When Jennifer Skeen, VP of Omnichannel and Marketing at Sun & Ski Sports, searched for ways to improve customer engagement across channels, she realized data would help answer two critical questions: ‘How are we optimizing our marketing spend?’ and ‘How are we being more relevant to the consumer?’ As an operator of ski shops and bike shops, Sun & Ski hosts programs such as bike rides and meetups for runs, giving the company a strong incentive to learn more about its customers than their individual purchases. Simply put, with such a community-driven retail experience, Skeen wanted to build innate loyalty among consumers by understanding when and where they shop the most.
Sun & Ski implemented the AgilOne (now part of Acquia) Customer Data Platform (CDP) to build a 360-degree profile of its shoppers, further understand consumer habits in different regions and craft effective marketing campaigns across channels.
Achieving these goals is vital for the retailer as it expands its brick-and-mortar presence into new “resort” markets such as California, Colorado and Utah. Skeen refers to the five locations in these resort markets as standalone “mountain stores,” which are more conducive to selling winter sports merchandise including skis and snowboards.
More than 25 “non-resort” stores are scattered across the Southern and Northeastern U.S., with 13 in Texas alone. These stores, often located within or adjacent to strip malls, have a higher concentration of consumers that aren’t as focused on resort-specific products, leading to higher footwear and apparel sales in those locations.
“We already have a huge customer base in Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee, and when we start to track certain customer behaviors in our non-resort store markets as well as our resort store markets, we’re building that affinity to our brand,” Skeen said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints at the NRF Big Show.
The ability to build brand affinity is crucial for Sun & Ski, especially since many shoppers in the non-resort store markets also shop at the resort stores when they go on skiing and snowboarding trips.
“Being able to see that behavior and those transactions allows us to prepare our non-resort stores with information on new marketing campaigns taking place in the resort stores, such as new rentals,” said Skeen. “It allows us to provide that more personal experience for the consumer and prepares our workforce, because we know they’re engaging with an email over here about rentals in either Colorado or Utah.”
CDP Assists Sun & Ski With Content Strategies Across Social, Email And Direct Mail
With the CDP platform, Sun & Ski has leveraged its email data to gain insights into a shopper’s brand and merchandising affinities. While the retailer initially couldn’t track email engagement unless the shopper purchased an item directly from an email link, AgilOne enabled it to identify other engagement points such as opens and click-through rates.
Based on the brand affinities gathered through these email engagements, Sun & Ski could use this data to ultimately supplement the content portrayed in its social media and direct mail strategies. But email data isn’t the only tactic the retailer is using to bolster its social media presence. Sun & Ski also has a dedicated social media specialist who trains store teams on how to post content localized to each individual store as a means to maximize shopper engagement.
“It engages the customer, but then it allows us from a national brand standpoint to be able to take that content and leverage it nationwide,” said Skeen. “Being able to see all these data points about the overlap of our customers that enter both our non-mountain stores and our mountain stores, and getting a 360-degree profile of them, helps us make more decisions about what kind of content we’re going to be driving and what media channels they’re mostly engaging in. It really brings home that full campaign management optimization factor.”
The platform also enables the retailer to segment shoppers into different groups, such as active shoppers or shoppers who haven’t purchased in the past six months or one year. When deploying direct mail campaigns, Sun & Ski will even segment a control group that won’t receive the offer, in order to compare return on ad spend across the different groups.
Next Stops For Customer Data Integration: Fraud Prevention And Product Merchandising
Looking ahead into 2020, Sun & Ski is seeking to integrate the data collected from AgilOne into its fraud prevention systems. The retailer already has built algorithms within AgilOne to identify where stores are re-using phone numbers for hundreds or even thousands of purchases in a given year. “We know that’s not a normal profile for a consumer,” Skeen said. If a customer service agent could see whether a separate phone number exists in the customer data profile — one that the shopper more frequently uses — the agent could then use the second phone number to verify the order.
Additionally, the retailer has begun further use of data from the platform to make future store-based product merchandising decisions, so that more of the right products are shipped to the right stores.
“I just had our data analyst pull a report of product affinities of what items drove the cart — what items were in most carts that had more than one item,” said Skeen. “Things are surprising sometimes. Snowboards and skis sell very well in Texas, and they all tend to travel to Colorado or New Mexico. The data helps us make those merchandising decisions.”