E-retailers have a habit of sending messages at least once or twice a day to their database of customer email addresses, regardless of who they are or the last time they made a purchase. Marketing managers are still attempting to unravel the mystery of what makes some people open and read their messages and others immediately trash them.

There is one obvious clue -- settling for mass blasts will do nothing for garnering positive attention.

In Marketing Sherpa’s 2011 Benchmark report, targeting email audiences with relatable materials was respondents’ number one obstacle to email marketing effectiveness. Creating segmented email campaigns based on audience behavior was cited as the most valuable e-marketing tactic, but also the trickiest.

With the explosion of Big Data however, the e-commerce and marketing industries are stocked with enough fresh, timely consumer information to write off email blasts for good.

Dive into the Treasure Trove

Increased accessibility and availability of computer storage and power has opened the floodgates to a deluge of consumer analytics. All of this data -- from who’s ditching their virtual carts to who’s buying a particular shoe in a particular color -- can be leveraged by e-commerce businesses to target their audiences.

In reality though, the majority of organizations don’t act on this valuable opportunity; they aren’t implementing the appropriate strategy or infrastructure to collect this public industry information. E-commerce enterprises must establish the necessary programs in order to reap the benefits of Big Data.

Instead of shoving these statistics on the back shelves of their shared servers, businesses should leverage them to draft customer-specific email campaigns. Modifying messages for each unique audience member increases that open rate and can ultimately generate more transactions.

One of the smartest ways an e-retailer can put this competitive intelligence to work is by segmenting your customer base. Once you start detecting general buyer behavior trends, there is no limit to how specific you can go. You can combine any number of factors to identify niche groups based on location and age, device used to make the transaction or gender. Based on these micro-audiences, businesses can calculate which goods or services to emphasize in communication with each group.

Four Ways to Start Segmenting

Segmentation will likely differ depending on industry or inventory, but there are some core examples that any e-commerce business could model their efforts after:

  • Geographic location: As an e-retailer, you’re not tied down to a customer base in one set county, state or even country -- buyers could live around the corner or across the continent. Location-based segmentation is inherently customizable (be it by city, state or region), guaranteeing that the proper products are positioned towards the markets that want or need them most.
  • Self-selected: Chances are, you’re already collecting your own database of valuable customer information. Whether it’s through a newsletter sign-up page or an account registration form, your audience is already giving you a glimpse into their birthdays, interests or anything else you’ve asked them to include. This data is best for getting a read on customers before they’ve even purchased from your site.
  • Email activity: Maximize the efforts of your preexisting email collateral by keeping track of how audiences are interacting with it. Figure out who's clicking on which particular items in order to send smart, tailored follow ups.
  • Previous purchase: Buyer behavior tends to follow set patterns. Tap into customers’ future shopping needs by analyzing what they bought in the past. Don’t send sporting good-focused messages to customers who typically come to you for bath products; with over 200 percent higher opens, emails reflective of shopping history are well worth the effort.

Five Starter Triggered Email Campaigns

There are extensive possibilities for putting Big Data to work with your e-commerce enterprise. Based on your product, objectives and audiences, expect to try on a mix of styles before finding the formula that fits right. Below are five tested and trusty models for crafting a buzz-worthy campaign.

  • Birthday greetings: It’s always comforting to know that someone remembered your birthday -- the birthday email gesture shows that you’re attentive and caring, not to mention averages over 300 percent higher sales revenues than generic messages. No cake necessary, a simple printable coupon to use towards a future purchase is just as sweet.
  • Order confirmation: Here’s another simple way to enhance the conversation you’re already having with your customers (even if triggered marketing isn’t on the agenda yet). By simply adding a feature box with suggested or related items to your regular order confirmation messages, you up the chances for a sequel sale, and take control over highlighting items that customers may not have sought out on their own.
  • Just browsing: As brick-and-mortar stores know too well, a significant number of your web visitors profess to be merely browsing. Instead of writing them off as the ones that got away, transform them into the buyers they truly are by sending specialized messages once they’ve clicked on a certain number of items without committing to a cart. Even add on a discount or coupon code to boost activity.
  • Abandoned cart: The not-so secret triggered email weapon rests in the pile of virtual shopping carts abandoned before the billing address prompt. By reminding customers of exactly what they left behind (going as far as to include pictures of the specific items, or high star ratings by other buyers), abandoned cart emails recoup up to 15 percent of sales.
  • Order review/rating request: Instead of waiting for (or hoping) your customers to come back to you, reach out to them a few weeks after a sale with a quick request to rate or review their purchase. Their responses only add to your Big Data arsenal and provide prime material for refreshing your website and social media platforms.

Title image courtesy of swinner (Shutterstock).

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