The holiday season is here – a time for free shipping and 20% off everything!
At least that’s what a bulk of the major retailers out there tend to focus on this time of year. For many of us – regardless of the holiday(s) we each celebrate – the focus of this holiday season is on family and friends, on creating memories and sharing traditions, on expressing gratitude and love. It is a season of goodwill and giving.
As a business, are you focusing on the steep rise in sales you can expect over the next two months or on the emotional aspects that impact so many this time of year? What do you think your customers are focusing on? Are the two one in the same?
These are questions that we need to ask ourselves as marketers, particularly in the medium of email marketing. With the barrage of emails that your customers are already receiving, how can you differentiate your email campaigns from all the competition – both in your industry and out? The following suggestions should help you start thinking of ways to make your email marketing efforts be more meaningful – and more successful – this holiday season.
1. Beware of Overkill
Over the last week, I have received at least one email each day from a major toy retailer. I expect that average to increase significantly over the coming weeks. When I initially signed up on the retailer’s mailing list, I read each email. Now, however, I honestly can’t remember the last time I opened an email from this retailer; if they don’t automatically filter to my junk mail, these emails are sent to my trash before I open anything I actually want to open and read.
This is classic email fatigue. When consumers receive emails with irrelevant content or too many emails in quick succession, they develop email fatigue. During the holidays, many retailers think that sending emails more frequently is a good thing; it keeps customers aware of sales, contests and other events. But consider that every other business is also amping up the number of emails they send, and eventually consumers just stop reading them. Fewer, highly targeted emails are more likely to give you the successful results you’re looking for than emailing every update to your entire distribution list.
2. “When” Matters
Are you planning to send out an email campaign on Cyber Monday (the first Monday after American Thanksgiving)? Several reports have estimated that consumers spent well over $1 Billion online on Cyber Monday in 2010. With such augmented consumer spending, it comes as no surprise that email marketing efforts increase significantly that one day each year. So perhaps it is a day you should avoid. Consider sending out any Cyber Monday promotions in advance to avoid getting lost in the glut of emails your customer will receive the day of.
Also, if you’re planning on sending out a holiday greeting to your customers (if not, you should), avoid sending it out on the actual holiday. Most of your customers won’t check their email inboxes on major holidays, increasing the odds of your greeting being read days after the holiday, if it gets read at all.
3. Go for the Open
The subject line is one of the most important aspects of your email marketing campaigns – in fact, it is the one single factor that most often determines whether or not your email gets opened. When email inboxes are full of ads and offers from countless businesses, you need to ensure your email’s stand out. A good subject line is the best way to catch your customer’s eye. Use personalization and humor. Appeal to your customers’ emotions. Brainstorming as a team is one of the best ways to develop solid subject lines, so don’t be afraid to run them past your coworkers. Use small A/B test groups from your database to see what works best. And be sure to use catchy header text to ensure your customers want to keep reading the email once it’s been opened.
4. Get Social
Remember all those “overkill” emails you’re not sending anymore? All that content is still vital to your holiday marketing; it just takes on a different form. Research reports are indicating that in the last year, social networks have surpassed search engines as the most visited batch of websites. Instead of creating new emails for each new promotion or event update, get social. Not only are social media sites like Facebook and Twitter great ways to reach large groups of customers, those posts can be shared and re-tweeted, increasing your visibility in ways that emails can never do.
Social platforms are also great ways to encourage involvement from your customers. An auto dealership in Texas that we work with is sending out an email campaign encouraging its loyalty club members to post their favorite cookie recipe on the dealership’s Facebook page. The members will not only receive loyalty club points, but this dealership will assemble each recipe into a cookbook that members will be able to download after the submission period closes. This is just one great example of using social media to engage your customers – and it’s something this dealership’s customers will not soon forget.
5. Don’t Sell
If every other retailer is offering free shipping and 20% off coupons, then you need to go against the flow. Find ways to differentiate your business from all the others out there competing for your customers’ attention – and purchases. Offer more than simple discounts and savings. The more unique your emails are, the more they’ll distinguish your business and the more likely they are to be shared with others.
We encourage our clients each year to significantly downplay sales and promotions this time of year, and we’re not the only ones. Constant Contact managing editor Martin Lieberman says, “Everyone is selling at holiday time. The more you can NOT sell, the more it will help you stand out from your competition. Shopping tips, gift-giving advice and entertaining content” are perfect examples of email content you can use to help differentiate your business from others. Many of our clients’ members wait anxiously for the email distributed right before Thanksgiving; these campaigns receive some of the highest open rates and best positive customer feedback. What are they sending? A recipe.
6. Be Meaningful
The holiday season is packed with emotion for many of your customers. Are you appealing to that emotion with your email campaigns? Express your thanks to your customers for their business and support during the past year. Share with your customers what you hope to accomplish in coming new year. Actively participate in local charities. Start your own annual food and toy drive. Most importantly, don’t ignore the significance that this season has to so many of your customers. Make your marketing efforts meaningful – and memorable. Give them a reason to share your business with everyone else they know.
Representing more than 1.7 billion consumers worldwide, of which 77 million are in the US, the so-called ‘Millennial’ generation (aka. ‘Generation Y’) is presenting marketers with some new challenges and changes as it comes of age and takes the reins of the global consumer economy, according to a study by Aimia (formerly Groupe Aeroplan).
To compare the attitudes and behaviors of Millennials (born between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s) with older consumers, Aimia commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct an online study of more than 6,000 consumers in Canada, the UK and the US. The study – recently released in the United States as “Born This Way: The US Millennial Loyalty Survey” – concluded that Millennial consumers will certainly change the way companies and brands build sustainable customer loyalty.
“The US Millennial generation is bigger than the Baby Boomer generation, and is three times the size of Generation X,” explained Rick Ferguson, vice president of knowledge development for Aimia. “With Baby Boomers retiring, it’s critically important for marketers to understand how Millennial attitudes toward technology, data privacy and rewards will change the way brands build strong, profitable relationships with their best customers.”
Among the high-level findings are these important insights:
Over three-quarters (77%) of US Millennial consumers claim participation in loyalty and reward programs, compared to four in five (82%) non-Millennials consumers.
Over three-quarters (78%) of US Millennials are more likely to choose a brand that offers a loyalty or reward program over a brand that doesn’t offer one.
In unprompted responses, US Millennials rate loyalty rewards as the top incentive they look for in exchange for sharing personal information with marketers.
Nearly half of US Millennials (44%) are willing to promote products or brands through social media in exchange for rewards.
US Millennials are skeptical of the value of location-based marketing offers delivered via smart phone, with only one in ten (13%) claiming to have responded to such an offer.
Using a mobile device as a substitute for carrying a plastic loyalty card is the top requested mobile payment application for Millennials, (26% express interest); meanwhile, only one in ten (13%) express interest in using a mobile device as a credit or debit card.
US Millennials are significantly less concerned than non-Millennials with data privacy and security overall. Of all named marketing channels in the survey, loyalty and reward programs are perceived as the most privacy-friendly by Millennials: only 14% of Millennial loyalty program members are concerned about sharing personal information with loyalty programs.
Nearly half of US Millennials (47%) agree that they are more likely to share personal details with a brand that offers loyalty and reward incentives.
“Millennials are even more willing to participate in loyalty and reward programs than their parents, but they expect reward programs to be free, easy and fast,” continued Ferguson. “This generation also relies heavily on outside information to make purchase decisions—information that is often out of the realm of control for marketers. The winners in building sustainable brand loyalty with Millennials will be those who break through the information overload to deliver value at the level of the individual customer.”
The Aimia report on Millennial Loyalty, “Born This Way: The US Millennial Loyalty Survey,” is available by visiting aimia.com.
Sources: Aimia; Groupe Aeroplan Inc.
When a dealership offers a prepaid maintenance program (PPM) to its customers, what does the store hope to get in return? Customer affinity is one thing, but there are other benefits to this bottom line-driving F&I product.
Not only does a PPM plan deliver affinity, it provides dealers with profitable affinity. And experience shows that customers who use a dealer’s repair facilities are 17 times more likely to purchase their next vehicle from that dealer. As great as that is, the true long-term benefit is that PPM-plan customers frequently purchase additional customer-pay retail parts and labor services that boost repair order profitability.
To capture that opportunity, dealerships need to commit themselves to delivering a safety-and-reliability inspection to every vehicle owner. Doing so helps verify the needs that brought the vehicle into the shop. It also allows technicians to identify other legitimate maintenance and repair needs beyond those covered by the customer’s PPM plan.
Boosting a PPM repair order by upselling an additional $150 to $350 of retail customer-pay business will add serious money to the bottom line. When a PPM plan is built into used-vehicle prices, a dealer can bump after-sale service from about 15 percent to upwards of 50 percent.
A dealer who plugs a basic three-product PPM plan into every one of the 600 used units he or she sells each year can expect to generate more than $1.3 million in total incremental service revenue. This return is based on a $682 retail upsell per customer per service visit over the two-year plan term, even after factoring in a 55 percent utilization rate and plan costs.
PPMs Convert to More RO Dollars
Studies of current customers purchasing a PPM program reveal a remarkable statistic: While current industry stats indicate that roughly one in five customers return to the dealership for service, customers who opt for a PPM plan are visiting their servicing dealers at a rate of 72 percent.
Additionally, plan holders that return to the dealership to redeem their plan benefits purchase incremental retail service about 90 percent of the time. In addition to the increased visit frequency, those plan holders are spending an average of $128 per visit, which includes upsell products and services.
A dealer who writes 1,500 repair orders per month can easily sell 150 to 200 maintenance policies by simply asking customers visiting the service department. In the F&I office, it takes a 500- to 600-unit store to generate the same 200 maintenance policies.
Given these upsell profit opportunities, it’s difficult to fathom why some dealers have had disappointing experiences with PPM programs. Many have said that customers simply won’t buy these plans. But upon closer inspection, it becomes clear why customers wouldn’t be interested: the plans were loaded with services of low value to the customer yet priced quite profitably for the dealership. This is unfortunate, as the nature of these low-value plans – and dealers’ inability to sell the plans – result in lost service business for the dealer.
Newer, redesigned PPM programs help to eliminate those problems by offering a wider range of products and services. These programs – usually administered and managed to offer what is considered valuable to the dealership’s customers and market – seem to really work for both the consumer and dealer.
Next-Gen PPM Plans
Today’s PPM plans also are software-driven, handling once time-consuming chores like plan registration, service claims and premium submission. Because dealers control these programs, any reserve or forfeiture, or money remaining in reserve for plan services not redeemed by purchases, is immediate.
Every plan must also account for forfeiture, i.e., when a customer terminates the plan early or does not use the plan for whatever reason. For most traditional plans, the third-party administrator holds a dealer-funded reserve. It is from this reserve that the administrator could take up to 60 percent of the value of the cancelled services as part of its fee structure.
The new generation of self-administered, self-managed plans offers attractive advantages to today’s market and value-conscious buyer. Custom plan content really appeals to them, and it makes these plans more attractive. These plans also enhance the owner’s investment by having the vehicle maintained by the dealership that sold his or her plan. This, in turn, enhances opportunity for alert advisors to upsell additional services for healthier repair orders.
Originally Published in F&I and Showroom Magazine, October 2011
Would you rather have 1 million Facebook fans or 100 loyal customers? Until recently, businesses have generally focused on the number of fans they acquired, trying to get a high number of people to “like” their page. The number of Facebook fans your business has, however, is immaterial if you have no relationship with them as customers.
A recent post on All Facebook: The Unofficial Facebook Resource outlines 7 ways to build customer relationships on Facebook. We’ve expounded on each of these tips and suggest loyalty program and marketing managers evaluate what steps in this process would best help your business harness the potential in customers using social media.
1. Build a Single Database: Just like with customers who visit your business in person, in order to manage a relationship with your fans you need to start with a comprehensive database. Most social networks allow interfacing through their API using an open graph.
Learn More about Interfacing with Facebook
2. Prioritize Engagements: Fans can interact with a business profile in many different ways, from commenting on and sharing your content, to driving more traffic to your corporate website, to posting pictures of them using your products. Determine which interactions with your fans would be the most effective at building the desired relationship and encourage those interactions.
3. Identify Your Most Important Fans: You know who your best customers are: the frequent buyers, the big spenders, advocates who are great word-of-mouth marketers. It’s just as important to identify your best fans and target your content to reach them. These are individuals who regularly perform the interactions you’ve determined to be the most important and are the most influential with your other fans and their friends.
4. Give Value to Your Fans: Once you’ve identified your most active fans, give them something in return. It could be something as simple as recognizing them as a top fan and thanking them for their contributions. Some businesses have established loyalty plan – of sorts - just for their Facebook fans’ engagement and are rewarding points for interactions like inviting a friend, uploading photos and answering trivia questions correctly, depending on what interactions are seen as most important.
5. Tie In Your Other Loyalty Programs: Bring your fans’ “virtual” interactions into your “real-world” business by letting them convert their “virtual” Facebook points into “real” points and rewards. For example, 100 Facebook points could equal a $1 purchase in your rewards program.
6. Communicate the Value You Offer: As with any other customers, communicating well with your Facebook fans is imperative. When they respond to your content, respond back. Let them know what points you are offering for different interactions and be clear about any rules or restrictions. Keep them up to date on how many points they have accumulated and what that value would convert to in your rewards program. Being “in the know” doesn’t just help the customer or fan experience – it’s what social media is all about.
7. Measure Return on Investment: You need to track the successes and failures of any marketing campaign. The same is true with your Facebook page. Calculate ROI to verify that the interactions you’ve prioritized are creating profits. Is a highly active fan a loyal customer? Do you have fans that became customers just through experiencing your engagements on Facebook? Are customers discovering more products and services they can use by following you on Facebook?
“For the first time, in this type of world, we can see the connection between a loyal fan and a devoted customer, identify the connection between action on the social network and action at the cash register, allowing us to reward fans and followers with rewards for their participation in social activities” (allfacebook.com).
As a fan of other businesses on Facebook, what types of engagements have you responded to?
What interactions seem to elicit the most involvement from other fans?
Do you think that social media sites can be effective at building loyalty? Why or why not?