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Keep it simple and succeed

Where is the internet going? From mobile commerce trends to the online shopping habits of people around the world, retailers need to stay one beat ahead of the consumer pulse to remain competitive.

In the US, Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report garners a lot of publicity: Meeker takes a comprehensive look at consumer trends and behaviours, and recommends strategies retailers can use to succeed.

In her most recent report, Meeker referenced strategies that are being used specifically by successful niche online retailers against the Goliaths of the online retail world.

She mentioned, a pet brand that built engagement with its users and great customer service into $900 million in annual revenue in just five years. PetSmart announced it was acquiring the company earlier this year.

Customer engagement and personalisation lets small players build large followings, a benefit we’ve witnessed with several brands we work with.

By pairing personalisation with tactics such as browse recovery, companies that specialise in a particular product — pet medications, sheepskin footwear or trendy natural cosmetics, for example — can succeed in highly competitive industries.

Gaining sales with a surfing dog competition

Steven Perissinotto, co-founder of, is quick to mention his company has many competitors, “So, standing out from the competition is hard.” How does he do it?

His company created and sponsored the Surfing Dog Spectacular. But gaining 19 million viewers from the competition doesn’t translate to sales on its own.

“Even if we get them to our website to look at pics or a video, the chances of them going on to buy after that casual browse is very small,” Perissinotto said.

“We need to take that relationship to the next level.”

Specifically, VetShop angles to get them to share their email address. But even after that happens, the traditional blast of promotional emails doesn’t follow. Instead, Perissinotto keeps it content-oriented.

These subscribers likely enjoy dogs, surfing dogs and the outdoors. So, the emails might offer a spot in a surfing dog workshop. Eventually, VetShop gets around to promoting one of its products — and true to the event that brought the subscribers to the company — it’s a waterproof one.

A highly personalised, automated campaign

EMU Australia is an iconic Australian brand focused on sheepskin footwear and accessories. With a small team, they were having trouble converting revenue left in online shopping carts, welcoming new customers and cultivating relationships with them.

How did they manage to accomplish all of that? By implementing a cart recovery program, welcome series and a birthday campaign.

With minimal resources and setup time, the cart recovery messages are generating a 172 per cent higher open rate than their promotional messages. The timing is carefully managed: The first reminder is sent two hours after cart abandonment, followed by another 22 hours after the first message (with a sense of urgency, such as an item is low in stock), and finally a last message 48 hours later.

The conversion rate on the series has been as high as 38 per cent – one reason it’s returned as much as $17 per email sent during one month’s period. Over time, the average return per email is $4.80 per email with an 18 per cent conversion rate.

Aligning messages to reach millennials

Being nimble is incredibly important to Tarte Cosmetics’ Stephanie Urban. As with footwear and pet supplies, cosmetics is a very competitive business.

The most successful companies have heavily leveraged social media and content-driven messages – and Tarte is no different. You can easily see how its customers use their natural, yet fun, products on their website and in social.

But Urban brings discipline to what could be a content and social media free-for-all, making sure messages align across channels. That’s because their customers move between channels with lightning speed. Critically, Urban says email must tie back to social.

“Millennials are just so fast on their phones, opening multiple apps at the same time and constantly browsing through social. They might see our subject line while scrolling through their inbox but don’t decide to visit until we’ve grabbed their attention on Instagram or SnapChat. Our direct traffic is up significantly, and we attribute some of that to social, so we carefully align our email messaging and timing with our social team.”

When Tarte launched a new product line with YouTube fashion vlogger Grav3yardgirl, they saw the impact of social driving new customers and subscribers.

“During that campaign, a majority of the new customers were in a younger demographic than our typical audience. We wanted to make sure we kept them engaged, so we sent a post-purchase message tailored around what they bought. The campaign had much stronger response rates than average editorial messages,” Urban said.

The common thread here is innovation – in the way these retailers first connect with an identifiable shopper and then what they choose to do with customer data once they get it.

Online niche retailers can succeed, but it will require a deeper dive into creating a more personalised and engaging experience for shoppers.

Shannon Ingrey is general manager of Oracle + Bronto APAC and can be contacted at 1300 564 112.


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