Q&A with Stephan Dietrich, President, North America, Neolane
In an era where personalized experience reigns supreme, retailers are challenged to deliver enhanced customer engagement at every possible touch point. Retail TouchPoints had the chance to catch up with Neolane North America President Stephan Dietrich to discuss successful customer engagement, the next level of memorable prospect interactions and the importance of conversational marketing.
RTP: With the explosion of the number of channels used to communicate with consumers over the past few years, how have retail marketers adapted?
Dietrich: Traditionally, multi-channel marketing had been a fairly standard approach. Multichannel is really about engaging across different channels and very often it required different enabling technologies to accomplish that. Retailers executed marketing campaigns in silos: one department managed web promotions, one group drove email marketing, another handled direct mail, and in some cases an outside agency drove social media or mobile efforts.
Many retailers have evolved to a more effective, centralized cross-channel approach where channels are integrated, and communications and experiences are consistent and coordinated — no matter how marketers are engaging customers and prospects, be it email, web, mobile, direct mail, point of sale, avatar or social media. In addition to considering strategic uses of modern mobile and social media communications, direct mail is still a key component that works very well for a number of retailers, so I wouldn’t discount that. Ensuring call centers are incorporated into the mix is also important to create a unified customer experience. With our retail and e-commerce customers, we emphasize that achieving results for cross-channel marketing strategies requires a single technology platform that enables the creation of a 360-degree marketing view of the customer by coordinating all the different channels both inbound and outbound, and supports the need to deploy consistent, effective — and measurable — strategies across them all.
RTP: What is the next level of customer engagement?
Dietrich: Think about the last time you had a really great conversation with someone. The exchange was memorable because you engaged in a mutual interaction and actively participated in a dialogue. You gave your opinion, listened and considered the other party’s contributions. The experience forced you to think and react in real time. Customers are regularly conversing with retailers and expect certain levels of service and recognition across inbound (call centers, physical stores, a point-of-service, or the web) and outbound channels in much the same way. Every time a customer reaches out through an inbound channel there is an opportunity to market to that individual, but it’s critical to capture interactions in a single database and drive consistent messaging across the entire customer experience in order to capitalize on trigger events and make cross-sell or up-sell actions resonate and encourage a purchase.
You have to get to know your customers and demonstrate that you can provide value. Only then can technology — e-mail, social media, web site or call center — meaningfully extend the conversation. Share of wallet is, and will continue to be, awarded to organizations that create unforgettable customer experiences, experiences where every interaction, regardless of channel, contributes to a dialogue between a customer and the organization. This is what we’re calling conversational marketing, and we believe it’s the next level of customer and prospect engagement. After making the transition from multi-channel to cross-channel marketing, the retail industry’s evolution to conversational marketing will spur the next generation of customer interaction where brand experiences are truly seamless, dynamic and personalized.
RTP: There seems to be increasing discussion in the retail space around the importance of using dynamic content to help companies present timely, relevant and personalized offers across channels. Do you agree?
Dietrich: Consider research showing that retail companies that embrace personalization and advanced segmentation are realizing two to three times higher conversion rates compared to mass marketing techniques. Without better personalization, potential customers can and will, metaphorically speaking, leave the room. They will tune out and eventually respond to other more relevant offers. It’s incredibly important that the information shoppers consume at different times in the buying cycle be relevant and personalized to keep them engaged in the conversation. So to answer your question, yes, we’re seeing a lot more interest in taking personalization to the next level in an effort to create exceptional customer experiences — across channels.
Consider this example where a consumer starts following a cosmetics retailer on Twitter. The next day the retailer sends the customer a direct message via Twitter offering new followers a 15% off coupon. She is presented with a personalized link within the tweet, and upon clicking, is brought to a landing page where she can provide her email and then receive a bar code coupon to present at her next trip to the store, as well as a promo code for shopping online. To use the coupon, the consumer enters the retail cosmetics chain to buy body lotion and also applies for a loyalty card at the point-of-sale. Her purchase and coupon usage at the point-of-sale is captured and tracked alongside her Twitter and web behavior in a single enriched profile.
One week later, she receives a welcome newsletter and is asked about joining the retailer’s Facebook community. She clicks on the ‘like’ button and goes to the retailer’s Facebook fan page. There, in a ‘reward’ tab, the consumer is presented with an embedded survey to provide more detailed contact and preference information — her interests, as well as her own social media contact information. In exchange for providing this information, she is emailed a $10 coupon useable toward her next purchase.
This is customer engagement at its best. Personalized, targeted and coordinated.
RTP: What are some of the ways your customers are optimizing messaging and campaigns across these new channels?
Dietrich: Because marketing is constantly evolving with new engagement channels and tactics, we built our technology from the ground up on open standards, facilitating marketer readiness to not only adapt to new communication challenges, but to exploit them more quickly for competitive advantage.
Here’s a good example for you… one of our customers, a European women’s clothing chain, implemented Neolane’s conversational marketing technology to improve customer loyalty and drive sales. With Neolane, the retailer was able to overcome campaign performance challenges associated with its email mass marketing tool. By establishing a central point of control over marketing campaigns, the retailer was able to capitalize on the benefits of automated, one-to-one personalized and timely communications with customers.
During the trial implementation period, sales from a one-to-one personalized campaign offering ‘new season collections’ more than tripled to 363% of the previous year. In that particular campaign, more than half of these stimulated a reaction, such as clicking on a web link. Additionally, the retail chain estimates that during the trial, using Neolane reduced the time it took to develop, target and deliver email campaigns by more than 50%, with more complicated ‘partner campaigns’ taking just eight staff hours to set up versus around 38 hours previously. Real-time automated reporting and analytics allow the retailer to immediately interpret campaign performance, when reporting was previously several days post campaign, at a cost of several staff hours.