Digital shift. New normal. Changes in customer behavior. These sound like buzzwords until you look into use cases from leading retail brands over the last year. There may not be a “new normal” since normal continues to evolve, but there are actionable strategies that any retailer can leverage right now to meet customers in the channels they’ve chosen to shop through.
Hear what guests from our recent Retail Renaissance event have to say about how successful retailers are adapting to the consumer shift to online.
Personalization Runs on First-Party Data
The key to engaging customers is personalization, and that demands good data. With a unified profile for every customer, brands can truly send the right offer at the right time to the most receptive customers.
“Whether it’s something simple like using [a] first name in a certain way when you’re talking about an offer or telling a story, it’s been so impactful for us. One of the great examples we’ve had earlier this year was our birthday sale that happens in kind of April-May, which is kind of like the opposite side of the year to Black Friday. The other huge promotion that we tend to run, and you know, we tell kind of a story that was like how many nights you’ve slept on Brooklinen, your most coveted item, you know, things that you’ve had in your cart. So that we could really kind of start nurturing that relationship. It was very functional data, but it was one of the highest generating emails we’ve ever had. I think it might have been the highest generating email we’ve ever had.”
“Throughout all of this, you know, obviously improved data capture was a huge part of this. You know, we completely restructured our Google Analytics account, made sure that all of the right goal funnels were set up, that things were firing correctly, and this really helped us to better understand how our customers were moving through the flow and what’s on the horizon for these tools in the future.”
When retailers gather first-party data and build a single-view profile for each customer, those brands are ready to engage customers on any channel, mobile, web, social media, and yes, even in-store.
“So one of the first things we did here is we installed the technology that attaches to our Wi-Fi network and tracked the individual device ID of every cell phone that walks in our doors, even if they don’t sign on to the Wi-Fi service. So, if they do sign on to Wi-Fi, then we capture your email. You’re signing up for our email marketing. That’s great. We can target you later, but the service also allows us to market to the device IDs who came in-center who didn’t sign in to Wi-Fi, as I mentioned. And we do that by running media buys through that partner. So, you know, they kind of maintain the invisible customers as they’re own first-party data, but then we can target those people and build lookalikes off them. And the other amazing thing we’ve been able to do with this technology is when we run ads against those audiences, we can then see when a customer who is either exposed to that ad or engages with that ad, then walks through our doors. So really we’re not looking at cost-per-click anymore. We were really looking at cost-per-walkthrough as one of our success metrics. It’s been really interesting to see too like the percentage of people that walk through our doors based on ad impression v.s. based on ad engagement, and really there hasn’t been as strong a difference as you might think.”
“We’re heavily reliant on targeting, and the best way to target is through our digital media. So we do a lot of social media. Probably a lot of our… not probably, but a huge amount of our dollars are spent through YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Those are the types of media that you can really target.”
“Another piece of our e-com flow that I want to mention are what we call CRM Ads, and so really, this is part of our retargeting strategy, but what our email service provider allows us to do is they understand that anyone who comes into this flow via email, and we’re able to set up automatic and retargeting sequences on both email and paid social to pull people back into the funnel if they are to drop out. And so developing that automation was truly a collaboration between the marketing and the sales department. You know one of the ways our sales department functions is that every day they receive a list of the prior day’s people who came online, started the checkout flow, and never completed it, and that’s considered their warm leads. So they’re following up with any guest that drops out of this experience within 24 hours. So we needed to make sure that we built our sequencing and automation from an email and ads perspective around this existing process so that we could enhance it and support it in the most appropriate way.”
Competing on Customer Experience
All through the pandemic, we’ve seen discounts and pricing play a lesser role in how consumers determine which products they’ll buy. With the massive migration to online, the customer experience is the new arena where brands compete and where detailed customer data and an omnichannel presence come together to deliver the ultimate shopping experience, leading to increased CLTV, AOV, and loyalty.
“This has really given us an ongoing pool of qualified leads that we use to design marketing programs off of. You know, a lot of our contact with our brand starts in-center, and so this is a great way to be able to keep that engagement going with those customers on the other side. We’ve also recently entered a beta program with the same technology partner which enables us to directly attribute an action on our website to an in-center visit. So what we’re hoping to get, and I don’t have results on this quite yet, but what we’re hoping to get is a better understanding of which site landing pages lead to more walkthroughs, and again I think that becomes really powerful for a business like ours that’s rooted in this analog experience, especially as we’re considering, you know, media and marketing planning.”
“And so we’re able to look at current repeat customers to predict what our next first-time buyer is going to do. And so what we’re doing is then building out automations to where we can leverage this, and so it becomes not only a ‘here’s the item you bought,’ and we’re taking that recommended item outside of the brand. So it’s not just a Corelle to Corelle. It’s a Corelle then or Corelle to Pyrex, and then based off what they do in that email, we send them down different routes, and it’s a true personalized experience. We’re taking that experience of if you were in a retail store and you were talking to a salesperson, they would be able to have that conversation. They would be able to recommend these products, and we’re just doing this by what the customer is telling us by their actions, so it’s great.“
“All right, so loyalty, this was a great enhancement to the technology that I just talked about. You really want to consider ways to understand visitation and spend. The best way we knew how to do that was through a loyalty program. So we launched our first-ever cross-brand loyalty program back in 2018, and it was kind of a beta, simplified program to allow us to understand is this going to work? And the way it worked is a customer would provide their phone number at checkout, and they would receive a $5 coupon for every $50 they spent on bowling and shoes. So it was specific to bowling and shoes exclusively. Pretty simple, but this proof of concept is really what allowed us to make the larger investment with a bigger loyalty technology partner.”
Analytics Prove What Works
The final part of retail customer engagement is analyzing the performance of your automated campaigns and then optimizing and fortifying your strategies. Without diligent analysis, a brand has no way of knowing what works and what doesn’t.
“We also really leveraged analytics. And so, not only looking inside the Emarsys platform and using Smart Insights, and finding out what products are they buying from us, [but] what is that conversation out there? You know, we just kind of alluded to everyone started off, and you were making bread, and then you were growing a garden, and you were dabbling into all these things. But we also found out that the people who started baking, there were a lot of beginners. And so, it was taking other things like recipes, and bringing those to the forefront, and showing how we can also help, not only in just selling you the products, but showing you how to use it, so you learn to love it. And, you know, essentially they’ll come back and want more because, for us, it’s really not just selling a product to the consumer, it’s connecting in that whole experience. So, we kind of leveraged the data to be an extension of our team, and really just expand[ed] when so many people within the industry were under so many constraints.”
“Little bit of a brag moment for the team. They’ve done such a phenomenal job. You know we really took the brand and did so many different things. So it’s kind of sometimes hard to normalize when you’re changing everything all at the same time, but the results certainly speak for themselves in terms of what we’ve been doing. So we’ve seen, you know, our sales go up by at least, you know, year over year by about 25%. Our new customer growth is up almost 70%. We’ve reduced our customer acquisition cost. So really good metrics, but there’s been a lot of energy and a lot of calories that have gone into that to make that happen.
“So everything from looking at our social channels and revamping how we have the account set up, and bringing that in-house. You know, we’ve had some agencies help in the past, and we really felt like that was an area that we wanted to spend a lot more time on. It was so core to us because we’re very much more of a community-oriented brand if you will. So how do we talk to this community in that way? So that was one element of it. Of course, working and doing a lot of testing and learning across all the different… you know, whether it’s display or paid search, etc., you know, automated vs. manual bidding — all the things we’re constantly doing and constantly testing. Really doing a lot of testing and learning. And one of the things I’d have to say is that, you know, it’s been incredibly important for the team to have the permission to test and to try things. A lot of the time, we think organizations have been scared to do that, whether it’s just not a cultural fit for that organization, etc., but, you know, one of the things that I love about Hanna is that we definitely encourage that, and you know, it’s such an important component.”
“So we do a tremendous amount… whether it’s just doing content-type stories or with partners, you know, pure wow, etc., or looking at things like streaming OTT. We weren’t doing any of that prior to this year. So it’s just been a tremendous amount of looking across the spectrum, saying what makes sense for us from our customer perspective. What are our goals? Customer acquisition is incredibly important to us. So making sure that our marketing spend also was prepared in that way, and that was a shift for the organization. We had been much more focused on what I’ll call lower and mid-funnel, and so really kind of repositioning the spend to be much more upper funnel, because let’s face it, as much as I would love to have customers for their entire life, at a certain point, you know, kids age out. So we have to make sure we’re constantly feeding that funnel and constantly keeping an eye and awareness on new customer acquisition. So there’s just been so many different things that we’re doing, and then of course, on top of that, you know, we have stores and how do we look to try to migrate those store customers to online, especially during COVID, and so leaning much more into things like programmatic direct mail, where a customer browses the site, they might not make a purchase. We send them a direct mail piece afterwards and really trying to make this into much more of a 360-type of touchpoint.”
The pandemic has turned many things upside down, but it’s not the threat that retailers were once afraid it was. The shift to online shopping is an opportunity for retail and pure play alike. That’s where the customers are, and with the right platform, any brand can leverage automation to accelerate business outcomes.