3 Takeaways from CRMC

June might be the best time of the year to be in Chicago as the lake sparkles, residents rejoice and celebrate the end of another Midwestern winter, the White Sox and Cubs’ seasons are at their peaks and—this year—the Stanley Cup Playoffs kicked off with a Blackhawks’ Game 1 victory. Add to that another draw: CRMC2015 brought 675-plus retailers as well as technology, marketing and media service providers to their annual Chicago conference the first week of June.

CRMC stands for Customer Relationship Management Conference and for 21 years the annual event has drawn industry leaders to share and learn from the experiences of their peers

This year’s recurring theme was “know your consumers.” Here were my top 3 takeaways from an intense and information-packed event:

1.  The story you tell is not just about your brand.

In the opening CRMC keynote, Simon Mainwaring of We First emphasized the importance of celebratory storytelling- telling the story of your brand through consumers. “Don’t talk about yourself,” he advised brands, “celebrate the impact you’re having on others.”
Technology has turned consumers into co-authors of a company’s content, according to Mainwaring, but brands can guide and channel the stories by defining the fundamental properties that embody their consumers. Some examples the speaker highlighted were the P&G spot honoring moms of athletes during the Olympics that celebrated their consumers, and compelling content created by consumers such as viral GoPro videos of travelers’ journeys, extreme athletes, even cute animals.

2.  Before you can earn market share you need to inspire loyalty.

A few brands (think Apple, Starbucks, IKEA, Ben & Jerry’s) manage to achieve a level of loyalty that is akin to passion. Warren Kornblum of Rooms to Go (formerly of Toys”R”Us) talked about the ways brands build “share of heart” to become the brands that consumers identify with and with which they feel a connection. Kornblum urged that organizations consider every facet of their operations to be sure that at each and every point the brand experience serves to reinforce the feeling of loyalty.

Loyalty has always been emphasized at CRMC, and many of the solutions providers at the conference are companies who build their loyalty programs for retailers. In a breakout presentation, Cari Brooke Roberts of Gap.com and Sean Claessen of Bond Brand Loyalty detailed their approach to the challenge of refocusing brand loyalty. “At Gap we found there was loyalty to the sale rack,” explained Roberts. Gap was fortunate in having devoted customers, but the team’s goal was to move away from a feeling of loyalty to promotions, and drive it to the brand. They designed a weekend-long program beginning Black Friday that pulled back from offering the most aggressive percent-off, and instead would encourage more shopping. The result was a successful Gap Getaways contest, where shoppers earned ballots for 100 total prize trips to 6 different destinations.

For Starbucks, connecting to customers is key, said Aimee Johnson who heads loyalty and CRM analytics initiatives at the market-leading company. It starts with the barista who drives the personalization of the experience, and is reinforced through the on-line connectedness that the Starbucks app enables.

3.  We collect more data than ever before, but understanding the data is still a challenge.

At the heart of every loyalty and CRM initiative, of course, is the data that is being collected, analyzed, mined and connected. John Kalinich of Deckers Brands and Mark Guenther of Merkle talked about how they strive for a 360-degree view of the consumer, and once they have that view, how they use it to speak directly and in a relevant manner to each of those visible consumers. Deckers has seven niche brands that have risen to become global leaders in over 50 countries. Kalinich credits their success to the four building blocks: Customer Identity, Insight, Personalization and Customer Engagement. They’ve enabled aligning the data management, content management and decision optimization that focus marketing efforts where they will communicate based on needs, and ultimately make a difference.

That data focus is paying off for Stride Rite, the leading children’s shoe brand. Danielle Leveille and Kiran Smith explained that when they noticed a drop off in sales it led to soul-searching. But the data and research led to the realization that the consumer was changing and shopping in new and different ways and venues. Those data-driven insights are leading the brand to focus their message in a new way: Built For Childhood Since 1919. The new phrase will convey the message they want to direct to real parents of real kids, simply of kids’ shoes for kids’ feet. As a result of seeking ways of meeting the shopping needs of busy parents the classic brand will market a line branded Surprize in Target stores. In addition, this summer, when the Store of the Future is launched, it will feature customized and personalized omni-channel experiences throughout the store to ensure that each parent-child consumer team has an experience that reinforces their reasons for shopping.

Of course a great conference has more than three takeaways, and I’ve left out dozens of great lessons and insights from amazing marketers who generously shared their successes (and challenges) with their peers. If one of the lessons I’ve left out resonated with you, please comment or tweet us @FreshAddress and let people know about it!

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