Marketing techniques that worked in the past may be far less successful in this emerging era of mobile devices, personalization, and social media.
What follows are five suggestions for potentially potent marketing tactics for the coming year. These are not wholly new techniques, but rather ones that could grow in importance and effectiveness in 2012.
Responsys, a marketing software provider, believes that text messaging — called SMS by the more technically inclined — will be an important marketing vehicle in 2012. Specifically, Responsys expects companies to use SMS marketing to uncover shopper preferences.
For example, a business might send a text to its SMS list offering a $5 gift card in exchange for answering a question like “What’s your favorite thing to do in the kitchen?” When the SMS subscriber texts back, “bake,” marketers will know to send that customer baking-related offers, Responsys explained.
SMS marketing will also be important for “flash” offers that give shoppers deep discounts within a limited time frame. This is especially effective for multi-channel merchants.
Mobile Optimized Merchandising
There are more than 90 million smartphone users and 24 million tablet users in the United States, according to shopping personalization firm RichRelevance. The company, which works with many large online retailers, believes mobile commerce will grow significantly in 2012, continuing its upward climb.
“U.S. online retail dollars attributable to mobile devices has doubled from 1.87 percent in April 2011 to 3.74 percent in December 2011,” RichRelevance reported in a published statement.
While many online retailers have already “optimized” their sites for mobile devices, at least some of these mobile offerings lack the on-site merchandising common on full-version websites.
In 2012, smart marketers will work to better integrate up-selling, cross-selling, and similar online merchandising into the smartphone-friendly versions of their sites.
Subscriptions on the Rise
In 2012, online retailers should seek to sell subscription services when and where it makes sense. And these services need not be limited to magazines or the like, but could include just about any product one could imagine.
Consider three online retailers that are using subscription models to sell right now.
Quarterly.co lets shoppers subscribe to receive physical items selected by an influential and tasteful contributor. Specifically, a shopper could pay $25 a quarter to have Mike Monteiro, co-founder of Mule Design, choose an item for them. Likewise for $25 per quarter, a shopper could get an item and several stories written by children from the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, which is part of a not-for-profit tutoring and writing workshop center in New York.
Essentially, Quarterly.co has customers paying $100 per year for whatever the company sends.
Manpacks lets men subscribe to underwear, socks, shirts, and shaving kits. These seemingly ordinary products arrive at regularly scheduled intervals for a prearranged price. This subscription model means that Manpacks can better forecast revenues, expect recurring sales, and better manage inventory, since it has a very good idea how much it will be selling of each product each month.
PetFlow could be the most amazing example of a subscription ecommerce service. The company sells pet food subscriptions and offers free shipping on many orders. How PetFlow has managed to mitigate the high cost of sending 35-pound-bags of Iams dry dog food via FedEx is amazing — if not mysterious. But nonetheless, it is managing to get consumers to subscribe.
Triggered or event-driven emails were one of the more successful marketing tactics in 2011, according to a new survey from MarketingSherpa, and this technique should continue to be an important sales driver in 2012.
Triggered emails are sent in response to some customer behavior or interaction. As an example, some marketers use triggered emails as a remarketing tactic — we explained it in our “Remarketing 101” series. When a known user abandons a shopping cart, an automatic email may be sent offering free shipping or some other incentive.
Similarly, a week after a shopper has made a purchase, an email could be triggered offering that customer $5 off on a new purchase in exchange for posting a review of the product already bought.
MarketingSherpa also discussed specific examples of triggered email success, pointing to the marketing team at Roku, a maker of video-streaming devices. The Roku team has set up an automatic email that is sent to every new customer inviting them to refer Roku to friends and family members in exchange for rewards like discounts or free services.
The triggered email has generated 75 percent of the leads for the referral program.
Video content has been on lists of hot or important marketing tactics for at least the last three years — see “4 Ways Video Can Drive Traffic and Conversions,” my recent article on that topic — but the media has still not reached its full potential for ecommerce marketing.
On December 15, comScore, the Internet trend-tracking firm, reported that some 183 million American Internet users had collectively viewed more than 40 billion videos in the month of November 2011. The average Internet user in the U.S. watched more than 20 hours of web video for the month. Consumers are clearly comfortable with videos online and favorably disposed to watching them.
Video — both promoting products and offering entertainment — makes good content, potentially attracting new customers. It gives shoppers more, and often better, product information. When used regularly to entertain and engage, it can build relationships, and video is very easy to share on Facebook or Google+.
Expect marketing to evolve a bit in 2012. New social media sites and services could arise. More mobile devices will enter the market. And there will continue to be competitive pressure from practically every direction, but ideas and tactics like those mentioned here may help you improve your marketing in spite of the rapid changes.