Sendlane CEO, Jimmy Kim here!
Bulk messages are out. Personalized, segmented messages are in.
That's not just me saying that. It's our customers, too.
I've been a brick-and-mortar retailer and an eCommerce vendor, and I can tell you that the tactics we used a decade ago to reach customers aren't hitting the mark anymore. They expect more—and it's up to us to meet that expectation.
Let's flip the script and start thinking more about how customers want to be treated, not just how much we can add to our bottom line.
This is especially important for those of us that run stores online. It's tempting to try and recreate the experience customers have when they walk into a store. Still, vendors need to adjust their mindset and understand how to use email and SMS differently to create a different experience.
Here are 6 ways email and SMS are shaping customer experiences—and what your brand can do to get it right.
1. Pre-Purchase funnels are less pushy + more invested in the customer story
In the past, pre-purchase funnels had a single focus: to sell products.
The problem with using email funnels to sell is that many marketing playbooks are a decade old. They push products on customers and rely on the hard sell: Buy now! Hurry! This is your last chance!!!
Customers don't want this anymore. The old pre-purchase funnel looks like a brand just trying to squeeze its customers and maximize its revenue. The newer pre-purchase funnel has a different focus—customer experience.
How do we, as marketers, evolve this messaging to win the customer over and give them the experience they deserve?
Use your pre-purchase funnels as a chance to build connections with customers and slowly gain (in my opinion) the most important win of all—their trust. Replace hard-selling messages with emails and SMS that:
- Say hello. Give them what they initially requested, like an eBook or discount code, and use it as a chance to start a conversation with them.
- Talk about your story and mission. Tell your story. Show your audience what your brand stands for and what your company is all about.
- Send reminders of purchases + UGC. If they're still not biting, send them some content they might like that you've already created. I'm talking blog posts, reviews, or any other educational content that can give them a positive experience with your brand and help them learn a little more about you.
- Give instructions + results. By now, your audience should start warming up to your product. Help them out by showing them what your product does, how to use it, and what results they can expect.
- Remind them that time is running out. Time for the hard sell. Let your customers know that the offer or product won't be around forever, and they need to act quickly.
- Finally, segment users. There will always be email and SMS readers that don't convert in the funnel. They need to be treated differently from the audience in the middle/top of your funnel. We know the users at the bottom are interested—they just need more convincing. Segment them and send unique newsletters and content from this point on to push them over the line.
The difference between old and new is pretty clear. This pre-purchase funnel is about growing relationships and trust with customers, so they not only buy but also stick around.
2. Welcome emails are more than just selling
Welcome emails are the bread and butter of email marketing.
Although marketers widely use them, they're usually a sales pitch dressed up as a welcome email that ends up in the trash. Looking at a typical welcome email series, it's easy to see why:
- Email #1: Hey! So great to have you here. Welcome + thanks for coming!
- Email #2: Have you seen this new product from us?
- Email #3: Here's another product you might be interested in!
- Email #4: Buy our latest product now!
Ermm. This might have been a good idea in the marketing room to increase revenue. But for customers, it's not a very welcoming first experience with a brand.
Marketers are waking up to this and changing the way they welcome customers. Instead of using this funnel to sell, repurpose it to set expectations and give customers a crash course on what the company can do for them.
The new and improved welcome email (or SMS) sequence looks a little different.
Instead of pushing products and sales, this funnel welcomes customers and educates them on your brand and mission. A typical funnel will look something like this:
- Message #1. Welcome and here’s what to expect: This message sets the foundation for what the customer should expect and educates them on a brand's mission.
- Message #2. Your order has shipped!: Customers love transactional emails and SMS. According to G2, the top two messages customers want are shipping updates (75%) and delivery confirmations (65%). Use these messages to focus on the customer's purchase/subscription. It tells them that the ball is rolling and they're being taken care of.
- Message #3. Story Brand & Mission: What is your story? What is your company about? Here's your chance to tell your customers a little more (most likely in email format).
- Message #4. Instructions. Like a pre-purchase funnel, this message tells customers how to use your product and brags about its best features.
- Message #5. UGC. Share some of your best user-generated content. Show off happy customers by sharing their testimonials or prove how well the product works by backing it up with a case study.
- Message #6. Reminder of what’s to come. Tell your customers what's coming next, like a new product launch or an upcoming sale. The most important thing here is to keep the communication flowing.
Do more than push for sales when welcoming customers. It curates an entirely different customer journey and invites them to become part of your brand's story.
3. Customer feedback can become your secret weapon
The biggest favor we can ask customers is to give us honest feedback.
It helps us grow. It helps us improve. It helps us fix our mistakes. But the way we've been using feedback is all about me, me, me. We ask customers to give us reviews and advice—what are they getting in return?
It's time for marketers to change this mindset and view customer feedback for what it really is: a secret weapon. It's a chance to connect with customers on a deeper level and let them talk honestly about your product.
- Wrap your arm around customers. Don't ask for a review or feedback right away. Simply let your customers know how happy you are to have them around.
- Test the review waters. Sometimes it's scary to ask users for honest feedback, as you'll (inevitably) have some unhappy customers in your audience. Send them some reviews from current customers and ask them to submit their own. If it's horrible, they'll tell you—which is better than leaving an angry review for everyone to see.
- Survey them. Ask them what they want to learn more about, how the product can improve and what you can do to improve the user experience.
- Finally—segment. Every review and piece of data collected during the review process must have a purpose. Segment your customer answers using tags and responses so it's easier to improve your product and processes.
Blenders is great at this. They ask their customers for feedback based on past purchases and show images of the product to jog their memory:
The cherry on top? Customers will receive at least 15% off their next purchase!
Remember, asking for feedback and reviews is the easy part. Remember to take your customers' valuable input and learn from it.
4. Post-purchase emails have pivoted to personalized, targeted messaging
Post-purchases are the perfect place to upsell, cross-sell and nurture customers.
In the past, marketers have snoozed on post-purchase emails. Customers are put onto a "buyers" list and then sent newsletter… after newsletter… after newsletter.
Post-purchase emails can be used for so much more than this!
Study after study tells us that personalized messages consistently get marketers the best results. Around 60% of retail and e-commerce companies personalize emails based on past purchases, and personalized calls to action (CTAs) convert 202% better.
We already have the data to build a more personalized experience for customers with post-purchase messages. I'm talking about sending emails and SMS that:
- Segment users. Think about your most valuable customer framework (MVC) and pick a key metric to start segmenting users. Average Order Value (AOV), Lifetime Value (LTV), or purchase categories are metrics that can be used to send out segmented messages that hit the mark.
- Use data. Marketers have so much data on hand to level-up customer experience. Automate this step, so every email or SMS is triggered by customer engagement levels, recent purchases and spending, so each message is relevant.
- Have a goal. Ask yourself why you're sending out emails or SMS to your customers and create a goal to reach. Is it to make a sale or hit a certain AOV level with customers who've previously made a single purchase?
Segment your messaging and only send out targeted emails and SMS that will add to your customer's experience.
5. Companies are slowly realizing the power of investing in omni-channel experiences
Omnichannel shouldn't mean we load up our communications toolkit and start sending out messages aimlessly.
Too often, marketers will send an email. Followed by an SMS. Followed by another two emails… and then round out with an SMS.
But why? 🤔
Omnichannel isn't just about using multiple channels to communicate. It's using analytics and data to understand what our customers want from us and how they want us to talk to them.
Marketers can jump to conclusions that young people don't use email or that older customers won't check their SMS. This thinking can cause you problems down the line, so let your customers guide you with what channels will hit the mark:
- Use your data. Tools like Google Analytics track your primary channel of communication for certain demographics and age groups.
- Ask them. Go straight to the source. Reach out to your customers with a survey or tagging tools to simply say, "Hey… how do you prefer us to communicate with you?"
Once the answers are in, don't be afraid to have your channels complement each other during a marketing campaign.
There's nothing wrong with firing out an SMS to your customers to let them know that they've got a 20% discount code waiting for them in their email inbox. I guarantee you that the customer will at least look at the email—and they might've missed it without the SMS reminder.
Here’s how that same message Blenders sent via email looks in their text message:
6. Our dashboards and tech stacks can guide our marketing efforts
Changing your approach to the customer experience is one thing, but measuring your success is the ultimate benchmark for improving your marketing efforts.
Friends, this all comes down to tracking how your customer feels. And yes, there are metrics we can use to do this:
- Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). This score tells you how happy your customers are with the service they've received. It's measured using scales (like 1-5 or 1-10), and then your responses are multiplied by 100. If you survey 50 customers and 31 of them are positive, your CSAT would be 62% (31/50 x 100 = 62%).
- Net Promoter Score (NPS). Want to know how loyal your customers are and if they will stick with you? NPS gauges it using a 1-10 scale. Customers who fall into the 9-10 bracket are your "promoters," the people who'll tell their friends and family how great you are. Those who score in the 0-6 bracket are your "detractors," and these are the customers you need to win over.
- Retention/repeat buyers. How are you retaining customers? Retention and loyalty tools are essential to nurturing customers and making sure they stick around. For example, Sendlane sends customers retention emails like product recommendations, motivational messages and referral coupons to keep them coming back.
Use this data to shape future campaigns—and make sure every marketing move adds to your customer experience.
Want to learn more about how Email and SMS are changing the customer experience? Rewatch Jimmy's presentation at Commerce Roundtable!
Or if you're ready to optimize your customer journey with these messages, start your 14-day free trial of Sendlane right here!