Customer engagement: Approach with care from a unified view

Retailers including Camilla and Nourished Life share how they're personalising digital interaction with customers to stay relevant to each individual

From left: Steffen Daleng from Booktopia, Lani Barmakov from Nourished Life,  Alexandre Coussy from Camilla, and Carmel Zein from Emarsys
From left: Steffen Daleng from Booktopia, Lani Barmakov from Nourished Life, Alexandre Coussy from Camilla, and Carmel Zein from Emarsys

Retailers agreed on a few fundamentals for personalising customer engagement when they discussed the topic at Retail Revival, the second annual digital talkfest held by Emarsys, an omnichannel customer engagement and retention platform.   

Camilla head of CRM marketing, Alexandre Coussy, and Nourished Life ecommerce director, Lani Barmakov, joined other Emarsys customers, CUE Clothing and Booktopia, in a panel to share insights into personalising their increasing digital interaction with customers. 

Both Coussy and Barmakov were glad they started small and slow and both are more than pleased with rewards. Nourished Life's figures are showing revenue from emails has jumped 30 per cent because they are more personalised and targeted.

“We're talking to people how they want to be spoken to, when they want to be spoken to: If you like to open your emails at 7pm, it will come to you at the right time. We find that's really helpful with getting our open rates up,” said Barmakov, who describes Nourished Life's earlier digital engagement as unsophisticated. 

Previously, the retailer had data that was fragmented in silos, waiting to be consolidated, and many gaps to fill – no phone numbers and little data on customers’ brand preferences.   

"We were looking for a way to have a single view of a customer, to be able to target what we were saying – because at one time we might have 20 different offers going but want to send to a specific type of customer, or one who had shown interest in a brand... just the offer that was relevant to them,” said Barmakov. 

Start slow and steady 

Aside from its loyalty program and ecommerce, Nourished Life had not digitised customer interactions prior to setting up on the Emarsys platform towards the end of 2019. Barmakov recommended newbies start with the basics. 

"Start with abandoned carts, abandoned browsing and a welcome series. It's when you want to get a bit craftier and you're ready for the next level that you might need some customisation but it's easy to do," she continued.  

Six months after starting integration when Nourished Life's developer had made small improvements, and ideas and data were lined up, the retailer hired a full-time customer relationship (CRM) manager to drive the personalisation initiative. 

"We needed someone to come in and take our ideas and roadmap and implement the different journeys and segment it for us,” she said. 

Before developing its system on the Emarsys platform, upmarket fashion label, Camilla, was only personalising messages on its website, based on an online shopper's previous interactions. Now Camilla is aiming for omnichannel personalisation using messages on the website, on email or Facebook and is gradually adding SMS. 

Messages are tailored to the customer's journey. If, for example, a customer responds to the message, it changes. Coussy said the label has tried a few pilot campaigns on SMS and is delighted with the return on investment at 30 times a dollar invested in SMS marketing. 

"Email cut-though can be between a 30-50 per cent open rate. Now we can tailor communication to the customer's preferred channel by using SMS for people who didn't open an email,” said Coussy, who wants to use SMS as part of the customer's lifecycle and avoid ad hoc messages. 

Coussy suggested approaching smaller segments first to test the response and found a 'back-in-stock' email was particularly successful on a geographic segment based on online browsing and its two stores in the US. 

"It was really successful for driving online customers in-store, and the US store manager was so happy after business had been slowed by Covid. 

Getting customers to shop both online and in-store is a big focus for Coussy who believes a customer's lifetime value is multiplied four to five times if a customer shops both ways. "We want to personalise the online experience based on offline interaction in-store and vice versa,” Coussy said. 

The new financial year 2021-22 sees Camilla focusing on encouraging offline shoppers to go online, with offers such as free shipping. Camilla will also polish a virtual styling experience it launched during Covid on Zoom – but it is looking for more suitable technology. 

Keep it relevant not creepy 

As a premium label, Camilla aims to maintain respect for its customers and retain a subtle approach. 

"We are lucky, customers are a loyal fan-base but at the same time we can't take that for granted,” said Coussy. "It only takes one bad customer experience to lose them so it's important we're really careful and think through any new campaign strategy."

Both Barmakov and Coussy are wary of taking personalisation too far and ward against this by ensuring the personalisation stays relevant and offers something positive. 

"You can see the location where someone opened an email and so you suggest a new store which might be convenient. I know it sounds creepy but, to the customer, it will just seem relevant. That is the borderline with personalisation – you just need to be relevant,” said Coussy. 

The new integrated system has given Nourished Life new confidence in its communications with customers. 

"What this has allowed us to do is be confident about sending more emails … to scale up without annoying our customers. If someone was looking at an item or favourite brand in the past and we let them know it's now on sale – those emails get opened," Barmakov said.

"However much you engage with us, we can give you that back - that's a really good aspect of this system. We create rules [for segments] and customers can move in and out of those segments. We don't have to do anything after creating the rules; we just know we are only emailing customers who want to hear from us." 

Barmakov saw better targeted customer engagement as taking the online shopping experience back to the days of the corner store. 

"It's that feeling [of familiarity] and trying to digitise that so that customers feel seen and feel it's personal. Now, rather than feeling creepy, customers feel it's of benefit to them." 

Another line Barmakov doesn't want to cross with engagement is where it blocks any serendipity in an online experience. 

"You've got to be careful not to remove the opportunity for discovery if you become too personalised. Maybe a customer always likes the colour blue – but maybe in that other top they'd like red and we've removed that option," she said. 

"We've got to make sure machine learning can evolve with people – because we evolve as we get older so preferences are going to change. And I'm sure technology can do that."

You can also follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page

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