Email marketing is a powerful customer research tool that can harvest game changing insights on autopilot. Follow this guide to set up a well-oiled qualitative insights beast that improves all areas of your eCommerce business.
“Data is the new oil”, so the saying goes.
It’s also the biggest missed opportunity with email that marketers overlook and the huge competitive advantage D2C provides you with over other distribution channels.
Yet many ignore the power at their fingertips when it comes to collecting data.
And if they do collect it, it’s often without a practical plan on how the insights harvested can be used to improve the business.
In this article, I’ll show you a few techniques we use with our clients to generate insights for their businesses as well as how that data is leveraged to improve their overall strategy.
We call these “Data Enrichment Points” and they can be strategically implemented either through email campaigns or in automation (preferably both).
It’s critical when you set up your email marketing infrastructure that it’s not siloed as the ‘sales channel’ and works to improve other aspects of your business.
This guide will show you how to collect invaluable data throughout the customer lifecycle that can then be used to enhance your omnichannel experience and overall profitability.
How to set up Data Enrichment Points in your Email Marketing Setup
There are three stages of the customer journey in eCommerce:
- Pre-purchase consideration
- Post-purchase/active buyers
- Churned customers
This article provides actionable strategies for each of these segments in order to improve conversion rate, enhance repeat purchase rate, as well as reducing churn.
It should be noted that there are a variety of techniques that can be utilised to collect data at each of these stages, but for the sake of simplicity and dealing with my own expert subject matter, this article will focus exclusively on how to use email to generate such insights.
1: Pre-Purchase Data Enrichment Points
1.1 Collecting data from pop-ups
This is arguably the most critical time to collect zero-party data from your customers yet most instead just focus on email collection in return for a discount.
While there is nothing necessarily wrong with this approach, I consider it a missed opportunity.
I’ve been heavily influenced by my good friend Jon Ivanco’s philosophy at Formtoro on how to build a data collection strategy with signup forms for new customers.
Jon’s methodology (and one that we try to adopt with as many clients as possible) is to build multi-step forms that capture:
- Customer interest (i.e. style preference)
- Preference within interest (i.e. ‘loose fitted’ mens jeans)
- What matters most to you about the product (i.e. materials, colour)
- Quantity owned/how often they participate in the activity (how many pairs of jeans do you own?)
- When are you looking to purchase (i.e. today, next week, next month?)
These data points can help to build a robust profile on new customers that strengthen every area of the funnel and allow you to personalise the customer journey in a strategic way that benefits both brand + customer immensely.
Here’s an example of one of Formtoro’s forms in action:
Even if you’re just collecting a single data point via a radio button with most pop-up tools, this still allows you to personalise your Welcome Flow to them in a manner like this:
First comes the signup form...
Then comes the personalised Welcome Flow based on their input.
The benefit of just a single data point can allow you to segment from the first touchpoint and also feed into your campaign strategy.
In the above example, we know what somebody’s preference was for using the product (cognitive performance, avoid mental fatigue, etc) and can make targeted suggestions that result in higher conversions and build more personalised recommendations from the get-go.
If they don’t convert, this will also give you an extra layer of data to feed back to Facebook for improved retargeting efficiency as well via Klaviyo’s integration.
An example of segmenting customers from the first interaction to help us retarget them and personalise messaging more effectively
The bottom line is that we don’t know anything about our audience the moment they land on their site and our marketing is often based on educated guesses. Proactive data collection during the consideration phase will improve all areas of the funnel, from identifying best audiences to market positioning. Use it to gain a competitive advantage and improve the customer experience.
1.2: Collecting data from abandoned carts
Most of the time we just assume people abandon carts because the shipping was too expensive or that they thought the price was too high.
Both of these objections can be overcome as long as the brand takes the effort to find out the reason why.
Collecting data from abandoned carts also enables the front-end CRO team to rewrite product copy pages and implement more strategic experimentation decisions.
For example, if 80% of customers tell you that they abandoned their carts because the shipping fees were too high, maybe it’s worth exploring baking in shipping costs to your pricing or experimenting with a shipping threshold.
The objective is to not just accept the narrative that X % of customers abandon their carts anyway - it’s to act upon insights you’re able to harvest in order to improve the whole funnel.
Here’s an example of how coding blocks into an abandoned cart email can achieve this.
When a customer clicks on one of these blocks, two things happen:
- They can reach a dedicated landing page on the website which overcomes their objections (or simply thanks them for their feedback)
- These segments populate inside Klaviyo (i.e. “Abandoned Cart: price too high; Abandoned cart: didn’t think the product would work, etc) with their custom properties being updated
I’ve spoken to many clients who asked whether it’s more useful to collect this information via sending the customer to a dedicated Typeform survey instead.
Sure, you can do that. But just be aware that you’re drastically going to lower the amount of feedback you receive + actions that you can take as a result of that feedback.
It is much easier to click on a block in an email as opposed to writing out extensive reasoning as to why you didn’t want to buy from a brand.
You need to eliminate as much friction as possible to generate insights, and having coded blocks in the email that the customer can then click enables you to keep the data clean and instantly have a snapshot as to why they abandoned their carts and forge an action plan around that.
If you wanted to go extremely deep on acting on these insights, you could set up permutations within a flow to try to salvage additional sales from these abandoned carts once the user clicks on an email.
Here’s an example of how that would play out in your ESP:
I will pre-warn readers that this is only a strategy worth investing in for stores generating a significant amount of traffic to their stores, otherwise the ROI is likely to be minimal. I’d only invest in fleshing out these more complex permutations to your abandoned cart if you’re having over 250-500 customers entering them per day, otherwise, the time it takes to set this up could be utilised better elsewhere.
The core objective is to generate the insights, so you can make more strategic investments on the front-end conversion for first-time customers. Set this up and you’ll be gaining a cutting-edge over your competitors.
2: Post-Purchase Data Enrichment Points
Congrats, you’ve won a customer!
However, as any eCommerce veteran will tell you, you’ve only won half the battle.
For many D2C brands today, retention is where profitability is reached, not during the initial acquisition. And email has a huge amount of opportunities to tell you where the gaps may be in your business if there is a retention problem.
Post-purchase data points critical to capture include the Net Promoter Score (NPS): a metric that can give you a glimpse into the future of your eCommerce business due to how many consumers are saying positive things about your brand.
NPS is crucial to retention because it will give you an indication into whether there is an expectation gap between what your product delivered VS what your marketing promised.
That is why it’s critical to measure the pre-delivery and post-delivery NPS to ensure you delivered upon your promises. Doing this allows you to find gaps in your strategy where you’re failing on retention.
The most common way to measure NPS is with a gradient score from 0-10. It can be broken down as such:
- 0-6 = Detractors (people who aren’t satisfied with the experience from your brand/product)
- 7-8 = Passives (Satisfied customers who may lack enthusiasm about your brand)
- 9-10 = Promoters (Highly satisfied customers who can become brand advocates and help promote word of mouth marketing for your brand)
I’m not going to create an extensive guide on NPS in this article (you can read this excellent guide from Omniconvert if you wish to find out more about it), but it’s probably the most critical element you can measure in the post-purchase window, especially for first time customers.
Since you need to capture it pre & post-delivery, here are my suggested ways to measure it:
- Pre-delivery: pop-up in the post-purchase window or a simple survey on the screen that asks for the NPS
- Post-delivery: follow up via email with a simple gradient measuring asking customers to rate their experience (see below)
What I love about this simple NPS survey is that when the customer clicks on a button, their answer can be recorded as a custom property inside Klaviyo.
You can then group people into dynamic segments based on “Detractors”, “Passives” and “Promoters” without the need to purchase additional expensive software that NPS generally is associated with.
If you want to get more advanced, you can trigger follow-up automation to customers who are detractors in Klaviyo leveraging a conversational approach to try to salvage their business and experience.
Here’s how this may look:
At the very least, even if these customers are in fact going to churn, they have valuable insights they may be willing to share with you that you can retrieve to improve your business.
As for the best time to collect the NPS post-delivery: if you have your shipping system integrated into Klaviyo, you can trigger the automation 1-2 days post-delivery or if it’s a consumable-based product, you may want to give the customer adequate time to experience the product. I’ll let you be the judge.
Get creative with finding ways to measure post-purchase experiences and crucially, act upon the insights you harvest. Leverage customer support to tackle any detractors, and reward your promoters and give them special attention to enhance referrals and WoM marketing opportunities.
3: Churned Customers Data Enrichment Points
1.1 Collecting data from the Winback Flow
Why reach out to customers who have stopped buying from you?
Simple: they can tell you a lot about not just your own shortcomings, but where you can target your ad spend!
A lot of people think chasing lapsed customers is a waste of time. While I believe there’s an element of truth in that, I alter my objectives to drive qualitative insights from this cohort in order to find out how to improve the brand I’m working with.
Let me give you an example using a standardised Customer Winback Flow.
- Email 1: We Miss You
- Email 2: Offer
- Email 3: Bigger Offer
- Email 4: Time-sensitivity on biggest offer
After going into a discount ladder, most people assume the customer has now churned.
But there’s a more effective way to run winback flows (in my opinion), and that’s by leveraging a conversational approach at this stage of the buyer's journey.
Customer support (via SMS) or simply redirecting email responses to the Helpdesk works very effectively here. It’s personable, initiates a dialogue, and by asking questions, you’re genuinely making customers pause and think about your brand.
Here are some questions to ask once people enter your winback flow:
- Why have you stopped buying from us?
- Is there another brand you’ve decided to purchase from instead? Please tell us
- What does brand X do better than us?
If you’re going in with a conversational approach, then it’s best to isolate the first question and just ask the customer if they can share any feedback directly with you.
If you don’t have resources to allocate to executing a conversational approach (which you should absolutely invest in, if you haven’t planned to do so already), then redirecting customers to a Typeform and asking them to respond to the aforementioned questions is a decent fallback.
Why the second two questions? My theory is that if you’re going to lose customers, you should understand who to target in order to poach from other companies at the very least.
Implementing this type of research can help your acquisition team make more cost-effective and strategic investments.
Understand that this approach (redirecting to Typeform) will result in far fewer respondents, but you can always lure somebody in with the offer of a free gift card.
Why a gift card? In my opinion, it’s a better incentive at this point than a discount code because:
- Customers have probably already received numerous discount codes throughout your general campaigns and aren’t receptive to them
- Gift cards can act as a new acquisition source; so even if you’re losing a customer, you have an opportunity to bring in a new customers
- Gift cards have high redemption rates and can be offset against CAC for new customers
A lot of the above is theoretical and open to experimentation, but the goals remain the same:
- Find out why customers have defected
- Find out who they’re buying from instead, and target your competitors to win new customers
This is the best way to drive value from a Winback Flow, not just with continuous and largely ineffective discounting.
1.2 Collecting data from Cancelled Subscriptions
If you run a D2C subscription business, it’s likely you’re using Recharge to manage your subscription model.
If somebody cancels a subscription, it’s possible to capture the reason natively within Recharge and pass that data through to Klaviyo (which in turn, can start a flow).
This can be used to help improve the subscription offering by collating feedback on the reasons for cancellation and improving the full funnel.
I documented extensive strategies on how to handle this in my Email Marketing guide for D2C Subscription Brands here.
I will copy and paste the segment that is relevant to this article along with the recommended strategy you should be focusing on to improve your subscription offering:
“Unfortunately, people do cancel subscriptions. And most brands give up there - which is a mistake.
On a psychological level, a cancelled subscription is damaging to the image of your brand. When a customer cancels, they’re telling you that they don’t value your product or service.
This is where you need to focus your energy on with this flow.
Most people falsely assume that the way to tackle this flow is with a discount ladder. This is extremely naive and can further erode trust; if you’re running a subscribe-and-save model, how much more margin can you give away? It’s not about price at some point - it’s about level of service and product quality.
Your goal with cancelled subscriptions should primarily be two-fold:
- To collate data that creates a feedback loop to the product and marketing teams (i.e. what is the reason somebody cancelled? Was it price, quality of product, disengaged customers, etc? These data points should be used to help improve positioning and reduce churn going forward for other customers)
- To salvage your brand image in the mind of the consumer
A discount ladder achieves neither of these and in my experience, is woefully ineffective anyway.
Depending on what your subscription is and what you’re selling, I like to create a flow that leverages the following concepts (in this order):
- Finds out cancellation reason via buttons in Klaviyo and collate data inside the ESP to inform product and marketing team
- Send the customer a unique email based on cancellation reason that thanks them for their feedback and explains, for example, why the product may be perceived as highly priced (quality of ingredients, etc)
- Reactivation attempt further down the funnel (if appropriate and timely)
This is a very high-level overview and every business is unique here and depending on what you’re selling, you may have a multitude of reasons people cancel.
Here’s an example of how this might be structured within Klaviyo or your ESP (NOTE: in this example, the cancellation data is captured natively within the ReCharge subscription platform. You’ll need to check with your subscription software to ensure this event data syncs with your ESP accordingly):
To set this flow up in Klaviyo, you’ll simply want to use the Cancelled Subscription event like so:
You’ll want to make sure that the Flow Filter ensures that the customer doesn’t have any additional ReCharge Subscriptions (which is why we use the logic above) to prevent customers from receiving this flow who have multiple active subscriptions from receiving it.
Advanced Strategy: The Trigger Filters in the above example is just to show that it is possible to pass over that event data to Klaviyo from ReCharge and create more bespoke flows if necessary - this would certainly fall under the “Advanced Strategy” realm.
If you have the capacity to go in from customer service and initiate a conversation with your customers here, that’s also another option. Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a plain text email from time to time that simply asks them for feedback.”
Conclusion: Data Enrichment Points can Transform Your Business
Implemented correctly, data enrichment points can improve every area of the funnel in your eCommerce business and transform your organisation.
It does require mental buy-in from the experimentation program, the acquisition team, as well as the front-end dev team, but why wouldn’t they buy in to it? You’re helping make their lives easier, and the goal of all marketing departments is to work cross-department in the mutual shared interests of the organisation you’re serving: profits.
Email is much more than just a sales channel. It’s time to start using it to its full potential.