Brian Burke has more than two decades of experience in technology, product design, product management, and software/database development. In his seven years at Infutor, Burke has directed on-demand product strategy, API product design, and platform architecture.
We sat down with the Vice President of Product Management for a quick Q&A session to discuss how brands can maximize their digital retention efforts by putting their focus on the consumers.
Digital retention is crucial to maximizing lifetime customer value. In your view, who is doing it well?
Brian Burke: There isn’t a real right or wrong way, and some brands are definitely doing it better than others. The companies that are obsessed with customer experience and who continue to show value to their consumers will be the most successful. First and foremost, it has to be about the customer and not the brand. What are they getting from their relationship with you? Are they seeing the value from the dollars they spend? The strategic messaging is the critical first step.
Once this is established, brands can look at how they engage with customers through various channels and with different marketing campaigns. It’s important for the messaging to be consistent through all channels, whether it’s digital, offline, or when a customer calls into a call center. This is the part that gets tricky, especially if the data is siloed.
The brands that are best at retaining customers realize that unification of all first party data is the critical foundation before any other initiatives can be achieved. This enables the insights needed to truly begin to understand your target audience. Once you know all of your consumer segments, you can provide a much more customized experience, continue the relationship and ultimately retain them for a high lifetime value.
How exactly do brands leverage data to segment, personalize and customize messaging?
BB: First and foremost, we recommend looking at the first party data. What is currently being collected? Is it accurate? Is it complete? When was it last updated? Are there any additional demographics or attributes included within the data?
If a brand’s data is already rich with identity and attribute information about the consumer, we recommend running an analysis to begin to look at what the “best customer” looks like. If you don’t have this data, there are solution providers that can help provide this insight to add to your own first party data. This can range from basic demographic information such as age, gender, income, marital status and presence of children all the way to advanced lifestyle propensities and segmentation clusters. Depending on where a brand is with its data maturity, it can vastly range.
Next, begin with groups of consumers based on key performance indicators such as high-value customers or most frequent buyers. What attributes are most common among these consumers. Are there geographic indicators? This is the really interesting part of understanding your consumer base.
In more advanced scenarios, and this is how we interact with our own clients, we provide a comprehensive analysis that includes audience clusters to show the highest performing segments. With this segment information, you can begin to see the clusters that stand out. These clusters have a wealth of information such as media preferences, lifestyle commonalities and other demographic and purchase behaviors. This is where you can truly begin creating segments to personalize messaging based on the behaviors of these consumers. We recommend testing over time to refine messaging and optimize channel spend.
Should brands focus on digital cultivation or multi-channel?
BB: This is a question we get asked a lot and the answer is “which channels are highest performing for your specific customers?” This is where data used to segment, personalize and customize can provide the key analytics and insights needed to help you understand where your top customers are most likely to engage, and ultimately convert. There are some data sets out there that can help you get to this answer more quickly, in the form of attributes that include channel preferences and propensities. In our case, we use audience clusters. But it can be helpful to get a head start here on these buying habits.
It’s important to understand that each database is different. We’ve seen an obvious shift into digital, but there are still clients of ours that see tremendous lift from incorporating email and direct mail messaging into the mix. This all comes from analytics and understanding your customers. As consumers are bombarded with so many digital messages, there is actually less noise in a mailbox to compete against.
What are you seeing in terms of offline-to-online conversion?
BB: This is a hot topic and one that comes up a lot: how to marry and execute a cohesive online and offline strategy, when a lot of data that brands collect still rely on offline information such as name, physical address, and phone number.
The email address is a really critical piece here. A lot of brands are realizing the value of the email address isn’t always for sending an email. Apps and social media sites require digital identity markers for logging in and online authentication. These include data such as email addresses, hashed email addresses and mobile ad IDs (MAIDs).
In Infutor’s case, we offer a Digital Solutions Suite to help brands move into a digital space without exposing personally identifiable information (PII), using hashed email and MAIDs as the digital identity markers. This is particularly exciting as we are able to add key consumer attributes to enable personalized digital marketing for brands that want control over their own first party data.
Email addresses, hashed email addresses and MAIDs serve as key links between the offline and online world and can really help a brand create a consistent online and offline omnichannel experience for the best customer experience possible.
Privacy has also been a hot topic in recent years.
BB: Agreed. Consumer privacy is more important than ever. We at Infutor recognize this and have created a strong corporate policy for data management, transparency, and recently launched a consumer data opt-out portal in accordance with CCPA. While the CCPA is unique to California, having this portal in place allows us to scale to be effective as there is expansion to more states or even nationally.