How to offend your customers and alienate people — a lesson in product selection

When you review your pie chart of spend for your ecommerce business, and if you haven’t made one we recommend you do, you will appreciate that in addition to all the elements included, it requires a progressive / development timeline, as your priorities change, lucrative seams are tapped and defunct ones discarded. The undisputed priority is always your consumers. Go back 20 years to the time of dawning realisation of early CRM and moving the marketing initiatives to being “consumer-centric”, seems far off now but if you scratch the surface it seems that little has actually changed much, as cost implications prohibit initiatives and an endemic feeling of better the devil you know still prevails.

Consider your own personal likes and tastes, not your company’s, your own. Food, wine, cloth, style, venues etc, are each unique to every one of us. Now imagine how you’d feel if you’re ready to really enjoy a juicy, succulent fillet steak and always order it medium-rare. But instead of bringing you that, the waiter serves you a well-done Rump! We imagine that you’d consider whether objecting will disrupt an otherwise convivial evening or decide to send it back. Scratching your head, and making excuses to yourself “how this could have happened to you. After all, this is your favourite restaurant, they know you here. Guiseppe the owner watched your kids grow up, you brought the whole family here for their birthdays, weddings anniversaries, there must be a new-boy in the kitchen, it couldn’t be my friends”. But then Guiseppe himself comes over and pours your wine, but instead of your “usual” full-bodied Claret, he pours you a Zinfandel. Hang on a minute, this isn’t right. Outraged of Sidcup might just be beginning to twig. Product selection for email marketing, unless done on an individual and personal basis, offends! In monetary terms, if this amounted to an additional 10% of your online turnover every year you’d soon kick-up a fuss, and yet these are exactly the numbers involved, but because you don’t realise, the damage goes unnoticed, unpunished, and more importantly not corrected.

Continuing the wine analogy, put yourself on the receiving end of an email marketing campaign for a leading vintner. We’ll leave you to draw parallels with your own business. If a consumer’s basket, every shop, is piled-high with claret and champagne, why would you consider it anything other than irritating for them to get details of Beaujolais Nouveau just because it’s the right season? Yes, it suits you as the retailer, and perhaps it might strike you as more interesting than regurgitating last months, bin ends. But it is like a child interrupting an adult in the middle of a conversation, to ask something left-field; if it weren’t your own child, your patience would wear thin very quickly. Despite this, your loyal customer who orders her usual tipple, is rewarded for this loyalty, by being repaid by receiving details of cheap Austrian whites on offer this month because you need to shift it — what the heck? I can hear the contrary arguments starting to voice their objections, that it would be far too expensive to make every email unique to the individual for whom it is intended. Or that you have sophisticated segmentation tools which attempt to eliminate by far the vast majority of these ommissions and mistargeting adventures as much as possible. Then finally that we’re not doing too badly despite all this, and so can afford to carry on regardless. Oh, dear Mr. Ostrich, the rhino is coming. But all the time, in the words of Poltergeist, “they’re here”. They being alternate suppliers.

Staying with your own tastes and interests, how loyal would you be if a new retailer emailed you exactly the things you were interested in? All the stats are explicit on this that within three opportunities to purchase, you will make that decision to buy if your receptors are not sustained and indeed fulfilled by your existing suppliers. Once that decision is taken, the new supplier, providing they have their wits about them, will continue serving that consumer and replace you as their preferred source perpetually.

So turning our attention to email content, and specifically to product selection; SwiftERM offers a SaaS that works in addition to email marketing software, using predictive analytics from each individual consumer’s impressions and buying history to identify their own unique and personal taste. The Bordeaux drinker to their favourite claret, the fashionista to their preferred brands, style, colour and cloth. The pet owner to the brands their pooch drools over. The foody to their preferred and inordinately varied and idiosyncratic choices, after all, there is no point sending luxury brand details to own label shoppers. Stop offending your customers, give them what they want.

Maria Antoinette is famously quoted, observing the starving Parisian peasants, “let them eat cake”, if she’d got her targetting right, she might have stayed around a little longer to appreciate the consequences.

An exceptionally relevant additional article on employing the benefits of billions of pounds of investment to achieve the perfect email stylesheet is available here.




Founder & CEO of SwiftERM the personalization SaaS. Microsoft partners.

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David Swift

David Swift

Founder & CEO of SwiftERM the personalization SaaS. Microsoft partners.

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