What Aliens, Reese’s Pieces & Email Marketing Have in Common

Reeses Pieces and Email Marketing

Imagine a 10-year-old boy named Elliott trailing through the woods on his bike. He’s leaving a path of peanut-buttery goodness as he pedals on in hopes of luring something in. To his surprise, it works, and before he knows it, he’s face to face with an extraterrestrial creature – or as the world knows, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. Knowing his plan worked, Elliott reverts back to the same strategy, laying another trail of Reese’s Pieces to the next desired destination – his bedroom (in hopes his mom doesn’t discover his new house guest).

The nostalgia of this scene is woven into the fabric of many of our childhoods – or at least our Halloween baskets. What is less obvious, however, is the valuable lessons it can teach us about email marketing. In fact, E.T.’s journey is a lot like the customer journey, or at least how it should be, and retailers could stand to take a page out of Elliott’s book.

Take what we do at Coherent Path, for instance. We put the ‘pieces’, which in this case refer to the relevant themes (or parts of the product catalog), in each email campaign, in front of the consumer in order to lead them on a path that’s both beneficial for them and the brand. The ultimate goal? Putting the customer on a journey toward brand loyalty, higher engagement rates and long-term sales.

Why do we do this? Let’s go back to E.T. One of the reasons Elliott’s method was so successful was because, through testing, he learned that E.T. liked Reese’s Pieces and used them to lead him to the next stop. This wouldn’t work if the candy wasn’t of interest. So, why is this so important to email marketing? According to Hubspot, nearly three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated when content such as offers, ads and promotions, appear to have nothing to do with their interests. Additionally, 40 percent of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels (Source: MyBuys).

Like Elliott, at Coherent Path we create this journey to loyal customers through testing – and analyzing, tweaking, and continually evolving our approach through machine learning and applying hyperbolic geometry, or what we like to refer to as ‘fancy math.’ We have a long-term control that we’ve run for a few years, where we take a percentage of the population and see from a revenue perspective how the customers on our Reese’s Pieces trail do compared to those on the traditional retailer’s trail. The only difference is the incentive – what we’re feeding them vs. what the controls are given – and of course, the results.

For example, we can take Neiman Marcus’ transactional data from every channel, including all the email opens and clicks, and bring all of those data sources together. From here we can build the luxury retailer’s hyperbolic geometry model, then put each individual customer into the geometry. Now we’re able to take a look at the emails (or Reese’s Pieces) that they’re interested in, and then see how they’re moving through the geometry, and what we can offer them next to keep them moving along the intended path. For example, if a new Gucci dress comes out at the same time as a new pair of Prada shoes, our system draws on a shopper’s previous behaviors, evolving taste and interests, and anticipated movement to determine which product is most relevant.

The great relationship between Elliott and E.T. was built over time, but it all began with starting things on the right path. Similarly, to cement a loyal relationship with customers, retailers must start them off on the right trail – and continue to deliver relevant, meaningful content over time. To summarize: find your customers’ Reese’s Pieces or risk landing yourself in the deleted folder or worse – the unsubscribe list.


Also published on Medium.

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