As part of The Drum’s E-Commerce Deep Dive, Bloomreach explains why personalization efforts need to start with marketing and how understanding the relationship between marketing and true personalization is key for delivering the experiences e-commerce shoppers are looking for beyond the initial purchase.
The advancement of technology has made pretty much anything possible when it comes to e-commerce. Want to try on clothes? Great, there’s augmented reality (AR) to help you do that. Want to know when an item will become available in your size? Sure, submit your email address and you’ll get notified. Need a shirt to match those pants? Just scroll down, you’ll find recommended products that other customers loved.
At the crux of this all advancement is the biggest buzzword in e-commerce of late: personalization. Once a benefit of the in-store experience, personalization within the digital experience is now led by the valuable data brands are able to gather as customers interact with their digital channels. With an understanding of both the shopper and the product, brands are able to offer an online experience that not only rivals that of the in-store experience, but maybe even surpasses it.
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Yet as more brands integrate this level of personalization into their e-commerce experience, the stakes are being raised. Brands need to impress customers sooner — even before they arrive on the site. And how exactly can they do that? By turning to their marketing campaigns. The integration of personalization in marketing is helping to drive customer engagement in exciting new ways, often well before a consumer even has a purchase on their mind. What’s more, it’s helping to drive loyalty long after that purchase has been made.
Here are a few brands that are doing marketing personalization right, and how they’re benefiting as a result.
Earlier this year, Dior Beauty launched a four-day WhatsApp message campaign with the help of brand ambassador Jisoo from K-pop band Blackpink. The campaign began on Instagram, where Jisoo invited fans to join her exclusive WhatsApp group, as a Glossy article explains. The group reached capacity before the day ended, with tens of thousands of users joining. Once joined, users could engage with a Jisoo chatbot that addressed fans by name and offered content ranging from videos to product links.
As the digital marketing firm that ran the campaign explained to Glossy, Dior “observed thousands of memes, screen records and conversations,'' featuring the campaign beyond WhatsApp. The campaign also drove strong word of mouth awareness, with 20% of the registered users entering the group through a link shared with them by a friend (as opposed to the official promotion).
One of the fastest growing prestige beauty brands in the business, Benefit Cosmetics offers some of the most loved and iconic beauty staples such as Hoola Bronzer and Gimme Brow+. When it recently launched an entirely new range of blush products, the company utilized a highly-personalized marketing campaign to ensure customers would be aware of the new options available to them.
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Benefit heavily segmented its customer audiences, splitting them up into previous buyers, VIPs, and customers who opted in for the waitlist (in exchange for an exclusive promotional gift with purchase offer and access to the new launch before other customers). Sending each audience an email campaign that matched their buying habits and brand engagement, Benefit was able to offer more relevant content to each specific audience. The personalization of their marketing campaign displayed clear results: click-through rates on the blush launch emails were 50% higher than the average Benefit campaign that year.
What could be more personalized than a picture of you? Shutterfly masterfully uses customers’ stored photos to prompt nostalgic campaigns featuring customers’ own memories. With simple subject lines like “Your memories from five years ago,” Shutterfly quickly piques customers’ interest through personalization. The emails show a handful of photos, but not all, directing customers to the website to see all of their memories. Once there, customers have a multitude of options for turning those memories into a purchase.
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And even for customers who don’t click to see additional photos, Shutterfly makes use of the email itself to promote relevant products. The emails offer suggestions to “make something,” displaying the customer’s photos on sample products available to buy, along with links that direct them to that specific item on Shutterfly’s site. Ultimately, these emails achieve engagement by employing a storied tactic for marketing success — creating emotional connections between people and products.
While marketing campaigns are often intended to drive purchase and engagement, sometimes, they’re part of a longer play — building customer relationships. Etsy made their commitment to customers’ happiness clear with emails sent ahead of both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day offering customers the opportunity to opt out of those messages should they wish. “We understand that for some, Mother’s Day may be a difficult time,” the emails stated. “We’d like to give you the opportunity to skip our Mother’s Day emails.”
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Allowing customers to opt out of difficult content is an incredibly thoughtful way for a brand to personalize their communications. And though the campaign does not promote products or incentivize purchase, it serves the much larger purpose of building trust and loyalty with its customer base. As an added benefit, it resulted in a positive boost to brand awareness, with multiple media outlets covering the email campaign.
Baby-walz is a German brand that specializes in products for (of course) babies — as well as young children and nursing mothers. Generally, a child’s information is closely protected by parents, which can make personalized campaigns more difficult to achieve in this market.
Baby-walz understood that, in order to gather the data needed to drive personalization, they’d have to prove the value that they’d provide for customers if given that data. It enacted a campaign that asked expectant mothers to share their child’s due date with the brand (this is considered zero-party data, as it is freely and knowingly provided by the customer). In return, mothers would receive product recommendations that coordinated with their stage of pregnancy. It provided peace of mind (mothers didn’t have to worry that they were forgetting anything essential as they prepared for a new baby) as well as high-relevance (they weren’t being shown products for toddlers when they were still months away from giving birth). The email campaign generated a 53.8% average open rate — compared to retailers’ average open rate of 18.39%.
Today, e-commerce and personalization go hand in hand. It’s what gives brands and retailers the ability to stand out amidst a crowded landscape and to offer customers a reason to choose one brand over another. Marketing should be no different. The proliferation of digital channels — from the tried and true email marketing to newer channels like SMS — has given retailers the ability to reach customers sooner and with more engaging, relevant content. Importantly, it allows them to form relationships that ultimately beget repeat customers. Brands that have figured this out, and are putting personalization at the heart of their marketing efforts, are the ones that will get ahead, capturing customer interest in an age of endless digital choice.