Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Mid-market online retailers are struggling with time constraints and the pressure to deliver a holistic view of customers via integrated commerce marketing automation technologies, according to a global Bronto Software executive.
Speaking at an event in Sydney, general manager, Carolyn Sparano, said its customers often have access to the technology, but are unable to leverage resources and effectively pull all the information together.
“For them to go to their IT departments or get developers to pull this information together to get that holistic view of their customers can be very daunting, so as much as we can take the heavy lifting off their plate, provide more predictive analytics and provide automation that allow them to understand their customer, the better off they are,” she told CMO. “And that’s what we really focus on.”
Sparano said marketers in the online retail space need to work to stand out amongst the fray to create a unique brand experience.
“At this point in time things like free shipping are table stakes, so brands need to work to create value beyond just the initial transaction. It can’t all be about price. They need to create a unique experience and understand their customer journey and add value throughout that journey,” she said.
“Marketers need to get a truly holistic view of their customers throughout all of their channels and traditionally brands can get very siloed: their in store marketing group is very different from their online marketing group. And to really understand that customer journey they need to have all of that information in one place to have that holistic view.”
Sparano said consumers want to shop anytime, anywhere, which means brands need to understand all of its customer interactions and have a consistent message regardless of where customers end up.
According to a recent study, which uncovered how Australians feel about online shopping outside of the country, she said 93 per cent expressed interest in buying products overseas and 72 per cent are already doing it.
“That means Australian merchants have a much bigger pool of competitors to contend with than they might realise. So it’s even more important for them to step up their game, and provide the right goods at a service level their local consumers are saying they want. Because, like it or not, they are in a global competitive space that demands a keen understanding of their customers.”
Therefore, marketers need a commerce marketing automation platform that helps them maximise engagement and revenues throughout that customer lifecycle journey, she noted.
“If I’m calling their call centre to return an item, that call centre service rep should have the same holistic view that the in store clerk would have - that I see messaged to me when I’m on a brand's website, or in an email message that gets delivered to me. And this is really challenging for a marketer to do in this traditional environment where those parts of the organisation are siloed and don’t act together,” she said.
“They get bogged down in the technology and trying to integrate these systems can be a lot of heavy lifting for them. We focus on really ensuring they can have a tight data connection and taking some of the heavy lifting off the marketer by providing automation and app that makes that job a lot easier for them.”
Many Australian retailers have already chosen Bronto Software as their commerce marketing automation solution, including Krispy Kreme, EMU Australia, O’Neill and Princess Polly. The US-based company, which was hatched in 2002, opened the Australian contingent in 2013.
She flagged local customer, EMU, the shoe retailer, as a local success story.
“They changed their site from a global site to 10 geo-specific sites. And they did that through leveraging Bronto, Demandware and BazaarVoice. By changing their messaging on their sites and across their platforms from one global site to geo-specific they were able to increase their conversion rate by 43 per cent and their average order value by 12 per cent.”
She said another local customer, Tinyme, recently changed its messaging to personalise messages with geo-specific information, using postcodes to put weather related information in its messages, which has increased their lift and revenue.
Krispy Kreme is another example of a local customer using automation and analytics tools to boost the customer experience and drive revenues. Head of digital and ecommerce, Russell Schulman, told CMO the company chose Bronto for personalisation (one-to-one communication) and integration with its ecommerce system.
“The biggest thing Bronto has given us is the flexibility to do customised offers, and the integration with Magento has allowed us to give every single person their own individual offer. Before we would just make up a code and we would have to be quite conservative with what we offered people because we knew there was one code for everyone.
“In this day and age, one person uses it once, they try it again, and then they start spreading it across social, so the best we could do was 10 per cent off or get one free, so we couldn’t segment out and reward our best customers. Now if we know someone is a big spender, we can give them a specific offer just for them, and for someone who we want to try and become a better customer, we can potentially give them their own offer.”
New duo has emerged
Sparano said Netsuite’s acquisition of Bronto’s digital marketing platform (for US$200 million) in April 2015 signalled a good blend of technologies for consumers. It brings NetSuite into competition with marketing automation and email management software vendors such as Marketo.
“Together, Bronto and Netsuite are transforming the way retailers can conduct their business, by providing that unique combination of connecting the front office and the commerce platform with the back office ERP information that marketers typically don’t have access to. That really enables retailers to not only drive their top line revenue but also maximise productivity.”
She said if a marketer has access to their ERP information, when they are looking at putting the right product in front of the customer with a recommendation through email or on their site, it’s not just a recommendation of what that customer is likely to buy, but it is also a recommendation that considers what makes most sense for the business.
“That could be the product they have the highest inventory on, or it could be the product that has the highest margin. Or it might be the product that’s closest to that consumer in their local store - and it’s more likely that that answer is different for every customer. So with the combination of Bronto and Netsuite together we give a unique opportunity to pull all of that information together for marketers to leverage.”
Next phase of innovation
Sparano said customers can already use simple drag-and-drop tools to create sophisticated, omnichannel campaigns based on customer behaviour, order history, and product availability and price, and always deliver the right message at the right time.
“From Bronto, you are going to see more innovation in regards to more predictive analytics; we’re applying machine learning to our platform that enables marketers to know more about their customers and use that information to automate highly personalised marketing messages.
“You hear a lot about predictions, recommendations, and really bringing that predictive nature in regards to knowing who’s going to buy next, and what they are going to buy - so we’re seeing those trends across the industry.”
The company has launched the Predictor app, which covers product recommendations. “You can put personalised recommendations in front of your customers; you will increase the likelihood that they will convert, so that’s innovation that has come out recently.”
Additionally, the company rolled out the Browse Recovery app. “Many marketers use a shopping cart or abandoned basket app, which we have, and we have customers that are very successful with that. With the introduction of Browse Recovery you can capture customers higher up in that funnel, that are just browsing your website, and haven’t put anything in the basket. So with browse recovery you can capture revenue even higher up in that customer lifecycle funnel.”
Sparano, who’s been the general manager for seven months, but formerly the vice-president of client services for the past ten years, said she’s excited to push the customer journey story.
“It’s been an interesting transition for me. Ten years on the customer delivery side has made me incredibly customer-focused. When we’re talking about helping marketers understand their customer journey, I think I bring a unique experience to the table because I’m so customer focused. And it’s really an exciting time for the company, and for me, because in this new role I get to help create the journey for Bronto as part of Netsuite.
“There aren’t too many executives being as customer focused as I am, being on that delivery side for so long, and really focusing on Bronto customers having a great experience transitioning and leveraging our platform.”