In ecommerce, a focus on your churn rates are incredibly important. If your churn rates are high, that’s a clear indication that your ecommerce business needs to do a deep dive into the customer experience and see where testing can be done. Usually, this issue is somewhere within marketing or customer support, so it’s best to start poking around the strategies there.
Recently, we chatted with Val Geisler, an expert in retention strategies at Fix My Churn and an email optimization whiz on the Ecomm Swipe File podcast. We talked to her about how to focus on improving churn rates through the Dinner Party Strategy, email optimization and general transparency around what your brand is doing.
So, let’s dive into it. For starters, what is the Dinner Party Strategy? Well, we’ll give you a quick rundown.
The Dinner Party Strategy
Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party. You’re excited for everyone to come over, and you want to make sure you have the best time possible, so you set the stage for it. You ensure you’re prepared, and that your guests are as well.
To start, you’ll make sure they know exactly how to find your home. Whether it’s the colour of your house, keeping the lights on or letting them know where to park, you want to make it as easy as possible. From there, you’d greet them at the door with a nice hello, take their coats and show them around. You want them to feel welcome.
From there, you may serve some appetizers, wine and other drinks ensuring that they’re comfortable in the environment whether they’ve been there or not. You want to be a good host. Then comes the main course, the dinner. This is where everyone sits down, at the same table or not, and eats what they came to eat, it’s the big moment.
Dinner parties don’t end there though. Dinner parties continue on with some drinks, dessert, conversation, games or anything else you may have had prepared. You want to make sure your guests are satisfied and have as much fun as they possibly can, so that they want to come back again.
This is exactly the same logic when looking at email strategies.
When it comes to email, you’re usually inviting people into your mailing list. Once you get them to say yes, they’ll join and they’re normally greeted with a welcome message just like you would at a dinner party. From there, you serve them some side dishes through sharing information and stories that are of value to them. Eventually when they are ready and when you are, the dinner is served in the form of conversion focused emails. It’s not finished there though, because in order to ensure a low churn rate, dessert also needs to be served. You want to keep that person interested in your brand, so you need to continue with the value-driven information.
Welcome email sequences & creating value
Within marketing, email optimization is a key area that needs to be well thought out and treated just like a dinner party. However, many brands choose to rush the courtship of the host and guest relationship which can cause churn rates to rise, meaning customers are not likely to return.
Let’s look right from the beginning when you’re running lead generation tactics and starting to build your email list. This is the invitation and you’re sharing who you are as a company, what you do and general information about your product.
When your strategy really starts gearing up, is when they’ve finally joined the party and you’re able to greet them. Oftentimes, brands will look at this stage as a one-off email that simply says “Welcome to the family!” After this, people will often get dropped right into the regular newsletter funnel.
A different approach often goes over much smoother.
Val told us that brands should start looking at this welcome stage as a full sequence as opposed to one offs. These newcomers want to get to know you, they’re strangers and don’t want to dive in right away, they want to slowly get to know you and learn about you before being shown what your best friends are seeing. If they’re slowly integrated into your newsletter, as opposed to immediately targeted with discount-focused promotions, it’s more likely that they’ll trust you and understand your product or service enough to actually make a purchase, and continue doing so.
At the end of the day, your customers want value to come out of these emails and we’re not just talking about discounts. Brands need to switch their mindset to properly shape that strategy and content to reflect this. What we tend to want to say is almost never what our customers want to hear. By putting yourself in the perspective of a customer though, you can think about the messages you want to get out there for your product or service. What would be of value to you if you didn’t know anything about your brand? How can you show those people that they’re not just a credit card number?
Many brands are nervous about recycling regular content, but Val made it clear to us that this is a great tactic to use in order to get that regular messaging across. If you have a particular message you want to get across, don’t be scared to share it on Twitter, Instagram, email and everywhere else.
That content you’re sharing for your brand isn’t getting to every single customer on those platforms each time. The algorithm on social channels won’t hit everyone, not everyone will open the emails, and if they do they might not even read it. So, it’s better to share these messages and recycle the content multiple times to ensure that your message is actually getting to as many people as possible.
The perfect example of why it’s so important to recycle content, especially when it comes to email marketing, is with open rates. If you look at your open rates, a good rate is about 60% and that's usually reflective of quite small email lists. That not only means that 40% didn’t open it, but it’s likely that the majority of the 60% didn’t read the email to completion. For this reason, recycling content and sending the same messaging out via email again (in a different format) is something that should be a part of every brand’s strategy.
You email’s design is a big factor
People are inundated with content constantly, all day, every day while they’re awake. Val shared with us something interesting. Did you know that someone needs to hear a message 27 times to properly absorb that information.
That’s a lot of times, especially with a cluttered marketing environment when it comes to email because there’s a lot of the same things.
The same sales.
The same subject lines.
The same layouts.
It gets repetitive and boring for the consumers receiving these messages. So, what are some small ways your brand can stand out? Make your own designs and try to personalize wherever and whenever you can.
If you’re with Shopify, the order tracker isn't customized at all until you do it yourself to make it look branded. This is one of the easier things to quickly change up so you stand out from other ecommerce brands. Val said to us that everyone should customize this so it fits your brand and gives people something more personal, which is why they go to small businesses in the first place. Consumers want an experience that is more evolved than what they get from massive companies, they want to know you, your brand and have a personal relationship and standing out from those emails is a great first step.
Oftentimes, marketers spend most of their time on desktop, thinking about how our emails and websites look and sometimes the mobile view gets ignored. This unfortunately isn’t the way we should be testing how our emails look considering the majority of recipients will be looking at your email through their mobile phone.
Now, if you think about the typical layout of an email for ecommerce brands, you’ll realize why this could be an issue looking at it on mobile. Most emails start with the company logo, this is followed by a huge header image and then an introduction to the email and its content. If there’s one thing all marketers know it’s that consumers get bored… FAST. So, next time you design an email, think about doing an A/B test.
When it comes to transactional emails this is also very important. If someone has just purchased something from you, do you really need your logo up top? They want to immediately see the information of their purchase and know shipping details. The logo and any other information is irrelevant to them at that time. What’s great is playing with your layout will help you stand out from the sea of emails that come in each day, letting people know you are personalizing and customizing in order to make their experience better.
You may not realize it, but you’re being creepy & robotic
All marketers have done this, because the sea of emails we all receive from large, successful companies and smaller ecommerce brands all do the same thing, so we assume it works. They use their data to try and convince people through a series of emails to purchase what’s left in their cart. Now, don’t read this the wrong way, emails are important but it’s all about the way you do it.
Let’s be real, they most likely didn’t forget to purchase that product, they didn’t close the window too early, they just didn’t want to purchase it at that moment. You know what, that’s okay.
So, usually when this happens brands will swiftly and almost immediately send an email to that customer saying “looks like you forgot something!” This unfortunately, is a bit creepy, considering it’s a reminder that you’ve been following them. Almost worse though, it makes people think they’re just a credit card number to your brand and that all that foreplay was meaningless.
The biggest thing to remember here is that you’re speaking to humans, and oftentimes with such a huge focus on data (which is still important) we get lost in that and focus on more mechanical email marketing tactics. This ends up making the brand sound robotic and the consumers feeling uncomfortable.
While chatting about this, Val gave us the perfect comparison that we can all relate to when we’re shopping in-store. Have you ever experienced entering a store and someone immediately asking you if you need help finding something? You say no, and then within just 5 minutes someone else is asking, then another person, and this continues over and over. This tends to sound robotic and makes you feel frustrated. Well, this happens with email too, and the emails you’re sending are those who work in store.
This also goes for discount focused emails. If you’re constantly sending out discount-driven emails, it looks robotic and doesn’t bring a diverse set of valuable information to your customers. It also makes them feel like you don’t want that small business style relationship with them, in their eyes, it looks like you just want their money which isn’t exactly mutually beneficial. Doing this then does the opposite of what you’re hoping for, it either brings in customers that will buy once and never again, or people who will get frustrated by the robotic nature of the email funnel and unsubscribe before buying. Just remember, it’s all about adding value to everything and if not, this can contribute to a higher churn rate.
Staying transparent about shipping & environmental impact
With the rise of ecommerce has also come a complicated relationship with the environment. Consumers love the convenience of getting something shipped to their door, but at what environmental cost?
When chatting about this issue, Val mentioned that the best thing ecommerce businesses can do is get ahead of their customer’s questions on it and what they might need. Before they even order, as part of those value-add content pieces your brand can share with them the impact of their shipments and what your brand is doing to offset that.
This is massive for building trust since it shows transparency in an area that a lot of ecommerce brands don’t really discuss. Is there an environmental fee you can charge your customers if they want something shipped out quicker? Could this fee get donated to an organization or the project your brand is doing to offset the carbon footprint? This may surprise you, when you’re honest and transparent, oftentimes people don’t mind paying a bit extra to support a cause.
Honesty & transparency
Let’s go a little more in depth about honesty and transparency, because it goes beyond just shipping and environmental impact. If you’ve received a batch of products and you’re getting some feedback from people saying it’s not what they expected, use that information and data to gain trust.
Val shared with us a great story about a company called Outdoor Voices where she often orders leggings. She ordered a new type of legging and took that risk, and when they arrived they were a bit snug on her despite the fact that she ordered the size that always fits. Within 24 hours of receiving her leggings, she got an email from Outdoor Voices saying that they’ve received feedback from people saying they’ve been fitting a bit snugger than others. They continued by explaining they were aware of the situation and that they completely understood if she wanted to exchange. The brand also said in the email that people have tried wearing them for a day or two and they’ve found they’ve stretched out making them very comfortable.
The great thing about this is that they preemptively and openly talk about the situation, which helps with gaining trust with customers and it gives the buyer a choice. They weren’t scared of reactions, it was just the reality of this product.
This goes back to The Dinner Party Strategy.
If someone comes over for a steak dinner and you serve something different, it’s not what they expected and they might be a bit disappointed by it. So, if you have decided to serve something else and you’re able to let your guests (or customers) know, you build that trust. Same goes for products and services.
They’ve ordered, it’s shipping… now what?
Once someone has ordered your product, the valuable content shouldn’t stop there. While your product is shipping, it’s a great opportunity to develop an email sequence that highlights the product they’ve purchased in different ways. Doing this creates excitement and anticipation while their product is on its way to them which helps decrease buyers' regret and can quickly turn that around.
In these emails, you can share with the customer different ways to use what they’ve ordered, along with reviews or user-generated imagery so they can see real people using it. You can also use this opportunity to teach them new things about what they’ve ordered and your brand. This could end up answering some questions they may have which decreases customer support tickets while they’re waiting on their order.
Email marketing is much more than many of us think. It’s a sea of content that people receive daily from countless companies, but at the end of the day each email needs to be built based on the mindset of the customer in order to avoid becoming robotic. This will help your brand stand out from the others as you optimize your email strategy, the design and general tone in emails.
At Gorgias, we work with companies to make the customer experience far more personal and customized which is what the modern consumer is searching for from small businesses. By working with Gorgias on this, it can help your brand get ahead of your customers and ensure that you stand out from the rest of the fish in the sea.