How Petbarn is gearing up for content and cross-channel personalisation at scale

GM digital products and ecommerce at Greencross, which owns the Petbarn retail brand plus vet clinics across the country, shares the martech investments made to date and how to dial up ROI

Personalising content more effectively and at scale, refining digital capability using AI and unifying channel experiences are in the sights of Petbarn’s digital chief as the business looks to take the next leap up with its martech stack.

Speaking to CMO during the recent Adobe Summit, Greencross the Wellness Company GM digital products and ecommerce, Sandra Sinclair, explained how the company has executed a rapid extension of its martech capabilities over the past 18 months to meet changing customer experience expectations. Greencross owns both the Petbarn and City Farmers retail brands as well as Greencross Vet Clinics.

Having initially been a Magento ecommerce client, Greencross first adopted Adobe Target in order to personalise content based on a customer’s session behaviour, conduct better A/B content testing and leverage product personalisation that could take advantage of its proprietary pet profile database.

“We have classified all products to align with our pet profile questionnaire. For example, if you say in your profile that your pet has a health concern, we will then personalise by serving you products that align with that concern across the journey of a sale,” Sinclair said. “That was our initial play.

“About 18 months ago, we embarked on a tender process to decide where we would take our martech stack going forward. Adobe was chosen and that started our journey towards expanding our use of that portfolio.”

In quick succession, Greencross rolled out Adobe Campaign Standard edition, Adobe Audience Manager and Adobe Analytics. It’s now working to implement Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), with digital asset management (DAM) the first priority component.

“We are very much focused on digital media and our CRM. For us, it was easy to start with Adobe Campaign and Audience Manager, and we’ve already had immediate returns,” Sinclair commented.

More recently and given the 16 digital platforms and websites operating across the group, the focus has turned to how Greencross publishes content at scale across so many platforms. Vet advisory panel syndicates and authors all content, but the challenge is scaling content creation to meet hyper-personalisation needs.

“To do that, we need to go to a headless content strategy, integrate AEM, start to create modular components - that’s the next job for us,” Sinclair said. “We’re working with Adobe professional services to do a maturity assessment of where we sit across each of the pieces of the stack to then work jointly through how we build or augment capability and ensure we continue to leverage the stack to its full potential.”

Holistic personalisation

Driving this work is a holistic commitment to personalisation. Sinclair said Greencross’ personalisation efforts are largely channel specific and not unified into an omnichannel experience. This doesn’t mean they’re not effective, however.

Petbarn’s email program encompasses 180 trigger-based programs that use demand cues from a customer’s purchasing behaviour online and offline to take them on a development journey. This could be responding to the fact a customer buys puppy or kitten products with a puppy or kitten journey, for example. Another strong, standalone personalisation strategy Sinclair pointed to was on the Petbarn site, driven by Adobe Target.

To achieve this, Petbarn leverages both pet parents and pet profile data across the pet lifecycle. Commencing with the planning phase, Petbarn offers a breed selector tool to help consumers align future pet to the needs of their families. Through the Petbarn Foundation, it’s also integrated an ‘adopt a dog’ tool into the selector so customers can connect to dogs in shelters.

As the pet arrives, demand cues and shopping behaviour take customers through those personalised communication journeys, while pet profiles personalise website experiences by strategically placing product and other recommendations solving for pet needs.

“Adulthood is next milestone and here we use both pet and parent data,” Sinclair continued. “For example, if you buy a dental chew, we can serve advice on dental care or an offer to go to vet for dental check-up. There are also regular reminders on vaccinations.”  

A decisioning engine combining pet data, parent purchase history and browser behaviour and in-house universal customer record script serve channel recommendations. Sinclair said customers served recommendations convert at almost double the rate.

Going forward, Sinclair is looking to leverage its Adobe platforms along with machine learning-based recommendations engine to better unify customer experiences. With the recent arrival of Nick Adams at Greencross as its new chief customer officer, there are also plans to leverage Adams’ experience in data science to improve the use of data science in the mix.

Adams was previously chief market manager at Allianz for three years, and has also held senior marketing roles previously at Telstra, Westpac and American Express.

“The opportunity for us is to try and bring together the demand cues into Adobe Audience Manager, create the audiences there and personalisation at scale so you get a similar experience on our sites as our emails,” Sinclair said. “The data is mostly there for us; it’s the content at scale bit that’s the missing piece. We have the content but it’s not modular and static, and it relies on humans. We need to have modular components that can be brought in based on the data set.”  

Measuring ROI

As platform use cases continue to evolve, Sinclair outlined three lenses applied to understanding the ROI of customer, marketing and digital technology investments. One is Greencross’ purpose, which is to ensure pets live a better life. To help, control groups and A/B tests are used for incrementality, Greencross tracks customer lifetime value, plus ecosystem cross-sell and a raft of engagement metrics.

The second lens is over employees and the team. “Attracting digital talent is key problem. Investing in technology helps us retain talent and be an employer of choice,” Sinclair said.

“Candidate feedback is a key measure of success here. Our third lens is business and shareholder – it’s about investing in areas preparing us for profitable growth. Previously, it was easier to measure on ecommerce sales plus EBITDA. But that’s narrow. We’re expanding attribution models to bring in offline and vet data to show incrementality of investments on whole ecosystem, not just ecommerce sales.”

But even with such metrics, “sometimes brands just need to do the right thing by their customers”, Sinclair said. In recent weeks, and with its Lismore store flooded, Petbarn set up an emergency click-and-collect location in a marquee on a hill in the area so customers can still access products.

Covid and digital acceleration

Another guiding pillar for Sinclair when thinking more creatively about how to serve useful and reliable personalisation is the need for convenience. She noted a paradigm shift around convenience off the back of the pandemic and digital acceleration.

Petbarn was the first to launch same-day delivery in pet care with Uber, and also introduced 60-minute click-and-collect, contactless pickup and WebVet consultation services. The next priority is bringing these assets together using digital platforms, so they interact with the full ecosystem.

Read more:Greencross CEO on what it takes to be customer-led in a crisis

“We were the first to launch same day delivery in pet care [with Uber] the early days of the pandemic; nowadays eBay through Shippit there are plans to launch this same-day service across Australia. Same day is no longer fast enough,” Sinclair commented.

“What you create also needs to have that core element of experience – they need to be expedient, serve relevant content and be aligned to the customer. The interplay in my mind is around convenience and value – I want you to know me and respond quickly.”

At the same time, with all of us more aware of how much personal data we’re giving away, Sinclair agreed brands need to give customers choice on how their data is collected and used.

“We have a Friends for Life program living across our ecosystem and we actively encourage customers to join that program – that becomes the value exchange. But we do give the customer the choice when they’re checking out, in-store or online, whether they want to use that program,” she said. “I see that continuing as a trend. We are very cautious about how we collect data, especially in our clinics – if your pet is unwell, it’s probably not appropriate to be retargeting that customer.

“We have strict controls around audits we conduct before we start using data. We also have the same concepts around employee data. We control things by having the key data owner being the custodian and protector of that data set.”

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