Three Key Shopper Personalities and How to Win Them Over

The sweet spot for optimal email marketing
On the left and right you will see the two most common sorts of emails online stores send to their customers.

The sweet spot is the elusive zone between an all-out, one-to-many promotional campaign and a boring transactional email. Emails in the sweet spot drive both conversions of new shoppers and loyalty of previous buyers. Just as importantly, emails in the sweet spot improve your customers’ experience of your brand. Most businesses are missing the sweet spot.

Fact: the average open rate for one-to-many, direct marketing emails is around 20 percent whilst the average open rate for behavioural (/transactional) emails is around 50 percent. This means your message is more than 100 percent more likely to be read if delivered based on your customers’ behaviour. You have to admit, that’s a HUGE difference.

Everything your customers do or don’t do on your store can be used to personalise your emails to them. Let’s look at how you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

A Top-tier Example

Many large retail companies spend a great deal of time tracking what their customers are doing online and reviewing this data to find patterns. They can identify that if someone buys a TV now they’re likely to buy another one in three years, that if they buy a fridge today they’re likely to buy a microwave in six months. On top of this, there are even a few companies out there that do a good job of behavioural email marketing. It’s no small coincidence that these are also the online stores that do extremely well. As a good example, we need look no further than America’s Urban Outfitters (a popular store with both a strong online and offline retail presence).

Take for instance Urban Outfitter’s bread and butter, the abandoned cart email. Although the most basic of behavioural emails, only 14 percent of online retailers say they target customers who have abandoned carts. Contrast this with the 75 percent of consumers who say they abandon the cart with an initial intention to return later! Here’s an example directly from Urban Outfitters:

A great example of Urban Outfitter's abandoned cart email.
A great example of Urban Outfitter’s abandoned cart email.

Simple and effective. To me, the email is genuinely relevant, if not directly useful. It addresses me personally and even if I don’t want to continue with my current cart, they have narrowed down some other products I might like to buy – much more useful than getting a weekly newsletter featuring items I’m unlikely to buy (e.g. men’s shoes if you’re a woman or dresses if you’re a man). This email certainly increases Urban Outfitters’ conversions as well as the relevancy of their communication with me. It’s a win-win.

Three Key Shopper Personalities and How to Win Them Over

Building on this example, lets look at three typical customer behavioural attitudes and how we might tailor our action-based emails to deliver results.

1. The Distracted Shopper

Background: The distracted shopper spends their day browsing a variety of websites, essentially ‘window shopping’. They like to know what’s out there and happily add items to their cart, sort of as an act of ‘remembering’ – not with any specific goal in mind.

Generally these customers will buy smaller value items (for immediate gratification) and are less influenced by the price itself (they’re just browsing, not bargain hunting). Instead they’ll be influenced by trends, offers and the items they buy will generally be ‘nice to haves’, things they are buying that make them feel good.

This should influence the emails you send. Starting with cart abandonment as an example, you could tailor your emails to this group by triggering them to users who: a. Spend a long period of time on your store, b. Browse products from multiple categories, and c. Add multiple items to their cart/wish list.

The cart abandonment emails you send should also feature ‘related’ items in order to appeal to the ‘browsing’ frame of mind. On top of the Urban Outfitters example above, an example from Amazon is shown below. This email was triggered after spending a lot of time browsing watches on, with a particular focus on Citizen. They’ve clearly highlighted a number of watches I might be interested in, casting the net wide in-line with my ‘cruisy’ browsing nature the day before (I wasn’t after one particular watch). This is a great example of an email targeting the distracted shopper.


This example email from Amazon targets the 'distracted shopper'.
This example email from Amazon targets the ‘distracted shopper’.

2. The Determined Shopper

Determined shoppers have arrived at your store for a reason. They have researched the product they are after and will be looking to buy only that product in particular.

These shoppers are not interested in browsing or seeing ‘related items’. They know what they want and their primary motivators are price and service.

Walgreens targets the determined shopper via emailTo target these customers correctly you should aim for visitors who look at just one product and certainly those who don’t stray from browsing a single product category. They also have the tendency to add the product they’re after to the cart and begin checkout but abandon based on shipping charges or other extra ‘fees’. As their influencers are price and service, these shoppers are likely to respond to special offers or free shipping. This is particularly effective for items that they don’t need ‘immediately’ – i.e. ‘big decision’ items that take some time to purchase, giving them to wait to find the cheapest option. This is when you should strike with your email marketing!

An example of this tactic used successfully comes from Walgreens. Although not overly tailored when it comes to details (perhaps their software is limiting) this example does highlight that the particular product I added to my cart is now offered at a reduced price. This email would work well as it directly targets the determined shopper with the cheapest offer they’re going to find for a product we already know they want.

3. The Loyal Shopper

Loyal shoppers will generally purchase items from the same store time and again. They appreciate becoming a member of your store and will respond to your email marketing stronger than any other shopper type. Loyal shoppers are generally only loyal to one store at a time in an individual category so you should treat them with respect and understanding.

Bearing this in mind, you can send a large number of effective emails to these customers. Moving away from cart abandonment emails, one example of an email these customers respond well to is an email following up on a previous purchase a few months after the fact. This email would do well to contain related products that could be useful on top of their original purchase – for example you could send someone who bought a TV an update on the new Blu-Ray players three months after they first checked out.

Another example of an effective email to send these customers is to update them on the latest model in a product line when you suspect they’re ready to update that product. For example if a customer buys a cotton collared shirt today you could send them an update featuring your new collared shirts in 9 to 12 months time. This email should be quite effective as this is roughly the time at which they will be looking to refresh some of their wardrobe. You can apply this same logic to nearly any product class.

A Summary

The three use-cases above are just the tip of the iceberg. They don’t even begin to get into the full depth of personalisation that is possible when using behavioural email marketing software.

Building out a solid email marketing plan is an important step in your business. Every improvement you make from here on out results in permanent conversion and retention improvements.


Gaining permanent improvements is hard. Keeping customers happy is even harder. Event-driven emails are here to help you to do both. By communicating effectively with your customers you’ll be in the best position to drive your product development and growth and ensure you’re building something your customers love: something that will keep them coming back.

To find out more about Chris Hexton and Vero, click through to his website.

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