Engage 2022: Flywheel Marketing Replaces Conversion Marketing

Blueshift Engage Mike Clem Sweetwater

What does a modern marketer look like? Is she a creative storyteller who crafts engaging arcs in everything from emails, ads, podcasts, and TikTok shorts? Or a data analyst who pores over dashboards for insights? Is she a business collaborator bringing together the functions that interact with customers – all for the greater good of delivering exceptional customer experience?

What I learned from the speakers and attendees at Blueshift Engage San Francisco last month, is that the modern marketer is all of the above – and more.

Modern marketing doesn’t take a single channel view of customer engagement, or that the end goal of every customer journey is conversion. Marketers must think about customer-centric omnichannel engagement as flywheels – a virtuous cycle of customer interactions that may or may not result in a purchase, but is a chance to learn more and more about each customer so that you can build a lifelong relationship with them (and win some purchases along the way). 

Today’s marketers use this rich customer information to build trust because they’re using that data to personalize customer engagement with very-targeted content, product recommendations, and other messages. They’re using AI marketing to reach out to customers at the right time, and on the channels where customers want to interact. And brands are having live, two-way conversations with customers on those channels. 

At Engage we heard from several Blueshift customers who are doing just that – and are seeing very positive results. Over the next few weeks, we’ll bring you key findings from the event. Today, we’ll share learnings from modern marketers at Sweetwater and Slickdeals (also winners of this year’s Blueshift Omnies) about engaging with customers using this flywheel approach. 

Blueshift Engage Omnichannel Panel


How Slickdeals Builds and Rewards Community

Slickdeals boosted revenue from its base of loyal users by 75%. It did that by using its rich customer data to build a program that rewards its most active members, but it also took this initiative a step further. 

Slickdeals is powered by a community of 12 million shoppers who love to find, post, share, vote, and comment on deals – it’s crowdsourcing at its best. At the core of Slickdeals is a group of power users who are passionate about sharing the deals they find. However, over a three-year period, Slickdeals noticed that the group’s activity level began to dissipate. 

After some investigations, Slickdeals’s director of marketing CRM, Kristina Paulos, and her team realized that the company had not acknowledged or rewarded the efforts of this community. To fix that, Slickdeals created a rewards program aimed at power users, and then worked to identify these individuals and invite them into the program. And not only that, Paulos and her team created lookalike models so that they could identify new users with similar traits and grow its community of power users. 

As Paulos explained: “We wanted to find the people who wanted it and reach out to them, and not bother the people who didn’t. And so we used those insights that we had within Blueshift and the platform’s segmentation tools to find that audience and build a lookalike.”

The effort paid off: “We saw a really strong response. Our deal postings went up almost 70%, which in turn boosted our revenue by 75% from that power group,” said Paulos. 

“The lesson learned is we have to acknowledge and reward the bloodline of our business – these power users,” Paulos told the audience.


How Sweetwater Develops Lifelong Relationships With Every Customer

Listen to any piece of modern music and you might hear a track that was recorded in a studio owned by Sweetwater, or features a musical instrument or a piece of equipment supplied by this Indiana-based company. Although it is the #1 online retailer of pro audio and musical instruments in the US, serving over 8 million music makers, Sweetwater’s mission is to use technology to enhance its 1:1 interactions with customers, mixing the human touch with digital outreach. Each customer is paired with a sales engineer, who remains the primary contact for the customer. 

For Sweetwater, customer engagement is not merely to win purchases, it’s to build a lifelong relationship with the customer. And as you would with a friend, Sweetwater views every customer interaction – which could be site visits, phone calls, email clickthroughs, ad interactions, and so on – as a chance to learn more and more about the customer. Its sales engineers use this rich data to hold meaningful conversations with customers. 

As Mike Clem, Sweetwater chief growth officer and EVP, explained: “We think a lot about how we leverage our superpower, which is this rich customer information. We have a richer understanding of our customers than most retailers, and so how do we use technology and tools like Blueshift to open the opportunities to not just to market to you, but to add value?” 

That could be providing customers with helpful content as they research new instruments or want to advance their use of a piece of equipment. The difference is that instead of blasting customers with generic ads, Sweetwater engages customers with very targeted content and messages. 

Clem explained: “We use both digital and humans, and we weave customers in and out of these journeys to ultimately find the right fit for them. It’s a flywheel, not just a funnel.” 

He added: “Treating customers right is the right thing to do.” 

Blueshift Engage Russell Middleton Zumper


How Zumper Guides Customers To Their Next Home

When you’re in your 20s or 30s, finding a place to rent in any city can be a very daunting process. What if you had a matchmaker who could guide you every step of the way and help you find and secure the best place? Enter Zumper. Founded in 2012, Zumper’s mission is to modernize the rental experience, which it says was outdated, exhausting, and slow. Today, Zumper is North America’s largest privately owned rental marketplace with more than 178 million site visits a year from prospective renters and property owners. 

Zumper’s advantage is its ability to quickly identify market trends through its vast customer data, and to swiftly act. A recent example is its expansion into short-term rentals, a result of users wanting shorter leases thanks to the work from anywhere trend. 

Like other businesses, Zumper wants to create lifelong customers, but the nature of renting means that the time it has to get to know each customer and to create personalized outreach is compressed. Zumper begins to build customer profiles by picking up signals through interactions, even before the individual has created an account. And it does that at a massive scale, as Zumper has around 90 millions users and about 500,000 listings. 

How Recommendations Helps Zumper Scale

Russell Middleton, a Zumper co-founder said the only way to solve that challenge is by using a recommendations engine. “I would love to say we cultivate customers and slowly onboard them and build up their expertise, but the chances are they may have found something after two days. So, we have to send quite a bit of email once they’ve told us they’re looking to try to be the platform that can claim they found the lease.”

That’s why Zumper starts picking up user signals very early in the process. As Middleton explained: “We track the filters that customers input, we track the listings they’re viewing, what they’re favoriting, and the listings they’re messaging. Then at that point, we hope we get their email address and then they might browse some more and we get some more events. We can feed all of that signal into various different recommendation algorithms to understand what customers are looking for.”

Of course, making recommendations is easiest if customers set detailed search filters, but in Zumper’s experience, not all users don’t do that. So Zumper uses Blueshift to learn details by inference based on the user’s search history, such as whether they’re looking at mostly dog-friendly apartments, or places with wood flooring. And then there are other nuances that may not be so obvious, such as matching users with neighborhoods that they may like, such as the buzz of a neighborhood.  

While Zumper is in “this weird, versatile place,” where it can send a lot of emails to users, said Middleton, it’s still important to the company that it doesn’t overstep the mark. As Middleton explained: “We want to respect the user, especially if they come back in two years; we don’t want them to unsubscribe. We want to be able to see the whole thing again.” 

He added: “We need to determine by user what’s the correct send volume, and then reach users on the right channel at the right time, which Blueshift makes pretty easy.”

Blueshift Engage

Thanks For Engaging!

Engage San Francisco was amazing. We’d like to thank our customers and partners, who spoke at the event, and for everyone who attended. Read more from Engage San Francisco, including the full winners and honorees of the Blueshift Omnies, news of the expansion of the Blueshift Recommendations Studio, which includes the launch of 100+ AI recipes for personalization, and our new partnership with Sinch to extend customer engagement into conversational channels

Go to our on-demand page to view all the Engage 2022 sessions, as well as to download the slides.