Despite Amazon increasing its Canadian presence, half of all Canadian e-commerce happens from retailers outside the country. Smartphones have made it so that consumers are always connected and their access to products is unrestricted. As a result, consumer expectations have evolved. Consumers now expect more from the brands they engage with. They expect relevance, affordable and speedy shipping, and excellent customer service. Combine all of that and retailers sure have their work cut out for them.

Canadian retailers now face two challenges: How do they keep e-commerce dollars domestic and how do they foster loyalty among consumers? Email engagement and relevance is one solution. While consumers expect marketing emails to be relevant, according to a recent report by Fluent, only 15% of them find them to be consistently useful. And because brands often have limited internal resources to execute a sophisticated segmentation strategy, they then turn to batch-and-blast methods, sending the same message to everyone. This email strategy makes it impossible to consistently deliver relevant content to consumers, and it does little to create engagement and cultivate loyalty.

All is not lost, though. Here are just a few ways you can help connect your brand with consumers, even if you have limited internal resources available.

Product recommendations: Intuitive product recommendations are a great way to create relevance with your emails, even batch-and-blast ones. These recommendations will be specific to the subscriber, considering purchase and browse activity, email message content and any specific business rules. The goal here is to make these as specific to the individual subscriber as possible.

Browse recovery: Browse recovery messages are targeted, automated messages to subscribers who browse your site but never place a product in their cart. This is a lesser-known but growing tactic that creates truly relevant emails and drives revenue. In fact, more than 60% of consumers expect browse behavior to be used to make emails more relevant.

Imagine shopping for a green sweater. You visit a website, view some related products, but abandon your session. The next day you receive an email from three companies. Two are batch-and-blast and the other showcases the best green sweaters available. Which message would you click on? This is the power of browse recovery.

Remember, you are going to send the subscriber an email regardless. Why not make it a relevant email based on their actual interests versus a batch-and-blast one?

Post-purchase (and other lifecycle messages): If you’re not sending automated messages based on user action, such as a welcome series for new subscribers, you are missing primary engagement moments. Post-purchase messaging is a great example of ways lifecycle messages can help build loyalty. Nurturing your customers and their purchases at this crucial time can be critical in furthering their opinion of your brand and creating affinity for doing business with you. Messages that thank the customer, offer product care or how-to tips and tricks and other helpful messages can be the difference between a one-time purchase and a lifelong customer.

Buy-online-pickup-instore (BOPIS): If you have brick-and-mortar stores, utilizing BOPIS can be a significant differentiator. Consumers want immediacy when purchasing products. They just don’t want to pay for it. This is exactly why Amazon offers two-day and two-hour delivery. But this is exactly where stores can compete and take the fight to Amazon. BOPIS allows customers to have the convenience of online purchasing, while benefiting from the immediacy of receiving the product. Even more important, 65% of consumers purchase additional items when picking up orders in-store.

Competition is global and accessible at a moment’s notice. As consumers continue to rely on their smartphones to search for and purchase products, creating loyalty becomes more important than ever. Being relevant and engaging with your audience is what will ultimately separate your brand from the competitors. Fifteen per cent of consumers find marketing emails consistently relevant. What would your subscribers say about yours?

As a former consultant with more than 10 years of experience in email, mobile and social media marketing, Greg Zakowicz has first-hand knowledge about the challenges facing the retail industry. Now, as senior commerce marketing analyst at Oracle + Bronto, he provides thoughtful insight to the Internet Retailer Top 1000 and is a frequent speaker at e-commerce events.

 This article originally appeared in the December 2017 of Direct Marketing. 

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