The eCommerce Brands Guide to Behavioral Marketing

Imagine you're selling something to someone you know very well - a spouse parent sibling or childhood friend. You know who they are and what they like so chances are you'll be able to make a strong pitch. Unfortunately big eCommerce businesses don't know their customers quite so intimately.

That's where behavioral marketing comes in. Let's find out how you can build a detailed picture of your customers' needs and address those needs with more effective campaigns.

What is behavioral marketing?

Whenever people use the internet they're generating data. Behavioral marketing uses that data to build a profile of the user and show them marketing that's more likely to be relevant interesting and useful. These profiles can be built from sources like:

  • Browsing history
  • Location
  • The device used to browse
  • Purchase history
  • Search intent
  • Web analytics

Once your whole audience has been segmented into a set of clear profiles your eCommerce brand can start to tailor a marketing message for each one. In a world where people feel bombarded with irrelevant noise the ability to cut through that chatter is a powerful business tool.

Behavioural marketing vs contextual marketing

Behavioral marketing and contextual marketing aren't the same thing. Both aim to show people more relevant marketing messages but only behavioral marketing uses a person's data to achieve this. Contextual marketing instead shows ads which are matched to a specific location on the internet.

For example a sports site might use contextual marketing to only show ads for sports equipment and leave it at that. A competing sports site using behavioral marketing would show ads for sports equipment which are tailored to a user's profile. The result is likely to be more relevant and engaging.

4 types of behavioural marketing

Any marketing which uses behavioral segmentation and targeting to build and communicate with a profile counts as behavioral marketing. There's lots of room for creativity but four of the most common types include:

  • Retargeting
  • Demographic targeting
  • Cross-selling
  • Email marketing


Depending on what industry you're in eCommerce shopping cart abandonment rates could sit at around 61-89%. But even if you haven't made the sale you've learned what products make it as far as a user's cart. That's incredibly useful information. You can use it to retarget ads and remind them of that product which almost made it over the line.

That's going to result in higher clickthrough and conversion rates compared to simply showing them random products and hoping they're the right ones. But remember that Google aims to phase out third-party cookies soon so retargeting is going to get a bit harder.

Demographic targeting

A person's age gender device and location aren't behaviors per se but they certainly affect how a person behaves. Using this data lets you refine a user's profile down to the tiny details based on what you know about how that demographic behaves.

Showing men in their 20s adverts for roses on 13 February (with a generous next-day-delivery offer) could be a good move for florists. But beware demographic targeting isn't always received well.

Flooding women with adverts for pink products is often seen as uncreative pandering for example. Mac users may well spend more on computer equipment than PC users but they still weren't happy with Orbitz. The travel site was found to be showing Mac users adverts for pricier rooms than they'd see on PC.

Use demographic data alongside a generous dose of common sense. Think about how your ads might be seen in context.

Cross-selling and up-selling

The more you know about your customers the more you can infer about the way they use your products. That opens up huge opportunities for cross-selling and upselling. Some are no-brainers - if someone buys a pair of trousers show them a matching top. If someone buys a bedsheet show them matching pillowcases and duvet covers.

The more data you collect the more of these informed decisions you can make. Something like our Where to Buy solution collects end-to-end user journey and basket composition data for every customer.

With that kind of insight you can spot cross-selling opportunities which might surprise you. It can be enlightening to see how different profiles engage with the same product.

Email marketing

All these uses of behavioral marketing can be used to enhance your email marketing. If someone has signed up to your email list you can build a relationship with them over time by providing a great experience.

Say you send out an email every 30 days. In that email you can retarget an individual's most-viewed product for that month. You can direct them to content that's relevant to their interests and show your products in action. You can present bundle deals to upsell on items they're already buying regularly.

Like with all behavioral marketing strategy this relationship deepens the longer it lasts. The more data customers provide the more detailed you can make your personalized offerings. For that reason it's important to make a good first impression.

The benefits of behavioral marketing

A strong behavioral marketing strategy brings plenty of positives compared to a less data-led approach. It's not only your business which benefits the customer also has plenty to shout about.

Benefits for your eCommerce brand

The most obvious benefit of behavioral marketing is more sales for your business. Better-targeted ads get seen more often by the right people leading to more conversions. An effectively-run behavioral campaign should comfortably pay for itself in raw sales.

Of course you're also strengthening your brand. Giving people a personalised experience builds goodwill making your online presence feel more consistent. The amount of advertising we're exposed to can be exhausting most of it gets ignored. But if people know and trust you thanks to an earlier positive experience you'll cut through the noise.

Finally you're improving ROI on your ad spend. Behavioral segmentation means less money wasted on poor-quality leads. Greater engagement produces more data which can be used to refine your next campaign. It's a virtuous cycle.

Benefits for your customers

Your customers meanwhile get a better shopping experience. Seeing the right ad at the right time can speed up their path to purchase. Being shown relevant products saves them hunting around for ages. If someone knows they'll get an engaging customer journey from you they won't go elsewhere.

They can also find new products thanks to behavioral segmentation. Sometimes people simply don't know that products exist which can solve their problems. Since they're rarely the first to ever have those problems they can benefit from other users like them who have previously benefited from what you're selling.

And let's not forget they can save money by taking advantage of special offers and bundle deals. Since those offers are personalized by segment they're effective at introducing people to your brand without underselling yourself and damaging your bottom line.

Final thoughts

As an eCommerce strategy scales effective behavioral targeting can replicate the feeling of personal caring customer service. As human beings we want to feel seen and appreciated so providing that kind of experience is a big asset for your brand.

But remember behavior's change along with evolving fashions and trends. Refresh your customer profiles regularly to ensure you're always giving people those engaging relevant positive interactions.

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