The term “warm lead” has been a part of sales-speak even longer than “Coffee is for closers.” The idea is that a potential customer who’s already engaged or indicated interest is easier to close.

Once a customer interacts in any way, any action that leaves them at a dead end is a failure on the part of the retailer. A participation chain builds small consumer interactions in a logical progression, continuously increasing engagement and maximizing customer lifetime value.

Here are a few possible broken links in your participation chain, and how to fix them.

In-store: “Just browsing”

Once a shopper enters your store, they move from warm lead to hot. But with showrooming and mobile shopping, many might leave without buying – and you risk losing their sale to another retailer online. Use QR codes and store signage to urge shoppers to email products to themselves for later perusal.

Cabela’s arms store staff with tablets that let them look up reviews, product videos, and Q&A in the aisles while assisting shoppers. Their associate app then lets staff easily email the products discussed to the shopper for later browsing, as well as related products they may not yet have looked at.

Online: Purchase confirmation page

Once a customer buys something on your website, where are they taken next? Most likely, to a summary of their order – so what are they supposed to do now? The customer has just purchased a product; this is when they’re most engaged and excited. Above the purchase summary, Amazon encourages buyers to share their purchase on a social network.

You might display related accessories to their purchased product, encouraging them to add another item to their cart. You could also use the page to solicit social network followers – but don’t let gaining a fan be your end goal. Be sure you’re using your social properties to keep the participation chain moving; read this post for tips.

In-store: Point of sale

As is the case online, an in-store customer’s experience shouldn’t end at purchase. Obtain their email address by offering information on sales and special discounts, then use the address to send them a post-purchase email a few weeks after purchase, soliciting their review. Pulling the customer back into your participation chain via these emails drives a 1.5X – 10X average increase in daily review volume – and this volume boost can increase natural search traffic to product pages by an average of 15-25%.

Solicit reviews via store receipts and bag inserts. Nike includes review-request inserts in shipments of products ordered online; emulate this practice in stores to bring customers back to your site to contribute and shop.

Online: Review, question, or answer thank you page

After a shopper asks a question, encourage them to sign up for an email notification when their question is answered. Sears Canada found these emails have a 5X higher click-through rate than other marketing emails, and a 29% higher conversion rate.

After a customer writes a review or answers a shopper question, keep the ball rolling. Ask for photos or videos to add to their review. Surface more questions on the product for them to answer – and if your algorithm allows it, find questions especially related to the first. We find that answerers can become “power users” who go on to answer dozens of questions when engaged with a strong participation chain.

Encourage these repeat contributions through gamification tactics like leaderboards and loyalty programs. Furniture retailer Step2 promoted video and picture submissions by offering loyalty program points, which drove a 600% increase in the number of images and videos submitted.

In short, never leave an engaged customer at a dead end. Always offer a next step that pulls them deeper into their relationship with your brand to keep the chain moving.

  • http://twitter.com/txTDM Tara DeMarco

    Agreed David, thanks for reading!

  • http://www.rcs-uk.com/ David Boland

    As an EPoS systems developer for the retail industry, I found your post really informative and well-written. I think many retailers have faced great challenges during the last few years due to the financial crisis, but at the same time if they stay up to date with the marketing and technological advancements -and leave room for innovation- they can promote their businesses more effectively now than a few decades ago. Very nice post, keep up the good work!