April 12, 2005, 12:00 AM

Bass Pro Shops expects to take e-mail personalization program to new level

Some marketers already send e-mails offering customers items they’ve previously browsed or carted – or best-sellers from those same categories. Bass Pro Shops tests a program that narrows relevant offers by price and even pre-checks inventory status.

Like other retailers that operate on the web, Bass Pro Shops does e-mail campaigns that target online customers by basic segments, with opt-in e-mail customers who’ve purchased from one category receiving different periodic e-mail promotions than those who’ve purchased in a different category, for example. But Bass Pro Shops is testing and will shortly roll out e-mail marketing that takes segmentation to a new and highly personalized level, David Seifert, director of operations for direct marketing, tells Internet Retailer.

In beefing up its internal product recommendation engine using data from analytics provider Coremetrics Inc., Bass Pro Shops decided to incorporate that information into its e-mail campaigns. It’s testing e-mails that include personalized offers that pull from a customer’s history on the site-information that’s available from Coremetrics’ LIVE profiles of individual customer behavior-a selection of items the customer previously either browsed or placed in a shopping cart but later abandoned. The offers also may include items from the same sub-categories the customer browsed or carted and abandoned.

That’s already a step beyond programs that populate marketing e-mails with offers that aren’t pulled from a customer’s actual history on the site, but simply represent overall best-sellers in product categories earlier browsed by the customer. Bass Pro Shops is taking it further than that, Seifert says. The personalized set of offers for each customer may include items from multiple product categories, as well as for items within a defined price range that corresponds with items the customer earlier browsed or carted and abandoned. In addition, their inventory status is automatically checked moments before the e-mail is sent to minimize the chances of offering customers items that are out of stock.

To populate the e-mail with relevant offers for each customer, Coremetrics will use rules written by Bass Pro Shops on product category definition and pricing to pull relevant items from the customer’s history, and send a data feed back to BassPro, where inventory status is checked. Bass Pro Shops will then send that feed to its e-mail vendor, CheetahMail, which has designed templates that will populate the e-mails with the selected items before sending them out to customers.

Initially, Bass Pro Shops is testing e-mails with a maximum of six offers pulled from as many as three product categories. The e-mails will be automatically sent to customers three days after they visit and browse the site, but if customers later return to buy an item they’d earlier browsed, they won’t receive another e-mail with offers right away.

“There are other sites that are starting to kick off e-mails to customers as the result of browsing or cart abandonment, but ours are more specific and we think the conversion rate is going to be higher as the result of that,” says Seifert. He adds that Bass Pro Shops has learned that results from other e-retailers conducting such e-mail campaigns, but without the same degree of personalization, have increased conversions over traditional e-mail campaigns by as much as 10%. “If we are able to achieve that or more based on the fact that ours are a bit more sophisticated, we’re going to be happy,” he says.


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