Adopting a CDP is just the beginning: How Fingerhut’s parent planned a successful onboarding process

From tapping internal resources to building off quick wins, Bluestem Brands’ CDP champions slowly began to realize the tool’s potential.

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We hear a lot about how to choose a solution for your martech stack, but less about what you do once you’ve made a decision. At the recent MarTech virtual event, one session took on that topic: “So, you have a new CDP… Now what?” 

“We chose a vendor, everything’s going to be awesome,” said Ben Thompson, director of e-commerce analytics and tag management for Bluestem Brands, the parent of Fingerhut. “But it doesn’t always go that smoothly, does it?”

Even after Bluestem committed to adopting Tealium’s Audience Stream CDP, Thompson described a situation in which key stakeholders were anything but enthusiastic about getting the technology into place. 

“We had some pretty strong internal resistance to the CDP,” said Thompson. Bluestem’s IT group wanted to maintain tight control over the data and the processes around it; the legal department was worried about GDPR and CCPA. So Thompson shared how Bluestem overcame these challenges and explained what he learned along the way. 

The current process 

Before you adopt a technology, there’s likely someone at your company whose job it is to perform the ugly, ungainly process of bringing together data and making sense of it before it can be used in marketing. 

Here’s how Thompson described the status quo at Bluestem: “The usual process for one of these campaigns, whether it’s email, social or other media looks like this — you have all of these silos, and you need to get something from each of them. So what you’re going to do is you’re going to query it and combine it using SAS SQL or whatever your favorite tool is. You’ll export it from there. You’re going to move the file around on FTP sites, etc. You’re going to import it into another system.” Then and only then could you activate and run the campaign that you were planning. 

“For us, assembling campaigns like this meant we needed to invest a lot of time and money just to create a one-off campaign that didn’t help us build a unified [customer] profile,” said Thompson. “It required skilled coders. And finally, it was just plain slow.” 

At Bluestem, the person in charge of social media was performing that process, and you might think he would feel threatened by a new technology coming along to take over. Instead, advised Thompson, you need to enlist that person to help identify what data elements should be included in the CDP. That person was also key to helping measure and evangelize the great results achieved by the technology, given all the time saved. In Bluestem’s case, said Thompson, they saved that person 40 days every year by automating the process of gathering the targeting list. And he got to spend his time perfecting the social media presence instead. 

The use cases

The second important element Thompson described is the assembly of use cases to prove the value of the technology. 

“Someone in your marketing org has wanted to do something awesome for a long time, but has probably hit technical walls,” said Thompson. At Bluestem, they wanted to identify people who had abandoned a cart or performed a similar activity, then email them a custom 10% discount that could only be used by the recipients. But it wasn’t possible with their existing tech stack. 

“Audince Stream’s Webhook integration talking to our internal promo service was able to accomplish this,” said Thompson. “So now, when you abandon on Fingerhut.com Audience Stream sees that, tells our promo service to tie you, tells our ESP to email you that promotion. And we have a happy customer who can come back and complete their purchase with a nice discount that’s not going to get out to the masses.”

This single use case brought many in Bluestem’s marketing organization onto the CDP bandwagon, because it was something they’d wanted to accomplish for a long time. 

Thompson described how accomplishments like this helped win over key decision makers who’d been preventing the project from moving forward. 

The steering team 

As you roll out the solution within your organization, Thompson recommended assembling a steering team that’s accountable for providing regular updates to stakeholders and leadership. 

Thompson recommended that this group have a couple of marketing folks, including a key decision maker. Additionally, you’ll want team members from web development, legal and email operations, as well as whoever is running display and social campaigns and whoever is running the website from day to day. 

The data cleanup

To be able to fully utilize a solution like a CDP, you need to clean up and organize your data. Specifically, Thompson advised looking for data that isn’t used or isn’t accurate, and eliminating any stray sources of PII that could cause trouble down the line. 

Then you want to design the framework for bringing in data, including offline data. The person who was performing the manual processes previously will be a great resource in this stage. 

“Avoid being tempted to just toss everything in, as it will cost you more,” he said. “And you’ll have a lot of information just sitting there that you may not use.” 

Share your results 

“So you’ve done a lot of work to line up your quick wins, build a strong steering team, you’re actually firing up a few use cases and development,” said Thompson. “Make sure that along the way, you’re really showing these results to your stakeholders and your partners.”

Thompson said Bluestem developed some key reports that could be shared widely to help gain momentum around the implementation of the CDP. 

Don’t stop iterating

Once you’ve gotten some quick wins under your belt, it’s important to continue innovating. 

“It’s easy to rest back on the initial wins that you’ve had,” said Thompson.
But it’s really tricky to think of new ways to win with your CDP.” 

Thompson said Bluestem had been successful with personalizing their homepage based on a shopper’s previous behaviors, so they’re shown products they’ve demonstrated their interest in. 

“So we took this building block and let it shape some new use cases,” Thompson said.
“We took those audiences and actually started shaping whole campaigns around them. We made cold weather campaigns for people who were fans of coats, fireplaces, boots, other wintery gear. We also made a toy campaign for anyone who our model said could be toy buyers or who Audience Stream had seen browse or buy them in the past. And we made a cleanup event targeted at customers who are browsing tools.”

“We continue to run these campaigns and shape new ones as we’ve improved bounce rates,” Thompson continued. “We’ve improved our revenue per visits or funnel depth from all of these.”

Thompson also recommended evolving the steering team over time, tackling new channels, and introducing the CDP to different departments within the company. As you do that, he suggested you develop a ticketing system to handle all of the incoming requests. 

“Make sure, especially early on, that you sit down and walk through step by step with the requester,” so you understand what they’re looking to achieve, advises Thompson. “So many people think of the CDP as the magic box because you’ve done some magic things with it. And they’d be surprised at how many options they have and how specific their requests may need to be.” 

Finally, Thompson encouraged marketers to continue to explore the functionality within the CDP, noting that tools he wasn’t even aware of initially — Audience Sizing and Jobs — have become his favorite features.

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How VF Corp made the single customer view a reality

The parent company of brands like Timberland, Vans and Smartwool describes the strategic approach it took to implementing a Customer Data Platform.

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There’s no silver bullet and it requires a solid foundation of people, process and technology to realize the much-sought-after single customer view. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Those are three key takeaways from a recent session at the MarTech conference featuring Reem Seghairoun of multi-brand apparel company VF Corp and Cory Munchbach of Customer Data Platform BlueConic.

In this session, Munchbach asked Seghairoun how VF Corp, the parent of brands like Timberland, Vans and Smartwool, began looking for a Customer Data Platform. (Spoiler alert: It ended up choosing to partner with BlueConic.)

Where to start

“About a year and a half almost two years ago now, we pursued a journey in search of a technology that aligned with our customer-centricity objectives, and ultimately selected a CDP,” said Seghairoun, adding that VF began with its use cases rather than with a specific technology in mind. “And the journey has been going on since.”

Seghairoun noted that any company that isn’t 100% digital and starting from scratch will have the challenge of dealing with its existing data infrastructure.

“We had pieces of the puzzle in place. So we started by looking at the gaps and what we wanted to implement in the future,” she said. Specifically, VF was looking for a technology that supported sophisticated customer analytics and addressed consumer privacy concerns. It sought a solution that was easy to use that meshed with the company culture. VF considered building versus buying, while always keeping customer-centricity front and center.

Because VF operates multiple brands and has e-commerce operations as well as retail stores, Seghairoun said it was especially important that a CDP solution allowed for the kind of seamless integration that the company strives to provide its customers.

“BlueConic’s CDP has the ability to integrate customer data from stores as well as online channels; it has a lot of the readily-available and pre-built APIs that allow us to connect to the different channels that come and go over time,” she said, noting that integration with customer service was also important for VF.

A very deliberate rollout

Munchbach described VF’s very deliberate approach when rolling out the CDP technology within the company, beginning with a single brand and then expanding to more and continuing to build out the use of the platform.

“We did look at our brands and selected one that seemed to have fresh problems,” said Seghairoun. “So we had the low-hanging fruit, if you will. We wanted to get in there and support the brand while giving a CDP a try,” since it was the first time such a platform was brought into the company.

“That’s why we selected doing one brand at the beginning,” she continued. “But also it allowed us to… get people familiar with the tool and also get the technology team familiar with it and see if implementation can go really well before we scale. Generally speaking, we like to approach newer technologies in this manner.”

Over time, VF has learned a lot about how internal teams leverage data from a CDP and the best way to staff new implementations.

“Taking care of the data front — understanding what type of data you want to bring in, how you want to bring it in — strategizing that work ahead of time, can buy a lot of time when it comes down to the CDP implementation,” said Seghairoun. “The other thing that we learned is just really bringing your users along the journey from the very beginning, can pay off a lot. As we did the implementation, we started learning more and more, and I think we’ve become better at figuring out the type of roles that are useful to have in every implementation.”

How to measure success

Munchbach also spoke about how VF measured the success of the technology adoption. “One of the things that I was struck by from the Timberland team during their implementation,” she said, “was how thoughtful they were about the way they were measuring the impact of this addition to their tech stack.” They thought about cost-efficiencies, workflow efficiencies and their ability to provide the better customer journey that they sought.

Seghairoun shared a little more about the company’s approach, saying: “When we’re measuring how well a product implementation goes for us, we kind of look at three things — one, of course, efficiencies. Does it really do a better job at lowering costs internally? Then the second, but the most important one is, does it align with our consumer-centricity objectives? Does it allow us to have that great relationship and provide the experience we would like to provide our consumers? Monetization comes naturally, I think, as the third part, and organically, if you do well with the first two.”

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How CarParts.com leverages CDP tech to create customer-centric experiences

Adopting a CDP from Blueshift enabled the company to craft one-to-one messaging that speaks to the customer’s needs and characteristics.

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Before adopting a Customer Data Platform (CDP), CarParts.com had a vast dataset of customer behavioral data, but had issues with scaling to take advantage of it. In addition, it wasn’t able to glean insights from real-time signals as it would have liked to do. 

“We weren’t really getting to that one-to-one personalization and we felt like we were falling short,” said Houman Akhavan, CMO of CarParts.com, speaking in a recent session at the MarTech virtual conference. “With all of the advancements available in CDPs we saw the value of being able to really understand the voice of the customer and being able to market to them in a very relevant and personalized fashion.” 

In the session, titled “The New Rules Of Marketing: How A SmartHub CDP Can Create Experiences That Meet Customers Where They Are,” Blueshift co-founder and CEO Vijay Chittoor spoke with Akhavan about the fragmentation of customer journeys in our always-on world and how marketers are being tasked with understanding customers through all the data they’re creating. CarParts.com adopted Blueshift’s SmartHub CDP to help it meet the challenges it faced. 

Sending a quarter-billion personalized messages

“Through our SmartHub CDP integration, just this year alone we have generated over a quarter billion personalized one-to-one messages,” said Akhavan, later adding that understanding your customers’ unique attributes is critical to determining how to use a CDP for personalization.

For example, Akhavan said, in the auto parts vertical, the most obvious attribute is the vehicle that a person drives. One might have a Chevy truck and another might drive a Ford Taurus, and the way you would market to them around their vehicle would speak to those unique characteristics. 

“But the same thing applies to many different verticals,” he said. “It goes back to really understanding your customer and creating this profile,” that addresses the person’s preferences and motivating factors. Then, and only then, said Akhavan, you can devise a strategy and adopt technology that allows you to speak to that individual in a very personalized manner. 

Akhavan detailed the specific characteristics CarParts.com was seeking in a platform, which included: 

  • Scalability – the ability to easily ingest millions of records of customer information, including all of the data being generated by e-commerce shoppers every day. 
  • UX – a user-friendly interface that enables marketers to develop segments and orchestrate campaigns without doing a ton of manual labor. 
  • Incorporation of real-time user signals – because so much data is being continually generated, and customers are quickly making buying decisions, it’s critical that marketers be able to capitalize on this data before it grows stale. 
  • Predictive modeling – once all of the data is available, you need to be able to use it to garner insights about customers and potential customers. Is this individual likely to have a high customer lifetime value, or is the person likely to churn? Depending on the answer, you approach marketing to them in a different way. 

With a platform, a central hub, that embodies all of these things, “you can have very custom tailored approaches to these, you know, vastly, vastly different audiences,” said Akhavan. “Without that, you’re not able to get to that one-to-one personalization.”

Chittoor noted that, when talking to marketers, he never encounters a shortage of ideas or a lack of focus on the customer. “I think the limitation that holds back a lot of other marketers…is the lack of the right technology platform which can help them iterate and deliver experiences at the speed of their own ideas,” he said. 

The omnichannel strategy for an multi-touchpoint world

Five or ten years ago, each marketing channel was managed in a silo and the folks working on that channel didn’t have the larger picture of the entire customer journey. Therefore, there could be no such thing as an omnichannel marketing strategy. 

“Today, consumer behavior is changing and consumers aren’t interacting with you with just one touchpoint, or just one marketing channel,” said Akhavan. “On average, there’s probably at least five to 10 interactions across different channels that are taking place before a conversion event happens…. So, really, having a central hub that’s taking in and ingesting all these insights across multiple touchpoints and marketing channels is really going to allow you to have that true cohesive experience across different channels.”

Akhavan said one good example of this is how the CDP is integrated into CarParts.com’s call center. When a customer or prospect calls in, the agent should have access to the information that person has already revealed online, such as their vehicle or particular parts they’ve been looking at. That way, the person doesn’t have to start from scratch explaining what they need. 

“At the end of the day, time is money, and you want to make these seamless experiences and really make them fast,” he said. “Customers appreciate that.” 

And they’ve shown their appreciation for that customer experience. Akhavan says click-through rates have increased as much as 400% when messages were personalized. “Who wants to receive a generic message?,” notes Akhavan. “If they see something generic that doesn’t really talk to their needs or motivations, they’ll probably just tune out that advertising.” Additionally, adopting the CDP has allowed CarParts.com to grow revenue from email by 2X.  

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