Online shopping is more popular than ever. The first quarter of 2014 saw a staggering 198 million Americans – 78 percent of the adult U.S. population – use online platforms to make purchases, according to a comScore study.
Experts agree that it is best to target a specific subset of this vast group of shoppers and appeal to their interests and needs. This increases the chances that these users will visit the site, complete a purchase and become a loyal customer.
But what are the best ways to go about targeting certain e-commerce customers? Let's take a look at a few top strategies:
"The first quarter of 2014 saw a staggering 198 million Americans use online platforms to make purchases."
Identifying your target audience: Research is key
First and foremost, retailers must determine who, exactly, is their target audience. Who are the users visiting the site, and which of these individuals are making purchases?
Practical Ecommerce contributor Erica Tevis noted that research is critical in order to identify a company's potential target audience. Tevis recommended looking into the local area to gauge who might be interested in the products or services being offered. This will help the retailer establish a consumer persona for use in marketing and promotional efforts.
"Identify their presumed age, gender, income, household size, where they shop. what they read, what they browse online," Tevis wrote. "Narrow your audience as closely as possible and focus on one segment at a time. You can always diversify, expand and add customers segments after you become established."
Tevis also suggested asking a few basic questions to help better identify the target audience:
- Who will be using the product or service?
- What other interests might these individuals have?
- When will shoppers be purchasing the product or service being offered?
- Where will shoppers use the product or service?
- Why might someone need this product or service?
Establish customer segments
Once a large group of consumers has been identified as the target audience, it's time to narrow the focus further with customer segments. These are specific categories in which different types of customers can be organized. While disparate types of shoppers are included in the target audience, they will be organized into separate customer segments.
Besides breaking customers down into segments according to their gender, income level or age, there are several other customer segments to consider, according to Optimizely contributor Junan Pang:
- Different visitor tiers such as consumers who log into their own accounts, guest users, VIP shoppers, repeat customers and first-time visitors
- Customers who have made a purchase within the last month (or other period of time, depending on the company's business cycle)
- Top purchasers such as those who make frequent transactions or those who spend a considerable amount on each purchase
- Customer location
- Traffic source, such as shoppers who landed on your site through a search engine
- Device type like desktop users, smartphone or tablet users
Pang pointed out that these segments are not only valuable for target marketing, but also for data analysis and trials.
"When practicing website optimization, leveraging segmentation provides a framework for running intentional, well-hypothesized experiments on your website that drive value," Pang wrote. "Experiment data you gather from specific visitor segments interacting with your site will help you provide a more personalized, engaging experience."
Targeting mobile shoppers
A rising number of consumers are leveraging their smartphones, tablets and laptops every day for online shopping, making this an essential – and growing – piece of the target audience puzzle.
However, retailers shouldn't jump straight to mobile. Econsultancy contributor Arie Shpanya suggested building trust by offering a top-tier desktop experience first, and following up on this with a winning mobile experience. For instance, one vendor found mobile success after encouraging desktop shoppers to utilize its mobile app through a targeted email campaign.
While there are millions of online shoppers, it's in a company's best interest to target those who have a need for its products or services and will be the most likely to make a purchase and become loyal customers.