In surveys across the board, marketers say that personalization is a top priority. When done right, it increases engagement, builds loyalty, and drives sales by delivering messages that align with — and anticipate — what each customer wants.
Leaders in martech have leveraged technology to reach new heights in delivering highly-personalized, relevant and immediate messaging that’s cohesive across multiple channels. By identifying online shoppers and capturing their associated shopping data to automate content, they’ve drastically raised expectations to the point that most consumers today expect individualized interaction — not just personalized, individualized — that shows them what they want, when they want it, while also saving them time and money. And it’s easier than ever for them to take their business elsewhere if they don’t get what they expect.
To keep up, retailers must identify customers each time they visit their web site in order to build a cohesive understanding of each customer’s wants and needs. For the walled gardens like Amazon, this is easy because customers log in — but most retailers don’t have that luxury. Fortunately, it’s often possible to link web visitors to their email address regardless of whether they enter any identifying information. And because the email address is often linked to other identifiers such as home addresses, social media accounts, apps, loyalty programs, in-store kiosks, etc., it’s an ideal connector to other stores of data.
The email address is far superior to anonymous cookies and third-party data that guess at a shopper’s identity — because to be effective, identity resolution should link each shopper to a unique, cross-device ID that’s directly linked to that person (instead of a browser or device). People-based marketing is a term used in every corner of the martech landscape, but not everyone has figured out that this requires people-based identification. Too much of what’s called personalized marketing today still uses cookie-based guessing strategies, with the wrong messages going to the wrong people.
Marketers who embrace the email address to identify web site visitors and personalize their messaging — be it through email, web site, in-store, social or the mailbox at the end of the driveway — are much better poised to succeed in their multichannel personalization efforts.
Triggered email is about as personalized as you can get, with content determined by an individual’s recent activity on your web site — i.e. items carted, browsed, searched for, etc. It also covers a wide spectrum of opportunities to re-engage customers, from abandoned cart reminders delivered within a few hours to new arrival notifications delivered when new merchandise aligns with a customer’s prior web site activity. Product recommendations can further personalize content, both in triggered email and scheduled sends. In addition, innovative email-based identification technology now enables personalized timing of bulk email by sending each email individually when the recipient is primed to shop (i.e. currently opening other retail email or on another retailer’s web site).
Web visitors can be linked to an email address before the homepage loads, enabling instant personalization of the shopping experience. Does this person usually shop for women’s shoes? Load graphics of women’s shoes. At the same time, automatically welcome the user with a message customized to past activity. Did they leave something in the cart the last time they visited? Ask if they’d like to view the items in their cart. Are they new to your site? Ask them to sign up for email. As they browse, display unobtrusive overlays with dynamic product recommendations and other content relevant to each shopper’s past and current activity.
Thanks to advances in digital marketing, in-store identification can now unlock sophisticated, real-time personalization that’s seamless with communication across other channels. In-store apps, kiosks and iPad-equipped salespeople should always use the email address (or an identifier linked to email address) for identification purposes. This enables the same real-time data that powers personalized digital content to power personalized in-store content (i.e. “That blue top you looked at online is in aisle 5, available in your size”).
The same goes for direct mail — linking the email address to a home address enables a whole new level of personalization driven by online activity. Like triggered email, triggered postcards feature browsed or carted items and can include dynamic product recommendations and offers based on each shopper’s data. Typically mailed within 24-48 hours, they can reach web visitors who aren’t signed-up for email with a level of personalization that’s not possible with ad-based retargeting.
Social giants like Facebook can make it difficult to deliver personalized marketing that’s cohesive with other channels. With email-based identification, ad audiences can be managed in real time to enable a more consistent approach to content in tandem with other channels.
Making It All Seamless
Customers don’t think about discrete channels, they view your brand holistically and expect a consistent, seamless experience. The email address is what enables relevant, personalized marketing, fueled by real-time insights, across a wide and growing spectrum of channels.
Bob Gaito has more than 20 years of experience in servicing direct marketers. In early 2000, he founded I-Centrix which is now part of Epsilon. In 2010, he co-founded 4Cite and continues to serve as its CEO.