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Marshmallow Soft Sell: Attention Grabbing Personalized Content

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eCommerce Strategy, Marketing

I was on a call with a prospective client recently and we started talking about the difference between the hard sell and the soft sell in the online world. This conversation got me thinking, here in Canada and with the merchants I talk to, I still see too many retailers focusing on the hard sell. On that call I referred to it as the “Marshmallow Soft Sell”, almost any excuse to use the word “marshmallow” in a business call, but it also occurred to me just how much it’s talked about, but not done right, especially here in Canada. The issue is that I don’t think people realize the real potential and why it’s actually more valuable than the “Hard Sell”.

Related: eCommerce First Steps: How Many Products is Enough?

What the hell am I talking about?

personalized content marshmallow soft sell

We all talk about the importance of recognizing the lifetime value of our clients, but when we want to increase sales we focus on the hard sell. Get Free Shipping today only or Buy one get one 50% off! This helps and works, don’t get me wrong, but temporarily. Sure if you offer Free Shipping this weekend you’ll see a nice boost in sales, this weekend. What happens on Monday? Sales dip, every time. Not to mention, when you’re covering the cost of all the shipping. So why aren’t we investing time in the things that will convert, increase sales and just as importantly, build customer retention consistently. You want to build a relationship with your clients, and I don’t know any relationship that succeeds when one side doesn’t know the other.

Related: Customer Retention Strategies in 2015 – eCommerce Toronto Meetup

Personalized Content

personalized content

Personalized content means that the products you see, marketing you’re exposed to, even emails you get is all based on YOU. Categories or products you’ve browsed, or orders you’ve made are used for retailers/brands to show you content that pertains to you. This is all based on data. At Demac Media we jokingly yet honestly refer to ourselves as “data nerds”. Any and all business decisions that can be, should be made based on data to support it. In this particular case, since you’re not actually talking to your customers in person (in most cases) the data to support personalized content is key! Tracking how they got to your site, where they spent time, how / where they left, not to mention what they bought, and how often they bought. It’s for this reason we’ve put such a focus on CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools in 2015 and the importance of your 360 degree view of your customer.

Related: A Guide to Growth Hacking for eCommerce Merchants

The Effectiveness of Personalization

We ran a test recently with one of our partners, a simple one to get some data on the effectiveness of personalized and segmented email marketing. It was a simple concept really; send an email notifying past customers of a particular product that it was getting replenished. Not discounted. Not limited time free shipping. Just a note to let them know there was more if they needed it. We saw a 2 1/2 times higher open rate, and over 4 1/2 times higher on click through rates.

On site personalized content can include:

Off-site personalized content can include:

Let’s put some numbers behind it:

Our good friends at Hubspot have confirmed they saw personalized content have a 42% better success rate than generic content. In addition, almost 3/4 of users got frustrated when online content had nothing to do with their interests. Marketers saw a 19% uplift in sales when they quantified the impact of personalizing content to their customers. What would a 19% increase in sales do for you?


The biggest challenge out there right now is that most retailers are talking about it, and not doing, or would like to but are limited by technology. Sadly it’s still not that common for these reasons but there are 3rd party tools, and I hope you see the value in spending some time looking into it.

I guarantee most people reading this are thinking the same thing, “yeah we do that already”. But let me ask you – do you? Do you do it right? Maybe you have cross-sell items setup, but do you monitor their success, adjust accordingly? Sure you have a loyalty program but how effective is it, or are you considering that your customers shop with you on different channels and accommodating that?

Related: 2015 eCommerce Trends

Focus on the Marshmallow Soft Sell

personalized content marshmallow soft selll

Focus on the Marshmallow Soft Sell as opposed to only the Jawbreaker Hard Sell. I don’t know about you, but I can eat way more marshmallows than jawbreakers

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