One positive aspect of challenging times is that it makes us more open to change, to new ways of doing things. As marketers look to fight this economy by maximizing ROI, online retailers, in particular, have an opportunity to tap into potentially lucrative customer segments they may have overlooked. Instead of just spending their efforts and budget to reach customers with the most recent transactions, they can also focus on when customers are most likely to buy next.
In-market timing, linked to one integrated model, can guide more profitable marketing to the right target at the right time. Online retailers, because of the rich amount of data they can collect about customers, can use in-market timing more to their advantage than physical retailers. In a store setting, we only know what an individual customer bought, not how many times they came to the store without buying or how much time they spent.
Here are four key shopping patterns online retailers can watch to learn when to reach customers and prospects more profitably:
1. Shopping Styles
A simple example of how to use in-market timing is to observe the shopping behavior of customers on site. For example, a good portion of online shoppers conduct fairly extensive research online, which may involve repeated browsing within a category, reading of user-generated reviews.
2. Action Indicators
A particular pattern to pay attention to is a lengthy session with intermittent bursts of page views, which may indicate an active shopper simultaneously viewing competitive sites. This is often a strong indicator of an impending purchase.
3. Considered Purchases
Not all buyers consider purchases as carefully. For those consumers making a “considered purchase,” we often see them come to the site, place an item in the shopping cart, and check out. Such customers completed their research before and have come back to purchase. In such cases, there is little need to use marketing to persuade them to buy; however, marketing “completer” merchandise (for example, cables, HDMI switches, etc. for a large-screen TV) to such customers, either in-session or post-purchase, can be profitable.
4. Inter-Purchase Periods
The internal patterns of an individual’s past purchases are also important to understand. One of these patterns can be described as their “inter-purchase” period: the average length of time a consumer goes between purchases. Depending on the product category, these periods can be relatively short or quite long. Most retail marketing kicks into high gear immediately after a customer has made a purchase and gradually tapers off with the passage of time. For those with a longer inter-purchase period, timing offers closer to their next expected purchase can provide higher lift.