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Grading Top Retailers' Digital Marketing

Every marketer’s goal should be to understand what each customer wants at a granular level, and then create an experience that prioritizes those unique preferences. But despite claiming to be customer-first, many top brands are still missing key opportunities to source behavioral insights and engage with their customers in contextually-relevant ways. Clearly, the question of how customers are responding to various campaigns (or to a lack of a certain message that might be the difference between a purchase and an abandoned cart) still remains.

At Zaius, we took this question into our own hands with a research project aimed at collecting brand information from a customer standpoint. Internally dubbed “Project E,” the project spanned roughly 3 weeks and was aimed at identifying any “holes” in the marketing strategies of six popular brands. In order to most authentically learn about each retailer’s strengths and weaknesses, we posed as customers and experienced the lifecycle ourselves from start to finish. In addition to the overall customer experience, we were seeking to understand how each brand handled:

  • Cart abandonment
  • Browse abandonment
  • Unifying mobile and web experiences
  • Content of communications
  • Campaign/communications frequency
  • Driving engagement and repeat purchases

We created customer accounts with each of the six retailers, and put the following timeline in place to ensure we could gain insight at every checkpoint. We also documented all communications over the course of the project, before and after each new deliberate action and during moments of inactivity.

Our timeline was as follows:

Day 1: We supplied an email address to each brand, then visited each retailer’s website and clicked-through a product to demonstrate interest and to observe how each brand handled browse abandonment.
Day 7: We switched from web to mobile, then browsed a new item in a different category from the previous browsing session. We placed the item in a cart, then abandoned the purchase.
Day 14: We documented all post abandoned-cart communications across email, Facebook, and mobile – including seeing how long each brand allowed the item to remain in the cart.
Day 21: Finally, we made a purchase from a third unique category via web, then documented post-purchase communications to see which brands were actively driving repeat purchases.

After making note of all our interactions with each brand at every touchpoint in the purchasing cycle, we learned that many so-called “rookie mistakes” are still being made by top brands, and are harmful to the budding brand-user relationships that get started with those initial clicks, opens, and browsing sessions. Marketers need to understand that a brand doesn’t even need to actively make a mistake – customers will walk away if a brand isn’t doing enough to meet their needs as they come up.

In particular, the biggest pain points we noticed were regarding:

  • Relevance of content
  • Suboptimal communications frequency
  • Disconnected cross-device experiences
  • Attribution between web and mobile
  • Response to browse abandonment

We’ve seen first-hand how these retailers stand to benefit from optimizing their current marketing strategies, and how seemingly small changes can have a huge impact on the overall customer experience. Stay tuned for our first of six posts about each individual retailer’s strengths and weaknesses! (And to learn more about how to conduct more effective attribution and bring Zaius to your marketing today, visit our website or reach out to us directly at or at 877-658-2570.)

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