Messaging customers based on their individual purchase behavior is a transition from the traditional practice of blasting a single message to all customers. Even for marketers sending loyalty-based communication, messaging is often limited to points-based triggers or universal reward thresholds, without being tailored to the unique behavior of each guest.
Now you have the ability to craft messages that are highly targeted, and designed to influence guest behavior in a way you can measure in ROI. Where do you start, and what are some things to consider?
Steps for creating your first life-cycle campaigns:
Step 1: Select Customer Segment
For the initial lifecycle campaigns you put in market, brands often choose the segment that represents their largest opportunity to drive same-store sales growth. This opportunity is defined by the revenue associated with that particular customer segment, or by the number of customers (if that segment is Lapsed for example, whose customers have not spent as much revenue recently). After you launch your initial campaigns, you can begin targeting more defined segments of customers based on your specific business initiatives (e.g., moving people from offline to online ordering, driving business during specific hours, etc.).
Most brands will launch the New Customer and Lapsed Customer campaigns first as these usually represent the largest opportunity to grow sales. New customers are highly engaged and tend to represent a substantial portion of your revenue. Ensuring that as many New customers are successfully converted into core customers is likely on the top of your brand's business goals. Lapsed customers usually represent a very large portion of your customer base, and winning back customers that would have otherwise been lost is an effective way to create same-store sales lift.
Step 2: Select an Offer / Incentive (if applicable)
Offers are very useful for customer's whose behavior you want to influence quickly. This is the case for New customers, who are highly engaged and have not formed consistent visit behavior yet, or Lapsing customers who have stopped coming and need to have positive purchase behaviors reintroduced to them.
Customers with favorable behavior (such as active customers) that you want to maintain or increase, are those for which non-offer messages are most applicable. This is because if your message doesn't drive a visit right away, the missed opportunity isn't dire, as they may continue to come consistently at their current frequency. What's more, your message may keep your brand top-of-mind in a way that drives a visit further down the road, rather than right away. However, if your goal is to increase frequency across all customer segments, you can use an offer to drive even your active customers towards the frequency of a VIP.
One exception to this rule is VIP customers themselves - though their behavior is not in need of change, rewarding these customers with an offer may go a long way to foster a relationship and maintain their loyalty long-term.
Step 3: Consider the customer journey
As you create campaigns, keep in mind that these initial messages can eventually be part of a customer journey comprised of several touch-points, each designed to increase conversion. When you select your offer then, decide whether you want to begin the customer journey for new customers (for example) with an aggressive offer, or a less aggressive offer and increase aggressiveness in subsequent messages.
For both New and Lapsed campaigns, brands take two approaches. Some leverage aggressive offers first, because gaining a customer back right away when they're as new as possible (or as early in their lapsing life-cycle as possible) is most important, and they don't want to risk losing them customer by sending the most effective offer after it's too late.
The other approach is to determine the minimum value necessary to re-activate a customer, starting with the least aggressive offer and building to more aggressive ones. The benefit is that you don't give something larger than what was needed to bring a customer back; the downside is that you miss the opportunity to re-activate some customers, if the less valuable offer was not sufficient to drive them in-store, but the effective offer comes too long after they've dis-engaged.
Step 4: Design Creative
Existing best practices (as outlined in the article here) hold true. Even more-so than blasts, because life-cycle campaigns are meant to deliver a precise message to incite a single action (store visit), versus broadcast general news or multiple messages in the hopes that something resonates. In summary:
- Focus on only one message / CTA
- Include bold imagery, minimal text
- Use clear, to-the-point subject lines that communicates value right away
Additionally, ensuring that most text is not contained in the message images (only large headlines) will allow you to change message content in a single click, without your design team needing to generate new assets. This enables you to change message content and A/B test messages swiftly, so you're constantly optimizing campaigns.
Step 5: Define timing
The first message in a journey is typically set to trigger as soon as a customer falls into a segment (new, lapsing, etc), so they receive the message as quickly as possible during the window that it's relevant.
The timing of subsequent messages can then be defined, and should be based on the segment you're targeting and how aggressive / not aggressive you want to be. QSR brands, whose customers come as frequently as 2-3 times a week, may choose to allow customers less time to react before triggering a second message, than a fine dining restaurant whose average customer comes once per quarter. Within each brand, some may still choose to be more aggressive in the frequency of messages they send, while other might space messages out more.
There are no hard rules, other than to always test to determine optimal timing, and to keep in mind that too many or too frequent of emails can cause email blindness. The typical range used by most brands is a frequency of one message every 1-2 weeks, within a customer journey spanning 2-8 weeks.