Christmas is on the horizon, and despite the continued struggle faced by brick and mortar stores, consumer spending remains strong – especially online. In keeping with this, it was revealed earlier this year that consumers are so addicted to online shopping that as many as one in fifteen online purchases are made between midnight and 6 AM. Our own research goes onto to show that consumers are so keen to shop that 45% of us are even using work hours to do our online shopping.
The news that consumers are shopping online around the clock should be welcomed by all ecommerce vendors, but especially by independent online retailers. With this in mind, we have looked at why independent ecommerce brands stand the most to gain and how email marketing can be used to make the most of this opportunity.
Why independent online retailers stand the most to gain
Last year, we discovered that nearly half of online shoppers in the UK prefer to buy from an independent online retailer rather than a larger store. Although reasons for this varied, many revolved around the central consumer belief that independent retailers treat shoppers like valued customers, rather than just another number. Consumers also felt that independent ecommerce brands were better at understanding their needs and therefore better placed to offer the most convenient experience. Taking all this into consideration, it seems that for independents, there’s a lot to gain during the peak shopping season if they get things right.
Tailored email marketing
One way for independent online retailers to demonstrate their understanding of consumers and build a deeper connection with them is by talking to them directly through email marketing. Remaining a stalwart in the marketing mix, our research has proved that email marketing is highly effective for reaching target audiences; and customers genuinely find them useful. According to our findings, shoppers are so keen to engage with marketing emails from brands, that 49% of consumers are doing so at work.
For smaller ecommerce brands, email can be especially powerful. By leveraging insights from customer behaviour – such as purchase history and purchase intent – tailored messages can be created to really resonate with customers. This is particularly important in the run up to gifting season, when browsing for others is likely to increase. For example, if a shopper’s purchase history indicates they may be male and they start looking at items like perfume and cosmetics, it may be safe to assume that the customer is shopping for a gift. This presents an opportunity to demonstrate genuine understanding of their customers and deliver the kind of exceptional and memorable shopping experience that drives customer loyalty and repeat business; for instance, providing the customer with useful prompts, hints and money-saving offers within their inbox.
To this end, Shopify recently launched its own email marketing platform, which is integrated with merchants’ stores, breaking down traditional data siloes. This new feature, which enables merchants to better tailor their messaging to their customers by delivering more accurate insights, allows “brands [to] sell directly to their customers,” according to Shopify’s chief product officer Craig Miller.
Knowing consumers are more likely to engage with email marketing that satisfies this condition of personalisation and provides a sleek experience, independent online brands need to leverage as much behavioural data as possible to inform content decisions that will resonate well with different segments of their customer base.
However, whilst email marketing offers smaller retailers a valuable opportunity to communicate directly with their customers, brands need to be aware of the nuances associated with it.
For example, despite nearly half of employees admit to using their work time to get their personal online shopping done and a similar number reading emails from brands during the working day, they also want to keep their work and personal lives separate. Our research found that employees are often against their professional or office communication channels being infiltrated with marketing messages from brands. Over a quarter of employees explicitly said that they wouldn’t want to receive marketing messages from brands on Slack during work hours as they would find it distracting. The same percentage of employees also wouldn’t want brands to connect with them through their work email for the same reason.
What’s more, the type of content that consumers are interested in also typically differs by demographic. Almost three quarters of consumers like it when brands remind them via email that their contracts or subscriptions are coming to an end. Similarly, 63% of consumers want more brands to give them the option of receiving a notification when an item that is out of stock becomes available again, either instore or online.
The type of content consumers are interested in receiving from brands also varies by demographic. For example, 43% of Gen Z (16-24) consumers respond better to marketing that employs social commerce such as Instagram. For consumers over the age of 55, however, only 16% say that social commerce factors into their decision making. Independent online retailers that want to demonstrate understanding of their customers should leverage this information and segment their mailing lists appropriately.
Independent online retailers, whose USP is often based on their better understanding of their customers, need to take note of these mindsets and ensure that, not only is email marketing kept on personal communication channels, but that all the content shared with different segments of their customers is useful, informative, and relevant.
Consumers are shopping at all hours of the day, meaning there are more opportunities for retailers to drive sales around the clock. The retailers who will benefit the most from this are those that are able to best understand the needs of their customers. But with so much competition, especially in the build up to Christmas, it can be difficult for the smaller independents to shout above the noise. However, personalised email marketing is an excellent way for such ecommerce brands to cut through the competition and make their customers feel recognised, which ultimately encourages them to purchase.
Credit: Komal Helyer, VP of Marketing, Pure360
Komal is an award-winning Fractional CMO and has over 20 years of experience in email and digital marketing. Previously VP Marketing at Pure360, Komal now spearheads the Go-to-Market, Retention and Brand strategies for many B2B, ecommerce and travel businesses. A passionate email marketer, Komal is also Chair of the DMA Email Council. As a key industry thought leader and events speaker, Komal is a Contributor for Modern Retail and writes for many other publications including Forbes. Komal’s passion to support greater diversity in the workplace is the driving force behind her commitment to mentoring individuals in the industry. She is also the co-founder of Email Mentors and a Mentor at The Girls Network. She has been nominated for many awards and was proud to win Corporate Woman of the Year ’19 at the Business Woman’s Excellence Awards and to be awarded a Top 50 CX Star accolade in 2022.
Komal has worked with some of the world’s leading brands including Screwfix, Carphone Warehouse, Black & Decker, helping them get the best results from their email and digital marketing.