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The Journey Through the Journey: Using Personalized Email to Streamline Each Customer’s Experience

By James Glover

Retailers are facing a challenge that is also an opportunity. The once tried-and-true approaches to email marketing are costing retailers sales and even customers. Maybe not in ways that they can immediately spot—it may not be as obvious as something like customer churn—but it’s happening, nonetheless.

Sometimes, that means customers who might have found a retailer’s product are missing it. Sometimes, it means that coupons are going unused, that big sales aren’t producing the ROI that they otherwise could. And sometimes it simply means that customers are quietly shopping someplace else.

A big part of this problem stems from a focus on interacting with customers only at specific moments throughout their retail journey. Reaching out to customers only when they first become a customer, when they make a purchase, or when they start looking elsewhere isn’t going to build the kinds of strong relationships that today’s retailers need.

Maintaining a strong relationship with a customer is just like maintaining any other relationship. If you only tell your spouse that you love them on special occasions, your bond isn’t going to be as strong as if you say it every day. But, of course, just saying it isn’t enough, either; you have to make them feel loved.

That may mean bringing home flowers “just because” and other times it may mean knowing when your spouse needs some alone time. Building a strong relationship with customers through email marketing requires that same kind of awareness, and one way to build it is to focus on the customer’s retail journey.

What Is the “Journey Through the Journey,” and Why Should You Care?

People in retail marketing talk a lot about the retail journey, but that can be problematic at times. After all, we tend to think of journeys as having a beginning, middle, and end, right? And while we may all be familiar with the axiom, “the journey is the destination,” that kind of thinking can put us right back into those old behaviors; only reaching out to customers when they first become a customer, when they make a transaction, or when we’re trying to reactivate them.

While the standard customer journey goes from awareness to interest to research to purchase, it may be more helpful to think of the “journey through the journey.” After all, at every stage along that road from awareness to purchase, customers have options available to them.

There are always other routes they could take. When they’re doing their research, they might find other products that are a better fit for them. While awareness is turning to interest they might learn of a larger world of products and services with which they were previously unfamiliar.

Successful modern email marketing is responsive not just to each step along that traditional customer journey, but to all the nuances that go on before, during, and after it. This can turn the entire retail journey into an experience; one that doesn’t end when the customer buys a product, but that can continue into advocacy, additional interests, and more.

How Does Customer Data Help to Improve the Journey?

Let’s go back to that metaphor about marriage. If you look at the magazine racks in the grocery store, you’ll see all sorts of tips for how to spice up your relationship. That doesn’t just mean your love life, either. Those tips include stuff like going on vacations together, taking a ballroom dancing class, or finding other shared activities that you enjoy. The key to that, though, is data.

Before you can do something that will rekindle a person’s interest in a relationship—whether that relationship is romantic or retail—you have to know what they like; and they aren’t always going to tell you. In fact, they may not always know themselves.

After all, tastes change, and customers aren’t always going to desire the same thing. In fact, the savvy retailer of the future will be able to anticipate customers interests, rather than just react to them.

Unsiloing customer data in ways that allow it to be incorporated into your email marketing strategy will open up amazing new frontiers of what your email marketing can accomplish. To achieve this, you need tools that help email marketers make the best use of customer data so that they can adapt to the customer’s retail journey as it happens.

So, how does an enterprising retailer focus on enhancing the customer journey? Rather than being a tour guide or a destination, become a partner that’s taking that journey with them, every step of the way. That’s exactly what incorporating customer data into your email strategy can help you do, when you have the right tools.

Data makes your customer experience engaging and compelling. However, you have to maintain a consistent experience across all channels. Email remains a powerful marketing tool, but you might need to take our customers on a multichannel journey to win them over. Find out how with “Multichannel Fluidity.”

Read the guide.

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