Category: consumer insights
Shamir Duverseau

How Mature is Your Digital Experience?

According to MIT Sloan Management Review, “digital maturity goes beyond technology … it’s about how businesses are adapting in a digital environment.” Organizations must strive to make digital core to their business—in all areas of their business—in order to succeed. As a marketing leader you have a key question to answer: Are you fundamentally adapting your customer experience to compete effectively in the digital era?

Answering this charge requires an understanding of what digital maturity looks like vis a vis the experience you are providing to customers—from awareness to conversion and beyond—as well as the ability to measure where your organization falls on the spectrum of digital development. The closer you can get to a real-time, 1:1 experience with each person, the more mature your digital experience. Why? Because the more personal the experience, the more likely someone is to take action in the short term and build lifetime value for your organization in the long term. 

To illustrate the importance of the 1:1 experience, consider this example. Smart Panda Labs worked with a real estate development company offering luxury apartment rentals in metropolitan areas including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. As with many organizations, the homepage was one of most frequented pages on their website and featured general messages about the company and their newest properties. As we helped this brand mature their digital experiences, homepage content became more personalized. Direct visits to the site prompted location-specific content. Visitors coming to the site by way of a paid search campaign would see content related to their search query. Their behavior on the site further informed home page content, as they searched specific neighborhoods or property types. As this personalization increased, so did engagement and conversions.

Just as no child grows up overnight, no organization can become digitally mature overnight, either. The arc of digital experience growth can be summarized in four stages: Early, Developing, Maturing, and Leading.

The Early Stage

If your organization is in the early stage of digital maturation, the digital experience you are providing to consumers is not fully formed. Maybe you are still just talking about how to personalize the journey, but you have yet to put those wheels in motion. 

To progress to the next stage, you’ll need to focus on clarifying your vision, goals, and strategy and communicating that vision across the organization. What are the fundamental ways you will build awareness for your brand in the digital space? How will you get prospects to consider your products or services? What can help them make a decision and choose your brand over the competition? How can you keep them as customers? And finally, how can you transform them from loyal customers into adoring fans?

As you answer these questions, focus on how you’re building your foundation—the elements necessary to execute, measure, and learn from basic tactics. The emphasis here should be on learning, which is a critical thread that must be pulled through each stage of your organization’s growth and maturity.

The Developing Stage

In the developing stage, your organization is focused on framework—the parameters and processes that must be in place to engage in slightly more advanced digital tactics. Not only will these more robust tactics begin to drive better results, they will also begin to provide more meaningful data, and data is the gas that will fuel the personalization to which every brand aspires.

While the basics afford you the ability to gather data, a framework enables you to  gather meaningful customer data on which you can act.  

It is this kind of data that positions you to explore personalizing the experiences you are creating, if not to individuals at least to groups (audience segments).  

The Maturing Stage    

Jeff Bezos once said of Amazon: “Our success is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day.” In today’s digital world, more and more companies are turning to experiments to discover how best to create or improve online experiences. A maturing stage organization is concerned about having an organizational culture that promotes experimentation, and one where learning is part of every digital tactic. 

Personalized experiences are driven by the needs and desires of your  prospects and customers. Experimentation is essential to uncovering what those needs and wants are. 

The mindset that fosters experimentation is one of trusting the process. It’s about the journey, not the destination. People’s circumstances and, therefore, preferences change constantly. Add to that the effects of the marketplace, and you quickly come to recognize that personalization is never fixed. Knowing an individual’s (or a segment’s) needs and desires requires constant testing, which can only be supported by a thriving organizational culture of experimentation. (Learn more about the importance of such a culture and how to achieve it in the Harvard Business Review article “Building a Culture of Experimentation”.)

 The Leading Stage

When you have arrived at the leading stage, you’re focused on your team. You have invested in your organization, and your team has used that investment to build you a strong foundation, a solid framework, and a pervasive culture. Now it’s time to make sure you are investing in their learning and growth.  

Remember, while data may fuel the digital experience, it is people who fuel your organization. The right team will not only enable your strategy to thrive, they will have the mindset and the skills to evolve and iterate that strategy in an ever changing world. Those iterations will necessitate changes to your foundation and framework to provide the proper support. It is your team that will lead and manage those changes. Furthermore, it is people who bring life to and maintain culture, so it will take the right people to live the culture you have built as a maturing organization.

Ultimately, the right people will bring you the greatest return on your investment.

What’s Next?

Every organization is different, varying by size, industry, and market. However, the tactics that lead to a mature digital experience are fundamentally the same. How well you execute on these tactics, across all digital experiences, is what will win you loyal customers and increase their lifetime value.

Knowing where you are in this trajectory requires asking yourself some direct questions about the digital experiences you are (and aren’t) currently providing. Understanding your baseline is essential to your growth. Ready to find out? Take this quiz.

Once you decide you’re ready to evolve your digital experiences to the next stage, you’ll need a roadmap to get there. Understanding these next steps will be the subject of a future article. 

Category: consumer insights
Shamir Duverseau

Humanize Data with Creative Intelligence

We hear a lot about data science these days, and well we should. It’s clear data is the new oil and the ability to gather accurate data can yield brands a great deal of power. That power can be used to fuel the Customer journey from awareness to purchase to loyalty and evangelism.

But something else has also become clear, or at least it should be. It’s not all science. It’s also an art. Science, in this context, can be defined as the systematic study of behavior through observation and experimentation. Then there’s art. Art is the expression and application of human creative skill.  And in that definition lies the key. Art is human.

Science, in a sense, removes the human part of the equation as it to move one closer to objectivity, and there’s no doubt that’s important. But it’s critical not to forget that no matter how much data we have, it’s data about people. People who are, more often than not,  subjective creatures with feelings and inclinations and needs that are hard, if not impossible, to quantify.

So, if you’re in the business of dealing with people – and if you’re in business then this means you – there is both an art and a science to this. And in that overlap, there needs to be a fine balance, a creative intelligence, that starts with the science of data but only uses it as a foundation to make things more human.

Now if this is key for any Customer experience, it becomes more key as the interaction and the decision becomes more human, as the purchase becomes more considered. Wikipedia defines a considered purchase as, “a complex buying decision with a high degree of financial and/or emotional risk and reward.”  Emotion, risk, reward. Talk about human concepts that are hard to define in aggregate, nevermind for the ever diverse individual.

Industry studies tell us that 90% of decisions are based on emotions. Personally, I think that is far closer to 100%.  We make decisions every day based on emotion and justify them later. All these decisions require some degree of creative intelligence, of both art and science. And they involve some risk, some potential for loss. However, while buying a book is one thing, buying your first home, deciding on a cancer treatment, choosing a career, booking your honeymoon…these are quite another.  And it’s not just because of financial cost. With these decisions, these considered purchases, the risks transcend financial cost. There is more emotional skin in the game, sometimes to a very serious or life-changing degree.

For example, take the considered purchase of buying a home. Data may tell you how many times a person visits a website, what keywords or ads got them there, what pages they viewed, where they live, and a multitude of other invaluable information.  The science may find patterns and correlations between specific keywords and specific content or how demographics align with the length of time between research and purchase. But now you are left with the why? Why do the data yield those results? And in leveraging the human element, you put yourself in the shoes of the first time homebuyer who is about to start a family or empty nesters looking for a place to retire.  It’s those considerations that drive you to use science to make artful decisions on what to test and how to test it that are far different than the ones driven by data alone. That’s creative intelligence at work.

Therefore, while business intelligence is critical and artificial intelligence is powerful, there’s an argument to be made that creative intelligence leads the way for optimizing the considered purchase. If you think about it, it’s the only way to be truly Customer-centric.  How so? Because it’s the only way that gives the Customer, the human, the weight they deserve in the equation.

Creative intelligence for the considered purchase. That’s what it’s about now, or at least what it should be.


Key Takeaways:

  • The power of data can be used to fuel the customer journey from awareness to purchase to loyalty and evangelism. But data isn’t the whole story.
  • No matter how much data we have about our customers, this data is about humans—people with feelings and inclinations and needs that are challenging, if not impossible, to quantify.
  • Extracting valuable customer intelligence requires creative intelligence, a process that applies meaning and understanding to existing data.
  • Creative intelligence is particularly relevant to analyzing considered purchases— complex buying decisions with a high degree of financial and/or emotional risk and reward.
Category: consumer insights
Shamir Duverseau

Is Digital Experience Worth More Than Conversions?

Digital excellence is about the experience.

Being a digital leader means shifting from a mindset of conversion rate optimization (CRO) to one of digital experience optimization (DXO). We’re not implying that conversions don’t matter but instead that a broader view is necessary. Growth-minded organizations must pay attention to each touchpoint between a customer and their brand—touchpoints that lead not only to the initial transaction but to an ongoing relationship.

In other words, the path to greater customer lifetime value (LTV) is a meaningful, actionable, and optimized journey.

Optimizing these experiences requires alignment among multiple channels and touchpoints. It also requires the right strategy, the right people, and the right technology. As complex and multifaceted as this may be, our Smart Panda Labs team left the Opticon 2018 conference feeling very clear on the three fundamental steps of DXO, all three of which are similarly fundamental to our own practice: 1) Measure, 2) Understand, and 3) Improve.


Good data is worth its weight in gold—and sometimes, more. But in order to capture the right data in a useful way, you need the right tools. Optimizely is currently partnering with other SaaS providers including Tealium, Salesforce, and FullStory to create the Digital Experience Stack (DXS). The goal of this platform is not only to create a robust view of the customer at all points in their journey but to make that data meaningful and actionable. For example, Tealium can stitch together anonymous and known visitor data and then leverage those audiences within Optimizely to generate more consistent cross-device experiences. Time is also a key component of capturing data in a meaningful and actionable way, and the open DXS platform allows you to lay out and execute a strategy of real-time insights and actions.


It’s only when the data can drive insights, and those insights can lead to actions, that you can effectively meet business goals, such as improved LTV. Thus, once you have integrated your data, you must derive meaning from it. Digital leaders, including many of the brands represented at Opticon 18, are making experimentation part of their DNA, pushing the envelope to understand the “why” behind test results and not just accept results as they appear.

One particular conference session focused on steps to create advanced customer theories that are iterative and transferable—theories that attempt to explain why customers acted or responded in a certain way. A theory might be as simple as a preference for calls to action that are above the fold, for example. They might relate to a customers’ state of mind or persona. Or you might even consider broader factors, like behavioral economics or laws of reciprocity. Intended as a team activity, the brainstorming should include diverse stakeholders who can lend unique perspectives to the exercise. Hypothesizing why consumers acted a certain way is a great opportunity to step out of analytics mode and into an empathetic state of mind in an effort to identify theories that warrant further testing.

The real goal here? To find those theories most likely to hold value—and to build a case around them. Before upgrading a theory to a conclusion, try to garner at least five experiments that support it. Then, use these insights as the basis for other enhancements to the experience, from email communications to marketing messages to personalization campaigns.


All of your measurements, tests, and the understanding you’ve acquired as a result lead to the real opportunity: optimization. How can you leverage your findings to improve the customer experience at every touch point? How can you offer a more concierge-like experience, one that make suggestions based on their interests or offers information in a way that is in sync with their preferences? Are there reviews or ratings that can support and enhance their purchasing decisions?

When it comes to moving customers through the funnel, an enhanced experience is more likely to boost LTV than the speed of the transaction. Think a little less about what will drive the purchase today and little more about what will drive multiple purchases over the long term. Because a leading digital strategy is the one that takes the long view.

Throughout this conference, my colleagues and I felt a rewarding sense of resonance between what we heard coming from the stage and the work we’ve been doing for our clients. We left Opticon with even more frameworks and tools to help brands shift from a sharp focus on CRO to a bigger picture view that puts customers and customer experience at the center of their digital strategy.

Key Takeaways

  1. Being a digital leader means shifting from a mindset of conversion rate optimization (CRO) to one of digital experience optimization (DXO).
  2. The three fundamental steps of DXO are: 1) Measure, 2) Understand, and 3) Improve.
  3. In order to capture the right data in a useful way, you need the right tools. Optimizely is currently partnering with other SaaS providers including Tealium, Salesforce, and FullStory to create the Digital Experience Stack (DXS).
  4. Make experimentation part of your DNA; push the envelope to understand the “why” behind test results and not just accept results as they appear.
  5. Ask yourself how you can leverage your findings to improve the customer experience at every touch point. How can you offer a more concierge-like experience, one that make suggestions based on their interests or offers information in a way that is in sync with their preferences?
  6. Think a little less about what will drive the purchase today and little more about what will drive multiple purchases over the long term. Because a leading digital strategy is the one that takes the long view.
Category: consumer insights
Shamir Duverseau

10 Tips for Website “Redesigns” in 2018

It’s the start of a new year, which means everyone is making their resolutions—and already breaking them, too. To be honest, I am not a fan of resolutions. While I applaud the intent to set goals and meet them, the data shows that making one-time resolutions, for most of us, doesn’t work.

As a digital marketer, you and your team might also have resolutions for your company. The first quarter is a busy time for implementing new strategies, and for some this includes a website redesign. Some more honesty here: I’m as a big a fan of website redesigns as I am of resolutions. Not because redesigns aren’t (sometimes) warranted, but because too many companies think of a redesign as a one-time fix and not an ongoing and incremental process. It’s why only 9% of Americans meet their weight-loss resolutions—quick fixes don’t work. Creating new patterns and standards, however, do. It’s like reaching for carrot sticks instead of cookies.

If your site isn’t nimble enough to withstand incremental changes based on the data its (hopefully) collecting, then by all means, redesign it! Sometimes the only way to make a site deliver the results you want is to throw out the old and bring in the new.

Because you’ve already heard enough from me today, I asked our Smart Panda team to weigh in on website redesign, each from their own areas of expertise–from strategy and planning to database management and development. Here are 10 of their top tips for website redesigns … and for establishing new habits for a better site for years to come.

  1. Lisa Edwards (Account Management): Avoid the Big Bang. Redesigns can take months and years if you let them. Prioritize your requirements and get all of the mission critical items taken care of first, and then launch the site. After launch, implement a phase two—add the lower priority items from your wish list and fine tune the site based on testing results and user feedback. If you take too long redesigning a site, by the time you’re ready to launch it, the business goals, user needs, technology and industry best practices may have changed, leaving you with a new site that’s already lagging behind.
  2. Lauren Sanchez (Project Management): Time your launch. Consider when and how to launch your redesigned site. Put a plan in place for creating buzz and get users excited about the new site. Avoid launching during the holidays or near the start of another big promotion, so as to maximize benefit of the redesign.
  3. Lisa Martino (Search Engine Marketing): Slow your roll. If you have a highly-visited website, roll it out to a small percentage of traffic first, so you can gather insights. If users are lost, confused or not taking the actions you want, you can make improvements based on this data before rolling it out to the rest of the world. This is also a great opportunity to test different page designs, calls to action, or content, for example, to see what converts the best.
  4. Jessica Magyar (Project Management): Don’t skimp on project management. Assign proper stakeholders to each milestone along the way so everyone knows who is accountable for what. Establish a clear timeline at the beginning of the redesign to ensure proper progress is made. And document the scope of the redesign from the start, referring to this scope along to way to keep the team on track.
  5. Jessica Porges (Digital Analytics + Testing): Keep the end user in mind at all times. Understanding what users want from the site is key to improving usability. Base redesigns on a combination of historical data and voice-of-customer feedback—don’t assume you know what your users want or how they will behave on the new site. Map out the entire customer journey and make sure your team has a full understanding of the customer experience.
  6. Erich Andren (Solutions Architecture + Testing): Test, test and test some more. Make sure you clearly define KPIs up front so you know why you are testing and can make sure the tests and their results matter to your business. Once you have the winners and losers, you have both data-backed elements to use in the redesign and a meaningful list of what to avoid.
  7. Alex Corzo (Customer Relationship Management): Think about your database from the beginning. Data capture is essential for nurturing and retention purposes. First, create strong value propositions with unique content and assets or loyalty programs to drive the growth of a database of prospects and customers to keep them coming back to the site. Then, design the site with elements that can be personalized based on what you have learned about your database at every interaction.
  8. Charlene Hixon (Email Marketing): Simplify signup. Make your calls to action obvious for data capture. CTAs are the single most important element of any signup page. Make sure the sign-up form (or shopping cart) itself is as efficient and easy as possible for consumers to complete. Keep your eye on form/cart abandons and continue to remove hurdles to conversion.
  9. Ravi Chandramouli (Web Development + Engineering): Consider the tech. One mistake I see all the time is companies reskinning the site for aesthetics only, while leaving legacy technology in place. On the flip side, don’t embrace a new technology trend without understanding the long term impacts this transformation will have on user experience, database management, testing and optimization, or even simple things time to load. Know what you’re getting into.
  10. Cheryl Myers (Creative): Question your motives. To echo Shamir’s introduction, unless a redesign is absolutely necessary, don’t do it. Often a site can be improved by making adjustments incrementally rather than starting over. Your consumers are human, and humans often resist change—it’s why Google’s search page, Amazon’s header bar and Facebook’s site design have remained the same for ages. So, unless your brand has been updated, you’ve had a major product change, your user experience is beyond repair, or your site is incapable of withstanding important updates, it’s probably better to keep your changes small, continuous and based on data.

As you may have gathered, we believe the success of your strategy and planning phase will likely determine the success of your new site. Gather your data and customer feedback and let those insights inform your every step. Know your customer, understand their journey and make sure the redesign is for their sake, not just about beautification or new technology.

Whether we just talked you out of a site redesign or into one, we wish you success!

Key Takeaways

  1. Website redesign for the sake of redesign is a missed opportunity—and a waste of resources
  2. If a redesign is a must, do it for the customer. Use historical data and voice-of-customer feedback to inform every step of the new design. Otherwise it’s just “sitting pretty” and delivering no ROI.
  3. Think about your launch strategically—time it right, create a buzz and roll it out to a small segment first. This gives you the opportunity to test and improve it before rolling it out to the world.
  4. Think about your database from the very beginning. Data capture is essential for nurturing and retention purposes.
  5. Resist change—because your customers resist change, too. Don’t fix things that aren’t broken. Incremental improvements, based on data, are usually better than an overhaul.


Category: consumer insights
Jessica Porges

What Digital Marketers Can Learn from Amazon’s Purchase of Whole Foods Market

My kids are back in school, and Amazon just closed their deal to buy Whole Foods Market. What do these events have to do with one another, you ask? A lot.

As with all things Amazon, their focus is on me—the customer—and my experience. The more they know about me, the more relevant my experience with them becomes. To that end, enter Whole Foods Market.

The tech giant’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods has sent shock waves through the grocery industry and suspicions among Whole Foods loyalists who have concern about how their shopping experience—or the quality of the products they love—might change. But so far, the takeover has been all upside for consumers.

According to, Amazon spent its first day as the owner of a brick-and-mortar grocery chain cutting prices as much as 43 percent. In the coming weeks, the Whole Foods rewards program will be rolled into Amazon Prime for added savings and in-store benefits. This affords Prime a valuable new perk to attract subscribers and will encourage Whole Foods shoppers to buy more—according to a survey by Morgan Stanley, 62% already have a Prime account. And 1010data found that Prime members have deeper pockets at Whole Foods than non-members, spending an average of $306 more over a 12-month period.

Of course, as I eluded to, the strategic implications of Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods go much deeper—the acquisition offers its buyer a lot more value than the margins on organic avocados and rotisserie chicken. I’m talking about data.

Take an (Amazon) journey with me

Amazon already knows that I’m likely a mom of young children based on the diapers I order, the shows and movies we stream, and the parenting books I buy through my Prime membership. They also know I’m busy and seek ways to make my life more efficient, e.g. the Instant Pot pressure cooker I purchased. And now, if I shop at Whole Foods and use my Prime membership to get in-store perks and discounts, they will also be able to track my offline grocery store behavior and tie it all together. With massive amounts of data from Whole Foods shoppers, Amazon will ultimately be able to tailor the grocery shopping experience—and much more—to the individual.

Let’s pretend for a moment I didn’t own that Instant Pot just yet. Maybe I had just stalked it a few times online (since everyone is talking about them). Amazon might send me one of their high-converting emails promoting the Instant Pot, maybe with same day delivery (in some areas). They might kick in some trending one-pot recipes for beginners, with a list of ingredients I could also order and have delivered to my doorstep by upgrading to AmazonFresh.

The Amazon email I received after checking out the Instant Pot.  You can easily see how it would make sense to include recipes. 

Amazon’s goal is to make it so easy for me to get my groceries from them that I continue to do so (as opposed to shopping at the other grocer to which I’ve been loyal my entire life). They can send me weekly emails with Instant Pot recipes and links to order the ingredients. Maybe they’ll even upsell me on some Instant Pot accessories, like silicone fingertip mitts and that popular glass lid.

But they’ll also be able to learn what perishables I buy each week (because we never seem to have enough yogurt drinks or string cheese for my kids), automate it for me so I don’t have to even think about writing out a long grocery list, and deliver the food to my door (or have it ready and waiting for me in a locker at Whole Foods).

Amazon is a master of the upsell, using a highly sophisticated algorithm to recommend the right products to the right customers, at just the right times. Their treasure trove of data enables them to analyze behavior from customers and use this information to recommend products to those shoppers as well as other shoppers with similar profiles. The company has integrated recommendations into nearly every part of the purchasing process from product discovery to checkout.

They also dole out recommendations through email. Did you know that Amazon’s email marketing program analyzes the success of various campaigns and drives only the highest performing emails to a customer’s inbox? Smart. And now, whether shopping on or in Whole Foods retail locations, shoppers’ unique Prime identifiers are keeping track of all their activity, adding them to specific customer segments that can trigger personalized emails, messages on the website, retargeting ads and a multitude perks and offers.

How to think like Amazon

What can marketers learn from this tech behemoth with the potential to know everything there is to know about my movie preferences, lifestyle choices, kids’ snacking habits and my grocery aisle behavior? Regardless of the industry you’re in, your customers are engaged in a journey, and it’s your job to optimize the key decision points along their route with Amazon’s ninja-like precision. Here’s how to do it.

Map it out. List the key decision points along your customer’s journey and the steps necessary to take your desired actions. In my Amazon/Instant Pot example, that could include:

  1. Getting me to add the Instant Pot to my cart—ideally with add-ons
  2. Purchasing the Instant Pot
  3. Opening an email with groceries to buy from Whole Foods to make my first Instant Pot meal
  4. Adding those groceries to my cart
  5. Purchasing those groceries (either for delivery with the upsell to AmazonFresh or pick-up at Whole Foods)
  6. Subscribing to an auto-ship or weekly auto-order to pick up at Whole Foods
  7. Referring friends/family to Amazon Prime, AmazonFresh, etc.

Think about the metrics. Use analytics tools to determine a baseline for your online and offline metrics at the conversion points currently implemented.

Implement technology. You have data and you have a lot you want to do with it. Now you need the right technology to make it happen. Most of us don’t work for a company with the resources of Amazon, with several dozen people to build and optimize internal systems to power their customer experience. But, you can do the same with the right tool at the heart of your customer experiences.

For example, let’s talk about Tealium. Tealium has a suite of tools that allows you to gather data from various online and offline sources (Tealium IQ Tag Manager), slice and dice your consumers into segmented groups, and then share that with other systems both for action and analysis (Tealium Universal Data Hub). (You can learn more about tag management in our earlier post, 3 Tag Management Systems To Make Your Life Easier.)

Tealium allows you to ingest multiple data sources, stitch them together, and then push meaningful data into other systems to trigger actions or to analyze for insights.

If I’m looking at the Instant Pot but haven’t yet pulled the trigger, I’m placed in a group that will be encouraged to make the purchase via remarketing and retargeting tactics.

If I decide to walk into Whole Foods and pick out my groceries the old-fashioned way, I’m incentivized by perks to reveal my Amazon Prime membership and, when I do, my website activity and in-store purchases become tied to the same member number and united in Tealium.

From there, I can be put into another segment of customers, which may trigger certain personalization on the website that prompts me to share my experiences, sign up for perks and more.

It’s likely I fall under a few different marketing categories: “high disposable income”, “young children”, “healthy lifestyle”, “tech gadget lover”. Because Amazon doesn’t want to flood my inbox, they will choose the most successful of the emails that are relevant to me that week, e.g. “top toys for children” or “best newly released workout videos” to increase the odds of me opening it, clicking through and potentially converting.

Applying Tealium to your customers’ journey

No matter your industry, multi-channel analytics, personalization and re-marketing are your best digital marketing tools for driving conversions. Using a tool like Tealium enables you to tie customer data together and activate next steps. Let’s look at a few examples.


If available, I tend to stay at Ritz-Carlton hotels when I travel. When I book my room online, I log into my existing account and enter my member number to earn rewards. That gives Ritz-Carlton at least two unique identifiers to analyze my behavior and market to me in a more personalized way. Using a tool like Tealium, they can tie me to the types of rooms I’ve booked or upgraded to in the past from their CRM and tailor an “upgrade now and save” message to me.

Tealium then tells their email service provider (ESP), such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC), to send me that message as part of my confirmation email, or it tells a personalization tool like Optimizely to give me this message on the confirmation page. Or, both—it can serve up the upgrade message on the confirmation page and, if I don’t react, include it in the confirmation email. Perhaps the message comes to me before I even book the room. If Tealium sees that I didn’t choose the upgrade in the booking funnel, it could tell a tool like Yieldify to inject a targeted message in the booking process. It could also learn from the CRM that I’ve dined at their hotel restaurants and tell SFMC to send me a pre-arrival email with available dinner times during my stay.

By targeting messages at key points in the conversion process, such as after a room type is selected, you can improve the customer experience and better meet your business goals.

Real Estate is a relatively new company that buys and sells homes in a streamlined fashion– they supply a seller with a firm offer within 24 hours that the seller either accepts or rejects. After Opendoor owns the home, they make any necessary updates or renovations and then list the home in their inventory online. Anyone interested in viewing the property can gain access instructions through their mobile app.

Let’s say I’m in the market for a new home, so I download the Opendoor app and set my search criteria. I go visit a few of the homes on my list, but none of them are the perfect combination of the features I want. As I leave each home, the app detects I’m leaving the area and sends a push notification to complete a short survey providing feedback on the home, perhaps using a tool like ForeSee. ForeSee then sends that information to Tealium. Did I love it, was it missing something? Tealium sends this data to Opendoor’s recommendations engine, to help make better recommendations to me (and others like me) to view other properties. At the same time, the data could even be combined with other data and sent to Domo, to help Opendoor analyze and select the appropriate features to look for in (or add to) the subsequent homes they invest in, getting close to a “just-in-time” model within the pre-existing real estate market.


As a mom of two kids, I’m a frequenter of Urgent Care. Perhaps at my most recent visit, I opted in to receive newsletter communications from the health system. These emails may contain general tips on staying healthy, but Tealium can help connect the ESP to the CRM so that the email could also be personalized based on what the medical center knows about my previous visits (being careful to mention that I’m simply an anonymous patient ID, not a name, by simply grouping me into a segment). If I click through one of these emails to the site, perhaps to read about yoga exercises I can do at home, Tealium can connect my urgent care visit to my website visit and to the content I viewed, all in the CRM. Perhaps after reading about yoga, I read about primary care physicians before leaving the site. Tealium can now tell the ESP to personalize a section of my next email with information about choosing a PCP, maybe even including a short list of physicians near my home.

Pressure cook your personalization

It’s been estimated that more than 80 million people are Amazon Prime members. With this data, it is capable of building analytic models which can predict what these consumers will want, how much they will want, and when they will want it. Now that Amazon can collect and connect data from offline purchases as well, the power of their customer insights is unrivaled.

Ok, so we can’t all be Amazon. But every digital marketer can optimize their business’s key performance indicators by understanding the customer journey and getting ahead of questions or roadblocks at each micro-conversion point. From there, you can use a toolbox of technologies and strategies to optimize the journey from consideration to purchase, and then help them to keep coming back for more.

Remember, it’s personal. Customers care more about themselves than they care about you. Use data to make your communications as customer-centric as possible. That’s what Amazon does best and a key reason for purchasing Whole Foods. Follow their lead and make the best possible use of the data at your fingertips.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The strategic implications of Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods is less about brick-and-mortar retail or the margins on groceries. It’s about the data.
  2. No matter what industry you’re in, every digital marketer can and should optimize their business’s key performance indicators by understanding the customer journey and getting ahead of questions or roadblocks at each micro-conversion point.
  3. Tools like Tealium can help digital marketers gather data from various online and offline sources, slice and dice consumers into segmented groups, and share that data with other systems both for action and analysis.
  4. Remember, it’s personal. Use data to make your digital experiences as customer-centric as possible.
Category: consumer insights
Charlene Hixon

The Future of Email is Interactive

It’s been 46 years since Ray Tomlinson sent the first ever email. The history of email itself is a fascinating evolution, and the progress in email marketing, especially of late, has been exponential. As a CRM marketing expert at Smart Panda Labs, it’s my job to keep up with these rapid changes.

With that goal in mind, earlier this month I attended the Experian Marketing Services Client Summit in Las Vegas, themed “Rev’17” (Revive, Reveal, Revolutionize). This was my first time attending this conference, and it did not disappoint. Speakers included thought leaders like entrepreneur Josh Linkner and Forrester’s Joe Stanhope to Olympic athletes and celebrities, including undefeated boxing champion Laila Ali and Emmy-award winning host Andy Cohen. There were also informative breakout sessions, user workshops and networking opportunities with digital marketing experts from around the country.

To kick things off, Experian’s Cross Channel Marketing Services (CCM) announced its launch as an independent marketing technology company, Cheetah Digital.

“Today we become a new company and a new brand,” said Matt Seeley, formerly CCM’s Global President and now Chief Operating Officer of the new, independent marketing technology company. Cheetah Digital’s offerings include the first-gen email marketing platform, CheetahMail (from which their name is derived), Mail Publisher and the Experian Marketing Suite. The company’s focus, explained Seeley, is on the innovative spirit that was the basis of Cheetah’s original success in the marketplace. Cheetah Digital will seek to modernize and redefine the solutions offered to contemporary marketers.

Continuous Engagement—Meet Your Consumers Exactly Where They’re At

As part of their mission to lead and define these digital solutions, the summit took a deep dive into the latest technology trends. One of my favorite talks at the event was by Joe Stanhope, lead analyst at Forrester, titled “Transform the Customer Experience with Continuous Engagement.” Stanhope presented the view that marketing teams are being asked to move beyond the single customer view and understand their customers at specific moments in their lives. This means meeting them at every touch point in their personal journey. This level of engagement boosts digital intelligence practices and enables continuous optimization. It’s also essential to keep pace with the shift in customers’ expectations of their digital experiences.

According to Stanhope, continuous engagement requires brands to make most of every interaction with each customer. It means finding the marketing moments depending on where the customers are in their lives: are they buying a new home? Are they having their first child? And instead of ignoring a poor customer experience, continuous engagement means connecting with the customer at the point of aggravation. These are all opportunities to build loyalty and a renewed allegiance to the retailer.

As part of this conversation, William Sonoma presented how they have successfully targeted these large life moments through a cross-brand touch. From a new baby registry to crib-building assistance to a meal provided to the family, they provided special touches. What a way to stay relevant with your customers!

Critical to the success of this high-touch approach is data quality. Enrichment—the use of custom logic to transform an attribute from a static value to a dynamic one—can provide real-time audience data to help marketers understand who the customer is, where they are in their journey, and what moment they may be experiencing. Rapid progress in new technology is enabling this next-generation marketing approach.

Email Trends for 2017: Interactivity, Animation, and Real-Time Communications

A particularly exciting breakout session, “Email Evolution: The Rise of Interactive and Real-Time Communications,” homed in on email trends for 2017. Presented by David Kepets, Creative Director, and Jim Kelley, Senior Art Director at Experian Marketing Services, the talk demonstrated tactics and approaches that exemplify the summit’s theme words: Revive, Reveal, and Revolutionize. Why the drama? Now that responsive design is commonplace, it’s going to take more than a clean, functional template to command attention. New, interactive features in email are making it possible to highlight contextual content and capture key behavioral points for a more data-driven experience. (Music to this panda’s ears.) And some of these interactive elements are super cool.

For example, it is now possible to infuse email templates with unique components, such as profile options, local store info and prioritized navigation. A library of options enable consumers to tap, expand, and reveal particular items—in other words, emails that function more like an interactive web page. The speakers gave the specific example of an email from Bass Pro Shops that asked consumers, “What would you like to do this weekend?” The audience could choose their preference, and the email content populated accordingly. Another example was Future Solution LX and their interactive email for night and day cleanser. They asked the consumer to “Tap Night or Day to explore”.  The audience could choose their product preference within the email itself and the email content populated accordingly. Their selection was then captured as useful consumer data for future segmentation and personalization.

These interactive features can also be a lot of fun for consumers, who can now use their cursor to “scratch” an image to reveal a discount or special offer beneath it. It’s your birthday? Pop the balloons to reveal your offer! These interactive elements are a clever way to keep consumers engaged.

And finally, brace yourself, because everything is going to start moving. Animation will be everywhere, but with the capacity for interaction. The New York Times recently included an interactive crossword search within the email creative itself. Users would find words through interactive play, triggering animated, on-screen offers

Times They Are a-Changin’

Change and growth in digital is constant, exciting and seemingly infinite. Personalized, interactive experiences are clearly the present and future of email marketing, and a brand’s hyper awareness of their audience is becoming essential. Consumers are now expecting customized, personalized messaging and experiences, and new technology is fueling and then meeting those demands. The amount and specificity of data we can now collect means endless possibilities for engagement—and ROI.

The conference hosts were acutely aware of the rapid pace at which digital has evolved, and they perfectly demonstrated that growth with an interactive element of their own. One on one side of the conference room sat two typists and their 1960’s typewriters, on which they typed out personalized haikus for participants. On the other side was a booth where you could instantly create your own animated gif, share it via social channels and even print it out. A clever illustration of how fast our communication channels have changed.

Back at Smart Panda Labs, we’re excited to see what the first year will look like in Cheetah Digital’s new history, as well as the exciting opportunities with this valued partner moving forward. For now though, here are two haiku’s about pandas!

Key Takeaways

  • Marketing teams are being asked to move beyond the single customer view and understand their customers at specific moments in their lives. This means meeting them at every touch point in their personal journey
  • A brand’s continuous engagement with their consumers boosts digital intelligence practices and enables continuous optimization. It’s also essential to keep pace with the shift in customers’ expectations of their digital experiences.
  • Critical to the success of a high-touch approach is data quality. Enrichment can provide real-time audience data to help marketers understand who the customer is and what they are currently experiencing in their life.
  • New, interactive features in email are making it possible to highlight contextual content and capture key behavioral points for a more data-driven experience.