With the arrival of information technology, it’s become more crucial than ever for companies to understand their customers and provide personalized shopping experiences, and that’s where user data comes into play.
But personalization goes beyond simply using your customer’s name in an email or following up on their purchases.
In this episode of the Identity Revolution podcast, Infutor’s host Eric Gastevich welcomes Ian Dewar, the Global Director of Consumer Analytics at VF Corporation. They discuss what personalization is all about, how customer information can help drive brand loyalty, and how to use data to understand your customers better.
- Name: Ian Dewar
- What he does: He’s the Global Director of Consumer Analytics at VF Corporation, the parent company of major brands such as The North Face, Vans, Timberland, and Dickies.
- Company: VF Corporation
- Key Quote: “I would say that personalization, for us, is aided discovery, and it’s not a laser beam into your wallet. It’s an opportunity for you to get to know our product line better.”
- Where to find Ian: LinkedIn
- Use data to get to know your customers better. With the emergence of big data, you don’t always have to assume what your customers expect or desire. Instead, you can use first-party data and customer segmentation to get better insight into what they need. Ian talks about how VF Corporation leverages information to understand their customers better and yield better results for their brands. “What our customers do with the product they buy from us is way more important than the product. […] Understanding it is way more important than that single transaction or that first transaction. And so that’s where getting to know our customers became really important and kind of everything that I’ve done, as I look back and talk about some of the stuff we did at the travel companies or the Specialized Writers Club. But the idea was the same — how do we get to know our customers so we can make a better recommendation? I just think we have access to so much more information now, and we’re continuing to get better at that.”
- Personalize customer experiences. Ian says personalization is an ever-evolving spectrum. It’s about getting closer to your customer, learning what they want in life, and how you can help them achieve that. You need to use data to meet your clients’ needs but also to offer them a highly personalized experience. Ian gives us an example. “One yellow boot can have multiple uses, and it’s unrealistic for us to expect that everyone who buys a yellow boot is working on their house, going out in the city and walking to work, owns a cabin, and likes chopping their own firewood. But if they do any of those things, we’ve got a good product for them. […] And that’s where real-life behavior is super important. And third-party data that helps us understand real-life behavior is super important to help us build these customer profiles so our personalization spectrum gets closer to what the customer really wants to do in their life and how we can support that.”
- How can you drive brand loyalty? Personalization also plays a major role in building brand loyalty. By giving your customers what they need and helping them achieve their goals, you connect with them. Ian talks about how VF drives loyalty. “What we do to build loyalty is continue to show our customers the products and stories that excite them. One of the big things we learned about loyalty is that for brands like Vans, North Face, and Timberland that don’t have really high frequency, the reminder of relevance is an important part of a loyalty program.”
Marketing is about creating unique connections and relevant experiences
“Even then, the focus was on how we can create unique experiences that are relevant for each of our customers. […] My goal was to design these athlete experiences and connect our professional athletes to our customers. But it ended up being marketing. The same thing happened with the adventure travel trips. If we create a unique experience, and we encourage people to ride their bikes, and we use something like a race, an event, or a professional athlete to bring people in, it’s not that complicated. The more people ride their bikes, the more likely they are to buy another bike. And so marketing really became this integration of how we can create experiences and introduce them to our customers.”
Personalization is aided discovery
“Understanding what you do and what you’ve already bought really helps us show you the product that’s going to help you next, and that’s super important for us. And I would say that personalization, for us, is aided discovery, and it’s not a laser beam into your wallet. It’s an opportunity for you to get to know our product line better. I think that the other thing that gets overlooked a lot in personalization is that sort of aided discovery of what a customer doesn’t even know we make.”
Data privacy plays a significant role in driving brand loyalty
“Data privacy is very important at VF. It always has been. In fact, part of the impetus for us creating VIP rewards — a loyalty program for the North Face — 10 years ago, was that our store team and our executive team felt uncomfortable asking people for email addresses at the cash register. They said, ‘Hey, we know we can legally do this, but there’s no real exchange of value. If we’re going to continue to engage with our customers in the stores, we should have a program that allows us to do that.’ So, we were focused on consumer privacy and this exchange of value even before we were forced to focus on them.”
[13:55] “For us, the real opportunity is to get to know the customers better, and that’s really the sort of evolution. And where we are today with data at VF is that we’re really focused on using first-party data and third-party data to better understand what our customers do.”
[20:57] “One of the things that I’m seeing and that our stores are telling us is that customers are less likely to be window shopping and more likely to be deliberately shopping, and that’s all because we’re providing them with more information upfront. So when you say, ‘What’s the right digital technology? What’s the right MarTech?’ It’s an extension of what we had before. But the role of personalization and access to information becomes that much more important because, for most of our VF brands, the shopping journey starts digitally almost every time.”
[28:18] “The core of personalization and customer expectation is that if they tell us something, we will use it. We’ve made it clear that we acknowledge our customers have different interests. The North Face customer doesn’t have to be a skier, a camper, or a runner. The Vans customer doesn’t have to surf, skate, or BMX.”