The New Science of Commerce Marketing

Susan Wall

There was a time when marketing was mostly about allocating spend across outbound channels: radio, TV, print, and so on. Great marketing was having iconic content to push to those channels, creative that became part of our cultural fabric. A multicultural chorus on a hillside, singing in perfect harmony. Mean Joe Greene tossing his game shirt to a young fan. Grandma grousing about a paltry burger.

Marketers would throw their genius into the universe of maximum eyeballs and hope that evocative content translated into brand awareness and sales.

We knew we were heard. It’s the real thing. I’m lovin’ it. Just do it. Where’s the beef? Some campaigns and slogans became etched into the general lexicon of our time. Trouble is, we had little ability to directly measure the results. Did the ad make you want to buy a beer or pet a Clydesdale? Did you spend the day humming the music without remembering the product? Hindsight reporting might have shown a correlation between a campaign and sales results, but even in that simpler age, marketers couldn’t connect the results to a specific initiative. Marketing was an art of persuasion and guesswork.

The emergence of digital channels has changed marketing into a quantitative science. With a new richness of data from online sources, we can now know more than ever about the people we’re reaching, how they’re responding, and whether those responses lead to revenue. Marketing in the digital world is now more:

  • Interactive: Through websites, apps, and social media, shoppers have more ways to not just receive our messages but to respond. Marketing messages, tactics, and timing can be based on the customer’s previous actions. It’s now a two-way conversation with an empowered consumer.
  • Individual: With real-time data capture and the ability to integrate diverse data streams, online and offline, marketers can finally have the coveted 360-degree view. Every time customers visit your online properties, you can offer a personalized and relevant experience. And soon we will be able to replicate that in-store, as well.
  • Iterative: Digital channels make it easy–imperative, actually–to apply experimental science to continuously test, tweak, and repeat to find the sweet spot where your tactics yield the best results for each market segment.

The Periodic Table Of Marketing Elements

We know from case studies that a highly personal, omnichannel approach can double or triple revenue. But where do you focus your resources? There are millions of possible combinations of tactics, offers, messages, timing, and segments. How do you put order to this infinite web of options?

To answer that question on a more cosmic scale, scientists developed the periodic table of chemical elements, organized in terms of each element’s protons, electron configuration, and recurring properties.

Why not apply the same principles to consumer behavior and relationships among marketing tactics? The periodic table is a useful construct to organize the growing complexity of the omnichannel marketing environment. Each element has a purpose and specific attributes, and each has a relationship to other elements in the table.

This commerce marketing periodic table of elements can be conceptualized in four categories:

  • Acquire: The objective here is to add prospects and customers to your marketing database. Elements could include pop-up sign-ups, Facebook Likes, and e-receipts.
  • Engage: Use shopper data to improve the timing and relevance of interactions with them. Sample elements include welcome emails, post-purchase emails, and anniversary reminders.
  • Convert: Turn a visitor into a buyer and a buyer into a relationship. Elements could include cart recovery emails, back in stock emails, location-based messages, and better transactional messages.
  • Optimize: Continually improve the experience by testing with different segments, creative, or other variables in a disciplined, iterative approach.
Periodic Table of Commerce Marketing

However, unlike chemical elements, marketing elements do not lend themselves to static formulas. There are no prescriptions for the ideal subject line, the best segmentation strategy, the right time or cadence for interaction, or the magic words that induce a buy now response.

The optimal formula will be unique for each brand and for audiences and scenarios within the brand. By continually applying the Optimize elements, you will discover your own formula for success and understand how that formula changes over time–because it inevitably will.

Marketing is meant to be creative, engaging, and inspirational. To accomplish that in today’s consumer-driven culture, marketers must experiment, test, and refine their efforts in a true scientific fashion to hone in on strategies with predictably repeatable results.

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