Specialty Retailers Rev Up Behavioral Marketing Tactics

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StashaRosenSpecialty retailers are getting especially good at weighing the value of consumer behavioral targeting, but still have room to grow when it comes to mobile and, surprisingly, email strategies.

According to L2's newly released Digital IQ Index for Specialty Retail, more than half of specialty retailers are engaged in Facebook advertising, with “the majority of these leveraging Facebook Exchange to retarget shoppers on Facebook based on online browsing habits,” Stasha Rosen, lead researcher for the L2 Digital IQ study, told AdExchanger.

In addition, L2 has seen a marked shift in interest from social targeting to behavioral-based consumer targeting by specialty retailers, Rosen said. More than half of specialty retailers have invested in personalization technology to curate product selections based on browsing behaviors.

On the mobile front, specialty retailers could stand to flex their muscles. Only two of the 71 brands measured, White House | Black Market and H&M, have optimized their tablet experience for mobile devices. A whopping 86% of retailers still send tablet users to desktop sites. Beyond the longer page load times and lack of continuity between shopping carts on tablets and PCs, which can impact the path to purchase, Rosen said “tablets increasingly deserve their own distinct digital marketing strategy” since “paid search spend on tablets has already surpassed smartphones.”

For marketers, connecting the dots between in-store, online and mobile experiences is gaining urgency. Joe Megibow, SVP and GM of omnichannel e-commerce for American Eagle Outfitters, defined the term "omnichannel" as “an elimination of channel conflict” during comments at Forrester’s Customer Experience forum. American Eagle seeks to eliminate that conflict by unifying customer touch points through technology and, ultimately, engaging with consumers as a cohesive brand instead of many facets of that brand, such as mobile, e-commerce, in-store or customer-service divisions.

For brands and marketers, email is still king. As Rosen pointed out, one of the major findings from L2’s digital benchmark study was that email still drives three times the traffic as social media to brand e-commerce sites. In the beauty and skin-care category, for instance, email drove 14% of traffic versus the 2% stemming from social media.

So, “even though frequency and relevance are the top reasons why users unsubscribe (from) retailers’ emails, less than 27% of brands offer reduced frequency or content modification to users who have clicked ‘unsubscribed,’” she said. “Furthermore, just 15% collect data on why the user chose to unsubscribe.” The fix? Deploy tactics like triggering emails when a Web user abandons a shopping cart in addition to driving more demographic segmentation and “opt-down” offerings.

At American Eagle, mobile-optimized emails are vital for click-throughs and the ultimate path to purchase. Customers who made purchases were sent email requesting a product review. The problem was, despite 70% of emails being received and read via mobile devices, the reviews page wasn’t mobile-optimized. Once they were mobile-compatible, the company saw a 20% uptick in product reviews “virtually overnight.” For American Eagle, mastering omnichannel strategy is not an overnight process; the company is using IBM Tealeaf to unify many of its digital marketing facets.

“We started saying, 'There’s a lot we can do with CRM, customer segmentation, targeting, and we can start looking at our marketing effectiveness and our attribution, because for every dollar we spend online, we’re getting somewhere around four to five more return in stores,'” Megibow said. "The question is, 'How do you start to connect the dots on that?' and we can start looking at demand data and how our online activity produces demand signals so we can better understand our inventory position and our buys, as well as this site and store performance so we can see how people are behaving.”

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