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It’s easy to think of customers as fish you can bait with discounts. It’s also lazy. Marketers should adopt the B2B mentality of solving customers’ problems.

As a B2C marketer, you hear it everywhere: build a personal relationship with prospects. But how can you ever do that at scale when you have so many different customer groups? Take a page from the B2B approach and craft a sales cycle that nurtures the customer at different stages. With automation, and a mindset shift, retailers can do the same thing.

It’s tempting for online retailers to think they can take a pass on this approach. Why not just use highly targeted advertising to find (and find again) the latest group of consumers poised to spend on whatever it is you sell?

For starters, highly targeted advertising gets expensive. Building a relationship with a customer does take a bit of a patience, but it’s worth the effort. Let’s take a look at selling direct to consumers with a few plays ripped from the B2B playbook.

1. Be smart about acquisition

B2C companies have associated acquisition with advertising – and lots of it. Paid search and targeted marketing make that seemingly easier and cheaper. But why keep spending to lure the same customer over and over? Instead, use the tools available to bring in a customer once, and keep them coming back.

Pop-up sign-up forms, for instance, are a pretty common technique. But are you testing where to put the pop-up? Personalizing its timing based on where the customer arrives from? For example, if someone has clicked on a specific product from a Facebook ad, you might not want to distract them from placing that item in their shopping cart by making them maneuver around a pop-up.


Multichannel merchants need to capitalize on in-store (Read more...) opportunities, such as e-receipts and text-to-join options. Bronto recently commissioned Ipsos to survey U.S. adults and found that 30 percent are shopping less often in stores than they did last year.

If they visit your store, you want to make sure they know about your online shopping options. Fashion retailer Lucky Brand opted for a text-to-join program because scanning sheets filled with hastily jotted email addresses was time-consuming and ineffective.

2. Engage the customer

If they’ve signed up for your emails or text messages, they’re interested in you. Get the relationship off to a great start. A welcome series is an excellent way to not only get new customers to buy something, but also introduce them to your brand, let them know about ways to interact with you on social media, share your content (such as how-to videos for your products), and talk about your loyalty programs.

But welcome series should not be one-size-fits-all. They should reflect what the customer is doing. If a customer purchases right away, the rest of the welcome series should be crafted differently for the consumer who is still on the bubble.


An offer might make sense for the person who has yet to buy, while a product recommendation for a complementary item could be the right approach for the shopper that’s already purchased. And getting that second purchase is key: FSAstore.com discovered that a second purchase is the critical turning point in engaging customers for life.

Finally, don’t forget to ask the customer to provide more information about their preferences. Send them to a preference center where they have the option to tell you more about themselves, including how often they’d like to hear from you. This will provide valuable information for segmentation efforts.

3. Get the customer to convert

B2C marketers used to think that conversion pretty much required offering some type of discount. That’s a crude way of looking at the customer. Discounting the product isn’t something the marketer handles in B2B companies.

Instead, they work to address the customer’s pain points. You can do the same thing. Use browse abandonment to send an email suggesting a product they were looking at (maybe they got distracted during their search), or for the second sale, offer a refill reminder.

PetShop.co.uk has slashed its marketing budget and grown its business exponentially by asking customers about their pet’s breed and how often it eats to calculate when that Spaniel or Tabby will need more food. That information is fed into a workflow that triggers an automated refill email.


Cart abandonment reminders are another great strategy that returns 53 times their investment. Since consumers often put products in shopping carts as they start their journey, sending a reminder is no different than a sales person making a friendly follow-up call.

And you don’t have to include a discount with that reminder. Through A/B testing, fashion brand Vince Camuto found that conversion rates aren’t that different between cart reminder emails with offers and those without. Thirty percent of total email revenue for the company now comes from cart recovery messaging.

4. The details count

Much of the act of nurturing customers in a more personalized way is dependent on automation. It’s available to even the smallest ecommerce retailer, but it is critical to deploy it thoughtfully. If you send the browse abandonment email a week after the customer bought the product, you just look foolish.

Think like the B2B marketer. Where is this person in the sales journey and how can I help them take the next step? Meeting the customer where they are and providing the right message is the way to acquire a customer for life – instead of just for one sale.

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15.04.2015 Images at The Entertainer at Little Chalfont, Bucks (C) Emma Hollings Photography www.emmahollings.co.uk emma@emmahollings.co.uk

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