September 15, 2011, 2:50 PM

eCampus goes to school on effective pricing and ads

The web-only retailer of textbooks kicks up conversion rates with targeted marketing.

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At eCampus.com, they never stop learning how to better sell their books.

With a constantly changing source of supply as well as customers, the e-retailer must target shoppers with the right price when they are ready to buy, says Matthew Taylor, director of online marketing and business development.“Our job is to make our books affordable and easy to purchase,” he says.

One way eCampus locks in sales and moves merchandise is through dynamically generated pricing offers based on customers’ recent shopping behavior. For instance, if a college student puts $80 worth of books into the eCampus.com shopping cart but leaves the site without completing a purchase—clicking, for example, to another web site selling tickets to see Lady Gaga—eCampus, No. 225 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, may use personalized marketing technology from SteelHouse to automatically serve a follow-up retargeting ad to that student while he’s on the tickets site.

But instead of that ad simply showing a general offer that might be shown to any eCampus customer, such as “Come back to eCampus for a 10% discount,” the marketing message will be specific to the shopper’s just-ended eCampus shopping visit—in this case the aborted attempt to buy $80 worth of books. So the personalized offer might say: “Get $4 off an order of $80 on eCampus.”

That combination of a quick follow-up and a pricing promotion tied to a shopper’s particular shopping trip has made a huge difference in the retailer’s marketing efforts. “Click-through rates are astronomically higher—50 to 100 times higher—than on standard display ads when we match a shopper’s recent shopping behavior with the offer we’re giving them,” Taylor says.

The subsequent conversion rates of shoppers who go on to make a purchase are also far higher than for less-targeted display ads, which has helped eCampus maintain a 70% increase in sales this year over last year, he adds.

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