News

Personal Recognition

BY Connie Robbins Gentry

In a perfect holiday season, shoppers in your store on Black Friday were also shopping at your Web site on Cyber Monday. Achieving cross-channel sales is the holy grail of retail marketers.

Customer relationship management (CRM), the art and science of convincing customers to become loyal shoppers, has always been the key to any retailer’s success. In the 1940s, long before the Internet or even the term “CRM,” a car dealership in South Florida had a no-fail system for bringing customers back.

The dealership gave prospective buyers a gallon of ice cream, which not only left them with a sweet taste in their mouths but prevented them from stopping at other dealerships because cars were not equipped with air conditioning and the ice cream would melt.

Impressing shoppers in today’s market is considerably more complex, but CRM technologies allow retailers to identify shopping histories and anticipate preferences. Merrimack, N.H.-based Brookstone recently integrated a multichannel loyalty-marketing initiative across its 306 bricks-and-mortar stores, brookstone.com and its catalog call center. The program, driven by CRM technology from San Francisco-based Loyalty Lab, recognizes established Brookstone customers, records sales transactions across every channel and awards credits toward future purchases based on spending activity. The means of recognition can be as simple as an e-mail address or cell-phone number, or as esoteric as a membership number in that retailer’s loyalty program.

In announcing the project, Greg Sweeney, Brookstone’s VP, general manager of direct marketing, noted, “We now have a way to say ‘thank you’ to our best customers who visit us again and again.”

Brookstone’s loyalty program gives the retailer visibility into what its best customers are purchasing.

“Retailers are focused on retention of their best customers,” said David Rosen, senior VP of Loyalty Lab. “Recognizing and rewarding customers convinces them to shop more and makes them more enthusiastic about telling their friends to shop with you.”

The best multichannel marketing campaigns develop promotional e-mails and Web content based on customer data integrated from every retail touchpoint. A Web site’s homepage makes a first impression that can transform browsers into buyers, or lose them faster than ice cream melts.

Rosen noted, “It is paramount for retailers to get their homepage right, or the shoppers leave within seconds.”

Getting it right means tailoring the products on that homepage to the specific interests of each visitor. Fairfax, Va.-based Exmplar assimilates transaction histories for its retail customers from their stores, Web sites and catalogs, and provides nightly reports on multichannel purchases as well as on-line activity including products browsed or products abandoned in the “cart.”

Keith Wardell, CEO of Exmplar, explained that “triggered e-mail campaigns,” which reflect a shopper’s personal preferences, generate four to eight times more sales than e-mail campaigns based solely on generalized demographics. However, he cautions against making e-mails too specific to recent Web browsing, which has a tendency to appear “Big Brotherish” in the Orwellian sense.

“Timing can be one of the most powerful elements of any marketing campaign,” agreed Robert Kernweis, director of customer sales and marketing, Staples Business Delivery, which utilizes the Exmplar services. “At Staples, we believe that events such as purchasing a product and visiting our Web site are excellent opportunities to deliver a relevant communication to our customers.”

Marketing Based on Shopping Habits and Preferences

When catalog retailer HSN Home Improvements added its e-commerce site, it sought to motivate multi-channel shopping. Exmplar of Fairfax, Va., used sales data to create personal e-mail campaigns and personalize ImprovementsCatalog.com’s homepage to relate one-onone with each visitor.

Category affinity: Exmplar examined the most frequent category from which each customer purchased and suggested additional products in the same category and other categories with a strong affinity. As a result, overall sales increased 130%.

Product affinity: Overall sales increased 117% after customer purchases were compared to purchases made by like shoppers. The system made offers to customers based on additional products that the “like” shoppers had purchased.

Sales bounce-back: Exmplar analyzed each customer’s most recent purchase and offered products that had a strong affinity with the purchase. The result was that overall sales doubled.

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