My last column examined some of Zappos’ more interesting lifecycle marketing programs, and how the company determined that right-time marketing is not always immediate. With its unique approach to its cart abandonment and in-stock notification emails, Zappos is driving some impressive conversions. But what if you’re not a retailer? Can lifecycle marketing be successful applied to other industries? The answer, of course, is “yes.”
According to our organization’s recent, “2011 Lifecycle Email Marketing Survey,” the travel and hospitality industry leads the charge for integrating lifecycle marketing into their email marketing programs, with 63 percent adoption. Retail is a close second at 62 percent, but even the technology industry comes in at 58 percent, which shows just how universal its appeal is.
Any company can engage in lifecycle marketing; it comes down to finding inflection points where you can influence customer behavior to conform to a desired action. That could be introducing them to complementary products or services, or promoting new information on your website that drives website visit. By tying into your web analytics programs, e-commerce systems, and backend databases, you can identify key points in the customer lifecycle, and then create corresponding programs to maximize customer value at each stage.
Any company can take advantage of the humble “welcome program,” which is being leveraged by 78 percent of the companies doing lifecycle email marketing in our survey. A welcome program is a sensible place to start because it’s the first message that a customer will receive from your brand and it sets expectations for the brand-consumer relationship. However, a one-time email when someone registers for the site is not enough. Even if it does all the right things by setting expectations and introducing new customers to your site, service, newsletter, etc., a one-time message doesn’t capture the reality that consumers can easily miss an email in their inbox. Not only that, it misses the opportunity to continue to nurture the customer relationship as they become more familiar with your brand.
Case Study: GamersFirst
GamersFirst, a popular free-to-play, massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) publisher, understands the power of the welcome message and uses a series of messages to help ensure that new subscribers engage with games like 9Dragons and Knight Online. When a new customer registers on the site to download and play one of its games, they receive a welcome email that asks them to confirm their account. By integrating with the website, it is able to automatically trigger a reminder email for those who have not registered within a set number of days. Using this approach, GamersFirst is able to convert four percent with each email. With thousands of new players signing up each week, this program is a serious contributor to its bottom line.
When GamersFirst customers do convert by confirming their account, the company also begins monitoring how often they play the games, and send another reminder email after a period of inactivity.
Case Study: Travelocity
Another excellent non-retail example comes from Travelocity. When it comes to travel, consumers have many options for booking their vacations, and it’s often the company that can deliver a newly reduced fare first that gets the booking. Travelocity understands this dynamic and uses a triggered lifecycle marketing email alert to deliver its low fare alerts.
Timely delivery is critical because an airline’s airfare reductions are typically made available to online travel sites at roughly the same time. By using an automatic trigger to deliver this message, Travelocity has been able to generate click-through rates that are 300 percent higher than their average outbound programs.
Automation begins with tying into its web analytics system to match recent routes browsed by its customers with airfare reductions provided by the airlines. When they align, Travelocity kicks off a message letting them know about the savings. This program illustrates the power of bringing together timing and relevancy to drive a conversion.
These are just two examples of how lifecycle messages can benefit companies in any vertical industry. The key is to fully understand the customer lifecycle for your brand and how you can push customers to key events with relevant messages that are triggered off of customer attributes or behavior – or lack thereof. Done correctly, an effective lifecycle email marketing program demonstrate to your customers that you understand what they want to get out of your brand, and that you’re there to help them achieve it.
If you’ve been impressed by a lifecycle marketing program from a non-retailer, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.