Smarter Marketing: Experts Discuss the Impact of AI Driven Campaign Automation

At Blueshift, we’re incredibly lucky to work with some of the most forward-thinking brands and marketers. It’s a privilege to help them create and execute marketing campaigns that activate the entirety of their customer data. Through the application of predictive intelligence, we can orchestrate 1:1 customer journeys that personalize every touchpoint they have with their customers. This relationship has taught all of us at Blueshift just how impactful customer data and AI working in tandem are to crafting great customer experiences — and for simplifying marketers’ day today.

In our latest edition of the Blueshift Webinar Series, Smarter Marketing Automation: The Impact of AI-Driven Campaign Automation (sponsored by InkIt), Blueshift had the pleasure of hosting Michal Halpern, Conversion Optimization Manager at James Allen (and Blueshift user) along with Rohan Karunakaran, Head of Customer Success, EMEA at Blueshift as they discussed James Allen’s journey with Blueshift, key changes to the ecommerce world, and how AI is helping brands stay ahead of the curve.

Michal’s journey with Blueshift and James Allen

James Allen is one of the world’s leading online diamond and engagement ring retailers. Every diamond is individually filmed and shown on their site in highly magnified 360° HD, making each of their thousands of listings completely unique. It’s the mission of James Allen’s team to “provide meaningful education, friendly 24/7 support, and total transparency every step of the way,” says Michal, “This is something I pay attention very closely when working on our Email strategy and the customer’s journey in email and our website.”

Michal describes herself as extremely data-driven who checks the campaign results on a weekly basis and upgrades, changes, or adds new tasks based on the results she sees. As part of Michal’s role, she’s responsible for their email marketing strategy as well as the execution of all email campaigns. “I oversee the email marketing schedule, audience segmentation, and the analysis of both automated and ongoing email campaigns. Additionally, I manage a team of email specialists,” notes Michal, “I love the flexibility of working on our email campaigns and I’m excited for what the future brings!”

Marketing automation vs smart marketing automation

Let’s define the differences between traditional marketing automation and smart marketing automation, and how the latter relates to important shifts that are happening in the retail and ecommerce spaces.

McKinsey published a report last month titled: Retail Re-Imagined. The New Era for Customer Experience where they surveyed more than 2,500 consumers in the United States, the UK, France, and Germany to understand how consumer behavior has changed over the past few months and the impact going forward. This report uncovered some pretty amazing stats. “In a matter of 90 days, ecommerce penetration rates in the US have vaulted forward 10 years,” This was driven by convenience, availability, and safety of digital experiences during lockdowns. In terms of consumer behavior, 40% of respondents said they tried new brands or made purchases with a new retailer.12-21% of survey respondents said they switched to brands that sent them relevant messages or promotions on their preferred channel.

The key trend here is there’s a massive acceleration to digital but also that in times of great uncertainty, retailers and brands both large and small have a unique opportunity to meet this demand with the right targeting, messaging, and content as they build direct and trusted relationships with their customers. And of course – this requires a deep and granular understanding of the customer and their decision journeys.

Marketing Automation is the practice of automating repetitive tasks such as email marketing and ad campaigns for efficiency and basic personalization. With email marketing – think your welcome series or abandoned cart campaign which is automatically triggered when someone signs up or adds to cart but doesn’t purchase. You might have some basic personalization like ‘hello firstname’, or ‘you left this item in your cart’ but that’s usually where it ends.

Smart Marketing Automation is marketing automation enhanced and supplemented by data, insights, and artificial intelligence for a completely personalized experience complete with recommendations that are relevant and helpful to the customer. So what does this look like in practice? Let’s start with someone everyone knows, like Amazon. We used to all think it was either creepy or magic that Amazon knew what we were looking for but now, as consumers, we expect a personalized experience. And some of the most innovative brands know this: think Youtube, Netflix, and Spotify.

The recipe for smart marketing automation

In order to have smarter marketing automation you need a few ingredients:

  • A strategy/vision of what you’re trying to accomplish
  • Access to customer data
  • Tools that give you the ability to execute campaigns against that data and strategy

Let’s hear more from Michal, who has implemented this at James Allen.

Rohan: How did James Allen identify Smart Marketing Automation was a need?

Michal: James Allen’s vision is to understand the customer experience and have deeper personalization based on their interaction with our brand. Access to accurate and real-time customer data is important so we can develop personalized campaigns using customer’s behavioral data, affinities, and preferences. When I started working at James Allen (4 years ago) we were using 2 different email platforms; one for behavioral campaigns and one for bulk campaigns. These 2 platforms were not integrated, and I had no ability to view the customers’ journey from sign-up to purchase across our website or email campaigns. This was my first goal — find 1 platform that gives us the option to track the customer’s journey properly and suggest products accordingly.

The next step was to ensure we’re showing the most accurate content (product recommendations) to customers based on interactions with our brand.

Rohan: What types of campaigns are you running using this mindset and technology?

Michal: Buying an engagement ring online is not an easy process and most of the time needs to be done discreetly. In our welcome series cycle (divided into male and female with different content per gender) we educate the customer and guide them along with their long and complicated choice. This requires the right balance of delivering tailored product recommendations while being discreet and respectful in our approach.

One of our best performing campaigns is our behavioral campaigns that are triggered based on website activity and catalog activity such as window shopping, abandoned carts, new arrivals, and best sellers. We know it’s a highly considered purchase decision for most of our customers, that’s why we give a big emphasis on guiding our customers and being patient throughout the customer journey. We typically see a long purchase cycle and to convert customers, we try to understand if they are buying for themselves or their partner. This data helps us target and deliver the best content and product recommendations.

Rohan: What does the James Allen team look like that can do this type of work? Are you a team of data scientists or a team of marketers?

Michal: James Allen’s email team is a combination of data-driven marketers that use data to inform every step of our marketing process. Every email has at least 2 touchpoints before it’s sent: our emails are written by a content writer and once that’s approved, the email moves onto a designer. And finally, our team decides on the themes of the emails — typically our decisions are based on results from previous emails/campaigns. My team and I have a good knowledge of HTML and all our emails are being worked in HTML first. That gives us a lot of flexibility for adding recommendations and product suggestions in the HTML of the email.

We’re a small but mighty team of marketers. It’s important for us to have a dynamic email platform that allows us to build granular segments, dynamic product recommendations, and multi-channel campaigns. It’s not only looking at the numbers, it’s all about being up-to-date with the industry and competitors, while also knowing how to transform data into great marketing that will engage our customers and guide them towards a purchase. We know we can get even more sophisticated and personalized with our campaigns, and we’re looking forward to using some of the more advanced features of the platform.

Rohan: How has Blueshift impacted James Allen? What results have you seen?

Michal: Since implementing Blueshift we have more ability and plans to improve our email campaigns and personalize every customer’s journey. I can share that we managed to deliver more personalized experiences based on affinities to certain diamond styles, jewelry types, and more which resulted in a 17% increase in website sessions from email traffic. We also increased our message volume by 27%, with the same amount of resources.

To wrap up, Rohan’s final suggestions is to look at your current marketing campaigns and determine where you are using marketing automation but need to incorporate the smart component. Then identify what data you have access to across your organization that you want to leverage for those use cases and investigate the feasibility of pulling that data into one place. Finally, if needed, evaluate your technology to make sure you have the tools you need.

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