Make It Personal: How to Give Online Shoppers an Authentic Brand Experience

Beth Perry, Content Marketing Editor

Cart recovery emails are often boring and robotic. Even if they include all the necessary details, they don’t always draw me back in to buy. But Unique Vintage’s messages are as unique and personalized as the company’s vintage-inspired clothing. The retailer works hard to use its brand voice to stand out and recreate the in-store experience online. Customers are “darlings.” Things aren’t “good,” they’re “fabulous.” And you don’t “want” something. You “covet” it.

Sound like a fluffy, flowery detail? Not a chance, said Courtney Lear Wallace, director of digital marketing and ecommerce for Unique Vintage, at the 2016 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago. That unique voice is just one of the personalization techniques the retailer uses to maintain a cohesive brand and ultimately, boost the bottom line.

Wallace said she often receives “cold, robotic” emails from some retailers. “It kind of breaks you from that impulse to buy. You realize that you’re being marketed to and even as marketers, we don’t want to be marketed to,” she said.

Although about 80% of its business is online, shoppers clearly have the most authentic brand experience at the company’s flagship store on “Vintage Row” in Burbank, Calif. But the company tries very hard to offer that same personalized experience online, using carefully crafted strategies for cart recovery, product recommendations and mobile-first design, just to name a few.

Recover Those Abandoned Carts

Unique Vintage’s email channel is its third top revenue-driving channel, and an automated cart recovery campaign is their most successful. It makes up 40% of the company’s email revenue.

Since personalizing with cart recovery messages, Unique Vintage has boosted shopping cart revenue by 300% year-over-year and overall email revenue by 100%. Meanwhile, the retailer has also increased the conversion rate of these messages to more than 20%.

Wallace said the keys to their success are focusing on access, automation and authenticity:

Access: Success with cart recovery messaging relies a lot on having reliable access to customer data and knowing when they gave you their email address. Did they log in natively? Sign up through social media? Enter it as they began to check out but then split?

Automation:  “Set it and forget it” software is a must-have. Are emails triggering at the right times? Going to the right people? Is all of the information flowing over correctly?

Authenticity:  Ask what makes your brand authentic. For Unique Vintage, that’s using words and phrases you might hear in the store in the subject line, introduction and message copy.

Show Them What They’re Missing

Unique Vintage displays images of products left in the cart. Why? It thinks of cart recovery emails as an extension of the store dressing room. Showing people what they left behind helps personalize their experience. And it might just entice them to buy. Wallace said such personalized emails have significantly higher open, click-through and conversion rates compared to non-personalized messages.

Unique Vintage also recommends other products at the bottom of each email. Why? In the company’s boutique, a stylist would never start a dressing room with just items the customer picked. They’d offer more styles, color palettes and suggestions. Conversion rates are four times higher for customers who click on personalized products. “The numbers really speak for themselves,” Wallace said.

Make the Most of Your Data

Wallace also encouraged attendees to think about their data and how they can capture it and capitalize on it.

The company works to target and personalize emails by first finding out who their customers are and what they’re interested in. Are they sale shoppers? What’s their average order value?

Unique Vintage sends weekly emails but can also tailor those messages based on what the customer might like. They might include a secondary message about plus-size clothing, for example, for those who have purchased from that category. The company can then track customers that open and click to know whether the personalization worked and send more targeted messages in the future. It has also created affinity groups for people who may be interested in certain styles, such as 1920s or 1960s clothing.

“We’ve seen really great open and conversion rates and revenue from being able to really key in to what that customer is interested in,” Wallace said.

To introduce the customer to the brand and make them feel part of the club, one of the brand’s welcome emails says, “You’re a darling now. You’re fun. You’re fearless. You’re fabulous.” Yet another example of communicating consistently with the same brand voice to help online customers have that same authentic shopping experience. Beyond giving shoppers the “warm fuzzies,” customers who enter the welcome series make initial purchases and become repeat customers at a higher rate than any other acquisition channel.

Think Mobile

In the end, Wallace stressed that no personalization program and cohesive customer experience can work without knowing what devices your customers prefer and making sure your site is easy to use on a mobile device.

“It absolutely blows my mind that in 2016 I still get emails that I cannot read on my phone,” Wallace said.

Last year, for the first time, more than 50% of Unique Vintage’s site traffic came from mobile. And just over 70% of its email opens and nearly 50% of its email revenue came from mobile devices. “Are we designing for our desktops that we stare at all day? Absolutely not,” Wallace said. Responsive design is critical. “It’s really that mobile-first design concept.”

Her advice: Study Google Analytics or whatever analytics tool you use. Find out the top three to five devices your customers use to access your site, and have them in-house to do mock-ups and debug your site. Then, make design decisions based on those stats. The data is there. Go get it, and use it!