As an avid shooter and firearms enthusiast, I make about 95% of my related purchases online. The only purchases I make through a gun, sporting goods, or big box store usually are FFL required purchases. That being said I’m always surprised by the emails or lack thereof that I receive from the e-commerce sites I shop on.
A few firearms e-commerce sites such as Primary Arms, Aero Precision, and Palmetto State Armory do an excellent job of marketing to me via email based on my browsing and shopping behaviors. Others don’t market to me at all, even after I’ve purchased from them. This prompted me to conduct a little research to determine why some shooting e-tailers email market to me behaviorally and others not at all.
Existing Customers vs. New Customers
Before we jump into the research I’ve conducted and the associated findings, I’d like to examine why firearm e-tailers should be seriously looking at behavioral email marketing irrespective of their size.
Numerous whitepapers have been published on the topic of e-commerce customer acquisition vs. retention. Moreover, while it varies by industry, suffice to say it’s estimated to be 6X to 8X more cost effective to retain and up/cross-sell to your existing customer base than it is to sell to new customers. However, neither group of customers can be ignored. Sales growth is dependent on both new and existing customers to create an effective customer revenue mix.
What exactly is Behavioral Email Marketing?
Behavioral email marketing is the practice of sending automated, targeted emails to your contacts/customers based on their interactions with your company’s social media, email, or e-commerce website. For example; if a customer purchases a custom trigger for a particular make and model gun then your email marketing platform sends the customer a follow-up email showcasing extended slide releases for the same make and model of firearm. Another great example is a customer places items in their shopping cart but never complete their purchase ( aka shopping cart abandonment). Once they leave your site, they get a follow-up email that encourages them to complete their purchase. Cart abandonment alone accounts for upwards of 70% of lost online sales.
The Davids vs. Goliaths
To better understand how and why some brands were better than others at email marketing I decided to visit a broad range of sites and interact with each site the same way as closely as possible. Note that for each of these sites I already had a customer/user account. If the brands had social media accounts, I also visited each of their accounts too.
What happened next was very interesting. Larger “Goliath” brands like Primary Arms, Brownells, Palmetto State Armory, Century Arms, and Aero Precision all sent me emails suggesting products for me to purchase. In almost all cases the products they suggested were ones that I viewed on their sites. However, the smaller “David” brands like Magpul, Tandemkross, Strike Industries, and Volquartsen never sent me emails after leaving their sites.
After more research specifically examining the headers of the emails I did receive I noticed a universal pattern. All of the emails came from Listrak servers. Listrak is a CRM, email, and marketing automation platform that uses AI, machine learning and predictive analytics to create personalized customer interactions, i.e. behavioral email marketing. In addition, I also discovered that the majority of large brands also use NetSuite cloud-based ERP to power their businesses. This makes sense given the size and complexities of their operations. From my experience, I know that both NetSuite and Listrak are financially and human resource intensive platforms, which would explain why smaller brands don’t utilize them considering their popularity and almost universal adoption amongst the larger brands.
What I did discover about the smaller brands is that the majority of them utilize some type of MailChimp integration (e.g., newsletters), but unfortunately MailChimp is not a behavioral email marketing platform, but it does offer a free level of service which is probably appealing to the smaller brands.
Leveling The Playing Field
My consulting practice has shown me many times that this proverbial David and Goliath marketing juxtapose is not unique to the firearms and shooting e-commerce world. Almost all industries have it, but what many smaller companies don’t realize is that there are platforms that can level the playing field and provide many of the same features of a Listrak type platform but at a fraction of the cost and time necessary to implement a robust AI-powered platform like Listrak.
As I’ve already outlined, some of the most significant barriers smaller brands face when implementing behavioral email marketing is the upfront and ongoing cost of a marketing automation platform, and it’s associated setup and implementation. However, there are several feature rich marketing automation platforms like GetResponse, Drip, and ActiveCampaign that are affordable and relatively easy to implement. For around $200/mo each of these platforms will allow for the management of ≤ 10,000 customers. Of these platforms, I’ve found ActiveCampaign to be the best value, and it consistently ranks high in online reviews. It’s also easier to use and implement than many of its competitors.
If your company would like to increase online sales by taking advantage of all the benefits behavioral email marketing has to offer, I would love to chat with you.