A well curated eCommerce email list can provide your online store with recurring revenue and provide you with a strong competitive advantage. Realizing that value, however, is highly dependent on how you use it, and a variety of factors that can make or break your bottom line. In 2016, the average open rate across industries was 25% of recipients. If you can reach that number or improve upon it, you’ll see incredible benefits. But how can you get there?
Email marketers employ many useful strategies, such as email verifier tools, list segmentation, performance tracking, and critical CX details Redstage covered in last week’s webinar with dotmailer (video). However, there are four specific types of eCommerce emails that can lead to high conversion rates and drive repeat customers. Implementing each of these is a low-cost investment that, when done correctly, can lead to an extremely high return.
1. Ecommerce Email Up-Selling & Cross-Selling
These types of emails are among the most lucrative in the world of eCommerce email marketing. This becomes clear when you compare the average 25% open rate to the 61.7% seen in post-purchase emails. These can be sent out in a variety of ways, but the following are two of the most common:
- Follow-up with receipt: include a discount or exclusive offer with post-order receipt or other custom transactional emails, incentivizing repeat purchases and customer referrals.
- Follow-up with similar items: when a customer purchases an item in a given category or collection, you can send a follow-up email promoting related items (think of Amazon’s “frequently bought together” up-sell strategy).
2. Loyalty Programming
Building a relationship with your customer is extremely important to the long-term value of that customer, and email marketing is a great way to overcome this issue. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- “We’ve Missed You”: If a customer hasn’t returned to your store in a while, send them an email that includes a promo code and an easy way to opt out of future communications.
- Personalized Life Events: Many businesses collect information about customers in order to provide them with personalized service. Consider sending a birthday email, along with a discount eligible for that week or month.
- Restocking: If your business sells replenishables (like air filters, motor oil, and engine belts), launching automated emails at certain intervals can help keep your brand top of mind when supplies need to be replenished. How long does it take your average customer to go through a gallon of cleaning liquid?
3. Incentives and Promotions
Letting your customers know about a sale or limited-time offer is a tried and true method for driving traffic. Whether you’re offering holiday deals, announcing a new product line, or sharing an exclusive offer, customers are much more likely to be interested if they’re getting a unique product or price. These kinds of emails become critical for B2B buyers, who are always looking for easier ways to find the best product and price. Promotional campaigns like these are often extremely successful. In fact, according to Coteries Lab, “44% of people who received targeted emails acknowledged buying at least one item because of promotional message.” Emails advertising a discounted price have a conversion rate of over 1%, and a 9.68% click-to-conversion rate.
4. Win-Back Campaigns for Abandoned Carts
Customers will often be interested in an item, add it to their cart, and then fail to complete the purchase. This lost revenue can be reclaimed simply by reaching out through abandoned cart emails. Something as simple as “Hey, you forgot!” or “Check out now for 5% off your entire order!” can help turn abandoned carts into solid sales. As you might expect, these are among the most efficient emails in terms of conversion, especially when combined with discounts.
While email marketing platforms can help you target any segment of your customer base, these are some of the most common ways marketers use email to reach out. Each option offers a great starting point for strong B2B eCommerce email marketing campaigns. These four methods can have a quick, significant effect on your overall sales. Having trouble with your email marketing? Need a recommendation on what platform is best for you? Ask the experts at Redstage!
About Our Guest Author:
Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.
The past decade brought many changes into the world of eCommerce, and one of the most prominent is certainly the key role social media now plays. It’s where companies promote their products and interact with potential customers, raise their brand awareness, and increase conversion rates. While Facebook is still the number one social media platform, Instagram has experienced enormous growth in the past two years and continues to grow every day, transforming it into a more-than-ideal tool for eCommerce businesses to expand their reach and get their names out.
As is the case with all other sites, you first have to learn a thing or two about how it all functions and what the users’ expectations are, but once you’ve learned the ropes, you can reap great benefits. Here are some useful tips on how to boost your sales using Instagram.
If you haven’t switched to a business account yet, you should do it right now. This feature presents numerous opportunities for large and small businesses alike. Not only does the biz account give potential customers a one-click “contact us” button, it also grants access to various analytics tools that will offer valuable insights into your engagement rate, impressions and your followers. This way, you’ll be able to track what’s working and what’s not, and change your approaches accordingly. You can also easily (paid)promote any posts you like, which has shown to work rather effectively for eCommerce businesses.
Get people to your store
When it comes to promoting your products, the problem with Instagram is that you still can’t put clickable links in your photo descriptions. In the past, retailers got around this issue by adding a link to their online store in the profile description; however, in doing this, customers are directed to your homepage (rather than a specific product page) where they may need to spend considerable time to find the product they saw on your Instagram.
However, new solutions have been developed to overcome this issue. One of Instagram’s newest features gives businesses the ability to tag products within posts. When clicked, the tags lead customers directly to the product page of your site so they can shop seamlessly. This feature is already available in many countries; all you need to do is get verified as an eCommerce account by Instagram (video), and soon, expect your online shop visits to skyrocket. If for any reason you can’t take advantage of this feature, there are similar alternatives that can make your feed shoppable.
Keep the quality high
If the content you post isn’t high quality, the sum of your efforts will be in vain. Instagram is a visual-oriented platform. As a result, you must put great care into the content you post. Make sure your photos match the standard resolution (1080 x 1080) to prevent compromising photo quality.
When it comes to showcasing your products, you should mix up high-quality flat-lay images, single product close-ups and photos/videos showing your products in use – focus on providing ample variety in the content you post. At the same time, also make sure your feed is neat and appealing. It’s suggested that retailers turn to professional photographers for best results. In addition, you should never exclusively post pictures of your products – hard selling is never an effective method. Rather, you should think about using branded imagery to showcase your brand.
Moreover, the key to building an effective social media channel is consistency. If you’re not posting consistently, your followers will get bored and leave, and you’ll wonder why you’re not seeing a return. For this purpose, scheduling applications come in handy. You can prepare your posts weeks in advance and schedule them to go live whenever you like. To decide what time you should post at, take into consideration your target audience’s time zones as well as general habits. Use your analytics to determine your optimal time to post, and try a variety of hashtags to boost your post reach.
Take advantage of hashtags
While it’s always better to outsource keyword research for your eCommerce website to an SEO agency, you can easily find the most effective hashtags to use on Instagram yourself. Take advantage of websites that keep track of each day’s most popular hashtags, and use them will multiply your posts’ visibility. In addition, learn what hashtags your competitors use, as this is a cheap but effective way to fight competition.
Be aware that you can use up to 30 hashtags in a post and you can either put them in the description or the comment section. Mix up your hashtags from time to time to prevent Instagram from misidentifying your posts as spam. It’s also useful to create a specific hashtag that only your business will use, which will help users browse your products on Instagram easily.
The main goal of any Instagram endeavor is generating engagement. The more engagement you can create, the more your account will grow, leading to a bigger reach, more brand exposure, and an increase in sales. Of course, the most important thing of all is that you are present. This means that it’s not enough just to schedule your posts and check on your Instagram once a week. You should be interacting with your audience every day in order to create a friendly and approachable image that will benefit your brand. Like and reply to comments under your posts, answer questions and be professional when it comes to resolving conflicts.
You can also take your interaction to the next level with a couple of methods that many businesses employ nowadays. First of all, you can write your photo descriptions in such a way that encourages commenting (for example: asking a question or encouraging people to tag their friends). Moreover, you should also track product pictures posted by your customers.
User-generated content is insanely powerful for attracting new customers, as people viewing your product for the first time are more likely to trust their friends and family than a business they’ve never bought from (think of it as digital word-of-mouth). Don’t forget to like and re-post some UGC content from time to time, just make sure you ask the customers permission to use their likeness first. This will show your customers that you care and they will be more likely to shop from you in the future as well. When you find this content, you can quickly add it to your company’s Instagram Story, generating double the content off a single post. Think about how you can build user engagement by running photo contests and adding “Who wore it best?” to your company’s Instagram Story… there’s a lot of potential there.
To further promote your brand, one very effective method is reaching out to influencers. Some charge more than others for promotions, while others will swap shout-outs or mentions in return for your page doing the same. Another way to score placement on an influencer’s feed is by giving them some free merch to try out.
Send them some of your products and their followers will be made aware of your existence. The most important thing to pay attention to here is that you choose your influencers wisely – they have to be related to your niche so that their followers are more likely to be interested in your product.
Remember, everyone loves free stuff, not just influencers. Try to organize giveaways when you reach follower milestones like 10K, 50K, 100K followers, etc. Just make sure you comply with all the rules of hosting such events. You can also reward your followers by occasionally sharing discount codes to some of your products – this is a surefire way to convert more leads and show your top followers you care!
As you can see, the opportunities Instagram provides for eCommerce businesses are numerous. If used properly, they can give a massive boost to your sales. However, Instagram is just one of the many platforms you can use. For example, websites such as Pinterest can also give a boost to your eCommerce sales, but of course, different rules will apply there. That’s why it’s important that you get informed about the basics before you jump into it.
Guest Author Bio:
David Koller is a passionate blogger and copywriter for Media Gurus, mainly interested in SEO and Digital Marketing.
A sustainable firm needs loyalty customers – this is undeniable. Over the last century, retailers have been using reward programs as an effective tool to gain more repeat customers, and from this, build customer loyalty. However, the fourth industrial revolution is coming and the perspective on loyalty programs is consequently different. Marketers and business doers today realize the importance of AI and Big Data in determining repeat buying behavior. Hence, to take advantage of high technology in loyalty programs catches online retailers’ attention and requires a lot of intellectual and financial investment.
2018 will be the year of AI and Big Data
Customer loyalty programs should be perceived as a campaign designed to build and preserve interaction between clients and brands, not just to increase revenues. From this new standpoint, apart from investing in a powerful reward program, customer experience and satisfaction will become an increasing concern for businesses. There should be additional methods to form higher customer retention, which requires the application of technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data. Interestingly, 2018 may be the year which marks an outburst of AI in general and AI application in customer loyalty programs. This is represented through the figure of NewVantage Partners’ annual executive survey conducted within Fortune 1000 corporations which shows that a very large proportion, 97.2%, of these organizations are investing in AI and Big Data even though the levels of investment is being kept low. Also, according to the BPR Consulting research in 2017, nearly half of retailers would utilize AI to improve CX, and 55% would plan to focus on increasing customer loyalty within the next 3 years. In addition, according to Accenture, customers today tend to be enticed by programs or deals which are tailor-made for their personal needs, as they favor personalized rewards and specialized care. This, as far as I’m concerned, cannot be done without AI-based tools. These facts raise a big question to marketers: How to deploy AI in building customer loyalty programs in future?
What is AI?
There are quite a lot of arguments among experts about the term AI, also known as Artificial Intelligence. In 1956, John McCarthy explained AI as science and its application to making machines, especially computer programs, which are considered smart. These intelligent machines are able to perform some tasks as a human being would. To clarify, they are able to recognize speech, learn, make plans and solve problems in the way a human does. In this early stage of AI development, people both doubt and fear its potential power in the future. However, for a marketer or an e-retailer, there is no choice but to accept and prepare for its upcoming presence in every single aspect of business.
Artificial Intelligence is no longer a foreign concept to most people nowadays, especially in e-commerce. Customers are now used to receiving personalized emails, being greeted by their names and being offered customized services. According to Chiefmarketer, buyers are, in fact, totally okay with their personal information being collected and analyzed, at an appropriate and considerable level, to get better discounts, more precise recommendations and more personalized services. Such services are what shopping doers are expecting from online retailers without any awareness of what AI is. However, we marketers have to start keeping a close eye on it from now on.
What is Big Data?
The term Big data refers to data sets which are extremely large, so large that traditional methods of data processing are unable to handle them. We usually get Big data when collecting information from sources such as videos, audio, social channels, log files, websites and networks which are literally created in real time. Big data can be used to help computers analyze patterns, trends and associations which are often related to human behaviors and interaction. Big data contains information which used to be left untouchable, and by analyzing this data, we are able to make better and faster decisions.
How AI and Big Data can contribute to customer loyalty programs
Tailor-made customer experience
Buyers are becoming more difficult about what they purchase and how they are served in your online stores. Most importantly, customers’ expectations of the personalization in products and services increase as the customer-centric culture is spread among big companies like Amazon. From this, I know that the one-size-fits-all era has ended, that mass-production is no more than an old-fashioned trend and that free-size jeans are being replaced by personally-designed ones on the shelves.
Big Data powered AI systems have made a big step in analyzing and understanding customers’ needs. Now, you are able to collect necessary information and track customers’ purchasing history, shopping behaviors and preferences. Based on these ‘big data’, AI learns and makes a decision to timely offer buyers a personal touch, tailor-made products and personalized services.
Not only is this about sales or conversion rates but also customer loyalty. By deploying AI, customers really get that attention which they crave for today. They know that their problems are heard and solved personally. Also, they get extra benefits when shopping at the store. This is a major factor to retain buyers in this digital era – the era of global shopping just with a few clicks, also the era of commitment and loyalty being difficult to gain.
Even better experience
Bombfell deploys AI to help their stylists pick individually suitable outfits for their customers can be a simple example for the era of personalized services. With AI, user experience in an online store is optimized at the highest level. Customers, thanks to this, find themselves cared for and feel important.
Not only can they have products customized for individual’s needs like at Bombfell, buyers can be welcomed in the store like the way it is at bricks and mortars. Customers are greeted and called by their first names. Their voices and faces are recognized by AI and, thanks to this, all information about their purchasing history or shopping habits is remembered, like the way a shopping assistant in your favorite local store recognizes you. She knows that you love discounts, you often go shopping on weekends and are willing to pay a lot for trendy shoes. And, on a Saturday morning, she speaks to you in a friendly voice: “Hey we’ve just released a limited model of trainers and, because I know you’d love them, I’ve kept them for you with 10% off. Thank me later!”
Besides all that, AI will develop to the level that customers can comfortably communicate with online stores through chatbots. Hence, the response time will be sped up to tick-tocks. Algorithms are developed to enable machines to think like human beings and even to understand customers’ emotions in order to perform appropriate actions. Not only solving problems quickly, AI also helps to replicate a human-like communication atmosphere.
Customer satisfaction and personalized experience combined with tailor-made services are the key points in showing buyers that they are highly appreciated by the brand and consequently in laying a great foundation for building customers’ trust. This is the fundamental of cultivating customer loyalty.
Challenges for brands
Questions about safety and privacy
As mentioned above, customers are willing to share their data for a better price, customized services or more convenience. However, worries about privacy and information security are still very much real, and they form a barrier between customers and brands in building trust. Shoppers, on one hand, understand that their data is collected and love the benefits coming from it. On the other hand, they question about the level at which their personal information is exploited and how it is used. Is their data safe when AI is that powerful? Are e-retailers able to protect them from frauds and identity theft when cybercrime is increasing?
To win customers’ trust is a big challenge that e-commerce websites are facing in building customer loyalty. Personally, I will definitely leave an online store which gives me doubts about security. For example, as a travel lover, I used to make a room reservation online on a well-known hotel booking site; however, one day, I was warned that this website leaked customers’ confidential information including credit card number, CVC and expiration date. Even though there was no frauds or misuse of the data recorded, I decided not to give this brand any second chance.
So make sure you provide your customers an optimized security solution, and more importantly, make a big commitment to providing the highest level of customers’ safety and privacy. They need to feel peace of mind by knowing that their data has always been and will only be used to improve their shopping experience and to give them personalized offers.
Big data is actually not difficult to be collected, yet it is hard to be captured, organized and analyzed. Different sources of data are always ready to be deployed but remain unused due to lack of structure and technical know-how.
The biggest challenge here is how to, through AI, really understand data and to have an overview of it while too much information comes from various sources such as invoices, emails, social media and CRM. Also, how to turn big data into patterns, trends or associations which are useful for marketing activities and customer insights in real time is extremely important.
Just like other actual personal relationships, that customer loyalty is built on trust, the consistency of high-quality services to buyers and unchanged commitment form a long-lasting relationship. That e-retailers are considering applying AI in building customer loyalty shows their dedication to it in spite of many difficulties.
The development of AI and Big data, in recent years, has given online retailers both opportunities and challenges. In the next decade, digital stores will be equipped more optimized tools based on AI, and through this, they are empowered to strengthen customer relationship and enhance customer retention. This is a technology competition and I believe that the one who wins the game will also win the customer’s heart.
Guest Author’s Bio:
Summer reads and writes blogs about marketing and e-commerce. She’s especially interested in solutions which help merchants improve their customers’ shopping experience and increase customer engagement for Magento 2. “One of the best ways to enhance user experience on an online store is to provide a better Layered Navigation” says Summer.
Everyone’s asking, “What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018?” Will it be the illustrious AI, the illuminating abilities of augmented reality, or perhaps… chatbots?
With the emergence of all this new tech, marketers are left to base their budget allocation for 2018 on speculation. As a result, I am inclined to believe that without a doubt, 2018 will be somewhat of a plateau for marketing; defined by a knowledge-gap surrounding new avenues for advertising and the deteriorating value of current methods. Here’s why:
Marketing Tech in 2018
As we await the true advent of AI, AR, VR and Mixed Reality in the mainstream, contemporary digital advertising is rolling over and dying, with search, social and display ads experiencing a gradual decline in usefulness. Gen-Y and Gen-Z hate ads, and while pervasive multichannel messaging was previously a working strategy, ads are ignored now more than ever… and expansive ad campaigns are annoying customers, damaging brands.
The savior in this scenario was and still is video, which many companies lack the capability or know-how to properly leverage. Many still refuse any attempt to enter the video realm, despite annual marketing reports for the past decade marking video as the most effective channel for sales and brand engagement. Right now, the benefits of video seem to be buffering (pun intended), with numbers stagnating as users look for something new.
As a natural side-effect of the decline in channel efficiency, marketers have turned to big data as the new god to drive vertical engagement. However, many retail marketers lack the experience and/or artificial intelligence applications necessary to make sense of this wealth of data.
Getting a Grip on AI
This past year, we’ve seen the launch of some incredible remarketing software in ecommerce, like HiConversion and Rejoiner. Programs so powerful they can replace entire marketing teams that would typically manage the breadth of digital messaging (emails, ads, social, tracking, analytics, etc).
However… because these systems and the technology are so new, we’re combining the adoption curve with a learning curve. While marketers get a grip on machine learning Saas, I expect their true potential will be neither realized, nor their full impact felt in the market this year.
To make matters worse, today’s AI market focuses exclusively on predictive AI, which all-too-soon will be replaced with cognitive AI (Rajesh Sinha, Fulcrum Digital‘s CEO, predicts in the next two years). There’s a chance the change-over could immediately render predictive systems obsolete. On the other hand, retailers and brands can’t sit around waiting for cognitive AI, and those that do could see big-time losses (Hence the dilemma). Overall, what most of the martech world considers “AI” will soon be baked into every major software system available. What matters is how you use them.
Playing the Waiting Game & Winning
For now, we have to keep milking the avenues we have available. Optimize performance as much as possible with regard to channel strategy and be diligent. With the current pace of innovation, you might not get a second chance.
Now is the time for companies to start looking into how AR, AI, VR, IoT and other emerging tech can reshape business alongside other digital transformation strategies. While the long-term strategy teams focus on how they will deliver value in 2020 and beyond (when these technologies are expected to have much wider reach), it’s time to bring our websites into the new age. Maximize your site and sales funnels with every possible upgrade, build out content and bulk-up ad spend while we get over this hump. Rethink your strategy for the next four years and think seriously about how you plan to invest all the new martech. If you haven’t already made significant investments in your mobile customer experience, that’s a good place to start.
Some companies will spend a little more on ads to wait this out. Others will buy into expensive (soon-to-be outdated) platforms they’ll be stuck with long after the competition moves on. Unfortunately, the largest group will likely be those who sit on their hands and refuse to innovate. These will be the losers. Instead, find out how much budget you can pack into the time between now and 2020. Focus on your omnichannel experience and unifying your brand strategies with supportive AI products you can afford (for the short term). In addition, bulk up your ad spend, get some videos or podcasts going, and settle in for the long hibernation period ahead.
So let’s review. What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018? You, the human, which should be an empowering, albeit intimidating challenge for marketers. Lastly, remember, there’s no need to be discouraged. Plateaus are part of every high-growth process…
We just happen to be crossing the Rubicon.
If you’re reading this, you understand what’s coming. The Net Neutrality repeal holds the potential to be the biggest disruption to business in the past century, if not history. In a world where companies rely on digital advertising, agencies and ecommerce, the difference between life and death of brands may hinge on the whim of the world’s largest telecoms. Here’s why you need to worry.
Net Neutrality & Its Impact on the World
Up to this point, a free and open internet devoid of “fast-lanes” and “slow-lanes” created a boom in business that revolutionized the way we live. In line with Moore’s law and Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, this past century experienced exponential growth of technological development, due in no small part to the democratization of the web. Tim Berners-Lee’s creation of the “world-wide-web” in 1991 scarcely resembles the monolithic utility that is our modern Internet, only a mere 26 years later. In that same 26 years, we went from computers the size of microwaves to computers that fit in our hands.
Much has changed.
Companies who invested in the Dotcom boom flourished, bringing rise to unfathomable industrial power on a global scale; birthing magnates like Jobs, Bezos, Murdoch, Musk, and eventually, Zuckerberg. The latest Internet revolution, social media (starting with email), democratized global communication thanks to AOL, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. These advancements further facilitated burgeoning startups like Uber, AirBnB and DropBox; companies who owe the sum of their successes to the Internet’s level playing-field.
Today, a single blogger has the same opportunity to get a million comments on a post as Walmart does. A mom and pop online store has the same chance of winning over customers as Amazon. Time, resources and budget notwithstanding, the Internet provides a fair medium for all business to compete, and we owe the state of our world to this universal marketplace of ideas.
Repeal Implications for Everyone
By repealing Net Neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclassifies the internet as a public good rather than a utility, removing strong Net Neutrality rules and protections under title ii that bar service interference from companies like Verizon and Comcast. In doing so, the FCC now allows internet service providers (ISPs) to block, throttle or slow Internet speeds if they so choose. The implications are such that broadband providers and cable companies can now charge businesses and citizens considerable premiums for access. Want to watch Youtube? Netflix? CNN? Now you may have to pay. Want to visit the Library of Congress website or use Slack? Please pay. Want to serve ads on any of these channels? Better get a bigger budget because they might not load…
“Repealing net neutrality will definitely have winners and losers. The winners will obviously be the large telecom companies who will have more control over their networks and profitability. The biggest losers will be small businesses. We may end up in a scenario where the most popular content is dictated by the telecom companies and biggest players, similar to the way cable TV and cable content has been run for many years. We may very well end up being robbed of the diversity of the Internet, since only the large companies will be able to play this game.” — Adam Morris, Redstage CEO
Yes. The United States government just made this decision for the entire world. Since these telecom giants are global, these rules will impact companies of all sizes, both domestic and abroad, across the planet (should the common fears of the repeal be realized).
This kind of pay-to-play environment begs the question, “Will this be the end of the startup age?” If companies can’t afford to enter the market, they can’t make sales. With this massive barrier now placed on all businesses, can we expect investors to willingly throw money into new companies anymore? What happens when consumers can’t access their favorite sites for free?
What the Repeal Means for Advertising
Take a look at this picture. This is Times Square in New York city. If you’ve ever visited, you’ve probably been taken aback by the massive screens and billboards with flashing advertisements on every surface. In many ways, Times Square is like the Internet. It’s a place millions visit every day, that just about anyone is allowed to view. Companies pay to have their ads shown to masses who pass by. Businesses both big and small set up shop down different avenues nearby. All of them hoping to make sales from their chunk of the traffic.
If you look closer, however, you’ll notice several of the larger screens and billboards are blank. An uncommon occurrence for Times Square. However, with the title ii protections removed, it’s likely there will be fewer ads than ever before.
“On the most basic level, brands will end up paying more to have their content/ads published online. If Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Verizon begin to charge website “tolls” for being able to deliver the websites’ experience, those costs will ultimately be passed onto brands through increased cost-per-thousand (CPM). Brands with any type of content—from video to games, to microsites — could be required to provide payments to ISPs to enable the quick access to their content. With increased CPMs comes lower ROI, which leads to shrunken budgets, over time.” —MediaPost
It doesn’t stop there…
Companies wishing to display ads on certain channels may now be forced to enter deals with multiple ISPs depending on where they want their ads. As MediaPost notes, marketers may face increased costs where ISPs inhibit ad placement in a scenario “in which, say Verizon has a stake in news sites like CNN.com (but not Fox News).”
Moreover, the companies who serve branded ads like Google, Facebook and Twitter could face considerable damage, as these advertising companies may have to pay a premium to ensure the ads hosted on their channels actually load. Without this, ad companies won’t be able to gauge whether their ads were actually viewed or not, resulting in a lack of insight for the companies who pay them… You can see how the cycle breaks down… Businesses will suffer on all sides.
Say Goodbye to “Freemium” & Social Marketing
This goes without saying. You can’t offer a free-trial of a product online if someone has to pay for it. If the marketer has to pay, the company loses money. If the customer has to pay, it’s not a free-trial. Similarly, social media will no longer offer an advantage as a “free” avenue for marketers.
Millions of consumers aimlessly scroll through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day. As a staple of many e-tailers, especially smaller ones, unpaid social strategies allow brands to attract large swaths of customers across various demographics. This is especially true in the age of customer advocacy, when word-of-mouth customer recommendations are the leading drivers of online store sales. Once consumers and companies have to pay for access to social media sites, the benefits of unpaid social campaigns are removed. With many growing bored of Facebook and Instagram, users aren’t likely to stay… so what happens to the PPC channel these sites offer?
Let’s observe the following waterfall effect: With less social interaction from less users, less companies will invest in social. Brands that opt-out of social will lose their market share from social, resulting in less sales. This will leave only the CocaCola’s of the world to pick up social stragglers. If social media sites crumble as a result of all this, the PPC avenues brands use today will go with them. Since pay-per-click ads generally have a massive impact on business, what option will ecommerce companies have to advertise? And finally, how high will CPC get once hundreds of companies are competing for the same keyword on Google Adwords? Assuming Google can afford to continually index trillions of pages, as well as provide fast access for searches.
Ecommerce Will Undoubtedly Suffer
If the dystopian vision of post-Net Neutrality plays out, there’s essentially two ways the ecommerce situation can unravel:
Scenario 1: Stores must pay ISPs to give all visitors speedy access to their site.
This means these stores will be paying ISPs to enhance customer experiences or face severe consequences for their bottom line. As SpeedCommerce describes it,
“…study after study shows that page load time is one of the most important factors in ecommerce conversion rates. If you’re a huge monolithic company like Amazon or Walmart, you’ll end up being forced to pay for the “fast lane” version of the internet to ensure that your customers have the uber-fast online shopping experience that they’re used to (and you want). However, smaller online retailers won’t be able to afford this premium, and thus their customers will be relegated to the “slow lane”: slower page load times, which could be enough to convince their customers to shop where the the experience is faster. —SpeedCommerce
What’s the alternative?
Scenario 2: The customer will have to buy a “Shopping Package” from an ISP in order to access your online store.
Imagine having to pay just to access Amazon.com. Shipping delays already give customers a headache. What happens when they have to pay just to get to your store? The answer is invariably a steep decline in traffic. To mitigate this, retailers from Walmart to small business will likely aim for higher ad budgets, but as discussed above, this is an uphill battle that leads to diminishing returns. What about social media? Wait, we covered that too in the previous section. Can we expect customers simply adjust to a painfully slow online experience? Will there be a reverse-migration from clicks to bricks?
What can retailers do? Adapt or die; and many will be forced out of the bull-pen to vanish in obscurity. John Zieger, General Counsel at Stripe foresaw the world without Net-Neutrality back in 2014: “An internet where certain retailers suffer throttled network connectivity is bad in the short term for consumer experience, and bad in the long term for consumer choice.”
For now, it seems the latter scenario might be the route things take, or worse, a combination of the two.
In October, California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna shared this example of how ISPs manage the Internet in Portugal, a country without Net Neutrality regulations.
“…without net neutrality, big-name apps could theoretically even pay telecoms firms for preferential access, offering them money — and smaller companies just couldn’t compete with that. … Yonatan Zunger, a former Google employee, recently retweeted Khanna’s tweet, adding: “This isn’t even the worst part of ending net neutrality. The worst part happens when ISPs say ‘we don’t like this site’s politics,’ or ‘this site competes with us,’ and block or throttle it.”” —Futurism.com
A Dangerous Game
Now for the final note, and a haunting one at that. The ultimate nightmare scenario is that the incredible leverage ISPs can now weild over the market could allow them to gain a significant advantage… They now have the ability to use their new-found power to serve themselves at an unimaginable scale.
“For example, an ISP might invest in a service, then throttle competitors’ speeds. This would give their product a competitive advantage. A “double-dip” would subvert the market, empowering ISPs to choose which businesses succeed.” —chargebacks911.com.
This is the reason most people are freaking about about the vote. These companies can act with complete autonomy, and have a chance to control the free market. Now, while there are some* barriers to prevent this kind of activity, it’s still a major fear for many, and a real possibility. How can these companies objectively manage the Internet speed of their own properties without cornering the market as a side-effect? If products and services can only be effectively marketed and sold by a small group of companies, is this really the end of the free market? What will happen to the U.S. economy with hundreds of companies abandoning this ludicrously restrictive online environment for safer shores overseas (if there are any) or if major companies can’t afford to pay? And finally, how can free speech or laissez faire possibly exist in the online world?
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Act Now While We Still Can.
While the major opinion backing the repeal is that this isn’t what ISPs will do (especially since they pinky-promise not to), but the fact that they have the option to dominate and control the market begs the question, “Why wouldn’t they?”
There’s still a short time period when Congress could reject the FCC’s rollbacks, so we all need to fight back:
Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress could issue a resolution of disapproval and overrule the FCC’s decision. But it’s not going to be easy—the CRA only provides Congress a 60 day window in which to act, and a resolution of disapproval needs either presidential support or backing from two-thirds of the House and Senate. —Gizmodo
Email Congress TODAY. Call your local Congressman or Congresswoman. There’s not much time. Here’s a link to what you can tell them from BattleForTheNet. We built our world on the web and ushered in a new age of progress. Let’s keep the web open. Let’s keep building, together.
As marketers, constantly sending emails is critical to mission success. However… There’s a big difference between simply “sending an email” and delivering targeted reminders at critical touch-points along the customer journey. Reminders, offers and insights, mind you, that influence higher conversions, win-back customers, and maximize your customer lifetime value. Here’s a quick breakdown from Rejoiner’s massive report on the subject: “Email Marketing for eCommerce: The 8 Campaigns That Have Generated over $140M”. So again, here’s 3 major issues with your email campaigns. If you’re not doing these things right, why bother?
1. You’re Doing Newsletters Wrong. Stop That.
Blanket email marketing works less and less each year, AKA: It doesn’t work anymore. According to Rejoiner and the DMA’s 2015 national client email report, “86% of email revenue is coming from email campaigns that use advanced tactics.” So it’s time to switch it up. Rather than sending a promotional email to your entire subscriber list, get targeted. Segment your lists by shopping category and morph one 10% off coupon into 10 different coupons like the hydra from Homer’s Odyssey. Your dress crowd should get a deal on dresses with a distinct description. It’s simple divide and conquer. Your tie-guys should get a deal on ties. Swimwear, slacks, unmentionables… Segment them all and surround the enemy. Er, your customers.
2. You’re Using “Triggers” Right? …Riiiiight???
Rejoiner outlines the following critical touch-points as send-signals for what we in the industry call “targeted emails.” Set up an automation that sends emails when your customers fit any of these criteria:
1. Browser Abandoner (they looked at that hat 3 times… make it 4)
2. New Subscriber (hasn’t made a purchase)
3. New Customer (after first purchase)
4. Cart Abandoner (you know this one)
5. Primed for Cross Sell (compliment their recent purchase)
6. VIP (The ones who spend the most are worth the most)
7. Replenisher (are they really going to keep that lipstick forever?)
8. Defector (re-engage before you lose them to the dark side)
Learn them. Live them. Love them. Tell your friends.
3. Your Win-Back Emails Are WEAK
Your cart abandonment emails are lame and uninspired. You also don’t use enough of them. Here’s Rejoiner’s short list of pro-tips that can be used for lonely carts and customers who’ve disappeared into the abyss elsewhere:
- Plan your cart abandonment emails under the pretense of customer service.
- Know and accept that customers will open win-back emails from their mobile. Anticipate this.
- Remember segmenting? Remember categories? Have you remembered anything I’ve said? Your abandoned carts are potential customers. Treat them like the real thing and remember: filter, divide, target, attack.
- You should know who’s on your site. Guest, registered, subscriber, Bill from accounting. Be the all-knowing Yoda of site traffic.
- Oh a cart was abandoned. Better do nothing about it. Just kidding, send them an email within 30 minutes to ask why. Let them know you mean business, and you’re here to help.
- While your win-back email should have a customer service focus, you’d do well to include a visual reminder of the last thing they looked at before they dropped-off.
- It’s now or never. Don’t lose them forever. Send a follow-up or two to make sure they come back.
- When it comes to discounts, use your brain. It’s 2017 and customers have gotten wise. Many know you’ll send a discount if they leave, so make sure you’re not throwing away money. You can achieve this through what Rejoiner calls “frequency capping.” Don’t be the parent who gives their kid candy every time they scream for it. It won’t do either of you any favors.
Sorry for the tough love, but you’ll thank me one day.
You can read and download the full report here at Rejoiner.com.
Find more email marketing best practices for retailers here.
Keep an eye out for our Emergency Ecommerce Checklist: A Tactical Guide to Surviving The Holiday Rush (Bookmark this page, link coming soon!).