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.

Emails – When Personal is Better Than Polished

Content and personalisation win over overt branding and aesthetics.


There’s no doubt about it – there are some really beautifully designed email templates out there.  Ravishing pictures, short impactful copy, personalised (sometimes even in the subject field if you delivery system is that functional) and smothered in branding.


You nod proudly as your survey your own template.  Problem is, your open and click thru rates seem to be on the wane.


Polished though they are, and deeply appealing to our heightened sense of the aesthetic, personal for me will always win over polished.


Would You Prefer This or Something from Clinton's?

Would You Prefer This or Something from Clinton's?

Ask yourself what has greater impact on you – a well-designed birthday card bought in a shop, or one, perhaps not quite so professional, that a friend or family member has made just for you.


Do you feel more special when you read a comment a friend has posted on their FaceBook wall or when they send an email just to you?


I do a bit of B2B work for marketing service providers looking to target companies in the travel and tourism industry and I wouldn’t dream of sending out a templated email – it’s always a well-researched, personalised email from their Outlook account.


At the very least I’d suggest that some email communications to your very best clients and prospects are personally composed, individually tailored and sent from Outlook – even if this dovetails with other, more mainstream communications they are receiving.


You may lose some trackability, but the enhanced relationship with the client (and hopefully extra business opportunities) will more than compensate.

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.

Six ‘Digital’ Resolutions for 2010

 Digital marketing is cost effective, measurable and the likelihood is you’re under-investing in it. Make sure you’re keeping an eye on what’s coming over the hill but don’t forget some of the more established digital disciplines.


You could argue that I’m writing this a little late in the year because, believe it or not, we’re already beyond the point when most people have lapsed in their commitment to a new lifestyle for a new year. I have to admit to having one foot in this camp myself as my resolution to blog once a week has already proved an abject failure.


Despite that, I did think it was still worth sharing a few ‘digital marketing’ resolutions for 2010 with you. Why only digital?  Well it’s where your customers are most likely to find you and engage with you, it’s highly cost effective and measureable and if you’re like most brands, it’s likely that you’re under-investing in this sector.  So here goes:


1. Invest in your Website, Invest in your Website, Invest in Your Website


Sorry to labour the point, but it makes sense that you’re going to get more ‘bang for your buck’ if you invest more in converting the people that are already coming to your site rather than trying to drive more of them to a site which isn’t working to the optimum.


Think long and hard about what purpose your site is there for and what sort of people are going to be using it.  With websites, less is often more and you need to resist the temptation to bombard users with navigation options and content that cater for their every possible need and whim but create a confusing experience for those trying to use the site for its primary purpose.


Pore over your analytics to see if your site isn’t performing as you envisaged – primary navigation not being used or pages featuring amongst the top exits when they shouldn’t, for example. Explore more rich media options such as larger images and video which can improve the ‘stickiness’ of your site. And continually gather feedback from all the company’s stakeholders, both internal and external.


2. Search is Still the Daddy


When was the last time you had a thorough review of your paid search campaign? When did you last review your keywords?  Do you have a least 3 creatives running at any one time on each ad group to continually test effectiveness? What about your natural search efforts?  Do you have a content strategy integrated with your search efforts?  Are you working on building your incoming links?


Digital Resolutions for 2010

Digital Resolutions for 2010

If you answer is ‘yes’ to all of those questions then my hat goes off to you, but the chances are that there are some ‘nos’ scattered in there. My point is that search is the ‘big daddy’ of online marketing and its still growing (UK searches in December ’09 were 35% up on December ’08).  So although you may have been distracted by the winsome looks of social media or mobile phone apps, you need to make sure you’re keeping on top of it. Or keeping on top of the agency that looks after it for you (time for a performance-based deal perhaps?)


3. Let’s Reverse Those Declining Open Rates


Do you actually know why your email subscribers have signed up for email?  And are you giving them what they want?  Are your email efforts one way style ‘broadcast’ communications or are you using them to engage with your customers? Are you treating your recent subscribers in a different way to your past subscribers?


Because email marketing is so cheap, the temptation is to blast everyone with everything, just in case. But you’ll achieve a much closer relationship with your customers if you ask them what they want and then deliver. Much like social media, email offers the opportunity to enter into conversations and you’ll get much better results if you take the time to engage with your audience.


4. It’s Social Media So Start Being Sociable


You wouldn’t have many friends left it you talked at them and never expressed an interest in them or listened to what they had so say, but a surprising number of brands take this approach to social media. One way  ‘brand to consumer’ communication is old fashioned marketing so start getting interactive. Search social media platforms to find out what people are saying and intervene if you can help. Get interactive with your followers, find out what they want from you, and then deliver. The time for ‘dabbling’ is over – set yourself clear goals for what you want to achieve and work out how you’re going to get there.


5. Keep an Eye on Mobile


Mobile is the new buzzword on the digital ‘fashion’ calendar following in the wake of social media in 2009 but just because its faddy doesn’t mean you should turn your nose up at it.  Smartphones and feature phones actually enjoy high levels of penetration – if you look at your own you’ve probably got internet access and even a couple of apps tucked away that you weren’t aware of – but the iPhone has changed the landscape simply because its users are just so active.


The main buzz revolves around apps and mobile advertising, with the former growing at an explosive pace and the latter being fuelled by high profile purchases of mobile ad networks by Apple and Google.  But don’t forget about mobile search, location-based services are offered on both Bing and Google, and whether having a website developed for mobile use (a bit of a nightmare given all those screen resolutions, operating systems and differing key functions) makes sense for your brand.


Don't Just Think iPhone

Don't Just Think iPhone

The question to ask yourself before you plunge in are are what are my target market using their mobile for, and what can I do for them that will be useful for them when they’re on the move?  For example, for city centre business hotels, a presence in mobile search and a mobile website could make sense – I could imagine a tech-savvy and PA-less businessman organising his hotel on the go between meetings. I could also imagine mobile websites for booking hotel facilities such as spas, room service and restaurant reservations when you’re there. By the same token, people on holiday might like to search for local attractions on their mobile device.


And don’t rule out mobile marketing if you target audience is not connecting to the internet on their mobile, which most aren’t. Old and enduring technologies, such as text, offer opportunities as well. Services such as TravelBuddy can add value to your clients when they’re away with you, and text based gaming can offer interaction at visitor sites and attraction for adults and children alike.


6. Keep on Top of Your Craft


I don’t care how you do it, twitter, RSS and/or email, but take the time to take in what’s happening in the world of digital. It’s moving so fast you need to keep on top of it. That’s not to say that you need to get carried away with it – your target audience’s attitudes, needs, motivations and behaviours should always be the filter you see these developments through – but unless you’re on top of what’s coming over the hill, you could miss a big opportunity that your competitors don’t.