Retail is an ever-changing industry, but the last few years have been particularly disruptive. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered dramatic shifts in consumer behavior that left many retailers struggling to keep up. These factors, combined with the growing influence of Amazon, increasing consumer privacy regulations and deprecating third-party cookies, are only exacerbating the need for transformation in retail that emphasizes customer relationships.
The companies that have been most successful in adapting to these challenges share one critical commonality: they prioritize the collection and use of privacy-compliant first-party customer data as a competitive asset. The Comoto Family of Brands is one such retailer.
In a recent MarTech session, Comoto’s Dana Green joined BlueConic’s Jackie Rousseau-Anderson to discuss how they are using a customer data platform to unify customer data across multiple brands and systems and activate it across channels to deliver more engaging customer interactions.
Putting data at the heart of customer engagement
As America’s largest power sports aftermarket retailer, Comoto is home to Cycle Gear, J&P Cycles and RevZilla.com. With over 150 stores nationwide and e-commerce sites for all three brands, the company manages a complex ecosystem of customer data housed in a multitude of systems.
“Data has always been foundational to our strategies,” said Green, “but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of information you have.”
That realization led Comoto on an introspective journey to transform how they access and use customer data to unlock the potential of their marketing channels. BlueConic’s customer data platform (CDP) has been a core component in its transformation.
Choosing the right optimization strategy
When it comes to optimizing their e-commerce sites, Green and her team have traditionally relied on Comoto’s UX and Research teams to provide a testing plan based on qualitative customer research. Using BlueConic’s A/B testing and optimization capabilities, the company can marry qualitative and quantitative methods for a more in-depth understanding of its customers.
“When making big updates to our website, we typically have a theory that we’re looking to improve upon. With BlueConic, we can perform A/B testing on our site to validate the research we’ve done with our customers and supplement it with hard data,” said Green.
She noted that even simple A/B tests could produce some big wins. “Our customers have a true enthusiast culture when it comes to riding, but what they shop for often depends on their riding style. So, we decided to test a shop-by-category module on our homepage that resulted in a very positive incremental lift. Just having the ability to provide someone with a custom experience based on the categories they are most interested in is an easy win for us that has a surprisingly big impact.”
Green and her team have since used BlueConic to ramp up their A/B testing efforts. “We have a lineup of things that we want to test at this point. For the most part, whenever we finished a test, it usually begs another question.” But she also cautions others to start small, as tests can get complicated. To tee up tests for success, she recommends:
- Testing something that’s going to have enough traffic to get a good read on what you’re trying to answer.
- Making sure you’re clear with your hypothesis and what you’re trying to solve.
- Defining clear success metrics.
Moving from touchpoints to journeys
Green and her team have also been able to use the learnings from A/B testing as building blocks for the larger, end-to-end customer experience. “The real power we’ve been working on is transitioning to creating lifecycles. So, not just optimizing our site, but making sure we’re connecting that experience with our other channels,” said Green.
The customer lifecycle orchestration capabilities in BlueConic enable Green and her team to move beyond channel-specific campaign workflows and instead orchestrate cross-channel lifecycle marketing programs that are responsive to each customer’s unique journey based on the real-time, unified customer profile data.
“When we’re sending an email — how are we thinking about the experience in which they’re landing on? Or when a paid ad is driving to the website, what can we do to personalize that experience?”
She also noted that sometimes very seemingly simple components, like adjusting to where somebody lives or their primary interest areas, can be a really compelling way to develop a connection with customers.
“We have a blog called Common Tread that features amazing content. The data available in BlueConic not only enables us to understand how and when consumers engage with us on Common Thread, but also tailor our communications based on their individual interests. If they are an adventure rider and we just posted an article on an adventure bike, for example, we can promote the article and introduce them to the Common Thread experience.”
Operationalizing a CDP
Green noted it’s not enough to simply add a CDP to your business infrastructure and expect to immediately reap the benefits. Like any marketing technology, success (or failure) with a CDP often comes down to an ability to effectively manage change within the organization. For Green, education and communication have been key.
“We achieve some of that just by inviting more folks throughout the business to our quarterly reviews on what we’re working on,” said Green. “We used to be set up so our email and onsite teams would meet separately with BlueConic,” she continued. “Now, we meet together so we can work on our combined strategies across both channels. So just making sure to that the communication between the teams is connected has been a really easy, simple win.”
Since the addition of a CDP also fundamentally changes how companies can and should work, Green stresses the importance of alignment on the goals, use cases (immediate priorities and long-term road map), timing and expected outcomes for a CDP implementation across all levels of the organization.
“Our tech team is very busy with a lot of big priorities, which I’m sure a lot of people can relate to,” she explained. The ability to access the unified, actionable data in BlueConic and use it to create compelling experiences on the site without tapping the tech team has been a huge help for us. That way, we can keep moving and grooving and trying new things without being held up when our tech partners are focused on other priorities.”
For others who are embarking on their own customer engagement transformation journey, Green has some advice: “Just make sure that you pick a partner that’s going to listen to your business problems and what you’re trying to achieve as a business. Only then can you truly unlock the full potential of your investment.”