When building your email marketing strategy, the customer journey should permeate everything you do. It’s the fuel to your fire, the yin to your yang. Without it, how do you know what your subscribers are looking for, why they want it, and more importantly, when and how to deliver?
The more personalized, relevant content you can serve to your audience at exactly the right time in their journey, the better. You’ll be able to respond to your audience’s intent — often before they even realize they need it — and deliver seamless, targeted and premium content experiences to ease the path to conversion.
The first step is to understand each stage of the customer journey — then you can learn how email can improve and enhance it.
First, let’s break it down: what is the customer journey?
Unaware: A potential customer has no awareness of your brand.
Aware: They are aware of your brand but have not yet engaged.
Research: They have a problem, desire or need to fulfill and actively research your brand to learn more about you.
Consideration: They do more research and they compare your offering with other brands.
Purchase: They narrow down options and make a purchase or conversion.
Retention: Your customer is sold on you for life, making repeat purchases, always engaging and interacting.
Advocacy: Your customer turns into your marketing channel, recommending your product to their friends and family.
So how can we use email to improve the customer journey?
Awareness: Create integrated marketing campaigns and ads using custom and lookalike targeting.
Awareness is the first stage of the customer journey where email has an impact. It’s where your customer is exposed to your brand via a range of sources.
Integrating your email marketing with your paid social campaigns is a great way to find your subscribers and people like them on Facebook, within email newsletters and other platforms using custom and lookalike audiences.
We go into custom audiences more in the next section as it can also be a great remarketing tool. Lookalike modeling however, finds other people similar to your subscribers who may be interested in your brand, by matching interests, demographics, and more. Once you’ve found them, you can then target them with specific, relevant and personalized messaging that either follows on or complements your email campaigns.
– Use email data to build lookalike models of your best customers while suppressing current customers from those campaigns for awareness and acquisition.
– Even better than lookalike targeting is the ability to infuse people-based data (using hashed email addresses) with customer intent data. This gives you the ability to differentiate between shoppers and buyers.
Research & Consideration: Remarketing and automation
Remarketing and automation are your friend at this phase of the customer journey.
Custom audiences identify your subscribers’ social profiles by linking the same email address. However, this is not just limited to social media as you can activate customer lists across other platforms like Amazon, YouTube, Google Search and of course, in the email channel. Email serves as a great awareness and consideration channel because people spend 6.3 hours per day reading email, making it the perfect space to remarket products and services.
With a problem, desire or need to fulfill, the customer is actively researching your brand and others — engaging with your website, social channels, and online reviews. This is where triggered emails and browse and cart-abandonment campaigns come into their own.
– Match email lists with custom audiences to increase frequency and reach, while driving people back to your site.
– Set up automation streams to trigger browse and abandonment emails when customers leave your site without making a purchase.
– Keep copy persuasive but not creepy or aggressive, and in line with your brand values.
Purchase: Personalized messaging and offers
The journey doesn’t end when the customer makes a purchase. This is your chance to thank them and make them feel special, strengthening your relationship and aiding the journey along to retention and advocacy.
– Send automated post-purchase emails with relevant content from your site on how to best use your product, or recommendations on other products to complement them.
Retention: Implement loyalty incentives
Rewarding your customers with exclusive loyalty schemes or personalized offers after purchase will encourage repeat customers. Something as simple as free postage on your next order, or a discount or free gift, can go a long way — especially if served cross-channel at the right time in the journey.
– Incentivize subscribers to opt-up into additional mail streams to access exclusive loyalty rewards.
– Create a separate strategy for super-engaged subscribers to keep them interested.
Advocacy: Make sharing easy
Your customers are a ready-made sales team. The easier you make it for them to share with their friends, the better. Encourage email virality with forward-to-a-friend campaigns. But make sure these campaigns contain targeted messaging. Research from Litmus found that emails that are pointed and targeted are twice as likely to go viral than untargeted messages or those sent to huge audiences.
– Encourage email virality with targeted, personalized offers and messaging.
– Implement forward functionality and social share buttons prominently on your emails, with strong calls to action and dedicated referral campaigns.
For more on email virality and the six stages of the customer lifecycle, listen to the “Everything Email” Podcast.