The Importance of Personalized Customer Experiences: A TechnologyAdvice Q&A with Cassie Lancellotti-Young

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Cassie Lancellotti-Young, ‎EVP of Customer Success here at Sailthru, was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series podcast, where she shared her insights on the future personalization for marketers who seek to improve the customer experience they provide to their customers. The series, hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s associate technology analyst, Josh Bland, explores various business and technology trends through conversations with leaders across industries. 

Cassie joined TechnologyAdvice to discuss predictive marketing, cross-channel, personalization, and why the ‘customer journey’ is the wrong way to look at marketing.

Here are a few highlights from their conversation:

TechnologyAdvice: What are some big trends that you’re seeing right now?

Cassie Lancellotti-Young: One of the really interesting things that I see is just the explosion of brands that are online and how hard it is to attract consumer mind share. One of the biggest challenges the huge divide that’s unfolded in terms of the difference between retention and customer loyalty. Any smart marketer can drive retention because they can offer a discount, they can win a customer back, they can do all types of promotions, and smart things to do that. But there’s a huge difference between getting someone back today, and actually building long-term loyalty.

I always give the example of, if you’re an ardent J.Crew shopper, they offer discounts a lot. Well, person A may just buy it because it’s on discount and that’s the person who’s being attracted by retention mechanics. You give them 30 percent off, they come back. Person — who’s the loyalist — even if you don’t offer them 30 percent off, but they love the blazer you just produced, they’re probably going to be willing to buy it. Versus person A, who is going to look for where a comparable is being offered at a discount by a competitor, and then switching costs are going to be low for them.

What we’re really trying to do is to help our brands come up with better ways to retain those customers, in terms of actually building loyal relationships and making sure that their customers have unrivalled experiences. That’s through personalized content, but it’s not just product recommendations. It’s through timeliness. If I’m always shopping at 11:00 PM, why do I wake up to a sea of emails at 6:30 in the morning? So mechanics like that.

TA: Could you speak a little bit more about personalized content? How are brands targeting customers in different and unique ways? I think that’s a new thing on the edge of exploding at this point.

Lancellotti-Young: Yeah, absolutely. Personalization is still very much a buzzword, and it means very different things to different players. What we actually thought we’d do was, we knocked out what we call a personalization maturity curve, right? And that maturity curve, it may start with something as simple as field insertion, so your first name in an email.

And then maybe someone who’s slightly more sophisticated might do more traditional segmentation. You’re looking at recency, frequency. But the game that Sailthru is trying to play is really this notion of true one-to-one that is about so much more than just a name, a segment, or a product recommendation. It’s a behavioral framework.

The behavior could be like the time of day stuff I mentioned. Why are we always sending emails in the morning? It’s usage, so the usage stuff would be like the most obvious things that most people talk about. That would be what you look at, what you’ve purchased, and the more classical email segmentation model, and then the access is situational.

So how do we tweak your experience based on what we know about the mobile device you typically use? Or if you are always a desk top shopper, or if you live within a half-mile of a retail store, shouldn’t your experience look significantly different that someone who lives 600 miles from the closest retail store?

What we are really trying to do is optimize, and predict what we call omni-channel. So the latest product we rolled out at Sailthru was actually a predictive analytic tool, that not only looks backward at users, but spits out a likelihood on the per user basis of whether or not they’ll buy, whether or not they’ll opt out of emails, to really try to help marketers fine tune the targeting on more of a forward looking basis as well.

TA: How important is the customer journey for Sailthru?

Lancellotti-Young: It’s hugely important and it’s actually a good segue into probably one of the trends that’s really top of mind for me, which is marketing automation. We hear a lot of people talking about the customer journey, and that makes me a little bit skittish, because every customer is very, very different. That’s what we built our platform for — because I am a female living in New York City, and there are tons of other females living in New York City who look absolutely nothing like me.

We want to embrace the likes and interest of each individual. Our platform is less about building rules and it’s more about building logic that knows how to react based on real time data. We want marketers to have an easy and fast hold on what the downstream impact of the optimization decisions they make today are going to look like. The focus for us is less about a staged, super-structured approach and more about what is the next step/optimal route for this customer based on the predicted values that we have with them.

For reference, this podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice, and the interview was conducted by Josh Bland.