it out
Guide to Increasing Conversion

In our 7-part Guide to Increasing Conversion we'll introduce you to proven e-commerce functionality including, but not limited to, live chat, loyalty programs, and back in stock notifications! Sign up now and we'll deliver tips and best practices about each straight to your inbox!


Boosting E-Commerce Sales with a Customer Conversion Campaign

Boosting E-Commerce Sales with a Customer Conversion Campaign

Boosting E-Commerce Sales with a Customer Conversion Campaign

E-Commerce marketing can be a tricky beast. There are so many different channels to reach our customers, it's hard to decide how to spend our marketing time and dollars. It's even harder to determine the ROI that we get on investing that time or money, especially when we're marketing a number of different products, across a variety of channels and to a diverse audience. In order to improve that ROI, we need to focus our marketing efforts around more specific products, channels and audiences.

In an effort to help our clients improve their e-commerce marketing, we've often prescribed a 'campaign-driven' approach. Rather than creating a marketing strategy around each channel we're using (i.e. social media, email, paid search, etc.), we create a strategy around each individual Campaign. In this case, a Campaign is a specific promotion to a specific audience with the right collateral to support it. The idea is for us to identify a unique product, or set of products, that appeal to a very specific audience and then use our various marketing channels to support reaching that audience with that particular product. For lack of a better term, and since I'm a sucker for alliteration, let's refer to this unique approach to campaign-driven marketing as Customer Conversion Campaigns. In this article, we'll look at both the strategy and execution of Customer Conversion Campaigns to see how they can improve the overall performance of our e-commerce marketing.

Customer Conversion Campaign Design

A Customer Conversion Campaign consists of six elements that define its overall strategy:

Customer Conversion Campaign: Segment

The first step in designing our Customer Conversion Campaign is to identify our target Segment. A Segment is simply a group of customers that share certain common attributes. Some examples include customers who have purchased a specific product, customers who have bought more than once, customers who are from a specific location, etc. When reviewing different Segments, our aim is to identify these commonly shared attributes and look for any patterns. Patterns could include buying behavior based on acquisition source, location, primary device used, etc. Perhaps we'd find that customers in urban areas spend more per transaction while customers in rural areas purchase on a higher frequency. The key to being able to identify these customer Segments and patterns, however, is in having a Customer Hub setup that gives us access to the necessary tools and data to drive this analysis. Once our Customer Hub is in place, we can get creative as we'd like in exploring different customer Segments.

Customer Conversion Campaign: Offer

The second step in designing our Customer Conversion Campaign is to identify our primary Offer. Our Offer is simply the product or set of products that we'd like to sell. There are two ways of thinking about our offer. The first is to identify product(s) that appeals specifically to our Segment. An example might be offering Boston sports themed products to customers who live in New England. The second is to identify product(s) based on a business goal. Some examples might include moving overstocked product, products that are going 'out-of-fashion', new products, high margin products or unique product bundles. It's a matter of thinking through both what we want to sell vs what our customer wants to buy. Generally we find going with a Segment-driven approach to crafting our Offers works best, but sometimes we need to support larger goals of the business as well.

Customer Conversion Campaign: Narrative

The third step in designing our Customer Conversion Campaign is to craft a unique Narrative around our Offer. We're big believers in using storytelling, or Narrative, as a means to sell. It's often been cited that customers don't buy products but rather buy into the story behind those products. Whether the story is of where that product came from or how that product will make them feel, customers want a Narrative to support their buying decisions. Our goal then is to create a unique Narrative for our Offer that can help drive sales.

One Narrative strategy that we often employ is the concept of Merchandising. Merchandising, in the world of e-commerce, focuses on identifying unique themes that can be used in grouping specific collections of products. These themes go beyond attributes (such as brand, product type, price point, etc. ) and look to more unique means of grouping. Some examples might include: products inspired by a specific movie, products used at a particular event or products that fit a certain holiday. Each of these Merchandising strategies provides us with an opportunity to explain WHY we selected that particular collection of products. It's this explanation that forms the basis of our Narrative and the context that excites our customers. One key element to designing our Narrative is giving it a place to 'live', often in the form of a Landing Page. This Landing Page both tells the story that we just created and gives our customers a place to take action on the Offer (i.e. buy the product).

Customer Conversion Campaign: Incentive

The fourth step in designing our Customer Conversion Campaign is to setup an Incentive to help drive action. An Incentive is simply an extra 'something' that helps encourage customers to make a buying decision. This Incentive can later be used as a 'bargaining chip' to help get customers who are on the fence to convert on the Offer we've created. The most common Incentive is a discount on products, however, we can get as creative as we'd like with our Incentives. We like to think of Incentives in two categories: Hard Incentives and Soft Incentives. Hard Incentives are those with a 'hard cost' associated with them. Giving away discounts, free shipping or free products are all great Hard Incentives, but they have a real cost associated with them. We’ll want to be sure that this hard cost does not exceed the expected margin on that particular product or product set, otherwise we'll end up with an unprofitable Campaign. Soft Incentives are those with very low or no real cost associated with them. Examples include: adding a handwritten note to our customer's order, showcasing our customers on our website or social media, or offering extra loyalty points with certain purchases. Later in this article, we'll explain the benefit of creating both a Soft Incentive and Hard Incentive for our Customer Conversion Campaign.

Customer Conversion Campaign: Collateral

The fifth step in designing our Customer Conversion Campaign is to create the necessary Collateral to support our Campaign and drive users to our Landing Page. Collateral is where we go back to thinking of the specific marketing channels by which we'll be promoting our Campaign. Generally our Campaigns have a defined duration associated with them, and as such, we want to utilize shorter-term, measurable, 'lever channels'. These are simply channels that can be 'turned on' and have an immediate opportunity to reach our target Segment. Examples of 'lever channels' include online paid advertising, email marketing to an existing list and social media marketing to an existing following. In each of these instances we have the opportunity to immediately place our message in front of an audience without having to wait for the extended period of time that other channels such as search engine optimization require. In addition, we have the ability to measure the effectiveness of these channels given their digital nature rather than working in the dark using channels such as event marketing or traditional PR where attribution is harder to pin-point. The key to creating effective Collateral is selecting the right channels and creating as consistent of a message across each channel as possible. This message should stem directly from the Narrative that we've previously created.

Customer Conversion Campaign: Analytics

The final step in designing our Customer Conversion Campaign is to setup the necessary Analytics to track Campaign effectiveness. The right Analytics should allow us to answer questions including:

    • What acquisition channels were most effective?

    • How many different engagements did customers have with the campaign before conversion?

    • Did customers require an Incentive to take action?

    • Were there any 'sub-Segments' that performed better?

    • What were the costs in running the campaign?

There are a few elements that must be configured with our Analytics to ensure we're collecting all of the necessary data:

    • Google Analytics: Basic setup of Google Analytics to track customer behavior as they interact with the campaign.

    • E-Commerce Tracking: Integration between Google Analytics and our shopping cart to measure conversion.

    • Custom Campaign: Configuration of custom campaigns to track which acquisition source drove our users to conversion.

Google has put together a comprehensive checklist for ensuring we have a complete setup of all the various Analytics goodies available to us.

Customer Conversion Campaign Execution

Once we've got the core elements of our Customer Conversion Campaign figured out, it's time for us to move to execution. Generally, we've found it helpful to set a specific duration for the campaign, often one month. This is for a few reasons. The first is that is helps us stay focused on continuing to move through the various phases of Campaign Execution. The second is that it gives us parameters to measure success and ROI associated with the Campaign.
The third is that many times the Offers we're creating at the core of our campaign will have some time-sensitivity associated with them (i.e. seasonality of products, limited inventory, etc.)

With a one month time-frame on our Customer Conversion Campaign, we'll break things down into four distinct phases: Campaign Setup, Awareness Launch, Soft Incentive Launch and Hard Incentive Launch. This sequence of events allows us to target the customer through multiple channels and to 'crescendo' the messaging by starting with the lowest cost acquisition methods first. Here is a more detailed breakdown of each phase:

Week One: Campaign Setup
In our first week, we're going through the Campaign Design process and getting all of the foundational elements in place. These elements include:

Identify Segment
Using our Customer Hub, such as Sauce, identify the specific segment that we'll target in our Campaign. Keep in mind that we'll want to identify a segment that is large enough to be profitable, preferably something in the 5K - 10K plus range.

Craft Offer
Based on that Segment, create a unique offer by selecting a few different products based on a shared theme. Remember that we can be as creative as we like with that theme, but generally they're driven by products that appeal to our segment specifically or products that meet a particular business goal.

Create Narrative
Setup a landing page that consists of photos/video and text explaining the Narrative behind these products. Remember to explain why we chose this particular theme.

Create Incentives
Setup both the Soft and Hard Incentives we'd like to include in our Campaign. Typically these can be done within our e-commerce platform.

Create Collateral
We typically use a combination of email, social media and paid ads as the primary Collateral or Channels for our Campaigns. Each will require some amount of design and copy. Generally we want the overall 'brand experience' to be as consistent as possible across our Collateral. This means re-using imagery and text to ensure there is a cohesive 'feel' as customer experience each of our channels.

Setup Analytics
Setup any necessary Analytics such as UTM tracking codes for campaign source attribution, conversion pixels from online advertising platforms, etc.

Week Two: Awareness Launch
Once we've got all of the foundational elements to our Campaign squared away, we're ready to launch the first iteration of our Campaign. Initially we want to go after the 'easy money', in other words, we want to promote our unique Offer and Narrative without providing the Incentive. The goal is to see whether we can drive conversion without having to eat into our margin. Generally we'll do the following during this iteration:

Send one email to our target segment creating general awareness. This email should focus on telling the Narrative and explaining the Offer but not include any sort of Incentive yet.

Social Media
Post one or two announcements regarding the Offer across all of our major social media platforms. These announcements should ideally have some visual collateral associated with them and drive the user to the Landing Page we setup.

Paid Advertising
Run one or two ads specifically targeting our Segment of customers using the 'retargeting' or 'custom audience' capabilities of platforms such as Facebook. Since we're advertising to such a specific group of people, we should see higher engagement and lower overall cost.

Week Three: Soft Incentive Launch
Once we've gone through the first iteration of our Campaign, it's time to activate our Soft Incentive to start encouraging additional customer conversion. Let's assume our Soft Incentive is 100 extra loyalty points associated with the purchase. We'll want to stick with the same channels and change our messaging as follows:

Send another email to our target segment but this time include a call-to-action highlighting that they can get 100 loyalty points with their purchase.

Social Media
Post another one or two announcements regarding the Offer but this time mention that they can get 100 loyalty points with their purchase.

Paid Advertising
Update our paid ads to include messaging regarding the customers ability to get 100 loyalty points with their purchase.

Week Four: Hard Incentive Launch
Once we've gone through the second iteration of our Campaign, we'll want to capture our last group of potential customers by activating our Hard Incentive. Let's assume our Hard Incentive is 10% off this particular purchase. Again, we'll want to stick with the same channels and change our messaging as follows:

Send a final email with a prominent call-to-action regarding the 10% discount code.

Social Media
Send another one or two announcements across all of our social media platforms but this time specifically mention our 10% discount code.

Paid Advertising
Update our paid ads to include messaging regarding the 10% discount code.

Once our Customer Conversion Campaign has finished, it's time for us to turn back to our analytics and measure performance. Again, some of the key questions we'll want to answer include:

    • What acquisition channels were most effective?

    • How many different engagements did customers have with the campaign before conversion?

    • Did customers require an Incentive to take action?

    • Were there any 'sub-Segments' that performed better?

    • What were the costs in running the campaign?

If we're using a sophisticated Customer Hub, such as Sauce, one thing that will greatly enhance the effectiveness of our campaign is that the Segment of customers we created will automatically update in real-time. This means that we could exclude any customers who have purchased this specific offer from the Campaign. This ensures customers who purchase in the first iteration of our Campaign then do not see later iterations where a Hard Incentive is offered.

Now each iteration will be maximizing potential conversion. There is certainly a fair amount of work that goes into these Customer Conversion Campaigns, but the focus and control we gain from this approach ensures we’re maximizing our marketing efforts on areas with the highest ROI potential.