Acquisition and retention can no longer work in silos, says Build.com marketer

US-based online retailer's head of acquisition marketing talks about the data and technology changes at the company and how they're bringing marketing teams together

How to acquire the right customers as well as retain them is not only fuelling an ongoing data and technology evolution at US online retailer, Build.com, it’s changing the way marketing teams collaborate.

Build.com runs nine niche websites focused on home improvement products stretching from finished goods such as lighting and ventilation products, to components. The pure-play online was founded in 2000 and counts both home owners and professional tradespeople in its customer base.

Director of acquisition marketing, Rocky Glaze, looks after the retailer’s pay per click, affiliates, search engine optimisation, display, retargeting, and marketplace strategy and has been with the company for 11 years. He is complemented by Build.com’s customer retention and analytics chief.

According to Glaze, acquisition marketing has undergone significant changes in recent years as the retailer strives to become a highly data-driven, analytics-based business. The company has been using Omniture since 2008 and has since transitioned to Adobe’s Marketing Cloud.

For Glaze, a big priority is how to acquire customers in a market that’s not really growing. “There is still such a small penetration online with home improvement, so we’re looking at how to get as much from as little as possible. And once we get customers, how do we retain them? That’s been a huge focus this year,” he said.

To do this, audience segmentation has become a major component in Build.com’s strategy and in particular, whether customers are worth acquiring - or not. The retailer is using a centralised data warehouse to help fuel these capabilities.

“We’re getting to that point where we can say that not every customer is created equal for us, and really trying to discover where we should be spending our money,” Glaze said.

“It’s been a long road – the first part has been figuring out who the valuable customers are and what behaviours they exhibit, then how we support those customers. We have a large sales centre that handles a lot of inbound calls and they’re great at what they do. We also have a professionals division working with contractors and designers, and they’re looking at who the high value customers are, then how we support them and build out those pieces.

“We’ve been using the data to power that evolution.”

Another aspect of Build.com’s strategy is building a more personalised relationship with existing customers, Glaze said. “We want to help them meet their needs, rather than just being a product provider,” he said. “There is a big box company along with Amazon that we compete with in this space, so how we can add value on top of the product is key.”

Build.com’s retention strategy is evolving in order to find that value, he said. “It’s about how we serve the needs of a customer after they bought something, then going beyond that, and looking at how and why the customers buy something else. We can acquire them, but how do you then inspire them post-purchase is also key.”

Glaze said this desire to improve the end-to-end customer approach has seen him increasingly collaborating with his retention counterpart, as well as the sales team.

“We have a VP for sales and we have a CMO coming in and we all work in operations today. That brought us a lot closer to working with sales and merchandising,” he said. “We come together every week and talk about the challenges we all face, and see if we have solutions that can help them solve their problems, rather than running in our own silos.”

Glaze said marketers doing search or acquisition marketing can no longer afford to stick to their own specialisation and expect to be successful.

“You need to look at your business holistically. I can’t just look at my silo and think it’s perfect – if there are all these other things influencing customer interactions and the business at the same time and I’m not factoring those in, I’m not doing what I should be doing,” he said.

“I want to look at that data, and reports in analytics, and look at overall sales, not just paid search sales and comparison shopping sales, but how everything is doing. What do the trendlines look like for our market and how can I push our analytics platform to reflect that?

“Then it’s about pushing that data and insight out to the rest of the company. And from there, it’s how we evolve reporting and build actionable insights that can be available to you when you walk in the door. That’s what we’re moving to.”

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