Introduction: Retail challenges and the ecommerce boom
Whilst it’s been a tough year for the retail industry, ecommerce has seen a sharp acceleration since the start of the pandemic.
In October 2020, emarketer revealed that UK online sales were up by a massive 34.7% from 2019, with ecommerce accounting for more than 30% of total retail sales in the UK for the first time.
With society slowly shifting back towards normality, we’re reflecting on two of our client’s responses to the pandemic and how the lessons they learnt in this difficult time will continue to shape their success in 2021 and into the future.
World of Books sells quality second hand books for competitive prices. In the last decade, they’ve grown from a start-up to pioneers in e-use and recycling. At the start of the pandemic, the company sought to improve customer loyalty and lifetime value by maintaining engagement and delivering a personalised experience to their customers.
Similarly Gtech, who are creators of the world’s first cordless power sweeper and experts in the field of cordless technology, saw consumer behaviour shift dramatically towards online channels as a result of lockdown, and so wanted to implement a more robust email strategy in order to drive customer retention.
The situation: A dramatic shift in customer behaviour
When COVID-19 hit, both World of Books and Gtech experienced unexpected changes in customer behaviour.
The government’s Stay Home message meant people had more time on their hands and there became an increased appetite for books, with 41% of people saying they were reading more since lockdown was imposed on the 23rd March 2020. (Nielsen’s Book Research, 2020)
The closure of schools, in particular, sparked a sudden desire for educational materials to cope with the demands of remote learning.
In fact, between 7th May and 7th June 2020, 87% of parents said a child in their household had been homeschooled due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Office of National Statistics, 2020)
For these reasons, World of Books was forced to change traditional ways of thinking about what their customers needed from them.
Retail was also impacted by the lockdown, with the closure of all non-essential shops and businesses.
The Office for National Statistics found that the total volume of retail sales in Great Britain fell by 1.9% in 2020 compared to 2019, the largest fall since records began.
However, as mentioned, ecommerce quickly started to compensate for this. During this period, Gtech’s customer behaviours and engagement changed dramatically.
Before the pandemic, Gtech’s primary channels for engagement were direct mail, TV and radio, however when lockdown hit, site traffic increased rapidly, along with the number of new customers signing up to their email newsletters, so email quickly became a valuable asset to the company.
The solution: Using data to drive decisioning
Both World of Books and Gtech were able to swiftly and efficiently react to their customers changing behaviours by using their customer data intelligently.
World of Books kept on top of what customers were interested in by leveraging social listening tools, product review data – as well as living the lockdown themselves!
This all helped inspire and inform what content their customers would be most interested in for their email campaigns – whether that be bakers, fitness fanatics or home schoolers,
In addition they also leveraged transactional data and recent on site browsing to target those specific customers who were browsing and purchasing from specific categories.
All of which enabled them to target their customers with dynamic personalised content within their subject lines and email creative best matching what they knew their customers would be most interested in.
Responding to consumer demand in this way resulted in World of Books seeing a 85.4% increase in engagement year on year, as well as a an overall revenue increase of 315% year on year.
Meanwhile, Gtech were looking to increase their email volume to meet the growing number of customers signing up to their newsletters. But with dramatic volume increases, can cause deliverability issues.
In order to help Gtech understand who they should be targeting, when and at what frequency, RedEye analysed Gtech’s historic engagement trends and developed a custom frequency based segmentation strategy.
Gtech used this data to develop a clear segmentation strategy which enabled them to react to this new type of customer behaviour they were experiencing.
They were able to send emails to the right people, at the right time and at the best frequency for that individual. As a result they achieved an increase in their most engaged contacts of 17%.
If If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us it’s that a ‘one-size fits all’ approach is not the way forward for ecommerce. Instead, brands should be listening to their customers and using data to drive better decision making.
In the midst of the pandemic World of Books and Gtech used highly personalised, targeted email campaigns to cut through the noise and reconnect with their customers – and this will continue to drive their success as they move through 2021 and beyond.
It is a tried and tested notion that the brands who take notice of customer behaviour and use data to drive better decisions will be the brands that succeed.