As with all data-driven marketing, your customer insight has to sit at the very heart of your email. This is particularly the case if you wish to move away from ‘batch and blast’ – or ‘spray and pray’ as I like to call it – to sending the right message, to the right person, at the right time.
An extension to this mantra is also “on the right channel”. With the recent acquisition of COMAPI, dotdigital customers now have more choice over the digital channels on which to convey marketing messages – but that’s a blog for another day.
Automation is a method that enables time-poor marketers to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time. BUT, the triggers to enrol a subscriber onto an automation program (or the logic behind it) is all based on… Well you guessed it – data.
Hooking up your ecommerce platform with dotdigital Engagement Cloud ensures you get valuable transactional data into your email platform, empowering you to tailor the experience around the actions of subscribers.
So, I’ve collated the must-have automations that – regardless of what product you’re selling – should be at the top of your list. And once implemented, you can scope programs as per the industry or sector you’re operating in.
1. Welcome program
The welcome journey would be the first email contact you have with subscribers after they’ve signed up. As with the real world, you’ve only one shot to make a good impression, so make it count!
Your welcome program should set the tone of what subscribers will receive moving forward. A good starting place is a three-part series:
- In the first email, thank your subscribers for signing up and reinforce the reasons why they did so in the first place – this is the prime time to shout about your USPs and the exclusive benefits of being opted-in.
- As a follow up to the initial email, you should begin building your relationship with customers by telling them your brand story. Make sure subscribers understand your USPs and make your proposition as compelling as possible, recommending the most-viewed or most-purchased products on your site for instance.
- Email three is the perfect opportunity to prompt subscribers to act. If they haven’t made their first purchase yet, encourage them to do so. If they have made their first purchase, ask them instead to fill in your preference center so you can further tailor their digital experience.
2. Post-purchase program
Now that subscribers have made their first purchase, it’s time to enrol them onto an aftersales program that communicates thanks and rewards them for their business with you over that of a competitor. It doesn’t have to be a discount (although research we’ve conducted with the Direct Marketing Association indicates that discounts and money offs are most effective); you can reinforce their decision was the right one by highlighting relevant customer testimonials and awarding loyalty points. Remember, reassurance (especially of an impulsive buy) goes a long way.
With every purchase that follows, customers can be automatically enrolled onto an aftersales program that collects product reviews and drives value-added content; both are likely to bolster UGC for other email programs and enrich your brand’s credibility.
3. Abandoned cart
In my experience, this is the automation of automations. Abandoned cart is without a doubt the highest revenue-generating program I’ve come across. Subscribers – whether intentionally or unintentionally – leave their carts full and unattended; sending them a prompt reminder so that they ‘don’t miss out’ or even a cheeky discount (if it’s been a slow month) is guaranteed to produce great results.
I would experiment between a one- and three-stage abandoned cart program to see what works best for you. But be warned, some of the more savvier consumers will abandon their purchase intentionally to seek out a discount code, as they recognize that many brands will use it as incentive to recover lost carts.
4. Loyalty program
Loyalty programs can be straightforward and help you generate the advocacy enjoyed by the likes of ASOS, winner of our 2017 benchmark report – Hitting the Mark.
The logic behind a loyalty program could be as simple as having the enrollment criteria set to customers’ average order value (AOV) or a minimum number of orders made in the last 6 months. Conditions to enroll might be an AOV that’s equal to or greater than £100, for instance.
An automation can be triggered when the rules you’ve set up have been met, informing loyal customers that they’ve qualified for membership in a special VIP club, and of their exclusive access to additional benefits or gifts.
Triggering this automation will update the relative ‘data-field’ within dotdigital Engagement Cloud, marking customers that have enrolled as ‘VIPs’. You can then leverage this insight to enrich the relevancy of your business-as-usual newsletters, using dynamic content to display extra information that’s exclusive to your more loyal customers.
Conversely, another automation could be built and triggered if customers’ AOV or number of orders (made over a certain period) are below the prerequisites of entering the VIP club; they’d be either encouraged to make a purchase or enrolled onto a winback program.
5. Re-engagement program
A re-engagement (or winback) program could be based on a period of subscriber inactivity – i.e. the last time subscribers have opened or clicked in an email. Pro:Direct, for example, prompts unengaged subscribers to remain in the loop or connect on other channels.
But in an ecommerce scenario, I’d base the criterion on when they last made a purchase.
If a number of days or months has elapsed and a subscriber hasn’t made a purchase, sending a ‘we miss you’ campaign is sure to rouse their engagement and compel them to act. Things to potentially include are some inspirational UGC, USPs, freebies or a discretionary discount.
Ready, set, go!
Once you’ve got these five automations in place, you’re well on the road to delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time. If you’d like more advice on tailoring automations to your business, please feel free to contact your account manager.
And for more automation inspiration, check out our best practice guide on growing your ecommerce business with email.