Fashioning a new style of customer interaction at The PAS Group

The PAS Group retail group explains how it's stepping up its ability to personalise engagement with consumers with marketing cloud technology and enhancements to its customer loyalty program

It’s the primary objective of every retail organisation: To recognise and personalise the shopping and brand experience of every customer, whatever the channel, whenever the interaction, and in a seamless and dynamic way.

And that’s exactly what Australian fashion retailer, The PAS Group, is looking to do thanks to its growing customer loyalty program, new cross-channel marketing technology platform, and expanding digital capabilities.

The fashion and apparel group was established in 2004, making its first acquisition of Yarra Trail that year. Since then, the group has completed a number of strong brand acquisitions including Breakaway, Designwords, Marco Polo, Review and Metalicus. In June, the company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and has set its sights firmly on growing its group of brands.

Digital, loyalty and strategic partnerships manager, Anna Samkova (pictured), sits across the company’s three omni-channel brands: Metalicus, Review and Breakaway. The group also maintains dedicated general managers and brand marketers, as well as a loyalty and digital communications manager.

While the company has prided itself on being customer-centric, it was the launch of the Metalicus and Review loyalty programs a couple of years ago and relaunch of its Breakaway loyalty program that allowed the team to start gauging customer behaviour, Samkova told CMO. This included gaining a better knowledge around purchase frequency and recency, along with purchase history across all channels.

The loyalty programs were managed in conjunction with agency partner, Arcade. The core offering is a monthly loyalty voucher, the value of which is tiered based on a customer’s previous monthly spend. The amount is uploaded on their loyalty card and must be redeemed by the end of the month in-store or, more recently, via its ecommerce sites.

“I can’t emphasise how important the loyalty program has been to us just against the principles of convenience and relevance to our customers,” Samkova said. “When we launched the loyalty program, we started to talk about what happens with these members – how many sign up, coupon redemption rates, how many times they come back and shop with us, and look at who are the top spenders and how we treat them in order to surprise and delight them.

“This has moved us more deeply into a ‘test and measure’ culture, which wasn’t available to us before just using traditional media channels.”

The customer loyalty program raised fresh questions about personalising interactions further. “It became apparent that we needed to move away from sending batch-and-blast email communications and work at targeting more specific customer groups,” Samkova said.

“Our strategy is to find a group of customers we are interested in serving, understand their problems, get their permission to talk to them, find a solution that delights and impacts them, and service more people. Then do it all over again.”

Marketing cloud adoption

To bring personalisation into its loyalty and digital marketing approach, The PAS Group deployed the Oracle Responsys marketing cloud, going live in July after an onboarding project that took just 23 days. Samkova said she was swayed by Responsys’ industry knowledge, global experience and the “tenacity” of its team.

Alongside Samkova, the rollout involved Responsys, The PAS Group’s internal IT and ecommerce staff, and its agency partner. Already, the retailer is chalking up measurable results and analysing customer data in new ways. To achieve this, The PAS Group mapped out the entire customer lifecycle including first orders, specific offers and what happens when these reach customers.

“The platform has enabled us to do data segmentation, we are sending more email types to less people, and the relevance of communication is increasing,” Samkova said. “It’s improving our email cut through.

“Based on that and because we have a large database of people, we could look at the next step and strategic move to improve and be of more value to our customers.”

As an example, a recent activity targeted lapsed customers who had disengaged with its brands after a certain period of time. To address them, Samkova’s team broke customers into two major groups: Those who had lapsed after five months, and those at 11 months. Specific content was then created for each group to re-engage them.

“We saw an immediate increase in just 30 days in our monthly active member count, as well as an increase in annual and lifetime value across the board,” she said. “That is very significant for us and has helped us ensure lifetime relationship with our brands.”

The group also introduced a welcome sequence of emails in October, which is triggered from the first time a customer engages with the Review, Metalicus or Breakaway brands.

Samkova is now working on building customer personae and tracking engagement and purchase history using these as a basis.

“All touchpoints are also treated equally; customers can move between online, mobile, email, in-store and through our outlets and concession stores such as Myer, and we are following and rewarding them all along the way,” she explained. “We can now segment our customers by shopper type; whether they shop just online, or across all channels, for example. It’s very valuable data for us.”

The ability to track and measure activity was particularly important given The PAS Group is now a listed organisation. “Rather than just be driven by opinions, we can use facts and numbers. What matters is open rate, clickthrough rate, the conversion rates and the revenue this has generated for us. You can’t argue with that,” Samkova said.

According to the group’s July prospectus, Metalicus has 110,000 loyalty members, while Review has 85,000. In the last financial year, member numbers grew by 500 to 800 per week. Just over half of Review’s sales today are associated with the loyalty program, and 76 per cent of those at Metalicus. Samkova advised other digital marketers looking to get a similar technology investment over the line with executives to focus on facts, numbers and how those peers think.

Rather than just be driven by opinions, we can use facts and numbers. What matters is open rate, clickthrough rate, the conversion rates and the revenue this has generated for us. You can’t argue with that

“The revenue is important, particularly as we are a publicly listed company tracking sales on a weekly basis. I had to present on what was important to them,” she said.

The PAS Group is now looking to add SMS messaging, Web retargeting and cart abandonment functions online, off the back of the Responsys platform.

Customer chat

Another important capability helping strengthen customer engagement is live chat on the Review and Metalicus sites. The PAS Group rolled out Olark’s live chat product in July and Samkova said the feature has already changed the way her team prioritises improvements to its digital offerings.

“Reading the transcripts and questions from live chat every day, as well as all the customer emails, has been a breakthrough for me,” she said.

While she had to grow the customer service team to cope with chat, Samkova said the benefits in terms of digital engagement have been immense.

“We wait for questions from customers but we also open up conversations and push promotions through,” she said. “The team can be on our site and see if someone has been on the page for a certain period of time, then open up a conversation.

“In a shop you can ask questions of a shop assistant, but what do you do on a website? People do need that extra assistance but they won’t necessarily go to the ‘contact us’ page and email us. They need immediate help and we’re now able to provide that.”

Thanks to the insights gleaned from chat and emails, The PAS Group has launched in-store stock availability checking online. This has already reduced the number of customer emails by 40 per cent, Samkova said.

The next cab off the digital rank will be click-and-collect. The group started testing this with three stores and will have it rolled out across the board by the end of the year.

“We have only scratched the surface of what data-driven marketing has to offer,” Samkova added. “We are going to launch loyalty apps soon, which will bring the digital experience much closer to the customer, and gives us an opportunity to enhance their in-store experience too.”

More marketing technology case studies from brands in our archives

This article originally appeared in CMO magazine, Issue 3, 2014. To subscribe to get your own magazine copy, please register through our online member system: cmo.com.au/subscribe.

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