Why do some emails “click” with customers while others go unread — or get deleted? While this question doesn’t have a simple answer, the difference almost always boils down to meaningfulness — or lack of meaning.
Every time a subscriber gives you their email address, they expect something in return — something that adds meaning to their lives. That meaning could be connected to a goal they want to achieve, a cause they want to support, a style they want to adopt, or a combination of all these.
Provide meaning, and you’ll generate revenue.
The most effective way to deliver that meaning is to grant your customers’ desires before they even voice them to you. To do that, you’ve got to start by understanding what actions your customers want to take — and surprise them with something they want, but haven’t seen before. Here’s how to do exactly that.
Watch for opportunities to make surprising recommendations.
Even amid today’s profusion of social media platforms, email remains the most impactful channel for reaching Millennial consumers. One recent study found that among Millennial parents, a full 62 percent click on offers in holiday promotional emails, even when those offers are for items people buy on impulse.
Of course, this superb sales impact comes with a risk: email is also one of the most carefully filtered channels — filtered by both subscribers and their automated spam filters. To make it past those filters, you’ve got to build trust with your subscribers. And that’s not going to happen if you send them robotic-looking offers for products they’ve already purchased.
Instead, try surprising your subscribers with offers for products they haven’t even realized they want yet. You’ll stand a much better chance of building trust — which translates into repeat business. Research shows that 50 percent of Millennial shoppers will pay a premium to buy from a brand that understands them — and that revenue adds up over years of loyalty.
But how can you prove you understand your customers? Start by figuring out why they make the purchases they do.
Look for the patterns behind the purchase patterns.
To get at the heart of your customers’ sense of what’s meaningful, you’ve got to look beyond simple purchase patterns, and seek the underlying drives that compel your customers to make each purchase.
If one of your customers just bought a pair of children’s winter boots, for example, that doesn’t mean she wants to see recommendations for more boots. What it might mean is that she’s stocking up on a cold-weather wardrobe for her child, and would jump at the chance to grab a few children’s sweaters for a low price.
But product recommendations aren’t the only way to show your customers you understand them. Amazon Smile, for instance, lets customers donate a percentage of every purchase to their favorite charity. Spotify turns users’ music tastes into personalized playlists that help them discover new artists.
Once you understand those hidden motivators, the next step is to spark new ideas for actions your customers can take.
Take the risk of saying something unexpected.
We’ve all seen enough beer ads to recite the formula by heart: shots of cool nightclubs, house parties, or beaches where attractive people sip from glistening bottles with the labels clearly visible. It’s a safe, proven formula, practically guaranteed to make sales — but it doesn’t tell customers anything they don’t already know.
So when Heineken set out to make a new ad for their beer, they decided to tear up the script and say something unexpected. They brought together pairs of people from opposite ends of the political spectrum and asked them to work together to build furniture inside a warehouse. The resulting video takes no political sides but conveys a message of cooperation and understanding to both.
In other words, Heineken’s video breaks the pattern of recommending products they already know their customers like, and says something nobody expects a beer brand to say: We’re all feeling politically divided right now and could do with a little more cooperation in our lives. Instead of just selling beer, Heineken takes the risk of saying something new — and that risk has paid off with 14 million YouTube views (and counting).
Break the pattern of familiar recommendations, and you’ll be rewarded with customer loyalty, responsiveness, and revenue. Every step outside those safe old patterns represents a risk, no question — but you can mitigate that risk by staying alert for the meanings that underlie and inspire each customer’s behavior, and by using data to understand where your customers are heading next, instead of reminding them where they’ve already been.