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

We’re excited to kick off the first post in the series with Stewart Masters, the CEO & co-founder of ClubKviar, an invitation-only dining club for food lovers that offers members unique discounts, access to special events, private tastings and connections to world-famous chefs.

We recently caught up with Stewart to get his thoughts on some ubiquitous marketing challenges…check out his answers below!

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

Stewart Masters: “Big data”  (or whatever you like to call it) has completely transformed the way that businesses and marketers operate. For the very first time, we are enabled to deliver massive value in the form of personalized and interactive communications with our audiences, subsequently increasing the ROI of our marketing by thinking in terms of what the consumer wants, instead of only about campaigns. Not only has this data paved the way for an era of personalized customer communication, but it’s also amplified the efficiency in the way that we measure the impact of our marketing efforts and our overall business goals. So with a big resounding “yes” we certainly see this data as an opportunity. That’s not to say, however, that it doesn’t come with its challenges.

As consumer engagement goes, gone are the days of sending a single message to the masses and hoping they all engage with it. We know even a very powerful email blast to a large list will only experience an approximate 10% open rate – and much lower clickthrough rate. To truly engage users, marketing needs to be done on a 1:1 basis, because the truth is we all behave differently with every brand.

In our case at KVIAR, we’ve been able to use customer data to completely personalize our communications and advertising, presenting our customers with information that is actually relevant to them. This has resulted in increased customer retention, growth in revenues and improved activation of users, to name a few. Regarding the second point, with the incredulous amount of customer data flying through the virtual sphere, it’s enabled us to better measure our campaigns, highlight inefficiencies, study user behavior and learn more effectively how each channel drives growth to our bottom line as a company. Admittedly, if you don’t have a specialized platform dedicated to the data capture, analysis and visualization of this data, it will be exceedingly difficult – if even possible —  and costly to have done by outside vendors.

My advice to anyone who only sees data only as a challenge? Partner with a vendor that is built on a big data infrastructure – taking control of your data and making it actionable is a rewarding task you will begin to see immediately and incrementally impact your revenue goals.

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

SM: I think initially the biggest barrier was the lack of customer data, fragmentation (or disparate silos) of said data, and the lack of an adequate platform to measure omnichannel ROI. Connecting all the pieces of the puzzle and executing accurate attribution reporting is more difficult than it seems. Developing a platform that supports, processes and displays this data wasn’t feasible for us at KVIAR as a fast-growing business. We had our own in-house methods and reports, which allowed us to analyze multiple channels together, but it still wasn’t showing us the full picture.

I’m happy to say we’ve moved passed this barrier by choosing to work with a SaaS provider like Sailthru. Now, we finally  have the access we need to our data, and the technology necessary to understand and analyze user behavior and interests in a way that empowers us for the omnichannel undertaking.

How are you calculating ROI of your marketing investment in omnichannel solutions?

SM: First off, I think it’s important to understand how omnichannel marketing has changed the way we measure ROI. As consumers increasingly engage with a brand on various channels, it is essential to understand the ‘journey’ of the potential user who is exposed to your brand on various channels, and that they are at various stages in the buying funnel in the process. Pinpointing this final conversion attribution, as I mentioned earlier, is harder than ever but critical to getting the real picture of ROI.

In our case (taking into account we are a private club who doesn’t operate on as many channels as our mass market peers), we operate on social media, newsletters, blog, ads, and so forth. It could be that someone saw us via an ad but decided to later convert by direct web search. Ideally you want to understand how the channels interact alone, how they work together, which channels work best alone, which combination journey is most effective, and so forth. The most important thing, though, is that all data gathered from different channels should be collected and analyzed together under the same roof, as optimizing channels one by one won’t “cut the mustard” anymore, so to speak. It’s the only way for marketers to realize the benefits of their data and get intelligence they never had before!

Back to the point of how we actually measure the ROI for our multiple channels….this is where “smart data” plays a big role. Before we started working with Marigold Engage by Sailthru, we would try and link each channel to a specific variable; customer ID or some unique code to enable us to track each user’s journey. This was much more challenging than we had originally scoped. Powerful software fueled by Sailthru Smart Data let us attribute users across various channels more effectively, which is core to how we measure ROI today. As a best practice, we aim to stick to KPIs tied to our ROI that measure specific actions (rather than surface-level impressions or opens) like customer activation rate, Customer Lifetime Value, changes in user engagement, and so on.. We’d rather not give away the “secret sauce” to our methodologies, but this is how we essentially think about measuring our investments.

The bottom line for our ROI: data access paired with effective technology is the most important step in ours, and any brand’s mission to better ROI measurement. That I can say with 100% certainty.

Thank you to Stewart Masters for chatting with us!