Fine-tuning the art of customer entertainment

Online retailer Elan Media Partners talks to CMO about its deployment of Bronto Software's cloud-based marketing automation platform for email and campaign management and why it's all about the customer

What is the dollar value of a customer unsubscribing from your email services? That was a key question for the team at online retailer, Elan Media Partners, when it began looking to improve its utilisation of customer data.

Elan Media Partners is a pure-play online retailer of entertainment products including DVDs and Blu-Ray media, CDs, books and games. Headquartered in Australia and established in 2010 following several acquisitions, it also manages offices in Hong Kong and China and generates 70 per cent of its revenue from Europe. Retail brands under its umbrella include Wow HD (formerly CD Wow), EzyDVD and EzyFlix, Chaos and Play4me.

With 40 per cent of total revenue stemming from email marketing and product recommendations made via email or on its Web pages, it was important to find a way of better segmenting and targeting customers, as well as pre-empting their content and product purchasing decisions, Elan MD, Craig White, said.

“There’s a saying that half of your marketing is a waste, you just don’t know which half, and that’s true of email if you’re not targeted,” he said. “We have an email database of 1 million consumers, and we can either whisper every day to lots of people, or shout to the few that genuinely are interested in that genre or movie title, based on their prior order history and/or likelihood base on similar people liking them.”

Better customer data also allows Elan to improve the rate of return for content owners such as the Hollywood movie studios and distribution houses, who will co-invest in marketing initiatives around their products.

“If someone bought Harry Potter, then they might like the new Epic picture, or when Epic comes to disc or download, the studio may be inclined to say anyone who bought Ice Age 1, 2, 3 or 4, or Shrek 1, 2, 3, a competitor in this example, should be targeted,” White said. “This could mean giving those potential customers an exclusive sneak peek at a trailer, or pre-order incentives.”

Elan general manager of business operations, Shannon Ingrey, said the company’s legacy campaign management provider was behind the eight ball in terms of functionality and features. Following a technology sourcing mission to the US trade show, Online Retailer Expo, Elan signed up to Bronto Software’s cloud-based marketing automation platform for its email and campaign management.

Bronto, which is US-based, launched in 2002 and is used by more than 1000 organisations worldwide include Armani Exchange, Samsonite, Timex and Party City. CMO understands Elan is Bronto’s first customer in Australia.

Ingrey labelled the product a “quasi-CRM platform” and a good choice for small to medium enterprises looking to manage customer data within a central repository for retargeting and segmenting purposes. He also claimed that in comparison with other solutions, Bronto was more cost-effective and ticked all the boxes for ease of integration, ongoing costs and alignment with other technology platforms.

Ingrey said the platform took four weeks to implement, required little training, and is being employed by a range of staff stretching from executives to marketing coordinators, each with different rights and access.

“One particular module called Workflow allows you to set-up a light box of campaigns, and established a whole bunch of statements, time delays and trigger points which the platform crunches through,” he continued.

“For example, we have set-up campaigns that have 100 questions – everything from someone signing up to an email and whether they opened it, clicked or converted, which then triggers different emails. We then look at what they did after that, and can send them an SMS, or Facebook message.”

While bottom-line sales impact is hard to measure, Ingrey said Elan can now send an email to 5000 people, instead of half of its 1 million-strong database, and get the same commercial response and commerce. “It’s not just about hard ROI, but the service cost ROI is a lot better for us,” he said.

Importantly, having more relevant emails to customers also impacted the level of unsubscribes. “Even if people have asked for a newsletter, if you bombard them with perpetually irrelevant information for their liking you risk an unsubscribe,” White pointed out.

“It’s hard to put a percentage on the ROI of these unsubscribes, but intuitively you know you need to be cleverer about your messaging and your product offers.”

Having initially deployed Bronto’s platform 18 months ago, Elan has since pulled more of its checkout information into the mix to better understand customer behaviour. The next step is to extend the platform to mobile communications such as SMS alerts.

Ingrey is also interested in how Bronto and other marketing technology vendors will align their marketing automation suites with social commerce, social media outreach and measuring impact. “We are looking at how these existing platform providers will augment their offerings to be inclusive for a CRM opportunity around social and measuring as well as email provision, and bolting on other components that might be relevant for us,” he said.

With plans to launch on-demand services for feature films and episodic TV under its sister business, Access Digital, White said it was also important that Elan could further tailor communication and offerings to customers whenever and wherever they want.

“As the world moves more online and our content in the fullness of time becomes more digital, then reaching people where they’re at is going to be most interesting to us,” he added.

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