7 Steps to Referral Marketing Success

by Grace Miller |

7 Steps to Referral Marketing Success

referral marketing

In this age of information overload, 82% of customers are making purchase decisions based on recommendations from their friends and family. While brands and retailers have many different ways of earning these recommendations, many are finding the benefits of referral marketing by tapping into their customers’ networks. By offering customers incentives for referring your brand … Read more

Ask an Expert: MacKenzie-Childs’ CMO Speaks Customer Loyalty

mackenzie-childs marketing

Welcome to our new segment, Ask an Expert! With this series, Annex Cloud interviews some prominent figures in ecommerce and retail to gain insight on industry trends. This week, we interviewed Larry Shaw, Chief Marketing Officer of MacKenzie-Childs. Since 1983, MacKenzie-Childs has designed home decor and artisan furnishings in their quaint farmhouse in Aurora, NY. Every teapot is hand-painted and each clay cookie jar is carefully molded. We worked with Larry on building their trulyMC customer loyalty program, and this is what he had to say:

What is the single greatest inspiration behind the trulyMC loyalty program?

Every year we have a live barn sale where over 25,000 of our most devoted customers visit our farm in Aurora. These people have so much passion for what we do so we wanted to take that experience and apply it on a grander scale. By implementing trulyMC, we were able to begin building and shaping that community.

Larry has over 25 years of retail experience and has implemented many creative initiatives since joining the MacKenzie-Childs team as CMO in 2016. Their branding is built on the quality and craftsmanship of the pieces they sell. They built a powerful marketing strategy behind their products with three retail stores, an ecommerce site, and a strong social media presence. However, adding a tiered customer loyalty program has been a total game changer for them.

What effect has loyalty had on your customer retention efforts?

After only eight months of implementing our omni-channel loyalty program with referral marketing, we’re already seeing a 9-10% increase in our customer retention rate. To see those numbers so quickly has been remarkable for us.

In addition to the increase in retention rate, they also saw major increases in average order value, new content subscribers, and purchase frequency. So much so that we decided to co-author the MacKenzie-Childs Loyalty Case Study with them, which dives into how we built the program and why we saw so much success.

mackenzie-childs trulymc loyalty programHow do you think Annex Cloud has helped you reach your goals?

Annex Cloud has been willing to customize their platform and processes to accommodate our specific program needs. It being a tiered customer loyalty program, we knew it would require some customized features. But instead of seeing it as a negative, Annex Cloud saw it as good challenge.

To dive more into how we helped MacKenzie-Childs build more loyalty with their customers, check out our case study! Annex Cloud’s unified platform with customer loyalty, user-generated content, and referral marketing functionality allows brands to customize their programs to their unique specifications. To learn how Annex Cloud can help you with your customer loyalty needs, contact us for a free consultation!

 

Case Study: How to Build a Successful B2B Loyalty Program

B2B Loyalty Case Study

B2B Loyalty Overview:

It is very true that there is no one-size-fits-all loyalty program. Especially not in the business-to-business industry. The B2B space is such a specific market with a narrower audience, so it must be treated as such. That means audience segmentation and personalized incentives are that much more important. This study will review how Annex Cloud helped two industry-leading companies build out their B2B loyalty programs and what impact it had on those brands.

Goals of B2B Loyalty:

Though the strategies may differ, there are several common goals of a B2B loyalty programs. These businesses both needed to increase customer spend and increase customer lifetime value. This can be challenging in B2B because the market is not only competitive but niche as well. They wanted to build brand advocacy and basically create a community of ambassadors. They also needed to reduce discounts on items. We live in an economy so deeply entrenched by discounting that retailers and B2B companies alike have the challenge of migrating away from it as to maximize product return.

Our Solution:

Every loyalty solution has its challenges but B2B requires another level of personalization. Both of these companies opted for Annex Cloud not only because we have a unified marketing platform with customer loyalty, user-generated content, and referral marketing capability, but also because we work with businesses to create a custom implementation strategy.

Annex Cloud also helps companies nurture their relationships with existing customers through personalized incentives, which in turn increases customer spend and average customer lifetime value. These incentives inspire customers to become brand advocates where they’re more likely to take actions like referring a friend or reviewing an item. It’s about following the customer journey from beginning to end and building a true community around their B2B brand.

B2B Rewards:

The key to rewarding in the business-to-business space is allowing your customers to sample your products risk-free. If you offer an impressive product catalog with a great loyalty offering, they are more likely to purchase. It’s a low risk scenario if built surrounding high-margin products. This B2B model implemented by Annex Cloud has proven to help support sales and drive revenue.

Consumer Electronics

Client A: Consumer Electronics

Objective:

Our client, a leading consumer electronics company, built a very successful model around selling office electronics like computers, monitors, copiers, and printers to small businesses around the world. They wanted to implement a B2B loyalty program that would sign up more users and build a community of brand advocates.

They had so many questions about best practices for strategy and segmentation. How do we best incentivize with the B2B model? How do we grow our customer base while creating meaningful relationships with our existing customer base? They chose Annex Cloud for its experience in creating very personalized incentives specific to the B2B industry.

Results:

Soon after launch, we saw major wins for the program. By designing a solution specific to our client’s B2B sales goals, we positioned them as a leader in SMB loyalty. Since initiating this campaign, we have already signed up over 100,000 businesses for the program. We also saw a 7% increase in repeat purchase rate and a 9% increase in customer lifetime value. However, probably the largest takeaway from the program has been building a community of 10,000 brand advocates. By building a custom solution with Annex Cloud and by leveraging their user-generated content, our client is seeing a huge increase in partnering businesses and overall brand awareness.

b2b loyalty

Client B: Physician Loyalty

Objective:

Our other client is a large specialty healthcare company with an array of products like over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals. Their primary objective was to build a loyalty program targeting physicians, which of course brought a lot of challenges. How do we keep a physician’s attention when there’s so much competition in healthcare? How do we reduce discounting and still keep them engaged? Luckily, Annex Cloud specializes in using long-term incentives to keep attention and to help reduce discounting.

Results:

By implementing a tiered program where discounts depend on the physicians’ spend, we have been able to see major benchmarks in performance. We have now signed up 70% of our client’s current customer base since the launch of the campaign. We also saw a 6% increase in customer spend and an 8% increase in customer lifetime value. But what we’re most impressed by is the 25% decrease in discounting. For a healthcare company of that scale, to reduce discounts by a quarter is a huge plus. By working with Annex Cloud to award returning customers and by personalizing incentives, our client was able to surpass its goals in customer acquisition and discounts.

To learn more about how Annex Cloud can help your business grow, contact us or schedule a demo today.

Let’s Talk Loyalty: Chief Strategist Al Lalani Discusses Customer Acquisition

Customer Acquisition

We are excited to present to you a new video series called “Let’s Talk” where industry experts speak on current trends in retail and ecommerce. Topics range from customer acquisition to ROI of loyalty programs. The idea behind this series is to educate the industry on best practices for serving its customers.

Our first episode is called “Let’s Talk Loyalty,” where Annex Cloud’s Chief Strategist Al Lalani answers the questions that a lot of us in retail are asking. Why is consumer acquisition so expensive? How can we reduce that acquisition cost? How do we segment our audience and what does that do for us?

“We are constantly fighting that battle of acquiring the same customer over and over again,” said Lalani. “It would be great to not have to battle and instead build a true relationship with the customer through retention.”

Here at Annex Cloud, we are constantly bombarded with questions from retailers on how to bridge the gap between the customer and the brand. We want to use this as a platform for retailers all over to get those important questions answered. Ever wonder how to better serve your customers? Contact us or set up a consultation and we’ll be sure to help you!

Why There is No “One Size Fits All” Customer Loyalty Solution

loyalty program

A loyalty program can truly run the gamut when it comes to features and functionality. However, some loyalty programs limit ecommerce and retail brands to plug-and-play, one-size-fits-all models. The problem with that is every business has different products, which means different goals and sales strategies. So how can a clothing brand and an electronics startup … Read more

15 Ways to Convert Your Loyal Customers into Brand Ambassadors

Loyal Customers

While customer loyalty has become a major strategy for consumer retention, it can also play a central part of brand growth. Utilizing strategies that reward customers for loyalty actions such as referral marketing and user-generated content (UGC) in addition to purchases can help ensure that your brand thrives. After all, who better to recommend your … Read more

What’s Next in Loyalty? Customer Retention Technology to Keep an Eye On

Customer retention technology

Customer retention creates a steady funnel of sustainable growth, whether you sell to regular consumers, small businesses or giant corporations. In fact, attracting new shoppers costs nearly five times more than keeping an existing one. According to KISSmetrics, the average global cost of a lost customer is $243. You may not hear the dollars running … Read more

Cutting Edge Ways of Using UGC In Emails

UGC in emails

With the constant waxing and waning of market and technology trends, the biggest challenge in front of marketers is to sketch out a marketing plan which will keep them afloat both fiscally and strategically. Considering that people upload around 1.8 billion images every day on social media and 80% of web content is user generated content (UGC), marketers have zeroed in on it mainly due to its easy availability and social acceptance. Plus, its authentic and often in-situ nature makes it a unique insight tool relieved of biases and artificiality. As 92% of customers worldwide trust earned media over any form of advertising, it tells something about its unequaled persuasive ability. And the need, thus, is the proper and maximum utilization of such quality content. It’s realizable by putting UGC in emails.

All of a company’s marketing channels–from their social media presence to their blog and beyond–have their own significance, and intermixing them with UGC is a wise decision in any spread of analytical thinking. But a company is not putting its best foot forward with UGC if it’s not using UGC in emails. This is simply because email is, generally, the best performing marketing channel for ROI. According to dotmailer, emails drive £30.01 in returns for every £1 spent, making them the ideal tool for executing prominent areas of your marketing strategy. Their unobtrusive nature means that customers can view emails as per their convenience; something that telecallers or SMS alerts don’t allow. That’s what makes 77% of consumers prefer email for marketing communications.

Moreover, email’s status as a push channel creates the possibility to deliver personalized review content that’s relevant to each recipient, streamlining the customer experience by throwing away the “shop around” process. For all the brands who are vying for message relevancy and increased engagement from consumers, email usage can be a silver bullet.

Finally, email usage can rope in greater operational efficiency- even when you are using UGC in emails- due to email marketing automation reporting. With that at your disposal, you can have a detailed breakdown of your campaign’s performance, helping you to constantly refine your UGC strategy. It’s then not a lot of brain-work to understand why 20% of marketers say that their business’ primary revenue source is directly linked to email operations. It’s then as clear as day that email is more than just informing your subscribers about product releases or sending the occasional thank you note.

Different Ways of Using UGC in Emails

The aim should be to incorporate all the possible forms of UGC to create a compelling piece of email marketing. And ultimately, it should become a bridge of commerce between UGC and your consumers.

A) Product Reviews:

Product reviews are the trusted reinforcers of your product’s saleability. Through skillful targeting, the relevancy of these reviews can be further sharpened if paired with a strategic email campaign. Note that customer reviews boost click-through by 25% in e-commerce product emails. Naturopathica, the spa focused on holistic health, has been doing a commendable job by bringing feedback into product emails.

ugc in emails 1

The noticeable thing about this email is the large product image, which is surrounded by three reviews. The email also has an incentive, as the bottom of the email gives a coupon code for 10 or 15 % off, depending on what size the customer purchases. The placement of the copy ensures that people won’t overlook what people have said in reviews.

B) User Generated Images:

User-generated images collected through Visual Commerce leave no place for guessing the functionalities, style, and comfort of the product. These illustrations make it quite easy for customers to visualize the actual worth of a product. And that stems from the authenticity. Maybe, that’s the reason why brands see a 25% increase in conversions when user-generated photos are used instead of professionally made product shots by brands. Images shared by users, thus, should have a place in your plan of using UGC in emails. Below is an example email from Buy Buy Baby.

buy buy baby vc solicitation email

This email is interesting because its main purpose is really just engagement. While sending happy thoughts to its customers, the email encourages them to contribute images too.

Such campaigns can easily earn extra credibility if you publish the first name of the individual beside the UGC. Or by linking that person’s social media account to his or her submitted photo. It validates the presence of that person. It does a lot in reassuring the email subscriber that you are highlighting real people in your emails.

Attentive minds would have guessed by now that the very meaning of branding has changed. It’s no longer what you as a marketer say about your brand. It’s all about what actual buyers of the brand say. UGC allows the proper amplification of those buyers’ sayings by sprinkling them sufficiently across purchase journeys. Inserting such valuable pieces of UGC in emails- something which platforms like dotmailer allow- gives the needed accuracy and relevancy in their right propagation. People generally check their emails at least once in a whole day. That’s what is at the core of the study, which says that using UGC in emails sees a 43% increase in click-through rates and a 2-3X conversion rate

Don’t miss out on dotmailer’s primer on UGC and emails!

For the Best Personalization Experience, Know How to Identify the Gift Buyers

gift buyers

This is a guest post written by Van Schlichting, SEO & Optimization Practice Lead at Corra, a global digital agency creating transformative commerce experiences for fashion, beauty, and lifestyle brands. To learn more, visit corra.com.

A good first question when familiarizing yourself with a new customer base is, “Who is my typical customer?” This is usually a question that you can readily find an answer to, but where does one go from there?

Having a clear understanding of who is hitting your site, and what they are looking for, is key to developing an immersive and relevant customer experience.

Who is on your site anyway?

The place e-commerce occupies on the cusp of technology and marketing often puts us in the mindset of a traditional marketer. One thing we often miss with this approach is the understanding that visitor composition changes naturally throughout the year, particularly for businesses in a highly seasonal industry. Some customers may seek your brand only certain times of the year. For instance, some shoppers are only interested in the winter clothing line, or they tend to shop in advance of summer activities.

Beyond changes in your customer base behavior, you also can see site visitors who aren’t actually your customer at all. For instance, your customer Mr. Smith is very loyal, and purchases fairly regularly. Mrs. Smith, however, only shops on your site on Black Friday, or during a peak season for a gift for her husband. While she may know what she wants to purchase, her unfamiliarity with your site or product leads to a shopping journey that is very different from what you might expect. Since so much of a good testing program is about looking at the end-to-end experience, this can complicate your interpretation of the results.

Identifying the Gift Buyers

Learning how your customers act during gift-buying times is the key to achieving the most relevant and engaging experience. There is no magic bullet that will solve everything, but there are some variables to begin looking at to identify gift buyers:

  • New vs. Returning – While we may not be able to identify Mrs. Smith on Mr. Smith’s computer, we can be fairly certain that gift buyers like her are going to be “new” to our site. Beginning by looking at new visitors, and then refining them into some of the more detailed sub-segments listed here is a good place to start. It’s also important to note that Mrs. Smith may be using Mr. Smith’s computer or even account, and so may not show up as new at all. A good way to begin profiling this scenario is to focus on the typical time windows you can predict, when gift buyers surge, and develop segments for only that time period.  You can then compare their behavior to other periods more readily.
  • Index/Product Page Loiterers – Pausing longer than usual on the index or product page is most commonly a characteristic of someone buying gifts. I’ve seen 20%-30% increases in time on these pages during the holidays! Combine this with new visitors, and you’ve done most of the heavy lifting toward identifying gift buyers. Just be sure that other factors—such as other tests you are running, or content changes—are factored out.
  • Product Page, Index Page, Product Page – Similar to sitting on the index page, new and unfamiliar shoppers tend to move back and forth from products to product lists more often. This could be Mrs. Smith looking for that perfect gift, particularly when aligned with specific keyword searches (such as Mr. Smith wanting that new gadget that is being advertised) or within a specific deep (level 4) category on the site.
  • Keyword Searchers – For most retailers who aren’t high SKU count/category spread, returning users tend to use the navigation more often than keyword searching. A new visitor doing a single keyword search during the holidays is likely to be a gift buyer because they already know what is wanted.
  • Cart Adds & Abandons – Generally, you will see a negative correlation between gift buyers and abandoned carts. We often miss this one because in general, add-to-cart rates and cart abandonment rates will both rise during the holidays. This is because the existing customer is more likely to price shop, while a gift buyer goes straight to checkout.

Keeping an eye on these behavioral patterns will help retailers to see which customers are new or returning, and which have landed on your site to shop for gifts. Knowing this will allow you to target these customer groups with promotions that speak to their interests, and in some cases acquire them in their own right.

Amazon Cash: A Way Towards Cardless Payments

Amazon Cash

A broken online shopping experience is a real killjoy for e-commerce operators as well as shoppers. Studies have shown that tricky, complicated, and inconvenient payment options can be a deal breaker for an online shopping experience. It has been observed that 8% have abandoned the cart as they felt that there were not enough payment methods. Amazon has decided to respond to this rising alarm of inefficient payment modes. Lat week, it announced the launch of Amazon Cash to reduce the need of card payments by opening a channel for customers to pay with cash.

This free service lets shoppers who are credit card-adverse pay online through a simple process. Customers will have to go the Amazon Cash site and press “Get your barcode,” which they can receive via text or print out at home. Customers then will have to present the barcode at a participating retailer — which includes CVS, Sheetz, and Speedway. Once at the store, customers will have to show the cashier the barcode to scan and pay the amount they want to be added to their Amazon balance in cash. With the Amazon gift card, which gets added to their account, customers can purchase items on Amazon.com. Customers can add between $15 and $500 in a single Amazon Cash transaction; daily limits vary by retailer. This cash will get applied immediately to their online Amazon account.

Besides, as a promotion through May 31, Amazon is offering a $10 free digital credit to those who add at least $50 to their Amazon Balance. It’s important to note that customers won’t be allowed to withdraw the cash from their balance. All these activities can be tracked through the individual accounts of customers. The following image will help you in grasping this functionality.

amazon cash

The Reasoning for Amazon Cash

A little observation is enough to conclude that neither the functionality nor the conceptualization of Amazon Cash is a maverick innovation. PayPal has the My Paypal Cash card, which has a similar partnership with retailers that enables its customers to make cash payments on multiple sites. Even Amazon’s competitor, Wal-Mart, has launched a Pay with Cash initiative for online purchases back in 2012.

The secret why almost everyone in the online business domain is opting for generating this cardless payment framework is in the insights. According to a 2014 survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, 63% of the 1,000 millennials polled are living without credit cards. The total population of card-free Americans is likely well below 25%. Further insights tell that 7% (9 million) and 19.5% (24.5 million) of U.S. households were unbanked and underbanked, respectively, in 2015. It also found that 62.5% of unbanked households used cash to make purchases. Looking at such data, it’s not surprising to see that Amazon wants to use its Amazon Cash as a tool to reach people who don’t have bank accounts and cards. Of course, it also aims to target the set of people who don’t want to use their debit or credit cards while shopping online due to security purposes.

Even though for time being Amazon Cash is currently available for Americans only, Amazon can think about expanding it in emerging economies where digitalized payments are still not a norm. Amazon’s recent launch of its Prime services in Mexico, where only 44% of adults have a bank account, is a sign that it has already made a move in that direction. And Mexico is not alone. India has more than 165 million unbanked citizens. The situation of Southeast Asian countries is more or less similar.

Another important point to consider here is that Amazon has tried to run promotional campaigns and offered free Prime membership to low-income households to get a grip over that demographic segment. It has seen positive results too. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian wrote that Amazon Prime membership is increasing “fastest among lower-income householders, which should drive continued incremental share gains at the expense of more discount-oriented retailers”. Amazon Cash can further tighten this hold over the low-income group by giving it an easy payment option.

Concerns with Amazon Cash

Though everything about Amazon Cash looks picture perfect, some concerns make their presence felt. The first point is, about 28% of unbanked customers said they don’t trust banks while a similar number said avoiding a bank gives them more privacy. Now, it’s very difficult to find out how those who don’t trust banks would want to give the online retailer the personal information required to open an Amazon account.

The second point is that it’s simply not that troublesome to buy an Amazon gift card and then type in the numbers to add it to your account. It’s true that Amazon Cash is a new way to pay that some consumers may find more convenient. But it looks like a lot of effort for Amazon to come up with a way to shake the last nickel out of the pockets of customers who were slightly outside its reach. If it doesn’t get translated into sales, Amazon Cash may turn out to be a solution which was created to solve a problem that didn’t really exist!

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