What To Do About Abandoned Shopping Baskets (and Leaky Buckets…)

Here’s a bit of role play for you – imagine you run a convenience store. One of your customers fills their basket and walks up to the till. You run the items through the till and tell them how much it’s going to costs. But instead of getting their credit card out, they just walk out of the shop and leave their shopping behind. Now tell me – wouldn’t you be a little curious as to why that customer hadn’t paid for the items they’d spent so much time loading up their basket with? Wouldn’t you at least be tempted to ask them why they’d decided not to buy after all?


Of course you would. But ask yourself, are you extending the same curiosity to those who abandon their shopping baskets at the payment stage of their online shopping with you?  If they’re at the stage where you’ve captured their email address, it’s simple to follow them up and ask why they didn’t follow through.  You’ll get some insights but you’ll also get a whole lot of extra business that you wouldn’t have got otherwise.


I call this ‘event-triggered’ communications. For me, it’s the ultimate in customer-centric direct marketing – communications that respond to your customer actions rather than being driven by your own internal timings and requirements (i.e. ‘sales aren’t going so well, let’s blast the email database with offers.’)
At Black Tomato, we followed up all quotes that hadn’t converted into business. We did it with an email that linked to a short survey. We called it our ‘Not This Time’ survey.  OK, so not everyone filled in the survey but those that did gave us a lot of insight into why we’d missed out on that business.  And it won us business too, as customers who we thought had booked elsewhere got back into contact with us.


I’d encourage you to plot your customers’ journey through the booking process, look at each stage where you could lose prospective customers and look to at communications to stem those losses. 


It’s a bit like filling a bucket that’s got holes in it with water – your marketing spend is the tap and the prospects are the water.  To stop all your water running out, you’re going to need to plug as many of those holes as you can.


Do you follow up people that request or download a brochure from you?  Do you follow up everyone that enquires with you – whether that be by phone, email or social media? What about people who click on email content, especially those who haven’t clicked in a while – sounds like they’re interested to me? Are you responding to that interest?


 The key is timing.  Let the customer’s timing be your guide, not yours.  So if a customer’s clicked on some email content and had  a look round your site, send them a tailored follow up a day or 2 later. Don’t think they’ll get scooped up in your next weekly email – they might have booked elsewhere by then.


Getting a customer to enquire is an expensive business. If you’re going to maximise the RoI of your marketing budget, you need to make sure you’re spending incrementally to maximise the conversion of those.  Otherwise your marketing efforts are going to be littered with abandoned shopping baskets and leaky buckets – and they’re not of much use to anyone.

Are You a Travel Marketer or Simply a Travel Promotion-er?

An old boss of mine once said to me, ‘Our job is to get the phones ringing’.


Granted, this was in the days before the internet but it does really seem to be a pretty limited ambition for a marketer, and it’s not a mantra I’ve pursued throughout my career.


Sitting in my CIM Diploma classes, I seem to remember there being 7 P’s in the service marketing mix (Product, Place, Price, Promotion, People, Process, Physical Evidence – I’m quite impressed I can still remember them!) so why should we only be interested in one – Promotion?  It is a ‘marketing’ mix after all and we are marketers, not promotion-ers.


Worse still, if we hunker down in our promotion silo, we’re really onto a hiding for nothing. In the world of user review sites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter et al you can’t throw a promotional veil over a substandard offering. It just doesn’t work anymore. So if you’re doing your job properly, you’ve got to get involved in those other ‘Ps’ so that the message your delivering is consistent with what you’re offering.


I’m not advocating megalomania here – you don’t have to control those other 6 Ps – but you do have to influence them.  The best way any marketer can do that is lead a process to define the brand vision and values and then undertake an exercise to roll out those values across the company. The aim is to ensure everyone understands and internalises those values, and identifies ways in which they can deliver their part of the mix in a manner consistent with them.


Whilst we’re in a more holistic mood, it struck me that perhaps we need to look at the marketing budget in a different way too.  Of course, we fight tooth and nail to maintain every penny of our budgets but if the core aim of marketing budgets is to bring in customers, then perhaps we should be prepared for parts of budget to be re-allocated to other Ps.


For example, is a CRM budget best spent mailing people on a frequent basis, 95% of whom aren’t interested in your message at the time you’re delivering it, or would it make sense for elements of that budget to be spent on surprise gifts for top clients.  The latter would be a better way of achieving the goal of a CRM budget – customer retention – with the added benefit of positive word of mouth.


Let’s be honest – our role as marketers is to maximise the profits of the company for the minimum investment. We need to think more holistically about the levers we pull to make that happen.

Reeling in those Big Fish – Marketing to HNW Individuals

High spending customers take time, creativity and focus to reel in, but the rewards far outweigh the efforts.


I mentioned in my recent post on marketing segmentation and targeting that as long as a segment was profitable, it didn’t necessarily need to be substantial. Hence, a marketing segment can be as small as one.


Big Fish - Worth the Effort

Big Fish - Worth the Effort

I’ve worked right at the top end of travel & tourism and I’ve seen this phenomena plenty of times – the client who spends £100,000+ every year.  These clients are like rare diamonds to be polished and cherished. And because it doesn’t take 20 times longer to service a £100,000 holiday than a £5,000 one, the return on investment for your consultant’s time (and your marketing efforts) are so much higher.


So how do you market to a segment of one?  My advice would be to take a leaf out of the marketing journals of our B2B colleagues, who have much more experience in developing and nurturing one-to-one relationships.


Take an example of a high net worth individual that’s made a initial enquiry to your business – here’s how I’d coach a Sales Consultant through the process:


  • Thoroughly Research Your Client – if you work at this end of the industry, your Sales Consultants should be in the habit of googling all new prospective clients to identify if they fit into this  category.  They’ll probably find a Linkedin profile at the very least. Tools like Ebsco (free with CIM membership) can be used to fill out your profile further.


  • Leverage Every Conversation to Find Out More – make sure your use every conversation orf contact point with them (or their intermediary, be it PA or concierge) to find out more about them. When do they go away? (when we go on holiday is largely predictable, if we ask the right questions.  What interests them?  Who else is in their DMU (=decision making unit – husband/wife, children etc)and what roles do they play?  My experience is that everyone has the same favourite topic of conversation – themselves. Forget about yourself and practice the fine art of conversation – ask them about them and listen.


  • Thoroughly Research Their Requirements – for these people, you need to go that extra mile. Share the information you’ve gathered with your partners,  be they hotels or DMCs, so they can give you the best advice. Scour the internet for alternative options – you really want to demonstrate your expertise and understanding of their requirements. And don’t be over-awed by their status – they’re experts in they’re field but you’re an expert in yours, that’s why they’ve come to you.


  • Maintain a Dialogue – you’ve sent your quote, you’ve even followed up by phone and nothing. Your assumption – they’re not interested. They’ve booked elsewhere.  Wrong assumption.  We’re talking about seriously busy people and you have to accept that it’s your responsibility to keep the conversation going. But don’ become a pest – ensure every contact point adds value from the client’s perspective. Their prefered room type is about to sell out, a special offer is expiring, a new activity which they’d enjoy has just come to your attention. And mix it up from a channel perspective (email, phone, letter) – if a message is extremely time-sensitive, pick up the phone.


  • Don’t Let the Trail Go Cold – even if it’s been weeks since the last contact, don’t give up.  Your focus may shift, however, to communications not directly related to your recent quote and reduce in frequency.  When you see ideas that would interest them, send them over – be they luxury hotel openings, new adventure activities etc.  RSS feeds are a great way of keeping on top of the latest travel news.  If you have an event that might interest them, send them details.  In every case, remember to look at things from their perspective and bring value.


You can continue this approach until the client tells you to stop.  Your rivals will give up after 3-5 contacts.  In my experience, it can take anything up to 12 contacts to get a response – that’s going to require some careful thinking and creativity from you to craft each contact.


Just think about the potential rewards – future high value business and hopefully recommendations. But don’t rest on your laurels once you’ve got that initial business in.  You’d be foolish to assume subsequent bookings are going to come your way.  You’re going to have to maintain an ongoing dialogue to reinforce that initial positive impression and secure that loyalty affirming 2nd piece of business.

Want to Predict When Your Customers are Going to Travel? Try Talking to Them.

Ask the right questions of your customers and a pandora’s box of marketing opportunities opens up before you.


Like in so many other of life’s tasks, timing is important.


Successful retention programmes are dependent on the right offer, at the right time, delivered to the right audience via the right medium with the right execution (it’s that simple…) If you know when they’re going to travel, you’re well on your way to answering the first 2 questions.


But how do you find out? Sophisticated data mining tools to analyse your customer’s past behaviour and extrapolate trends for the future? Nope – I find talking to them alot more reliable.


OK – we’re living in less predictable times. And there’s definitely a trend towards using our annual leave in more bite-size chunks than before.  But we’re still pretty predictable.


I’ve got a pre-school son, so I don’t need to go away in the school holidays, and I’m not going to pay a premium for no reason, so overseas breaks tend to be in May, June and September. Of course, the September after my son turns 4, its school holidays for me – a change in my travel pattern, but highly predictable if you’ve captured the right information (i.e. you’ve asked me my son’s date of birth).


For professionals, even high flyers, they are going to be patterns – quieter times at work, school holidays if they have kids etc.  I remember chatting to a young, high flying banker at a function once – committed to his career, no kids, no ties – surely his breaks would be difficult to predict? Nope. He went away at the same 2 times every year when work eased off and he didn’t have to live in fear of what was awaiting him on his Blackberry. He’d only booked holidays in one of these time periods with the company I was working for – by opening a dialogue, I suddenly had a marketing opportunity.


Some holiday’s are less predictable but create predictable offshoots – those organising honeymoons are going to have hen and stag dos, often abroad, and then they have anniversaries (and if you’re clever, you can base your suggested anniversary trip ideas around the various themes – paper, wood etc) .


It’s all about thinking about each market segment that you serve, briefing your sales team to capture the right data at the time of booking or in a post trip survey, and then marketing in an intelligent way to them subsequently.  Believe me, it works.