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GUEST COMMENT Let’s get personal: how to engage with consumers on their own terms

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Never has it been so easy to target consumers with marketing messages; the business world sends over 108.7 billion emails every day, while technology advances are enabling retailers to send information to shoppers’ mobile devices as they browse the store.

But how many of these consumers find the messages they receive relevant, or even welcome?

Personalisation is a hot topic for discussion among marketers and ecommerce managers, however the majority of retail brands are still trying to perfect an approach that toes the line between hitting shoppers with the right message, and overwhelming them with ‘too’ personal correspondence.

An effective personalisation strategy is built on three core elements, which address what, when and how your business communicates with customers:

Create a content adventure

Marketing has become storytelling, and consumers respond to stories that strike a chord with them. Retailers should aim to build email content that’s relevant, not repetitive – the ‘batch and blast’ approach no longer works.

Use data generated from customers’ online activity to tailor content in line with their browsing and buying history, featuring items that you’re confident will be of genuine interest. This not only cuts through the noise of generic emarketing content from rival brands, but increases the chance of converting sales.

It’s also important to remember that stories have more than one chapter, and not all consumers will want to skip straight to the ending and buy an item. Adding clear buttons with alternative options – perfect accessories, special offers and customer support – gives them a choice for continuing their journey. You might not have converted in that particular email, but you’re keeping the customer engaged.

Make sure the device is right

The fact that marketers can now engage with consumers across multiple online platforms presents great opportunities, but it also makes it harder to get communications right. Even highly personalised content can fail to resonate if it’s not executed correctly for the device the recipient is using.

Mobile now accounts for more than a third of online retail purchases*, so it’s critical to optimise content for smartphone and tablet devices. This means adapting the layout for smaller screens – short sentences, responsive graphics, ensuring at least some click throughs are visible on the screen without scrolling. A difficult-to-read email will never generate great conversion rates!

It’s not just the appearance that matters – when you send it also plays a huge role in emarketing success. The timing of an email campaign should correspond with when users are most likely to be using connected devices. For example, smartphone activity peaks from 5-8pm, so mobile-format messages will attract strong open rates during this period. But during office hours, most people tend to be using desktop or laptop computers – so you can afford longer subject lines and more detailed body copy at this time.

There are automation tools within leading email platforms that can take care of send time optimisation for different devices, to maximise the chances of consumer engagement. However, you can assist this by asking customers to set their preference to the device they most often use to check their emails.

Bridge the gap between online and store shopping

Far from being a competitor to bricks-and-mortar, digital outreach has the power to drive consumers into the store, and enhance their experiences at the shelf edge.

One effective way to promote store shopping through emarketing is to send a campaign incentivising recipients to download your retail app. Then, when they next visit the store, you can connect with them through that application – perhaps by offering bonus loyalty points if they check in, or sending them a push notification of a special offer – to personalise their offline experience.

Establishing a mobile relationship with customers can also save sales that may have been lost in a traditional store experience. For instance, if a customer finds a product they were searching for is out of stock, they can order it instantly, or they can use their app to pay for store purchases through their mobile device.

This has the added retailer benefit of enabling you to track what purchases shoppers are making in the store, and feed that into the tailoring of future email content.

When combined, all three of these strategic points power retailers closer to the fundamental objective of personalisation: reaching shoppers at the right time, through the right channel, with the right information, to drive sales.

The backbone to achieving this is a robust infrastructure, which allows information such as customer service, CRM and site/store inventory, to be exchanged in near real-time. With the support of an email marketing platform that can optimise outgoing communications in line with consumer activity, you have the tools in place to engage with each customer on their own terms.

Kestrel Lemen is ‎marketing strategist at Bronto Software

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