Conversions Aren't Always Sales: How Moments of Connection Keep Customers Coming Back

March 2, 2020 | 4 minute read
James Glover
President and CEO, Coherent Path
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When outdoor retailer Orvis set out to launch a new line of adventure products for dog lovers, they faced a challenge familiar to every retailer.

On one hand, they knew an email campaign that simply advertised the new canine products might generate a limited number of conversions. On the other hand, an upfront promotional discount would likely result in lost revenue, since many customers might’ve been happy to pay full price for the very same items.

How can a retailer maximize their campaign’s conversion rate, without losing value by over-relying on promotional pricing?

Orvis solved the puzzle by breaking free of the false assumption that “conversion = sale.” Instead of sending out a digital flyer for their new products, they created an interactive quiz that helped subscribers choose the ideal dog breed to join them on their next outdoor adventure.

By putting customers’ interests above their own internal sales goals, Orvis cultivated vastly stronger loyalty than they could’ve obtained with a promotional email.

Here’s what this approach will mean for your next campaign.

Conversion is not a one-time event — it’s an ongoing process.

According to the old school of salesmanship, a conversion is a sale, pure and simple. If you want to make sales, this thinking goes, then you’ve got to keep repeating your pitches — until some of your customers finally “give in” and buy the products you’ve repeatedly presented to them.

While some marketers continue to live by this outdated approach, it’s not very useful for fostering long-term trust and repeat business. It treats customers as if they’re enemies to be defeated, rather than allies in need of assistance. And that’s a major mistake — because more than half of customers will happily pay more for the privilege of doing business with brands that treat them as personal friends.

What’s more, conversion doesn’t have to be a one-time event at all. Although some customers might “convert” by making a single purchase via a promotional email, you’re not likely to see much repeat business from them. They may have converted to a particular product or offer — but not to your brand.

Instead of focusing on those one-time conversions, you’ll cultivate much steadier revenue — and more repeat purchases — by fostering relationships with customers who’ll go out of their way to buy from you, even when you’re not offering a promotion.

Trust goes both ways — and your brand has to take the first step.

Like every healthy partnership, a long-lasting customer relationship is built on trust — not only your customers’ trust in you, but also your trust in them. The more you demonstrate that you value your customers even when they’re not making purchases, the more they’ll come to accept you as part of their everyday life.

For example, we’ve all had the stressful experience of shopping for clothes at a store that pays employees on commission. Staff members follow us around the sales floor, urging us to try on more items — sometimes outright pressuring us to purchase accessories we don’t want. Although the commission policy was put in place to drive sales, its actual effect is to drive customers like us away.

Contrast this with your favorite clothing retailer, whose employees leave you free to shop at your leisure — always ready with a helping hand, but never pushy or impatient to make a sale. By trusting you to make purchases in your own time, they cultivate your trust in return — and as a result, they get far more of your business than their commission-based competitors ever will.

Take the first step in demonstrating trust to your customers, and many of them will reciprocate by extending that same trust to you in return.

Moments of connection drive repeat sales and loyalty over time.

The most proven driver of repeat sales isn’t repetitive pitching — it’s moments of emotional connection. Those moments happen every time your customers join you in a meaningful, memorable experience.

If this sounds too fluffy, consider the following hard numbers: 95 percent of purchase decisions are driven by subconscious emotions. Customers who feel “connected” to a brand are more than twice as likely to make a purchase. A full 81 percent of customers who feel that connection will recommend your products to their friends and loved ones.

In short, customers who feel emotionally connected with your brand may not make a purchase today — but they’re far more likely to make multiple purchases in the longer term, and to spread the word to the people who matter in their lives.

With these facts in mind, try taking a step back from the sales-first mindset as you plan your next campaign. Instead of product pitches, think about how you can create shared moments that foster emotional connections with your customers.

They’ll get the underlying message: You trust them to remember your brand. In return, they’ll trust you to become a part of their life.


An emotional connection with your customers can make all the difference, but how do you establish one? Find out with B2C Personalization Blog Series Part 1: Taking the First Step Toward One-to-One Marketing.”





James Glover

President and CEO, Coherent Path

James Glover is President and CEO of Coherent Path, where he helps retailers transform their email program into a modern data-driven channel focused on revenue. Prior to Coherent Path, James was VP of Sales at Desktone where he was responsible for accelerating customer adoption and revenue growth from zero to over 100 customers to whom he sold through world-class partners like Dell and Time Warner Cable. Before that, James held executive positions at Memento (acquired by Fidelity Information Services) and Watchfire (acquired by IBM). He earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Toronto.

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