Coordinating messaging across channels is an arduous task that becomes more difficult when the messaging is personalized. Email addresses enable truly personalized, omnichannel marketing.

Bob Gaito, CEO, 4Cite

Bob Gaito, CEO, 4Cite

The text of the Rosetta Stone isn’t particularly interesting.  It catalogs some of the king’s noble deeds (such as granting tax reductions), discusses decorations for his shrines, and makes plans for his birthday party.  Likewise, the email address can seem relatively dull in today’s high-tech world.  But it offers a way to unlock something even more complicated than Egyptian hieroglyphics: personalized omnichannel marketing.

Every marketer knows that integrated data is essential to cross-channel marketing.  But if you peel back the layers of a strong, personalized, omnichannel campaign, what you’ll find at its core is the email address—this is what enables effective data integration.  Cookies just don’t cut it anymore.

Sure, cookies let you capture a site visitor’s activity, such as cart and browse data, but this only works well when customers use the same browser on the same device for all their online activity.  Which was fine when online shopping was pretty much confined to the home computer, but today’s consumers use multiple browsers and devices every day.  They also start shopping on one device and switch to another, and jump between multiple browsers to research and purchase a product.  This seriously compromises the effectiveness of cookie-based marketing.

Marketers chasing personalization with cookies instead of establishing identity are setting themselves up for failure.

In contrast, linking site visitors to their email address enables the capture and tracking of customer interests regardless of device or browser.  Marketers who embrace the email address to identify site visitors and to deliver messaging—be it through website, email, social, display ad, in-store or the mailbox at the end of the driveway—are much better poised to succeed in their omnichannel efforts.  Marketers chasing personalization with cookies instead of establishing identity are only setting themselves up for failure as omnichannel personalization becomes the new standard.

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Identifying website visitors is key

First and foremost, the identification technology you use to link website visitors to email addresses must be high quality.  There are far too many sub-par identification technologies, resulting in sub-par email addresses (i.e. dead addresses, addresses associated with the wrong person, etc.).  While no technology will identify 100% of your visitors, quality is better than quantity.  Once a link is made, the right technology will capture and store data about each consumer’s interests, preferences and tendencies (for privacy concerns, this can be done anonymously through a “hashed email” identifier).  It will also link the email address to relevant data including physical addresses, mobile phone numbers, device IDs, customer IDs, loyalty numbers—and all that cookie-based data that’s now much more valuable because it’s linked to a persistent identifier.

Once a visitor is identified, personalized messaging can begin immediately.  Start by customizing the browser to personalize each user’s experience.  Does this person usually shop for women’s shoes?  Then load graphics of women’s shoes on your home page.  At the same time, welcome the user with a lightbox message customized to past activity.  Did they leave something in the cart the last time they visited?  Then ask if they’d like to view the items in their cart.  Are they new to your site?  Ask for an email address, perhaps with a percentage-off or free shipping incentive.

It should be standard practice to invite any web visitor who’s not already on your email list to sign up.  If you’re not doing this, you’re throwing away the opportunity to gain something incredibly valuable: the key to tying together all available data about a consumer and marketing to that consumer effectively.  Make sure a sign-up offer doesn’t just disappear if visitors X out of the lightbox—use lightboxes that minimize and maximize so offers can be retrieved after the shopper has an opportunity to look around.

As the shopper browses, use unobtrusive engagement bars to display personalized, dynamic product recommendations, offers, and other content relevant to each shopper.  Engagement bars remain visible on the perimeter of the window as shoppers navigate, and can be minimized and maximized as desired to display creative at the top, bottom and/or side of the window.  And if you’re worried about being obtrusive, engagement bars can be used in place of lightboxes throughout your site, including for email sign-up.

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Personalize your email or end up in spam

Batch-and-blast email is losing effectiveness as open rates decline, a decline that feeds on itself as email providers like Gmail send your emails to spam when a customer isn’t engaging.  To counter this decline, it’s increasingly important to maximize open rates with personalized content and individualized timing.  First, personalize content using shopping data captured during website visits.  Then, deliver email when the user is most likely to open.  This can be accomplished through innovative email triggers that “fire” to each recipient individually, when that customer is most receptive to opening.  These strategies turn batch-and-blast into batch-and-personalize, getting your emails opened and your products purchased.

Triggered email should also be a standard practice for any online retailer.  If a shopper puts something in the cart and leaves without purchasing—which happens about 77% of the time on retail websites—getting them to complete the sale often doesn’t take much.  Generating triggered email reminders in the next few hours will typically result in 10-25% of abandoners making a purchase (free shipping or dollars off will move you toward the higher end).  Triggered emails cover a wide spectrum of opportunities to re-engage and drive customers back to your site, ranging from abandoned cart reminders delivered within a few hours to new arrival notifications triggered when you add new merchandise that aligns with a customer’s interests.  When online retailers implement triggered email, email revenue typically increases dramatically.

Power direct mail with online shopping data

Linking email addresses to home addresses opens up direct mail opportunities driven by online activity.  For example, like triggered email, personalized triggered postcards can feature browsed or carted products, as well as include dynamic recommendations and offers based on each shopper’s activity.  They’re great for prospects who visited your site, and for customers who aren’t engaging with email or visit your site often but aren’t making any purchases.

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At the same time, website visitation data can provide hotlines for any direct mail campaign.   There are no better new prospects than shoppers who recently browsed products on your site, yet this trove of opportunity is often left untapped.  Digital hotlines should be integrated into your mail stream to ensure these browsers receive your next mailing, and, since recency is a strong predictor of success, this should take place right up to the mail date.

Additionally, ultra-recent, add-a-name pools derived from website visits can simultaneously decrease postage costs while increasing response rates.  Add-a-name pools are a common direct mail technique that provide a source of names that can be added to a mailing with the sole intent to lower postage costs.  (Though counterintuitive, savings are realized by creating mail bundles that are more efficient for the post office to handle.)  By using recent web visitors—who are clearly interested in a company’s products and therefore highly responsive—ultra-recent pools take add-a-name to a whole new level.

Moreover, mail-to-visit association technology can correlate website activity to each direct mail campaign. Since most campaigns are geared toward driving recipients to the website, direct marketers need a way to know which mailings are successful.  This technology first identifies the web visitor, then, in real-time, checks historic mail files to see if and when the visitor was mailed.  If the mailing was recent, a correlation can be made.

Integrate in-store apps, kiosks and Wi-Fi

Thanks to all the advances in the digital marketing, in-store identification can now unlock sophisticated, real-time personalization that’s seamless with communication across other channels.  In-store apps and kiosks should always use the email address (or an identifier linked to email address) for sign-in.  This instantly enables the same real-time data that powers personalized out-of-store content to power personalized in-store content.

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With nearly 60% of shoppers using their mobile phones in-store to look up product information and prices, Wi-Fi based identification approaches are also gaining traction.  When linked to an email address, a Wi-Fi user accessing your website in the store can receive recommendations and offers that are both personalized and store-based. For example, that blue top you looked at online is in aisle 5, available in your size.

Optimize and measure ad spends

Ad platforms allow you to define your own custom audiences, and the email address is the key to determining who should be in each audience.  Custom audiences let you maximize the effectiveness of your ad spends because decisioning is based on attributes known only to you.  For example, if a customer who abandons a cart is opted-in to your email, you can send them a triggered email and don’t need to incur the expense of an ad for this customer.

In addition, defining your own custom audiences enables measurability that the ad platforms don’t provide, addressing a lack of accountability that is a big problem with ad spending today.  When you determine who is in each audience and measure results compared to control groups, you get visibility into true performance.

The mystery is solved!

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The Rosetta Stone of omnichannel marketing may not be as epic as expected, but the trusty email address is what enables personalized omnichannel marketing, fueled by real-time insights, across a wide and growing spectrum of channels.

4Cite provides technology for personalizing email and website interactions with consumers.

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