Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes all the way from the UK via our friend, Michael Truby, Outreach Executive for Oxford based SEO company SEOptimise.
As a marketer striving to make your mark in this competitive world, you’re probably constantly looking for solutions to help you devise the most innovative marketing program. One that is also quick, has greater reach, and lowers cost would make great business sense too. As such, using the web to reach customers has become central to modern marketing. Within this online world, email marketing and more recently social media are two tools that have emerged as ones wielding considerable power and influence over customers.
Channels available to the ecommerce marketer
The always-on nature of the Internet has created a number of new ways to reach potential customers with offers, deals and promotions designed to tempt them into making a purchase from you. The rise in smartphone adoption has also created a number of additional opportunities, ready to be exploited for creating more sales.
The staple mode of advertising in the Internet age, email remains popular with both marketers and consumers. Research published by the IAB found that 66% of consumers actually like to receive email messages from brands.
The rise of the smartphone has given email marketing a new lease of life. A recent survey from Adobe found that 79% of people use their smartphone for email – incredible considering only 78% said they used their mobile for making calls!
Many smartphone owners admit to using email features on their phones to “pre-screen” messages, allowing them to focus on important mail when they get back to their PC. However if the recipient can be tempted into opening the message, the chances of actually making a purchase is also greater.
As such email is an essential and welcome component of any marketing campaign.
Social media has become an unstoppable force, providing another point of contact between brands and their customers. It has also become a great way to get customers to repeat your marketing messages for you. Each social channel has its own rules of etiquette and engagement which marketers need to bear in mind as they reach out to customers.
With a reported 1 billion users, Facebook offers businesses a potentially enormous audience for brand messages. For the greatest returns however, marketers need to craft messages so that consumers “like” it enough to share with their own circles of influence. Brands are best using Facebook to promote new products and services because there is no way of accurately targeting deals based on specific customer preferences.
For the greatest success, brands need to exercise plenty of creativity to capture and keep the customer’s attention. One of the best examples of Facebook being used to engage followers like never before was Heineken’s “One like, one balloon” campaign.
The premise was simple; for every “like” that the official Brazilian Heineken brand page received, a green balloon would be inflated in the office. The Heineken staff would then post videos periodically showing their progress. Come the end of the day, the office was filled from floor to ceiling with balloons and Heineken had engaged 12,600 new Facebook followers. Once part of their “stream”, Facebook was able to push marketing messages to an increased follower base, spreading their message even further.
Over the course of the next 12 months, Heineken recorded a rise in Facebook fans from 1 million to 1.65 million, with a corresponding rise in brand awareness and a marked uptick in sales. The promise of something novel and entertaining may take some careful planning, but turning a like into something tangible is something any business can apply to their own Facebook campaigns.
Popular with the 18-34 demographic, Twitter makes communication between people and brands instantaneous. However built on a broadcast-type basis, Twitter is also best for general announcements and link sharing designed to pique curiosity and encourage click throughs (just like an email in fact!).
Last year American Express unleashed the viral marketing potential of Twitter by creating a new loyalty scheme for their cardholders. In return for retweeting brand messages containing specific hashtags to their followers, cardholders were rewarded with couponless discounts which were applied automatically to their credit card. The customer benefited by receiving something, such as a free coffee at McDonalds, and American Express got some free coverage for their brand and offers.
Early this year American Express took things one step further by introducing hashtag purchasing for their registered users. By tweeting #BuyAmexGiftCard25 for instance, the cardholder can automatically purchase a $25 iTunes gift card and bill the purchase to their American Express credit card. Often these hashtag purchases are at reduced pricing, providing an added incentive for customers to continue promoting American Express. American Express benefits by encouraging customers to spend on their credit cards – on which their core business relies.
The key to the success of the American Express Twitter campaign is again down to turning an intangible, a tweet, into something of physical value – a free coffee or a purchase discount. Although American Express has enormous purchasing power, any business can, with some thought, create their own intangible-to-tangible promotions to encourage their customers to become brand advocates.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Pinterest has gathered over 25 million users since its official launch in 2010. Designed to focus purely on sharing visual elements, Pinterest lends itself to best to use by businesses with tangible products to promote. As with other social networks, the goal is to encourage users to see and share your content, acting as a hook by which others can be lured back to your ecommerce site in order to make a purchase. Pinterest also has a distinctly unbalanced user base, particularly in the US, with women making up the majority.
Although Pinterest has courted controversy for the ease with which users can share copyrighted materials, British airline BMI decided to use the platform to help promote their flights. Pinterest users were invited to select six photos from a collection of 45 supplied by BMI and “pin” them on their interest boards. At the end of each week, all of the users who had repinned the matching “winning” image were entered into a draw to win free flights. There were 3000 entries within the first two weeks of the competition.
The campaign was cheap and easy to set up, and helped BMI grow a following on Pinterest, and turn followers into advocates. The images were supplied by BMI leaving users nothing do but click their “Pin It” button, ensuring absolute simplicity and raising the chances of images being shared. The Pinterest Lottery concept can be applied by virtually any business with the assistance of a handful of high quality images.
There are of course other social media channels such as Tumblr and Google+ which may prove to be of interest depending on your business niche. The same rules apply to each however:
- Messages should be crafted for re-sharing by customers to their own networks
- Messages will be generic as personalisation in this broadcast medium is impossible
- Customers should be encouraged to interact with your brand via their chosen medium – answering product questions publicly will help raise awareness with other users too
- Adopt a softly softy approach and listen more than you broadcast to avoid turning customers off your message
Despite feeling decidedly outdated, text messaging remains extremely popular with people in the UK and is therefore a legitimate communications channel for marketers. The case of SMS spammers Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish shows the power of text message marketing, making up to £7000 per day.
For legitimate businesses however, great care and attention is required to prevent SMS marketing from becoming unwelcome. Best practice would suggest that customers be asked to opt in to mobile marketing as it has the potential to be one of the most intrusive tools, turning a potential customer into a never-customer very quickly.
The Hilton hotels chain has implemented an SMS campaign in conjunction with Visa, rewarding customers for joining their loyalty program. When spending on their registered Visa card, customers receive up to 2 special offers each week in the form of a text message sent to their mobile handset. The more the customer spends, the more rewards they accumulate in their Hilton Honors account which can be converted into hotel stays and other goodies.
Again, the key to the success of the Hilton Honors scheme is the ease with which customers can receive and redeem offers. Although Hilton’s promotions cannot be shared or rebroadcast, customers are made to feel as though they belong to a privileged elite, encouraging them to spend – the overall goal of any promotion. The entire system has again been designed to be simple and effortless, increasing the chance of customer uptake – an essential consideration for any business looking to undertake a similar SMS marketing campaign.
Reduce friction for increased impulse buys
The array of communications tools available to marketers provides plenty of opportunities to tempt consumers into making impulse buys. The rise of the smartphone and the immediacy of connection afforded by the technology also means that there is less friction from message to purchase. Amazon is set to introduce “in app” purchasing across multiple platforms (Kindle, iOS and PC) in coming days.
“We’re passionate about making game developers successful, and we’ll continue to build services that make monetization easier and remove undifferentiated heavy lifting from developers,” Amazon Games director Mike Frazzini said of the development. Essentially they want to make it easier for customers to make a purchase.
The idea is to reduce the steps required for a customer to make a purchase, thereby reducing the number of opportunities for them to back out of the transaction. As people respond to marketing methods, regardless of the channel used, the follow-on process must be quick and simple to use for the best results.
Regardless of which messaging method you choose to adopt, the keys to increasing temptation for ecommerce customers are:
- Make offers relevant and compelling
- Use analytics to target specific customers with specific deals wherever possible
- Make the path to purchase as frictionless as possible to encourage impulse buys and prevent abandoned carts
- Adhere to the etiquette of your chosen medium at all times to ensure a continued good relationship with customers.
If you can get those in order, your ecommerce marketing efforts your customers should be tempted!
About the Author: Michael Truby is the father of one, a big football (soccer) fan & player and he is an outreach executive for UK based SEOptimise, specializing in email communications. His previous experience includes account management & customer-centric roles. Visit his website, follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.