Since writing the last two columns on lifecycle marketing, Gartner has come out with its annual “Hype Cycle for CRM Marketing Applications” report, and low and behold, it extols the virtues of automating programs to deliver more ROI and accountability. Specifically, it states: “In 2010, marketing automation moved from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have.'”
The focus on automating marketing programs makes a lot of sense. Done properly, you can trigger relevant messages at exactly the right time in the customer lifecycle. Not only is this more effective for generating sales, hitting an in-market customer is going to lead to higher customer satisfaction. Of course, once you start to jump on the lifecycle gravy train, the next question is where to start. In my last column, I covered one of the most obvious places, the welcome email. This time around, I am going to demonstrate how multiple, high-value lifecycle messages can be generated off of one customer activity – the purchase.
A look at how Benchmark Brands automates post-purchase emails for its FootSmart brand provides some valuable insight into how you can drive incremental revenue by serving up a series of lifecycle messages that can be triggered off a multitude of post-purchase scenarios.
The most common email to automate after a purchase is the purchase confirmation email. FootSmart understands that consumers are likely to have a positive impression of a brand right after a purchase, so it incorporates cross-sell and special offers into these valuable emails. But it doesn’t stop there. FootSmart has recognized that there are other opportunities to provide consumers with relevant information after a purchase.
FootSmart has more than two dozen different messages that it has set up to trigger off of different scenarios that can occur throughout the purchase process, from the purchase confirmation mentioned above to various incarnations of shipping notifications, out-of-stock notifications, in-stock notifications, exchanges, cancellations, review requests, and more. And the effort it has put into these emails is paying off. By inserting relevant offers into these operation emails, FootSmart has generated $750,000 annually, as was reported in a published email marketing case study by my company.
What’s really interesting here is how FootSmart has parsed the various types of purchase-related emails that can be triggered off of a transaction. For example, it has several different “shipping status” emails based on whether the customer has bought the product before or whether it’s their first time. Additionally, through testing, FootSmart has found out that different offers resonate with different types of customers; for example, first-time buyers vs. repeat buyers. As a result, it can dynamically serve up the best offer based on this attribute within its database.
FootSmart also understands that it’s especially important to send the right message at the right time when it’s in relation to “bad news,” such as the product being out of stock or confirming the cancellation of an order. FootSmart automatically triggers an email when an item is identified by its system to be out-of-stock. By providing detailed information on when the item will be available, as well as details on credit card processing, FootSmart is developing a level of trust that is instrumental in motivating consumers to maintain their order. FootSmart also takes advantage of the opportunity to serve a banner to promote follow-up purchases on its website, which may include a discount based on the amount of delay or other customer attributes.
The point is that there are multiple opportunities to provide helpful information around a purchase, and they can all be automated based on integration with e-commerce, inventory, web analytics, and other systems. When it comes to purchase-related emails, it makes sense to start optimizing the most common type, which is usually a purchase confirmation email. But once you’ve got that set up, you should look at inserting relevant messages and offers into all the different permutations that exist based on all the variables that are associated with your purchase and fulfillment process.
If you aren’t currently leveraging lifecycle marketing at the critical moment of a first or follow-up purchase, you are clearly leaving money on the table. Done right, you can offer real value that nurtures the customer relationship while also benefiting your bottom line.
Do you have an innovative lifecycle marketing program that drives incremental value from the customer purchase process? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.