campaign to somebody, it doesn’t have to be in a single channel. For example, suppose you have a customer who does something you want to respond to, but that customer doesn’t always respond to your emails. The idea is that you can act on that behaviour through other channels too, using the same data.”
For example, with detailed segments, Hostelworld can reach its customers through the right channel at the right time. If someone books a trip to Barcelona, Hostelworld can deliver recommendations for activities through banners or its mobile app. When the traveller reaches the city, the mobile app will offer further suggestions through push notifications.
Take advantage of machine learning. Most companies have so many customers and such a flood of data that the ability of their data scientists to truly understand their customers is limited. Machine learning mitigates a lot of this by performing complex analysis that leads to real, actionable insights. A basic, transactional example of this is that the machine evaluates the purchasing behaviour of two segments and determines that one is more likely to buy than the other, allowing the email marketer to tailor separate messages with greater relevance. Or even better, the machine segments your audience for you based on how likely they are to do whatever it is you want them to do.
But this kind of analysis can go beyond individual transactions and help evaluate customer behaviours throughout their entire journey. Imagine you have a high-value segment that you want to keep a close eye on. With machine learning, you can analyse their engagement and predict the likelihood of them becoming less interested or falling away. This allows you to keep in touch to them before they make the decision to leave — even before they’ve started disengaging — and strengthen their loyalty. This kind of analytical power at scale is beyond human ability and it gives you incredible opportunities to understand and react to the intentions of your customers.
Always make the right offer. With all this analytical horsepower, the ability of email marketers to understand the needs of individual customers is a reality. And this means that when a customer engages with you, you can automatically send an offer and know that it’s the right one. This ability to understand the context of each customer and respond to all of them automatically with a relevant and personal message is what email was born to do.
You may not be ready to launch a machine-led, analytics-rich remarketing campaign today and that’s okay. Start small. Focus on providing value to your customers and proving the value of your efforts up the chain. Build incrementally. Integrate datasets as they make sense. As you reimagine what remarketing could be, you can bring real value to your customers, which means real value to your company.
Adobe Campaign. This set of solutions helps you personalise and deliver campaigns that take advantage of both online and off-line channels. It is considered best-of-breed campaign management software by both Forrester and Gartner. It excels at sending personalised, right-time emails — and co-ordinated cross-channel messages — that improve the entire customer experience.
Adobe Analytics. More than analytics, this product is all about customer intelligence. Adobe Analytics is an industry-leading solution that empowers you to understand your customers as people — what they want, need and believe. Discover your most valuable customer segments and use these insights get the context you need to act on customer intent and send relevant messages through the right channel — like email — every time.
Adobe and the Adobe logo are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. © 2018 Adobe. All rights reserved. Printed in the USA.
“Email Marketing Industry Census 2016,” Econsultancy, April 2016.
Jose Cebrian, personal interview, October 2017.
“Hostelworld: Experiences for Passionate Travellers,” Adobe customer story, August 2017.
“Q1 2017 Email Trends and Benchmarks,” Epsilon, 2017.
Shar Vanboskirk, "US Digital Marketing Forecast: 2016 to 2021," Forrester, 24 January 2017.
Simms Jenkins, personal interview, October 2017.