This article includes highlights from Digital Commerce 360's digital marketing survey of 1,015 online shoppers.

Retailers are investing big dollars in marketing, making it imperative they understand the customers they are looking to reach online. Digital Commerce 360, in conjunction with Bizrate Insights, surveyed 1,015 online shoppers in May 2022, knowing that it was essential to understand their buying behavior, how they respond to online advertising and the role of social media.

When asked, “Which of the following marketing efforts influence your decision to make an online purchase?” Our survey revealed myriad marketing efforts influence online shoppers in their buying behavior.

Email remains the cornerstone of many marketing initiatives

Emails have considerable influence, from general mailings seen as influential among 44% to those who are part of the post-purchase communication flow. Online retailers also have an opportunity to leverage the communication that emanates from order placement. At least one in five survey respondents referenced their influence. That includes offers within order confirmation/shipping notification emails (23%), items left in carts (20%) and back-in-stock emails (20%). For shoppers, these serve as confidence builders around future delivery. For retailers, it’s about moving the shopper back into buying mode.

Traditional postal vehicles, including catalogs, still resonate with online shoppers. I can’t help but admire the performance of such catalogs and other printed materials whose influence came in just behind email at 43%. Advertising on content visited online has the most influence at 32%. Meanwhile, search engines have just half as much influence at 17%, and retargeting was only a factor for 11%.

From an online advertising point of view, social media’s influence starts with advertising (21%) and general social media visits (18%). Influencers were the least significant among respondents at 7%. Lastly, text message influence came in at 12% among survey respondents.

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Our survey reveals that online shoppers are receptive to retail email advertising. Online shoppers welcome receiving a high frequency of marketing emails that subsequently result in strong open rates. 72% of online shoppers open email advertising at least a few times a week, with 43% perusing daily or more. This is a ripe audience ready to buy at any time and one that warrants every retailer’s attention.

Open rates are one thing, but buying is what really counts

Despite a high frequency of email open rates, most shoppers only purchase monthly. The more aggressive are the 2% who purchase daily or more, and the 16% who shop weekly or a few times a week. One job for retailers is convincing the 22% who never purchase or those who rarely do to peruse their email and take a chance. But overall, retailers must continue to optimize their email content, delivery frequency and strategies to boost purchase frequency among recipients.

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Saving shoppers money still resonates, driving them to open promotion-driven emails

Online shoppers, and all shoppers for that matter, favor promotions. And not surprisingly, 62% of survey respondents said they’re most likely to open promotions-driven emails. Along the same vein, messages about free shipping see traction among 37% of respondents.

The majority of shoppers open order-related communication, suggesting strong selling opportunities. Online shoppers indicated that of those order-related communications, 52% are likely to open shipping and order confirmations. 43% take a look at delivery confirmations. While ratings and reviews are important to buyers, retailer requests to have shoppers review purchased products do not get the same level of attention. Only 20% of recipients who completed the survey shared that they open them.

Online shoppers have long favored loyalty programs, particularly Amazon Prime. This is likely one of the reasons their open rates for offers tied to loyalty programs come in at a powerful 40%.

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Lastly, with retailers investing time in hopes of optimizing merchandising, it was interesting to see that new-product-currently-available messages were strong at 26%. Also, well-received: back-in-stock emails (19%) and seasonal activities (13%). Replenishment, only ripe for some categories, had a likelihood to open among only 5% of those surveyed.

Turning our thoughts to marketplaces is essential, given the attention they receive from retailers and online shoppers. According to our research, 40% of survey respondents are occasionally influenced by marketplace advertising. Just 11% pay attention all or most of the time, while the 19% indicate never is undoubtedly problematic. Sellers should test a range of marketing and other tactics to assess their performance and adjust accordingly.

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Use marketing opportunities to leverage time on social media

Most online shoppers report being socially active (67%), which bodes well for advertisers. Facebook is the social channel most likely to lead to an online purchase, given the 65% who take advantage of this platform from a shopping point of view. However, there is potential for purchasing from many other social media channels such as YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, which have formidable rankings. Leveraging this potential means understanding each channel’s role and marketing usage to best direct shopping strategies.

Now it’s essential to understand the “why” behind the shopping of these social channels. As a starting point, just over half of those surveyed (52%) do not shop via social media. For the remainder, online shoppers continually look to new channels for product discovery. For those who use social media for shopping, discovery (23%) and being able to experiment with new brands and products (11%) garner strong interest. Consumers are always trying to save money, so marketing promotions are appealing in any channel. They top the list (22%) of why respondents shop via these platforms. Online shoppers are also time-starved, so convenience can play a role for any channel. Additionally, 17% indicate they are already using social media regularly, so it’s convenient. 6% are prompted on social media platforms, so they are top-of-mind.

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As retailers face obstacles with marketing given the new cookie laws, our research shows that online shoppers mostly make cookie acceptance choices based on the retailer. It is also interesting to add that like me, 1 in 4 always accept cookies, likely due to a desire to just keep shopping. This means retailers with strong relationships with shoppers may receive more favorable cookie treatment, so be kind to your customers.

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Guidance

While many marketing efforts can influence shoppers, smart strategies start with knowing your customers. One-size-fits-all never applies. Keep in mind the role of each tactic and test to assess their impact on your business. And don’t forget to include social opportunities, as they are growing in importance for more customers. Remember to think long-term, as retaining customers is your best path to a strong lifetime value.

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