Each month, we like to provide you with some insights from our own customer data to help inform your marketing strategy.

In this report, we’ll look at some data that can help you plan your next personalized campaign — with an eye for keeping that revenue growing after the holidays are over.

What the Data Says

If we look at the click-through and conversion rates of our email campaigns over time, we can create a baseline for the holiday period, and focus on optimization and quick wins. In Chart 1, you see a trendline from the 24 months leading up to July 2017, showing click-through and conversion rates:

Chart 1: Email rate trends across all industries up to July 2017.

While the click-through and conversion rates have little up or down movement in general, the chart reveals something interesting in the conversion rates: the bottom 25% of all Emarsys clients convert at 0.9%, while the top 25% convert at 3.8% — four times higher than the bottom.

Two things separate top-performing clients from the bottom: a high degree of personalization and automated campaigns — the former ensures that the most relevant content reaches the right customers and the latter ensures campaigns are sent at the right time.

Top mktg teams do two things: #personalization & #automation, says @ARTimlin CLICK TO TWEET


Customers respond best to email, SMS, and mobile app messages that address them as individuals, taking into account their preferred device, best times to engage, shopping preferences based on past purchases, and incentive recommendations that seem to be designed just for them. You can achieve this high level of personalization by collecting customer data, understanding where each customer is in their lifecycle, and then applying those insights to targeted communications through various channels.

Customer Lifecycle Marketing

Customer lifecycle marketing has an enormous impact on conversions. Chart 2 shows omnichannel purchases across all Emarsys clients using our AI-powered marketing platform, and we can see in the month of July that, even in the median results, a first-time buyer is more than twice as likely to buy than a lead. Interestingly, a defecting customer is more than three times as likely to buy than a lead, and an active buyer is nine times more likely to buy than a lead:

Chart 2: Conversion rates by lifecycle status across all industries up to July 2017.

This means when planning for a successful holiday shopping season, you need to look at your existing customer data and see what you’ve got to offer the people who’ve already purchased from you. This doesn’t necessarily need to include discounts; it could be something simple like designing campaigns to help customers know what’s going on sale during the holidays in the categories they’re most likely to buy from.

Related Content: Black Friday 2017: How AI Will Enable More Personalized Marketing

Prioritize Repeat Customers

As you head into Q4, don’t just look at the holidays as a chance to earn new customers — you’ll get more conversions at a lower cost-per-acquisition from your existing customers (and you know more about what makes them tick)!

As we saw in last month’s report, most of our clients see less and less of their revenue being driven by first-time buyers and new customer acquisition. Chart 3 shows how the first-time buyer trend line continues to go down:

Chart 3: Share of first purchases in e-commerce revenue up to July 2017.

The most successful businesses (in terms of revenue growth) at Emarsys are those who successfully monetize their existing customer data and use new customer acquisition to feed a well-oiled machine for maximum ROI and customer lifetime value.

Automated Campaigns

An automated campaign will respond to customer actions based on two dimensions: customer lifecycle triggers (such as post-purchase campaigns for first-time buyers and win-back campaigns for lapsed customers), and behavioral triggers (like web and mobile app browsing, putting items in a shopping cart, and purchasing products).

The beauty of customer lifecycle marketing is that metrics and revenue become predictable. You know how much time there is between purchases, the likelihood of purchase, and when the window of greatest opportunity is coming to a close. Then your win-back programs can kick in to incentivize and re-ignite relationships where needed.

W/ #customer lifecycle marketing, you know time b/w purchases, likelihood of purchase, & more, says @ARTimlin CLICK TO TWEET

The results speak for themselves. Just under 40% of Emarsys clients use automated campaigns, which make up 70% of their total campaigns. Compared to ad hoc campaigns which have click rates of 2%, a business using automated campaigns achieves an approximate 4% click rate. Amazingly, clients that send both automated and ad hoc campaigns achieve 74% higher open rates and 244% higher click rates (for automated vs. ad hoc campaigns)!

Purchase Intent

In automated campaigns, behavioral triggers are a little less predictable than customer lifecycle triggers because they’re based on the interaction of the individual customer. However, behavioral triggers result in some of the highest engagement and conversion rates of any kind of campaign.

By looking at the conversion funnel of visitors and repeat visitors, you can identify areas of friction and drop off, and use behavior-based triggers for browsing. You can also use add-to-cart behaviors across web, mobile, and app channels to boost conversions throughout.

For example, email and Facebook ad campaigns aimed at customers who abandon their shopping carts or close a mobile app without completing a purchase have huge conversion rates compared to standard campaigns.

Also, investing in a “browse but no purchase” campaign is essential during the holiday period. In order to ensure highest ROI, make sure to show the stock level of previously viewed products to drive urgency — if inventory is running out, you’ll see conversions climb as people rush to buy before it’s all gone.

Related Content: No Rest for E-commerce – Holiday Marketing is Year Round

Conversion Campaigns

In addition to lifecycle marketing and behavior triggers, it’s worth looking at how you can leverage your customer data around your top sellers and focus on revenue for big ticket items. Top sellers have dedicated programs set up to encourage people who are browsing to go ahead and purchase.

For example, someone looking at a mobile phone or digital camera on your website is a lot more valuable than someone looking at an iPhone case. The prepared marketer will have programs in place to convert people browsing your top products, and make sure they have an easy multi-channel and multi-step experience. The best campaigns in these scenarios include multiple steps (like an email, a Facebook Ad, a follow-up email, then an SMS or push message) in an orchestrated campaign over a week or two to encourage engagement.

Someone looking at a camera is more valuable than someone browsing iPhone cases, says @ARTimlin. Prepare for them! CLICK TO TWEET

To put that into perspective, many Emarsys clients have thousands of products, and many have hundreds of thousands or millions of SKUs. However, as shown in Chart 4, the top ten products for each business drive 12% of all their revenue (median), and nearly a quarter of their revenue in the most extreme cases (24.8% for the top quartile).

Chart 4: Share of top ten products in revenue across all industries up to July 2017.

Top-Selling Products Campaigns

If you see a significant percentage of your revenue coming from a small group of products, create product-specific campaigns to really drive ROI and improve your overall numbers. Once up and running, you never need to touch these campaigns as they’ll add revenue whenever the trigger event happens.

If lots of revenue comes from a few product lines, create product-specific campaigns for specific trigger events CLICK TO TWEET

Especially for big ticket items, such as washing machines, digital cameras, and home entertainment systems, customers need more than a single product shot before they buy. Think about having an educational email campaign coupled with some conversion campaigns in Facebook and Instagram around specific products that you know will drive revenue and engagement. That way, when a customer is “in the market” for one of your lead products, you can provide them the best experience and close the loop to get the sale.

As you see in Chart 5, these won’t just help you during the holidays; they’ll set you up for year-round success whenever someone visits and doesn’t convert around these key products:

Chart 5: Trends in share of top ten products in revenue across all industries up to July 2017.

Message for Marketers

Personalization is what customers want, and to accomplish that, you have to know where your customers are in their lifecycle and target each in a way that addresses their specific circumstances.

Where personalization focuses on delivering the right content, automated campaigns are all about the timing of customer contact, often triggered by an event (like an abandoned cart or a defecting customer). While personalization is generally the main objective for e-commerce marketing teams, triggers don’t have to be personalized to be relevant. If they’re timely, they’ll convert. Having a static email or SMS triggered by a behavior will still hit the mark, and executing these campaigns increases conversions and revenue.

November and December holidays will be here soon, but after they pass, don’t slow down. Depending on where you are in the world, look at other possible holiday events, and then launch more campaigns around each event where you can personalize those interactions and make your repeat customers more loyal and likely to buy again.

In the last benchmark report we talked about how holiday marketing has expanded beyond Black Friday and December holidays to become a year-round activity. Even though we don’t see huge variations in rates for email, mobile engagement, conversions, or repeat purchases across the calendar year, what we do see is that more clients run more campaigns during the holiday periods and generate a lot more revenue.

While the percentages are pretty constant, some brands can see their absolute numbers double, triple, or more! This is why so many marketers devote September and October to planning for the upcoming holiday period in November and December. Check out the “holiday series” to learn how you can prepare for the holidays, beginning with unifying customer data: How to Prepare for the Holiday Season (Part I): Why Unite Customer Data?

Additional Resources:

► FREE WEBINAR | SEPTEMBER 20, 2017 | Get actionable tactics for increasing deliverability of your email campaigns using automation