Digital First Marketers: Q&A with Craig Schinn, Ecommerce & Retail Marketing Expert

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“Digital First Marketers” is a Q&A series devoted to marketing executives and professionals trailblazing their industry.

Craig Schinn knows a thing or two about retail and ecommerce strategy. He has spent his career devoted to the strategic and data-driven efforts of commerce on the analyst, agency and in-house perspectives of the industry. Craig grew to be a VP of Customer Insights at the well-known agency Razorfish, VP of Reporting at Accordant Media, and most recently the Senior Director of Ecommerce and Online Marketing at IR 500 ecommerce company, The Clymb.

We recently caught up with Craig to pick his brain on the topics that are top of mind to marketers right now…check out his answers below!

SAILTHRU: What technology are you focusing on this year that you didn’t prioritize last year?

CRAIG SCHINN: I’m going to flip this question slightly…this year at The Clymb, we’re taking a much greater focus on trimming technologies that don’t make us great in an individual space. As we trim the fat across the marketing stack, we’re highly invested in making sure that core implementation with Sailtlhru is fully optimized. We’re currently using Sailthru as our email service provider, personalization provider, analytics provider, predictive intelligence provider, and so on. This was the priority versus bringing on additional vendors.

When we’re confident our provider (like Sailthru) is bringing us the best in breed service or technology, all providers that aren’t moving the ball forward for our customers won’t make the cut.

Do you see the mass of customer data available today as an opportunity or a challenge?

The swelling volumes of customer data are fundamentally an opportunity. Like any opportunity there are challenges – storage, new formats of data, and, most critically, how to use customer data in a way that improves experience for him/her and profit for us.

Since we’ve partnered with agile technologies that can port customer data across platforms and silos, it’s made customer data a much easier opportunity to tackle than it was 2 years ago.

What are your marketing team’s best practices for working with your internal IT team?

The Ecommerce & Online Marketing team is closely aligned with Engineering at The Clymb. We have weekly meetings where we discuss priorities and roadmaps. This really helps with expectation setting for each team.

I also get them involved in partner selection early on so that they are part of the technology process. Marketing has a much higher IT budget than our Engineering department – and we need their help to make all these great technologies work. They’re crucial partners. We aim to always make them feel the love every step of the way.

How is your company making strides towards connecting your ecosystem of channels?

There is a secret sauce that The Clymb uses. Sailthru does a great job connecting most of our channels. We also work with a partner named Lytics who maps most of the data Sailthru sees, and a few others where Sailthru is not integrated such as our customer service application. We actually have excellent visibility to our users, regardless of where they interact with us digitally. I know this isn’t easy to achieve, but again, once the right tech infrastructure is in place, it becomes incredibly manageable.

What has been your biggest barrier towards adopting a full omnichannel approach to marketing?

We have as close to an omnichannel approach as anyone out there – authenticated customers, persistent identifiers. But, then again, it’s really easy for The Clymb relative to other retailers since we are online only. Retailers bridging the online / in-store gap have a much bigger set of barriers than we’ve faced.

What do you think will be different about the customer experience in five years?

 Fundamentally, customers just want value out of each transaction. They want relevancy from a brand. Honestly, the rules of retail are painfully simple. But I think it’s easy to lose sight of that.

I do think the ways in which customers interact with companies is going to continue to evolve, though. The mobile movement is still gaining steam. This has broad implications for retailers in their outreach strategies. We saw the majority of our customer interactions move to mobile devices in Q4 2014, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.

Has technology created or accelerated consumer trust with your brand? How?

I think that for the most part customer trust is gained through products and customer experience as it relates to commerce a customer conducts with you. However, our ability to serve amazing content and offers to Clymb members has been enabled by massive technology advances in the last 5 years. The Clymb customer experience ports very seamlessly from desktop to phone to tablet. And since our customers are all members who signed up, we can store their digital wallet with them across platforms easily. They are able to experience The Clymb predictably with little to no purchase barriers, which has led to very loyal, trusting customers. We couldn’t be luckier in that respect.


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