Over the past decade, retailers have poured tremendous amounts of resources into creating and maintaining their e-Commerce sites, embracing the opportunity to sell their products online. With the explosion of Internet shopping, retailers have raced to claim their piece of the e-Commerce pie, spending millions on driving as much traffic as possible to their online properties in the hopes of winning at what once seemed like a numbers game.
But as online sales seem to be hitting a plateau, retailers and digital marketers alike are looking for new ways to sustain and perpetuate the continuous growth they once enjoyed. In an effort to get more out of the traffic they’ve already got (versus simply gaining new traffic), e-Commerce sites are now turning to conversion rate optimization tactics as a means to generate more sales.
Retail’s Obsession With CRO
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a hot topic for online retailers, and with its growing importance in the industry a cornucopia of CRO tools have quickly gained popularity. SaaS products like Optimizely, Crazy Egg, and Bounce Exchange help e-Commerce businesses identify and act upon actionable data points on their sites, aiming to keep shoppers around longer and ultimately convert.
The industry’s obsession with CRO has got digital marketers laser-focused on key elements of the shopping funnel such as checkout pages and abandonment pain points, implementing tools to decrease bounce rates, prevent abandonment and push shoppers to purchase. The reality is that despite the growing number of on-site engagement tools and CRO platforms, the majority of e-Commerce traffic does not convert, and this puts merchants in a difficult position.
Aiming to leverage site traffic as much as possible, retailers now place a heavy emphasis on bringing previous site visitors back rather than focusing solely on trying to prevent them from leaving, because they know that’s a game at which they cannot win.
Display ads and retargeting campaigns have become a must-have item on the checklist of every digital marketer, and as such, over 60% of marketers spent up to half of their marketing budgets on programmatic advertising in 2015.
Yet, the rate of traffic that ends up purchasing online still remains at around 1%, and e-Commerce professionals are seeking different, innovative ways beyond advertising to engage with shoppers after they’ve already left a site.
Email Is Still King
That’s right. A careful examination of various marketing channels reveals that email still ranks highest for ROI and effectiveness when it comes to digital marketing strategies. In fact, according to Entrepreneur, 91% of U.S. shoppers welcome promotional emails from online retailers. It’s no wonder that email still remains the highest converting marketing channel even in 2017 when advertising and on-site engagement solutions are making most of the marketing noise.
But how can retailers use email as part of a comprehensive CRO strategy and, as a result, effectively increase online sales?
Using Email To Target Key Touch Points
When retailers are looking to identify the right touch points at which to contact and connect with their shoppers via email, the first types of email marketing campaigns that come to mind are often transactional (i.e. order confirmation emails) and cart abandonment.
But when you take a closer look at the traffic on any given e-Commerce site, that data shows that only about 5% of traffic will ever make it to the cart page and about 1% will actually purchase.
Today, digital marketers are beginning to engage with shoppers that drop out long before the cart page by implementing browse abandonment campaigns. These emails focus on four key touch points that have been shown to generate nearly 80% of the revenue that comes from lifecycle email campaigns altogether. Perhaps the most profitable, these four touch points are also often the most overlooked.
Here are the four key touch points at which every retailer should be engaging with browsing shoppers, plus some tips and best practices on how to do it.
Key Touchpoint #1: New Visitors
Engage with new visitors on your site and encourage them to make a first purchase.
Send an email to new visitors immediately after an entry overlay is displayed on the screen or once they sign up to your list.
The key to success in this type of campaign is the ability to target your opt-in popup to the right shoppers without annoying everyone else.
Offer new visitors a special incentive such as free shipping or a discount on their first purchase.
These emails boast an average open rate of 56% and CTR of 38%.
Key Touchpoint #2: Category Browsers
Engage with shoppers who browse specific categories, departments or brands on your site but never viewed any specific products.
Send each shopper a completely customized message with category-specific recommendations and content related to the exact category they were browsing before abandonment.
Category browse emails can demonstrate an open rate averaging 45% and a CTR of approximately 22%.
Only send emails to shoppers who have neither abandoned a cart nor completed a purchase in the last 24 hours.
Key Touchpoint #3: Product Browsers
Target shoppers who browse specific products but never added any items to their carts.
The volume of shoppers that browse products is 70X greater than those who actually add an item to a cart.
Dynamically populate the product information of the items shoppers viewed along with related product recommendations.
These emails have been shown to yield high open and click-through rates such as 52% and 27%, respectively.
Key Touchpoint #4: Homepage Browsers
Connect with all other “window shoppers” who didn’t receive any of the other browse abandonment emails (or cart abandonment emails) but were still identified on your site.
These shoppers are similar to the shoppers who peek into the window displays of your brick-and-mortar stores but never actually walk through the doors.
Display store’s top sellers and invite window shoppers back with a friendly message.
These emails have an average open rate of 42% and CTR of 18%.
Applying Personalization to Email Automation
Obviously, a retailer cannot send emails to window shoppers, one by one manually in the hopes of achieving a sense of personalization. On the flip side, sending out mass email blasts is just as ineffective.
The key to automation is personalization, and this is achieved by making sure that the right message is sent to the right shopper at the right time. Retailers must be careful not to send multiple or irrelevant messages to shoppers so as not to drive them away.
Luckily there are a slew of email service providers for e-Commerce that can help merchants deploy automated and personalized email campaigns as part of an all-encompassing CRO strategy.
More Engagement Means More Conversions
The state of retail in 2017 is one that is filled with more opportunity for sellers than ever before. The more retailers engage with their shoppers in smart, effective ways, the more likely they are to increase conversions, acquire new customers, and improve the overall shopping experience in their online stores.
Daniel Kohn is the CEO and co-founder of SmartMail.io, a company that helps e-Commerce stores and online retailers increase sales, average order value, and lifetime customer value through email.