April 1, 2016

Multiplatform retailers understand—and have for some time—that pushing specials to customers via email is a proven, effective method of boosting sales. That’s especially true if retailers are able to gather information about customer interests so they can push specials relevant to particular customers straight to their inboxes.

But just as merchandising strategies in a physical store are crucial in turning an interested customer into one who’s finding and purchasing products, multiplatform stores also have to constantly look for improvements to their approach to digital marketing.

Deep Linking

One solid approach for multiplatform retailers is what’s known as “deep linking.” This basically means that when the email recipients see an item in an email and are interested in the item, the link they click will take them directly to the place where they can purchase that item rather than just being taken to a retailer’s home page.

That’s not exactly new, of course. It makes sense that you would want an email link to take a customer directly to a page that can facilitate a transaction. But for most of the Internet’s not-really-all-that-long history, email links have pretty much always taken users to browser-based web sites.

More forward-thinking multiplatform retailers now recognize that a growing number of consumers do their online shopping on mobile devices—phones or tablets as opposed to desktops or laptop computers—and they want to interact with apps designed for that device rather than with a web site.

So the current best practice in deep linking actually allows mobile email users to click (or tap) a link in an email and be taken directly where the user can buy the product from the retailer’s downloaded app. That not only makes the use of email more efficient on a mobile device, but it also has the potential to make the purchase quicker and simpler because the user can store credit card and other information right in the app.

Let’s say one of your customers downloads your app, and as part of the customization process, you ask the customer to name the products he or she is most interested in buying. The customer indicates a strong interest in tropical fish and certain kinds of dog treats. Because your app is designed to automatically push information about products to customers who expressed an interest, that customer will automatically get an email with a deep link whenever a new tropical fish or dog treat arrives in the store or whenever there is a special. Clicking or tapping that link will then take the customer to the open app with an option right there on the home screen to do a one-tap purchase of the product.

Of course, apps are getting sophisticated enough that even email is giving way somewhat to direct app-based pushing of information. Customers who agree to receive app-based updates will have information pushed to their phones via notification, just as one might get a notification from NFL Mobile that the Broncos just beat the Chargers. You can pull it down and open it or you can swipe it away—but if you had indicated your interest in the topic, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll take a look at it.

This method is growing in popularity, but email remains a strong and successful method of push marketing. Remember, the younger generation is doing more on mobile devices, but a lot of older customers who are using stone-age equipment like laptops are also the ones who have the money to spend. It doesn’t make sense to write them off completely just because it’s trendy to reach out to millennials, and email is the only truly effective way to reach both the computer user and the mobile device user.

App Appeal

None of this matters, of course, if you don’t first get your customers to download your app or sign up for your email updates. How do you do make that happen?

One way is to hold a contest that offers some sort of free or discounted goods and that requires anyone who wants to enter the contest to sign up for email updates. Once they’re on the email list, you’ve got a golden opportunity to encourage them to download your app or like and follow you on social media. Another method is to print small cards that can be placed into every shopping bag telling customers where to go on your web site to sign up for email updates. That should be a pretty simple URL, like www.mypetstore.com/email. You don’t want to make them work too hard to use the information you’re giving them.

But this is crucial: The more value the customer receives in those emails, the more likely the customer will be to not only stay on the list, but also download your app and provide information about product interests. If the emails provide a combination of sales alerts, helpful tips and interesting news about pet ownership, that’s going to represent value to users and keep them away from the dreaded unsubscribe page.

There are more ways than ever to push sales information to customers. You just have to keep up.

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