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Are You an e-Commerce Pinball Wizard?

How do you think about your marketing strategy and e-commerce?

This is how I see things.

I equate things to a game of pinball, and the goal of this game is an e-commerce conversion. Each potential buyer is that shiny, silver ball darting around the table, which enters the game at its own unique point and takes its own path around the table, rarely if ever the same path as any of the balls before it. If you think about it, that entrance of the ball is very similar to the way in which each of our customers enters the sales cycle, our website, and/or our e-commerce systems. We utilize a myriad of tools and approaches to acquire these people, and each has their own unique nuances and situations that affect their path to the intended conversion.

In a truly integrated marketing approach, your various marketing channels, i.e. Direct Mail, your Website, Email, Social Media, etc., are the bumpers that help us score points and get the customer closer to that e-commerce conversion. Sales and Marketing are the flippers that help us keep these potential buyers in the game, and nudge these folks back into our various marketing channels, and at times directly into an e-commerce conversion.

Engaged Commerce

Our interactions with these potential customers (whether a Sales call, a direct mail piece, email, tweet, etc.) are at times successful right away, but they also result in unengaged folks rejecting the attempts (bouncing off). That is, however, a very simplistic view of the scenario. I recently heard Bronto’s CEO, Joe Colopy (@colopy) explain his thoughts around what he calls ‘Engaged Commerce.’ His position is that a better way of looking at it is that your acquisition attempts result in potential buyers being at various levels of engagement (their distance from the e-commerce conversion), i.e. Unengaged, Engaged, Very Engaged, or Converted. They will need different amounts of encouragement by the other marketing channels, sales, and marketing in order to convert.

An example of this would be a post on Twitter advertising a special limited promotion of 15% with a special coupon code. Only some of your potential customers are on Twitter, so you have a large amount of Unengaged potential customers at this point (depending on your customer demographic). Only a subset of your potential customers who are on Twitter will see your post (let’s call them Engaged), and an even smaller subset of those people who see the post will visit your site and consider making a purchase (the Very Engaged). As you can see, your action (the post) has now segmented your potential buyers into several different demographics that now must be reengaged. Sending another tweet could reach those people who saw the post, but didn’t visit the site, but you’ll still be neglecting your customers who aren’t on Twitter. You’ll need to send a follow-up mail piece, email, or follow-up with a call to reach these folks.

Engage. Convert. Repeat.

The key, as Joe puts it, is to be able to recognize how best to “Engage. Covert. Repeat.” If you see a large segment of your unengaged email contacts converting from follow-up phone calls, then try to reengage them with email again, and see if you can repeat the conversion with another phone call. Start setting scalable and repeatable processes around these trends in how one marketing channel supports another. But, of course, at times we will fail to keep our customers engaged, so the ball falls to the bottom of the table resulting in a lost sale.

The key thing to remember is that to succeed, all of your marketing channels must be working together. If you neglect one of the channels it is like removing one of the bumpers or flippers from the table. It is a lost opportunity to nudge the customer towards that e-commerce conversion, and will most likely result in a lost sale. One of the other channels may pick up some of the slack, but at some point that bumper or flipper is overworked and one of the balls will slip through.

What this image is unable to convey is the number of potential customers you have in the sales cycle, on your website, or in your e-commerce. This table only has one ball in play, but the game gets exponentially harder when you have tens, hundreds, even thousands of potential customers bouncing around the table at any given moment.

So the question is…Are you an e-Commerce Pinball Wizard?

Can you juggle all of these marketing channels? Can you identify these potential customers at various levels of engagement? Are Sales and Marketing prepared and educated enough to properly respond to them?

If not, you are losing potential sales. If you rely too heavily on one marketing channel, you are losing potential sales. A truly integrated approach is the ideal end result for us all, but you have to see all of the pieces involved in the game first. Once you understand the pieces you can act on your strategy, and go for that Top Score.

Let me know what you think about this post. Do you agree with this idea of e-Commerce Pinball and Engaged Commerce?

2 Comments on Are You an e-Commerce Pinball Wizard?

  1. Brian McDonald
    May 27, 2011 at 1:55 pm (6 years ago)

    JT, awesome pinball wizard analogy. I totally agree with your points here. This is a great way to make organizations aware of why an integrated marketing approach is so important to driving revenue. It’s no easy challenge as technology has expanded the number of channels and media that we can reach customers and vice-versa.

    • JT Moore
      May 27, 2011 at 2:32 pm (6 years ago)

      Thanks, Brian. Joe’s talk on Engaged Commerce really got my wheels turning even more about really incorporating e-commerce more into our integrated marketing approach. As a B2B company with a high-ticket item, we sometimes lose sight of e-commerce since a lot of sales are dependent on the relationships built and managed over the long sales cycle. We spend a lot of time thinking about how our marketing efforts impact brand, awareness, and those relationships, but we sometimes fail to see the large picture of how that touch from another marketing channel could be the nudge to close the deal.


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