Marketers, business leaders, and Blueshift users have come together for our first-ever virtual conference: Blueshift Engage. For one hour each day, we’ve brought the brightest minds in marketing to our attendees — live from their living rooms. We know marketers are busy folks, so we’ve taken our live sessions and picked out the best bits for your reading pleasure. For our second day, Blueshift’s Head of Customer Success — EMEA, Rohan Karunakaran, sat down with Kate Turney — Global Head of CRM at ClearScore, Mark Neary — eCRM Manager at Groupon and Vouchercloud, and Tyler Norris — Email and Loyalty Manager at Tuft & Needle to discuss winning strategies for multi-channel triggered campaigns and how AI and predictive intelligence assists in driving explosive results.
How has customer engagement and your marketing mix from commercial, educational, or entertaining shifted over the past couple of months for your brands?
Kate: It’s definitely changed a lot actually, and it has continued to evolve over the last few months. I’d say normally our mix is made up of 2/3rds commercial type sends, whether that’s triggered ultimate funnel automated columns or one-off marketing sense and then 1/3rd educational. As you know how we help users understand their credit score, build that credit score, and use the tools we have available. As soon as COVID-19 came about in the UK, we stepped back and said, “How do we make sure that we help these users?”
We stay true to our roots of making finance simple — we don’t bombard or scare them. So, that meant we pulled back on the commercial sends and introduced more helpful or educational comms like a weekly round-up. Actually we saw really great engagement with that kind of content and the great part of CRM is we were then able to tailor those kinds of comms to our individual users and the open rates skyrocketed to anywhere from 40-48%.
Mark: It is in continual flux. As we know from lockdown, people are either working from or furloughed in their homes 24/7. So that is making them take-stock of their environment and want to improve their home or even themselves. So the types of offer redemptions we have seen an increase in our DIY, gardening, home furnishings, fitness products, online courses, streaming services (Disney+, NOW TV), and takeaway/delivery offers. We have to be agile and listen to the trends, and listen to our users and present what they want to see.
So the content within our multi-channel campaigns have changed, and the types of offers we are promoting have changed, for e.g. no holiday brands, no restaurant brands, we are being careful with our TOV and selection of imagery. And we’re still busy! The Office for National Statistics recently published that online sales, as a proportion of all retailing, reached a record high of 22.3% in March 2020. It just means the focus has shifted, and with Groupon for example, they have scaled back on travel and goods and opened up more opportunities for our LOB – coupons to get more exposure.
Tyler: It hasn’t just been a marketing mix that’s changed. It’s been a dramatic shift for our entire business. Take our parent company Serta Simmons Bedding: last month, they outfitted NYC hospitals with 10,000 beds. Our product team in Phoenix, AZ has focused on developing products to help keep healthcare professionals safe when they’re in the same room as their patients — the device is called an intubation box. A coworker’s husband, who works as a doctor out here in Phoenix, asked for our help in developing the device. I was then able to include a mention of it in an email this past week.
With all the good news, it’s given me a unique opportunity to bring that news to our customer base, which has been received extremely well. I think people are looking for how different verticals plan to help in this time of extreme need, and I’m thankful to be at a company that dedicates part of its operating plan to thinking through those challenges. I’d really encourage everyone to think through any potential impact or sense of relief they can bring to people right now, even if it means going on a goose chase between departments to find out what’s in the works. Or, if a random, altruistic idea hits you over the weekend: ask your leadership team and colleagues what they think. This is a solid time for brainstorming moonshot ideas.
Each of you is working with ever-changing availability of products — whether it’s restaurants or retail stores being closed, financial/ lending products being pulled back, or perhaps supply-chain constraints. How are you adjusting your comms strategy, and perhaps channel strategy, given these challenges?
Mark: In mid-April, we noticed a trend in gardening related offer redemptions, so we put together a gardening-related themed email. We sent Saturday afternoon: that email drove the highest sessions of any marketing email sent this year. And so we continue with those trending themed emails as they are proving a great addition to our marketing mix.
They also help to fill the gap left by some of those missing merchants. I was mentioning earlier listening to our users and following trends — at the beginning of lockdown, takeaway offers were not popular, people were enjoying cooking more from home, and there were possible fears of contamination. But after a couple of weeks, everyone decided they deserved a takeaway, so we saw an increase in offer redemptions of merchants like Just Eat, and wine & beer, so that gave us the confidence to put together a themed email on treating yourself. Desktop pushes have become more useful as people are at home and more receptive.
Tyler: Setting expectations is crucial right now. While we’ve yet to experience shipping delays, we took it upon ourselves as a team to identify every potential piece of communication we’d need to draft in the off chance we need to start using it. Even if we don’t think the worst-case scenario will happen, it doesn’t hurt to have these emails in your back pocket if anything arises.
Our Supply Chain team has kept the entire company as updated as possible about our different distribution hubs, their current processing status, etc. Supply Chain is still a very sensitive and changing ecosystem at the moment, so if you want to make sure your messaging and channel automation is set up to follow the twist and turns we might be facing in the months to come, get up close and personal with supply chain, talk through worst-case scenarios and what kind of messaging you’d need drafted for consumers, and keep them in your back pocket for a worst-case scenario.
We’ve considered including some new emails in our Welcome Series email that specifically address our contact-free delivery system, what to expect with potential shipping delays, etc. There are still a lot of unknowns for the newly-made online shopper — let alone mattress shoppers — so it’s within our best interest to educate them on how we’re following the necessary protocols to ensure a safe delivery environment. Giving your customer an inside look into the process might be a worthwhile consideration for some multi-channel marketers.
Kate: It’s all about balancing supply and demand — demand is high, supply is fluctuating. In these uncertain times, our partners are all working out their own response to the situation, and so availability is changing on a daily basis. To ensure our users are not disappointed, we are dealing with this in a few ways. Automated comms pull in product or link to a user’s offers so didn’t need any work. Staying very close to our commercial colleagues, using a segmentation/messaging matrix to which is updated on a daily basis to understand the best products/offers to talk to which users about and having an agile plan and ncluding messaging to encourage users to come back regularly.
Also, we’ve sent more data-science based messaging too! We’re working with our data teams to build and use predictive modeling to target the right users, especially to highlight when they are going to see more. And we’re working with our analysts to identify opportunities to re-target specific users with a relevant product – i.e users not seeing loans with a relevant credit card, or a different loan amount.
How does your business align KPIs across teams and work together to deliver a cohesive multi-channel experience to customers?
Tyler: While we’re not at a state where our marketing channels are totally aligned in terms of content delivery and retargeting, we’re all still actively incorporated into each channel’s strategies, solicited for feedback, and kept updated when new strategies are rolled out on a given channel. Our team strives for transparency.
One of my goals for this year is to experience a near 200% increase in email workflows. We have so much data on our customers, so this downtime has given me an opportunity to truly think through every single piece of information I have on a consumer, what I can do with that, and if I don’t have a certain data point on a given consumer, how could I eventually get that? Getting my team’s feedback on how to accomplish this is crucial to me feeling like my work is reflective of the entire company.
It goes outside of marketing for us, honestly. We have so many different departments: customer experience, supply chain, the list goes on. Whenever I deliver an email to someone, they have a 50/50 chance on whether they’ll want to talk with a customer experience expert. Traditionally I always thought of multi-channel as being isolated to other advertising networks, but for us the impact is experienced — and informative — on all fronts. I know that’s not what’s thought of as multi-channel in the traditional sense, but I don’t think you always have to stay within the mindset that if it isn’t a marketing channel, it’s not a multi-channel strategy. The world of marketing is moving toward the trend of lifecycles. We’re actively making gains to establish this kind of marketing program, so there’s exciting stuff to come in the near future.
Kate: CRM can’t be a stand-alone channel or team, it is such an integral part of the customer experience, especially in such a data-driven business as ClearScore. Our strategic CRM plan has 4 key pillars, 3 of which we can only deliver by partnering with other areas of the business.
Optimum frequency and relevancy: there’s always a tension between commercial and marketing (especially CRM) around the frequency and volume of CRM sends. We are currently running some testing to understand the optimum frequency for different segments. We have planned and calculated the impact/cost of the test and agreed on this with the commercial/team and GM. This allows us to ensure that our strategy and any changes we made are understood by everyone and informed by the data.
Segment based contact strategy: we have developed a new segmentation model, but we can create a standalone segmentation strategy within CRM — it needs to be consistent across the product, digital channels — marketing taking the lead.
Personalization at scale: as a next step on from segmentation, we are working with our data and product teams to understand how we best use predictive models and analysis across the business across all touchpoints — the end goal is the brain — we have a working team to ensure we share the same goal and understand the different ways we may get there and the parts we all play in that journey.
So for me there are 4 key things to ensure a successful multi-channel experience: Aligned objectives and a resource plan, clear ownership (be it individual or joint), data-led decision making, and open communication.
Mark: With Vouchercloud we are lucky, as we are all in one open-plan office. So I can easily chat with paid media, SEO, business intelligence, and arrange face-to-face meetings. And yes, we all have the same goal — to allow our users to live more and spend less. So, we align on how we deliver that message through various channels, from PPC spend, to get users to a specific offer using mobile push, desktop push, or email.
Content team & CMS is also important for the offer details — they are time-sensitive and title and expiry must be correct. We have built a CMS product catalog into Blueshift so it’s right and doesn’t break the experience. Another example of how Blueshift helps with cross-department/ multi-channel targeting is syndications. This allows us to target the same segment of users we are using for email on social media. And also create a look-a-like audience that paid media uses.
Groupon offers a different challenge as offices are in different countries and different time-zones. And yes, there are different VPs and larger departments, but having a clear vision of what you want to achieve and arranging meetings to get that face-to-face time is crucial.
Audience Question: How our panelists are using Blueshift in aiding their capabilities, specifically how are you using the recommendation engine to drive some of your multi-channel orchestration?
Mark: The recommendation engine is essential for us. I think the best thing we do is use an algorithm that will build recommendations based on a users’ affinity. We’re sending millions of emails to users — we can’t guess what everyone’s favorite offering is. We leave the recommendation blocks at 10 and allow Blueshift to do the grunt work, which has worked really well for us.
If you’d like to learn more about how Vouchercloud uses Blueshift to craft their multi-channel campaigns, watch their video testimonial here.
Even though you all are in different verticals, it’s interesting to hear how things have been changing and in quite a bit of flux day today. It’s fantastic to hear about the great work that Tuft & Needle has done for the health care workers in New York and around the US. It’s valuable for marketers to take away that cross-functional is becoming synonymous with multi-channel and means working internally with every team in your business. It’s great to hear that you’re working with your teams, using them as a source of inspiration for a lot of your content, and you’re involving them oftentimes where CRM and marketing are an interface between the company and the customer.