The Essential Ecommerce Campaign Playbook: 9 Campaigns for Growth

INTRODUCTION

As a marketer, you have a nearly endless number of marketing channels available to you — email, social media, paid ads, search, and more. But at the same time, your customers demand a personalized, consistent, and relevant experience as they interact with your brand across every channel and device.

Perfectly coordinating your marketing campaigns on every platform can feel intimidating — but it doesn’t have to be. The keys to success are simple: stop treating all of your customers the same, and start using customer behavior to inform when and how you communicate with them.

To help you get started, we identified nine key campaigns that every ecommerce marketer needs, providing tips and tricks for making them more effective and including some winning examples for reference.

So if you’re looking to step up your game and take your brand to the next level, here are the critical ecommerce campaigns you absolutely have to implement in 2019. 

1. WELCOME SERIES

2. CART ABANDONMENT

3. BROWSE ABANDONMENT

4. BIRTHDAY CAMPAIGN

5. LOYAL CUSTOMER CAMPAIGN

6. AT-RISK CUSTOMER CAMPAIGN

7. WINBACK CAMPAIGN

8. REPLENISHMENT CAMPAIGN

9. FEEDBACK CAMPAIGN

FOCUS ON CUSTOMER RETENTION
AND GROWTH FIRST

Before we get to the campaigns themselves, a reminder that every campaign you run has one goal in mind: to engage your buyers and increase their interactions with your brand. These campaigns should never be one-off. Instead, each campaign in a step in the journey to create a long-term relationship with your customer.

Why does that matter? Well, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep current customers. Yet, today ecommerce marketers and online retailers still invest nearly 80% of their digital marketing budgets into new customer acquisition

Investing in maximizing customer lifetime value is the fastest and most profitable path to revenue growth for any brand or retailer. Consider, for instance:

On average, only 20% of first-time buyers will make a second purchase. But if you’re able to get a customer to make that repeat purchase, 45% of repeat buyers make a third purchase, and 60% of those buyers make a fourth.

Overall revenue increases by approximately 10% for each 1% of shoppers who return for a subsequent purchase. This means that if online retailers retained 10% more of their existing customers, they would double their revenue.

The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% on average, while the probability of selling to a new shopper is only 5-20%.

On average, returning customers spend 67% more than first-time customers.

As you run these 9 powerful marketing campaigns for your brand, remember that you always want to cultivate and nurture that long-term relationship with your customers. It’s not only good for your customer experience — it’s good for your bottom line. 

1. WELCOME SERIES

A wise man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And the power of a first impression is one that shouldn’t be underestimated. 

When a new shopper provides you with an email address — regardless of whether or not they’ve made a purchase — it’s your job to use that email address to deliver the best possible experience to that person. 

Not only because the customer expects it, but because it’s in your best interest to impress them right away. The first and most foundational campaign that you must set up in 2019 is a welcome series.

Why is a welcome series important?

On average, just 2% of ecommerce website visitors are expected to make a purchase, but 5% will share their email address with your brand. 

The potential is huge: if you attract 100,000 visits to your website per month, that’s 5,000 new shoppers providing you with their information and asking to engage. Welcome campaigns are an effective way to jumpstart the customer relationship and set the tone for the entire customer journey. 

With the right message, you can turn more of that 5% into new customers by continually optimizing and improving your welcome message. 

What should I consider when building my campaign?

You’ve probably already spent a lot of time asking yourself, “How do I want customers to feel about my brand? What is our brand-buyer relationship going to be like?” 

If you haven’t thought about this yet, there’s no better time to start than now. The first few communications you have with your new customers are critical to establishing that relationship. Make sure your messages have the right tone, brand style, and visuals that mesh with your larger brand.

Map out a series of emails

Create the perfect flow of messages to welcome a new customer to your brand experience.

DAY 1 WELCOME EMAIL

DAY 2 SALE EMAIL

DAY 4 TOP SELLERS EMAIL

DAY 7 PERSONAL INCENTIVE EMAIL

Your first touchpoint should be an email welcoming the new customer to the relationship. Thank them for trusting you with their email address, acknowledge their interest in your products, and tell them a bit about what it’s like to be a customer of your brand. 

The earlier you can use information about your customers to personalize these intro messages, the better. If you know, for example, that this specific buyer browsed one line of products, share information about those products with them.

Follow up your welcome email with an email promoting a current sale. Your third email on day four should be an email featuring top sellers. On day seven, send your final email of the welcome series offering a personal incentive — perhaps a coupon code with a steeper discount than initially offered.

 

Here's one initial welcome email that we loved...

This email from The Honest Company was the first of a series of welcome emails that we received and was delivered with the subject line “Welcome to the Family!” Right off the bat, the brand set the tone for what to expect. The brand values of safe and organic products for your family are front and center in this email, setting the stage for all future messages. 

It’s also written like a personal letter from the company owners (and influencers) Jessica Alba and her partner, Christopher Gavigan. Then, the email smartly features categories of top products at the bottom to drive a click through to buy. Overall, it’s a simple, but powerful welcome email. 

Honest Company Welcome Email

2. CART ABANDONMENT

At this point, cart abandonment campaigns are ecommerce marketing 101. General wisdom is that if you haven’t implemented a basic cart abandonment campaign, you are losing huge amounts of money. Shockingly, we’ve seen that even some of the most reputable consumer brands are still failing here.

Cart abandonment campaigns can range from a simple email to the shopper after they end a session with an item in-cart, to a coordinated, cross-channel campaign over an extended period of time. Either way, your goal is to nudge the shopper into buying the products they showed interest in but abandoned. 

Regardless of whether or not the campaign is successful, the best marketers know how to leverage what they learn about the shopper’s behavior during an interrupted purchase to better market to them in the future.

Why are cart abandonment campaigns important?

Most marketers know that three in every four abandoned carts are recoverable with proper campaign execution. Stop for a minute to think about how much extra revenue that would mean for your business. Need we say more?

What should I consider when building my campaign?

Start by sending a simple email an hour after the shopper adds an item to their cart, but does not purchase the item. Timing is critical here. By the time a few hours have passed, most shoppers have either moved on or purchased a similar item from another seller.

At a minimum, the email should feature the specific items left in their cart. Try including other, similar items from the same category, as well, to expand the net.

PRO TIP: Experienced marketers know that while a simple email is a good baseline, you can increase your conversion rates by an average of 30% by coordinating your campaign across channels.

Quite simply, not all prospects engage with emails. By extending the campaign to search, social, web, or mobile, you significantly increase the reach of the campaign, and ultimately, increase the change the shopper returns to buy.

The quickest way to get started with cross-channel coordination is to sync a dynamic abandoned cart customer segment to Facebook and Google, triggering ads with a similar message to your cart abandonment email.

Here's an approach to cart abandonment that we loved...

This cart abandonment email is one of the best examples of customer-centricity we’ve seen. After we abandoned two items in a shopping cart, ThinkGeek reached out with an amusing campaign that referenced those specific items (along with a Lord of the Rings joke). The email also offered a personalized discount code we could use at checkout to complete our purchase.

The brand additionally recommended several other items we might like, in case we weren’t interested in our original choices. By doing this, they recognized several of the many problems a customer might have that would lead to an abandoned cart and offered solutions for each one.

3. BROWSE ABANDONMENT

Browse abandonment, sometimes called product detail page (PDP) abandonment, is like cart abandonment taken to the next level. Quite simply, it’s using what you know about the product pages or categories a shopper browsed to deliver a targeted and personalized campaign. So while the shopper didn’t go as far as to add anything to their shopping cart, they did show interest in a certain product or category and you can use that data to your advantage.

Why are browse abandonment campaigns important?

Customers expect brands to communicate in a way that is contextually relevant to them on an individual level. When brands don’t do this, they can sabotage a potentially high-value relationship right out of the gate, before it’s even begun. By delivering content that is relevant to the shopper by referencing their product/category browsing behavior, marketers can increase open rates, click-through rates, and overall revenue by well over 20%.

What should I consider when building my campaigns?

Not unlike a cart abandonment campaign, the timing of browse abandonment campaigns is key. Start by sending an email within two hours of the shopper visiting your website and browsing a product category. However, the difference between cart abandonment and browse abandonment is important — one indicates intent while the other indicates interest, and the shopper should be treated accordingly.

Instead of featuring a single item that the shopper viewed, try showcasing a product category that they spent the most time browsing. Because they were not compelled enough to make a purchase while shopping, your communication should address that. We typically find that one of a few tactics works here, depending on the individual shopper’s friction point:

Screen Shot 2019-06-06 at 10.31.35 AM

To take your browse abandonment campaigns to the next level, try extending them across channels. As we’ve mentioned before, cross-channel campaign coordination can increase your conversion rates by another 30% on average.

Don’t stop with one touch, either. In the case that the shopper just wasn’t ready to buy, it may take weeks before they are ready. Continue to educate the shopper on the products of interest and incentivize them with related sales and discounts.

Here's an approach to browse abandonment that we loved...

With the subject line “We did a little personal shopping…”, this email made it feel like someone at Uncommon Goods had taken the time to carefully curate a list of products for us. The email itself recommended a wide range of products, with a no pressure CTA inviting us to check them out.

All of the products were relevant to the original item we’d browsed, and it was clear that the brand took care to personalize our shopping experience going forward.

4. BIRTHDAY CAMPAIGN

What better way to demonstrate customer-centricity than wishing your customers a happy birthday?

Implementing a birthday campaign is an easy way to foster a more personal relationship with your customers. It can be as simple as sending your customer a special message on their birthday or customer anniversary. You can even go as far as delivering a special “Birthday Discount” or some other offer on that day.

We’ll focus on birthdays for the purposes of this example: not only do they tend to be the most personal, they’re a time when others are celebrating along with your customer.

Why are birthday campaigns important?

Beyond the intangibles of strengthening your customer relationships, research found that birthday campaigns result in 481% higher transaction rates, 382% more revenue, and 179% higher unique click through rates than standard promotional email campaigns. We’ll just leave those numbers right there.

What should I consider when building my campaigns?

In order to create an effective birthday campaign, you should:

Ask for birthdays every time a new customer buys for the first time or registers an account with your brand.

Send an email campaign to current customers offering a discount or coupon if they
provide their birth month and day.

Once you know your customer’s birthday, send them a special message on or leading up to their birthday. As a baseline, you can send the customer a special birthday sale coupon code.

The goal is to make the customer feel special, so if you can personalize the code in some way, do it. The best marketers will deliver a message that includes items that the customer has browsed in the past or saved to their cart. Additionally, use tactics like social proof in your emails. For example, a you can personalize a birthday message to include a callout like “200 similar customers have also purchased product X, Y, and Z.” Showing a customer proof that others are actively purchasing certain items, can psychologically trigger a purchase.

Here's a birthday campaign that we loved...

This great birthday email from Rue La La is a perfect example of a sale promotion for a customer’s birthday. It’s colorful, celebratory, and offers a great discount on top products. Plus, we love the copy: “Celebrate tonight, carpe diem tomorrow.” What else do you want? 

Rue La La Birthday Email

5. LOYAL CUSTOMER CAMPAIGN

Congratulations, you’ve got loyal customers! 

Now what? Customers know when they’re important to a brand, but they also won’t stay loyal if they didn’t love the experience of shopping with you. It’s a two-way street — your customers may feel like they need you, but they know as well that you need them too.

Unfortunately, many brands tend to get lazy and take their loyal customers for granted. Because happy customers are relatively low-maintenance and unlikely to churn, it’s all too easy to forget about them. And without the right attention, a previously loyal customer may stop shopping with your brand because they feel under-appreciated.

To be clear, we’re not talking about loyalty programs, but rather appreciation campaigns to your existing loyal customers aimed at maintaining the health of your relationship with them. This can mean suggesting a new product they’ll love, offering a loyalty discount to thank them for their business, or even just delivering a message to say thank you.

Why are loyal customer campaigns important?

Just like any relationship, the customer relationship needs nurturing. Does your significant other suddenly stop wanting the occasional bouquet of flowers or spontaneous foot rub just because you’ve been together for so long? Actually, that sounds like a whole different article.

The bottom line is that a “totally satisfied customer” spends 2.6x as much as a “somewhat satisfied customer,” so you should do everything you can to make your loyal customers feel truly special — and totally satisfied.

What should I consider when building a loyalty campaign?

The first step is to segment your customers into lifecycle stages. Having surveyed top performing ecommerce businesses to develop Zaius lifecycle automation, we recommend four stages at a minimum:

No purchase

One purchase

Repeat purchase (two purchases)

Loyal customers (three or more purchases)

Once you’ve created a dynamic segment of your loyal customers, it’s time to deliver your campaign. Loyal customers want to feel special. Try a few of these ideas:

Invite them to an exclusive sale on X date for loyal customers only

Send them a complimentary item as a thank you

Invite them to an exclusive in-person event where they can preview new products or try out samples 

 Analyze the average number of days between subsequent purchases for loyal customers. Offer an incentive if they buyer sooner than the typical time it takes to make an incremental purchase — free shipping, a coupon, discount, gift with purchase, etc.

 Invite them to test out new products and give feedback as a loyal, trusted customer

Send real-time campaigns triggered by multiple levels of engagement. For example: customers who have had 3 separate browsing sessions on consecutive days with no purchase — they have high intent to purchase, so target them with a specific campaign to get them to finish the shopping process

 Give them early access to new product lines before anyone else

The best marketers will automate this campaign to reach each new loyal customer as soon as they become loyal. For example, two days after shopper X makes her third purchase, send her a code to receive a complimentary item and thank her for being such a wonderful customer. As always, be sure to coordinate the campaign across channels to maximize reach of the campaign.

Here's a loyalty campaign that we loved...

We love this targeted ad from Away, sharing an exclusive new product line with loyal customers. It’s a limited-run version of their incredibly popular carry-on suitcase — and it’s Disney themed! For a certain buyer, this exclusive access is incredibly compelling and makes them happy to be a loyal customer. 

away suitcase minions targeted ad

6. AT-RISK CUSTOMER CAMPAIGN

On the opposite side of your loyal customers are your at-risk customers. Re-engaging these customers before you lose them is a no-brainer for you as a marketer. But many brands settle for sending the same email campaigns to every existing customer, regardless of how long it’s been since they’ve interacted with your brand on any channel.

The good news about at-risk customers is that they’re still customers. You know something about them — what they like and dislike — and can use what you know to save the relationship.

Ask yourself: What compelled them to purchase the first time? What product category did they purchase from? What other products have they browsed since? When planning your at-risk customer campaigns, be sure to use as much customer data as possible to ensure an effective campaign that is personalized to each individual buyer.

Why are at-risk customer campaigns important?

Smart marketers already know the fastest, most profitable path to revenue growth is through your existing customers.

If brands retain 10% more of their existing customers, they would double their revenue. Here’s another way of looking at it: reducing your customer defection rate by 5% can increase your profitability by 25% to 125%, according to Harvard Business Review. It’s simple math: the probability of selling to an existing customer 60-70% on average, while the probability of selling to a new shopper is only 5-20%.

And as we talked about before, acquiring new customers, while necessary, is also more expensive! Invest in saving your existing customers first, before you start worrying about new customer acquisition.

What should I consider when building at-risk campaigns?

At-risk campaigns rely on building out a reliable and dynamic segment of your at-risk buyers. To do that, you have to understand what behaviors indicate a buyer is truly at-risk. That means you need to unify all of your customer data across channels

You shouldn’t consider a buyer at-risk if they’re just not opening your emails, for example. Your buyers may be engaging with your brand on Instagram or visiting your website, even if they ignore your emails. With all of your customer data in one place, you know if a buyer is truly at-risk and unengaged.  

 

PRO TIP: Customers in this segment have not engaged with your brand in a specific number of days. This number should be based on your brand’s specific sales cycle, and clearly indicate that the buyer is at-risk of not returning to buy again. The key is to intervene before they’re completely unengaged.

Once you have a segment that is clearly made up of at-risk buyers, you can come up with creative ideas to catch their attention — whether that’s an email, a social ad, or a push notification.

Here's an at-risk campaign that we loved...

This email from Blue Apron is a great example of a time-sensitive offer that encourages instant engagement with an unengaged buyer before they’re gone. If someone tried the service in the past but was unsure, this is another opportunity to prove to the customer that Blue Apron is fantastic. The 50% off offer is simple, compelling, and feels immediate for an at-risk buyer. 

Blue Apron At Risk Campaign

7. WINBACK CUSTOMER CAMPAIGN

Winback campaigns are not unlike at-risk customer campaigns, except that these customers are completely cold. Maybe it’s been a year or more since they last interacted with your brand at all. While these customers are not as likely to make a purchase as an existing customer, reaching out to them still has its advantages.

You know that this segment of buyers liked your brand enough to make a purchase at least once, and you have insight into the products they purchased during their last visit — however long ago it was. The most important thing to remember with winback campaigns is that offering your customers a personalized touch improves their perception of your brand and more effectively drives repeat purchases. Done right, a winback campaign can potentially prevent a last visit from being a final visit.

Why are winback customer campaigns important?

A study conducted on 33 brands in the Internet Retailer Top 100 that were actively running winback campaigns showed that those emails had a 12% open rate. This is a decent rate  given the lack of any recent activity. But more importantly, 45% of recipients who received a winback campaign read a subsequent message. And of that group, just 24% had read the first winback message. Seventy-five percent of re engaged subscribers had read a message within 89 days, and the other 25% were still opening messages up to 300 days after receiving the first win-back campaign.

In short, winback campaigns work — no matter how “dead” the customer relationship may seem on the surface.

What should I consider when building my campaigns?

Winback campaigns can learn a lot from at-risk customer campaigns. It shows that what you’ve been doing has not engaged the customer in any meaningful way, but for much longer. At this point, your relationship with them is almost non-existent.

PRO TIP: Customers in this segment have gone over a year without engaging with your brand. So in many ways, they could be treated like you would an entirely new customer. The good news is that you have data on your side. Like at-risk buyers, you probably know what they bought and when, which product categories they browsed, and you may even know when their birthday is.

Use this information to your advantage and create a campaign that’s hyper-personalized. Ideally, your at-risk customer campaigns will have worked and very few of your customers will get to the point where they have to be “won back.” If you don’t yet have an At-Risk Customer campaign in place, we recommend you prioritize it over a winback campaign. After all, the more customers you save before you lose them, the fewer you’ll have to worry about winning back.

Here's a winback campaign that we loved...

This email from makeup brand Benefit is not only eye-catching and silly, it’s also effective. With the theme of “texts from last night”, it’s sure to grab the buyer’s attention and make them consider browsing a few more products. Plus, it offers free shipping to the customer who decides to buy again. When it comes to winback campaigns, try whatever works!

8. REPLENISHMENT CAMPAIGN

As a B2C marketer, you should always try to accomplish two goals: helping your customers and encouraging the next sale. Replenishment campaigns seamlessly combine both by ensuring your customers never run out of their most frequently used and loved products.

Why are replenishment campaigns so important?

Replenishment campaigns are a great way to remind your customers to restock the items they use the most. Often, these are Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs) that they need to replace when they run out, like makeup, laundry detergent, coffee, or toilet paper.

Every time someone runs out of one of these products, they have three choices — buy the same product from the same retailer, buy the same product from a new retailer, or buy a new product completely. Replenishment campaigns make it easy for the customer to restock before they run out of the products they use consistently. This reduces the possibility of your customer ordering the product from a different retailer.

Not only will this improve their experience as a customer, but it will also increase their LTV. Additionally, if the customer decides they want to try a different product altogether, you can use the opportunity to recommend alternative products that they may enjoy.

What should I consider when building my campaign?

Like abandoned cart emails, timing is everything when it comes to replenishment campaigns. You want to make sure that your customers are receiving this email before they run out of the product, or you risk them looking elsewhere.

In order to decide when to trigger a replenishment email, you need to understand your customers’ typical purchase behavior and the average time it takes to finish using your products. Usually, calculating the average time between purchases of a particular product will give you the most accurate idea of when to send.

PRO TIP: It’s best to play it safe than sorry and send the replenishment email on the early side of so it arrives before the product runs out. However, you want to try to be as accurate as possible so that the notification is relevant and convenient.

You also want to make it as easy as possible for the customer to reorder directly from the email. Including a clickable image of the product or CTA that takes the customer right to the product detail page will help guide them towards their next purchase.

Here's an example of a replenishment campaign we loved...

Sephora doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to their replenishment campaigns. Since most of their products such as face masks, foundation, and mascara only last for a certain amount of time, Sephora sends out an email just before your makeup is likely to run out.

The email reminds you to “Restock Your Stash” with the product name, a picture of the item, and a CTA taking you straight to the product detail page. In case you’re looking for alternatives, Sephora also uses dynamic content to include products in the same category from other brands. Even customers that may want to try something new will likely still order through the retailer rather than going elsewhere.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 11.32.42 AM

9. FEEDBACK CAMPAIGN

If you’re not directly asking your buyers for feedback, you’re missing out on critical information about your customers. Whether they’re loyal customers, or they’ve officially stopped buying from you, you can still ask for feedback and learn from it. Even more importantly, you can automate these campaigns to make it easy to collect this data about your buyers. 

Why are feedback campaigns so important?

You should be constantly looking to improve your ecommerce brand — from the marketing, to the customer service, to the products you offer. The best way to find out where you’re excelling and where you’re falling short is simply to talk to your buyers and ask them questions. What do they love? What do they hate? What would they like to see you change? 

All of this information is vital and can really inform how you approach your ecommerce marketing strategy. The more information you gather about the buyers, the better you can serve their needs. And the easiest way to collect this data is through feedback campaigns.

What should I consider when building my campaign?

These campaigns are a perfect candidate for automation. There are specific benchmarks in the customer lifecycle where asking for feedback makes sense — after the first purchase, after becoming a loyal customer, if a buyer is at-risk. At each of these lifecycle phases, you can ask different questions from your buyers and learn different information.

For new buyers, for example, you can learn about how they discovered your brand and whether your customer acquisition strategy is working well. For loyal customers, you can find out what they most like about your brand and what convinces them to buy more. For at-risk customers, you can learn what customers are unhappy with and what you need to improve.

Customer feedback is a vital part of your marketing process, and should always inform how you approach ecommerce marketing. By setting up automated feedback campaigns, you’ll never forget this important step and you’ll constantly collect valuable information.

Here's an example of a feedback campaign we loved...

This email from Anthropologie is incredibly effective, and not just because of the great design. The message in this email emphasizes that they really care about what their buyers think and are constantly looking to improve. Even better, they offer a coupon code to any buyer that takes the time to fill out the survey. With an offer like this, you’re almost guaranteed to get a high number of responses to your survey and learn a ton
about your buyers.

Screen Shot 2019-06-06 at 11.17.35 AM

TAKEAWAYS


The campaigns in this report are foundation to any strong ecommerce marketing program, but settling for basic versions is only incrementally better than not running the campaigns at all. The real opportunity in for marketers today is driving repeat purchases and maximizing customer lifetime value through customer-centric marketing.

Remember, the keys to success are simple: stop treating all of your customers the same, and start using customer behavior to inform your communications with them. This means understanding that email alone is not enough because not all customers respond to email. It means engaging with your customers in real-time, when they’re engaging with you. It means meeting your customers’ expectations of a consistent, personalized experience with your brand across all channels and devices.