Using Purchase Histories to Improve Ecommerce Sales

Once you know where someone has been, it becomes easier to predict where they might go next. This is one of the principles upon which recommendation engines are predicated.

Whether you’re selling ebooks online, baseball hats or bowling shoes, using purchase histories to improve e-commerce sales is a smart idea. A customer’s order history can give you significant insights as to what works for them and what doesn’t. Analyzing their data and creating promotions with this in mind can help you keep them as a returning customer.

Find the Trends

In the past, have they tended to make certain purchases during certain periods of time? What products do they buy repeatedly and when do they buy them? When they purchase those items, are there any other products they buy at the same time?

Date-related purchases, as well as concurrent purchases, can give you some idea of what they’re using the product to do and how frequently they need to do it.

Create Personalized Offers—Carefully

With the above knowledge in hand, you can personalize offers to your returning customers—as long as you don’t get so specific you creep them out.

Learn from the example of Target whose purchase history data told them a young woman was pregnant. They then sent offers to her home, centered on the teen’s condition—before her father was aware of it.

In an interview with Forbes, Target statistician Andrew Pole said; “(We learned) if we send someone a catalog and say, ‘Congratulations on your first child!’ and they’ve never told us they’re pregnant, that’s going to make some people uncomfortable. Even if you’re following the law, you can do things where people get queasy.”

Accomplishing This Gracefully

To compensate, Target engaged in a bit of benevolent subterfuge with its offers. According to Pole; “We started mixing in ads for things we knew pregnant women would never buy, so the baby ads looked random. We’d put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We’d put a coupon for wineglasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like the products were chosen by chance.”

Operating in this fashion, the recipient could comfortably take advantage of the promotions without feeling as if they’d been spied upon, even though they pretty much had been.

Smart Personalization Ideas

Depending upon the nature of your products, you can send offers when your data tells you they’re likely to be running out of goods requiring replenishment.

  • Include a promo code for the item tied to the purchase of something they may not have purchased previously—but could find useful—based upon your observations.
  • Include a free sample of a complementary item in the shipment when they reorder. This can introduce them to a new item you know is likely to resonate with them, based on items they’ve bought previously.

Intelligent Loyalty Programs

Knowing their interests, you can you can offer membership in a loyalty program tailored specifically to their demonstrated likes. According to e-commerce platform provider Shopify, this can be an outstanding means of engaging your repeat customers.

If you’re selling ebooks online, this can include perks like chats with authors whose books they’ve purchased on numerous occasions, advance notice of new works, and sneak peeks at chapters in exchange for allowing you to post reviews of them on your site.

As you can see, there are many ways using purchase histories to improve e-commerce sales can be beneficial. Your loyal customers will get deals on the items they purchase frequently, which in turn will keep them in the fold. Meanwhile, you’ll enjoy a closer relationship with your best customers, which will lead to more conversions.

It’s a win for everyone involved, as long as you’re careful to avoid coming across as a stalker.

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