Saturday, November 19, 2011

Evolution of "Database Marketing"

What are we doing in our day jobs?

This post is about what we do at work - it came about after an integration meeting where we needed to explain what various business units do.

First, some background on what business we currently focus on here in Salt Lake.
  1. Direct-to-consumer – consider it 'database marketing' if you will, but all our work focuses on the distribution of owned media to individuals.
  2. Programs rather than campaigns – we're in it for the long term; think 'retention' and 'acquisition' where insights about behavior and events trigger the communication pattern.  
  3. Evolved from direct mail to multi-channel to address the needs of consumers. 
  4. Strong automotive industry experience rounded out with retail and education; not much in the B2B space.
To support our clients' needs we built our own platform - "PointCast" - which is named for the natural evolution from Broadcast to Narrowcast to 1:1 communication.   So, what makes us different?    What do we bring to the table?
  • Big Data: we created a metadata-driven architecture (not unlike the content management concept) space to deal with large, diverse data sets. These data are tightly integrated with the selection and distribution engines. 
  • Cohort Selector:  to get the most out of subscription data overlaid with syndicated data like ICOM and Environicx, we built a platform to create and export lists for use with clients (internal and external).  Key is the ability to implement calculated fields – like extrapolating category usage based on surveys to the whole population. 
  • Campaign Management:  rather than working toward 'self-service' and 'workflow' (crowded spaces) we went down the path of "granular customization" based on business rules, transaction data, and extreme customization.  We've invented….
    1. Packets:  a communication with a customer isn't always a single item; it may be a collection of things.   Consider a 'Simply Thanks' program for a pet store/veterinary practice that includes three items.   First, a note from the store manager thanking you for your business; second, an email with special offers and coupons; and finally, a vaccination reminder.   Each is a different form factor with different templates for a variety of business reasons including how to measure financial performance.   But we need to manage these from the same set of assets, data and business rules.   We're expanding to include SMS, FB and Twitter. 
    2. Panel Maps:   the concept of 'wire-frame' applies to all media, everything from a postcard to an email to a text or a Tweet can be divided into sections that are controlled by rules.   What offer goes where?  and based on what rules?   So, rather than have to work in multiple silos we're integrating the mapping process.  Concepts like 'Header' and 'Offer' now transcend form factor or channel. 
    3. Panels:  every pixel, character or space can be assigned content.   We go well beyond gratuitous personalization of Dear to allow the piece to be customized based on a detailed set of prioritized business rules.   So, if you haven't shopped in a while you get a different set of offers than if you haven't shopped in a long time.    Hard to explain, but this orchestration can lead to a large number of possible communications – for one client there are 88m possibilities (and this doesn't include simply things like 'name') which is 10 times the number of customers we manage.  
For a somewhat light-hearted view (the technology is web-based and not from the last century) we created the following video on our site to summarize our solution to the problem:  How do we surround a consumer with interesting content to help them choose when the path to purchase is unknown and we're in the world of social commerce? 

So, what are we thinking about going forward?   Some thoughts:
  • Personalized flyers – since we have the transaction data and the real estate mapped out, there is no reason we can't populate a custom flyer based on a list of alternatives and rules.  This could even extend to linking with social likes and recommendations (see Fresh & Easy's use of favorites).   It could also extend to integrating the various web properties we have:  jobs, auctions, autos – all in one place.  
  • Surround media – we know that search is the next thing people do after receiving a stimulus; so, how do we integrate something like a product launch with a change in the search budget?   It is just an API after all.    How do we integrate owned media with paid media?
  • Customized brochures – in several sectors consumers forget what they saw the minute they walk always (was that red A6 a 6-speed or automatic?)   So, we're working on creating customized brochures based on integrating QR codes with a publishing platform.   Imagine a brochure that included emotional (brand), promotional (incentive), informational (factoids), and communal (social) information for the specific cars or houses or stoves or snowmobiles you just looked at.  
Happy to provide to more detail…..

1 comment:

Cameron Reid said...

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