The e-Commerce universe is growing at a rapid pace, and merchants are striving to pique consumer interest in a vast sea of competitors.
Even niche retailers such as ThinkGeek, which sells apparel, toys and gadgets for fans of Star Wars, Doctor Who, Game Of Thrones and other cultural phenomena, are embracing new digital marketing tactics to reach target customers.
When the ThinkGeek e-Commerce site first launched in 1999, the retailer’s marketing efforts hinged on catalogs, according to CMO Jim O’Brien. But over the past five years, the retailer has become “increasingly analytical and overwhelmingly focused on digital marketing. Today, we know the lifetime value of our customers, and we have very clear efficiency targets for our marketing channels in the form of ad spend-to-revenue ratios.”
ThinkGeek uses the Adobe Marketing Cloud to improve the relevancy of campaigns and messages. By combining behavioral data from Adobe Analytics with back-end purchase history, the retailer can better understand the correlation between first-purchase channel and overall lifetime value.
“This directly feeds into our marketing strategy in those channels,” said O’Brien in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “One important discovery for us was that unlike some online businesses, customers who make their first ThinkGeek purchase through paid channels don’t behave that differently from those who arrive from social or organic means. This helps us invest confidently in those channels.”
For example, “we have a substantial international business, and Target has made it easy for us to provide contextually relevant messaging to those customers about particular promotions and shipping options, especially around the holidays,” O’Brien said. “We have also used Target to prove that ‘softer’ aspects of our site, such as lifestyle photography, have a positive impact on conversion.”
Over time, O’Brien expects to see increased investment in mobile optimization and personalization. “The great thing about analytics is that no matter how much you optimize, you will always find more upside if you know where to look.”
Like many eTailers, ThinkGeek focuses on direct-response channels such as paid search, affiliate marketing, retargeting and email marketing. Mobile also is becoming a substantial driver of sales and conversions. That is why the retailer is striving to improve the customer experience on its mobile-optimized site and is making ongoing enhancements to the traditional web site to improve shopping experiences for tablet users. Because ThinkGeek sells products in so many categories, the retailer is always investing in ways to improve site navigation and the checkout experience.
To better understand consumers’ browsing and buying behaviors across channels, ThinkGeek is analyzing cross-device behavior in paid search. “Although this data is currently only available as an estimate, it gives us an indication of how many searches start on one device and result in a sale on another device,” O’Brien said. “Ultimately, this may allow us to change our efficiency metrics and increase bids in mobile.”
ThinkGeek also is evolving its marketing strategies by focusing more on “upper funnel” tactics, according to O’Brien. “We are testing sophisticated behavioral targeting for display ads, which enable us to market to prospects earlier in the consideration process, even before they begin searching for the types of products we carry.”
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