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Transcript: Marketing and Personalization Panel

Personalization and Marketing Panel Hero

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Welcome into the panel about personalization and marketing. My name is Mo Dezyanian and with me, I have Rachel MacQueen, Senior VP of Collector Experience and Marketing at Air Miles. Hi, Rachel.

 

Rachel MacQueen:

 

Hi there.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

And, Aaron Spivak, who's going to be joining us in a minute, co-founder of Hush. And Véronique Dorval, SVP and Chief Client Experience Officer at Sun Life Canada. Now, personalization is a topic that is really hot in the industry right now. Just this morning, I saw a tweet by Tom Goodwin, if you ever follow him. Who was arguing that personalization, he's glad that big tech is moving away from personalization or personalized marketing, because it enables more creativity. Interesting perspective, but one thing that's for clear in the industry, E-commerce has shoot up tremendously in last year, and while we've have all these customer... debating needs for customer habits. Personalization is the thing that's on the rise as people shop more and more online. So we're going to kick the conversation off with Véronique. My question for you is, can you validate this increase in need for personalization and how have you guys been dealing with this? I know you have some great thoughts about that.

 

Véronique Dorval:

 

Yeah. Thanks, Mo, for the question. So I can start by saying, yes, we've seen significant increase in the online shopping. We've seen increase in buying online, north of what I think you had referred to. So north of 30, 40%, so pretty are increased rapidly last year. And with that, we see also increasing the expectation of Canadian. So Bloomberg released that in November, an interesting series of survey question that they asked media, and in Canadian more than 80% of them were saying that they will be taking their business elsewhere if they have a core digital experience. And if that experience is not enhance regularly and personalized, so clearly the expectation are there. I think that increased series of expectation is related to a few things. So first we see that client or Canadian have spent more time online last year.

So we saw in April, there was a shoot up of about 15% minutes of spent online that reached 221 billion minute in April versus around 190 the month before. So people are spending more time online, just as come down since then, but still on the positive trajectory. They spend more time, not only online, but on their mobile. And mobile is a vape, a specific channel where people spend a lot of nano moment on their phone. And so if you're going to spend two minutes, you cannot be looking for information and find something that is relevant to you, needs to be served in a way that this already personalized and relevant for the client. And the other thing that I think that's contributed to that need for personalization is the fact that in a crisis period, a lot of brands tried to communicate with their prospect, with their clients, so when people were inundated with messages.

 

And we know that when we are in a crisis moment or attention is just reduced. So you get more and more messages, and less and less capacity to absorb it. So you had to be very relevant to be able to cut through the noise. So what we did in order to respond to that. So everybody, I think in the industry, we try to add more data personalize further, or campaigns or messages. So that's, I think what everybody's doing, but the other two things that we've done was rather than only use data, which has been a strong trend, is also a start to ask question to client, what matters to them. And really by that, we wanted to do two things. So first, this things that even through data that we had available, we cannot get to. And in other case, we have the data, but it would look creepy to just personalize too much the experience.

 

So what we did is we enlisted the client who really being part of that personalization. So we would present them question and offer them three choices. And following the choice, it would make the message, following other engagement would be personalized and relate it to their choice. And we saw engagement go to, up to three times the engagement of similar experience, similar topic, but without the client that they made an explicit choice. So, that's one way that we personalize further. The other one is we use the behavioral economic principle quite explicitly and Ella, or digital coach to humanize or engagement. And so what it does is, behavioral economic principle, just make it easier for clients to take action or just follow other brain work. So it makes it easy to make a decision. And Ella comes at the top and humanize it and you see constantly the same figure come talk to you. So these are different things that we've been doing in order to further personalize our messages.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Right. I love the notion of asking the consumers what it is that they want to know from you and how they want to be communicated with. I'm going to throw it over to you Aaron, welcome. How have you found personalization and this notion of asking permission, asking people, what is it that you actually really care about? Have you found any success with that? And how does that work in your systems?

 

Aaron Spivak:

 

Yeah, it's easier said than done in most cases, right? We’ve been able to find ways to get data as much as possible, right? There's so many different touch points now, it's bringing in data from all these different sources and then we try to create segments or personalizations around it. But what we're forgetting, or it's tough to kind of through the dust is a lot of it comes back to, from a company perspective. It's like, okay, how can we use this to benefit us? That's kind of, how can we use it to improve our numbers? How can we use it to create a better scenario? Because we've worked on a lot of times we're paying for this data, right? Like people say, Oh, how many emails, subscribers, or how many people engage with your posts?

 

It's like one way or another. If we paid for that, whether it's 10% engagement, a 100% percent, we paid for it. So we're paying for this data and now we want an ROI. So we're trying to say, okay, what is the best way to get our money back? We kind of flipped the script a little bit on our end and said, okay, forget the money. How can we build a deeper relationship with the customer on a real personal level? And what I mean by personal it's like, not, Hey Aaron on the email, just because you have my first name doesn't mean we're personalizing it. Right? So what we do is, we do extensive survey, but we do it at a very key point throughout the process, right? So if you hit our site, we're not going to throw up a survey in your face saying, Hey, why did you get here?

 

It's like, Whoa, I don't even know you. It's kind of like, I just walked into the restaurant and now the owners asked me how I walked in here. It's like, no, wait, let me enjoy this experience a little bit. And I'll give you some feedback later. So what we do is we find key points to survey and ask questions. And what we do with that information is where the personalization comes in for us. That's a little bit unique, is we don't take that information and segment. So for example, if I like the color green and Rachel likes blue, and you like yellow, I'm not going to put you in these buckets. And then now we're going to treat like yellow is yellow. I'm just going to say, cool, you like green, good to know. Let's go deeper between you and I to figure out what moves that needle.

 

And we do some crazy things. We do these phone calls with some of our, we call them VIP's for an outlet. So which is 0.001% of your total customer-base for an hour. And we do 10 hours sometimes a month just having conversations, just like, why did you come here? Why did you feel a certain way? And it's mind blowing because sometimes these surveys or these segments are saying, X amount of people in our case are anxious or want a better sleep. And so we're optimizing towards that. But then we do these surveys and as you find some cool things out, it's actually a lot of people care about other people who don't get good sleep. There's a huge gifting component to all of this. And it's like, wow, we never optimize for gifting. We optimize for problem solution, problem solution.

 

So, and then we also realize that a lot of people are just concerned about the general health of the community. There's a mental health aspect to our brand, which we never indexed into. We kept saying, you know what, we're just going to provide research, provide information and see what sticks, put stuff up on the wall. So for us, it's really about finding the 15 steps before you even landed on our site, which one of those 15 steps were actually important to you. Because we all have those, like I can read a million reviews about a restaurant, but if one of you guys sent me an email after this call and be like, Oh, this restaurant we'd go two, three times a week. I'm going, right? All that money they spent to convince me.

 

But it was just that one thing that got me to actually go, and you'll never find that in our surveys and until we get deep, deep, deep into our data and have those real connections. So for us, it's really about finding the deep rooted cause of why you decide to engage with us. And then we personalize it by spending time and being creative on how to constantly give you that. So if you go on our Instagram now and you kind of like every week, because there's a different theme to it. We're indexing into different segments, into different types of people. And we're really providing value on a greater spectrum. And it's really helped our growth. Like the way we do SMS. We email hundreds of thousands of people a week, sometimes a month, depending on the month, depending on the week.

 

And they're also different, right? We're all going to get different texts. You guys can all go opt in. We're all going to get treated differently depending on where you come, where your IP is, who you are, how you engage with us. So personalization can be taken to a whole new level. It's really about, are we prioritizing the company journey of like, we're so great. Look at us, like me and Leo are worrying and exciting. We've been on dragons then, like follow us or it's really about like no, let's prioritize your journey. You're here because of ABC and D.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

A quick follow up question, how do you then reconcile that with building a brand in the market? So between Rachel and Véronique, you are working with organizations that already have established brands in the marketplace, but Aaron you're in a unique position because Hush isn't as established of a brand as Sun Life or Air Miles. So how do you build a brand? And do you think that those two forces are pulling apart at each other? Or can you do both? Be personalized and build a brand at the same time?

 

Aaron Spivak:

 

I see it as one, right? What is a brand? A brand is... could be colors, can be advertising, can be slogans, the basic stuff. But for me, a brand is an emotion, right? The way I feel about Air Miles is what the brand means to me, right. And it might be different for you and for the next person and the way Air Miles. I mean, she's taking this example, but the way they market is judging that emotion. Right? And depending who I am as a person that might pull me a certain way, which is why cancel culture is a thing, right? Brands make a mistake, people feel a certain way, there's an emotion attached to it. And then now the brand is different, right? So it's really as a brand controlling the emotion.

 

And for us, it's really about connecting as deep as possible so that when we do launch a new product, why does it sell out? We launched a pillow in October and off a photo, we don't have any retail stores. It was COVID, like a photo, we sent a photo out. Can't feel it can't touch it. And we sold out 3000 of them. We didn't even believe it. And we're like, didn't even have 3000 ourselves, unbelievable. We're like, we just take a step back and be like, how did 3000 people feel a certain way to take a leap of faith and part ways with money to try out our pillows? Why? Why our pillow? There's pillows everywhere. Right? So it was cool. It's cool to take a step back and be like, there's an emotion attached to it. And as a brand we're building on that emotion, we're trying to get as connected as possible.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Right. Rachel, any rebuttals on Aaron's take on how Air Miles as marketing? Any comments on that?

 

Rachel MacQueen:

 

Yeah. And listen. I mean, here's the thing, I think, brand is important because it creates the consideration, but the personalization is how you actually deliver on that value expectations. So for Air Miles, it's consumers today, if I was to go back 15, 20 years ago. Consumers thought that their data was being tracked, but weren't really sure. There was more hesitation around giving personal information. Today, consumers know that data's being collected, but they know that there's value in their data. And so now they expect reciprocity. I'm going to give you my data. I expect you're going to deliver value back to me. And that to me is really where personalization comes in, to Véronique's point, you're inundated with messaging, the greatest asset people have is their time.

 

And so people want to use their time wisely, personalization enables brands to use your time wisely by giving you what is most valuable to you, how you play off your value proposition in a way that's most relevant and valuable to that individual. And so that's certainly.... Certainly when we take a look at what we're doing, it's about how you deliver that personalization at scale, when you have 11 million collectors that you're trying to deliver a relevant, simple, and personalized experience for.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Right. That's the most interesting part about your business to me is the 11 million in this scale. Everything is, sounds very nice academically. And also, when you're think about it, but when you have to not deliver it across 11 million data points or people far far more data points and that scale. And then you have to balance that with a whole bunch of changing pressures, regulatory, from privacy laws, and consumer expectations. All of a sudden, the task of personalization becomes exponentially more complex. So talk to us a little bit about that. How do you guys grapple with that at Air Miles?

 

Rachel MacQueen:

 

Sure. So, I mean, listen, I think what you're seeing around the world is that consumers expect privacy, they expect protection and they expect to be in control. And so, Air Miles has always been a permission-based program. So even before legislation came in requiring opt-in, we were an opt-in based program, that's always been core to our business model. And I would say, irrelevant of what new legislation comes into Canada, businesses should consider being a consumer centric, permission-based business, just as good business practice. And so for us, the challenge with personalization is to your point, it's fit in theory, but how do you do it in practice? And that's really the journey we've been on, right? We have 23,000 attributes, we've got analytics group, that is really taking those data attributes and saying, how can we use the data through machine learning to deliver the right message to the right person, and the right channel, and all of those things.

 

So, we're using machine based AI driven models. So we've got products like Precision, which is about delivering the right offer, determining the right offer to those 11 million collectors. We've got products around called Smokey, which is around product orientation. So how do we support our grocery partners as an example who have millions of skews, how do we make sure that the right product offer goes to the right person, so that when you have your shopping trip, the offers that you get are on the products that you want.

 

And so, we've got the data and the machine learning. The challenge is how do you marry that up now with the distribution? So how do you go from, I have the data, I have the models or the insight I have to marry that up in a way that is automated to be able to deliver at scale across channels. And so that's the journey we've been on. We've invested in our marketing capability so that we can go from data and insight to actually delivering a relevant, personalized, and simple message to the consumer. They don't have to waved through millions of data points or thousands of offers that you actually get to the offers that are relevant to you in the moment in which you want to consume it.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Right. And I think that's the biggest challenge across, even larger organizations with complexity is how do you go from data to insights, but then how do you simplify it to something that is actually useful and meaningful to me, who's just trying to get grocery shopping done. And that sometimes we don't do a good job of bridging that gap, but I love how you migrated over to what investments you're making. And I think oftentimes we finished these talks with, how do you predict the future to be? What do you think is coming down the pipeline? And I personally liked instead, ask business leaders, what are the kinds of investments you're making today that you think will future-proof your organizations? Because in my experience, nobody really has a crystal ball. So all we can do is make the investments today. So I want to start with Véronique, What are the type of investments you're making right now in your organization that you think will position you for a personalized future?

 

Véronique Dorval:

 

We continue to invest in data, and it will always be important to understand the context in which we are engaging with client. Investing into... Also more integrated platform. So we adding new channels and we integrating across those different channel, but the next horizon for us is really being able to invest from a choice perspective. How do we engaged into that dialogue, really better understand the preferences, the goals for clients, what they want to hear about, and from their personal lives further. So that's the three big area of investment we're making, and that should enable more continuous conversation and relationship with our client that becomes more and more personalized over time.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Amazing. So data, integration and choice are the three broad pillars. Aaron, same question. What are you investing in today that will set you up for personalized future?

 

Aaron Spivak:

 

For us, we are just investing in the way we communicate and trying to be as timely with it. So it gets more and more difficult as we launch new products and as things start to scale. But for us, it's really about sending that perfect message at the perfect time, and December really perfect, but being creative with it and using our opportunities to communicate. And then also writing that line. Like, I only want to hear from certain brands when it's convenient for me, right? And that's becomes a little bit more difficult. So we're investing in our surveying. We're investing in figuring out who our customers are, creating customized journeys for them that are different than our journey, right. Our journey is cool and all we're excited about it. It's fun. We boast about it, it's everywhere if it's cool, but not all the customers care about that. And finding that fine line and saying, okay, let's worry about the customer journey and defining that as... so we're investing heavily into the customer journey because that's where we feel our power lies for the future.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Right. Again, I love how you were taking feedback from the market. You're taking the pulse all the time. I think that's very, very important. Rachel, I know you touched on investments, but any additional thoughts on what you guys are investing today to set yourself up for the future?

 

Rachel MacQueen:

 

Yeah. We're on this journey from a campaign driven organization to constant conversations that the interaction that you have with us, we serve the right offer. That's relevant in that moment. So to Aaron's point some moment, some brands I want to hear from all the time, some of them I want to hear from, for them when it's the most appropriate. So if I'm walking into a Sobey's location, I want to get my Sobey's offers. I'm not necessarily looking for a credit card application in that moment. And so we've made significant investments over the last, call it, 18,24 months around our marketing technology. So for us going forward, it's really now about how do you deliver that at scale? So what are the tools that our associates need, the training that they need, because it really changes the way you do marketing. When you go from point in time campaigns to having really machine driven, automated, ongoing conversations.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Right. And training is such a huge part of this. Just this morning, I was talking to a few colleagues about how all the data and all the insights in the world don't matter if you don't have the culture to make those types of decisions, so that's tremendously important. We've got a couple of audience questions and I'm going to throw to the open ether. Whoever wants to pick it up. This wouldn't be a talk about personalization and data, if we didn't ask about the cookie less future, I think not mentioning cookies in any talk in 2020, 2021 just doesn't make it a good enough talks. So cookie less future. Any thoughts, any ideas about that? And how are you guys setting yourself up for that?

 

Rachel MacQueen:

 

I'm happy to jump in just quickly on that. Certainly, one of the core assets of Air Miles is our first party data. And so our ability to have those direct relationships with our collectors, to be able to use that, to identify and engage with collectors across multiple channels. And certainly are our investment in Adobe and our ability to identify collectors through Adobe has been a key part of that. So that certainly is how we're looking at, how we maintain contactability and, identification and communication with our collectors.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Absolutely. First party data is tremendously important. It's the notion of own versus rent your data faster. You can get there to better you're set up for it. Aaron or Véronique, any additional thoughts on cookie less or no cookies? Right. So for... Go ahead. For our next question. We have a question about personalization versus hyper segmentation. Aaron you talked about that a little bit. Is it not lumping people in, into predefined segmentation. And how do you balance well, personalization and hyper segmentation? What are your thoughts about that or anybody else for that matter?


Aaron Spivak:

 

Yeah. Segmentation is, I don't want to call it the safety net of KPIs, but it is, it's just like we can segment and we can measure our segments. It's great. But there's so much people within these segments that are in the wrong buckets and you're sending the wrong message to the wrong people. And then what we do is we look at KPIs from a stand back perspective. It's like, okay, well the KPIs, the numbers are pretty good, so we must be doing something right. And what happens is, and when those segments start to grow, we have segments of hundreds of thousands of people and they're like, Oh, we have a 40% engagement rate or whatever. This is really good. It's like, okay. But there's 60,000 people that just hated what you sent them or hated the way you dealt with them. Right?

 

And then here it's like, well the subscribe rate. So segmentation, we call it the cancer to our KPIs because it looks good and it feels good, but it's wrong. And it's still required. So for us, it's about finding segments within the segments, getting as personalized as possible. And it's difficult as you scale for sure. But surveying, communicating, watching real-time behavior allows us to do. I mean, we're smaller than a lot of our competitors, right? So we use it to our advantage that we can move much faster. We're building new products now based on information that would take some of our competitors years to not only put together, but then actually implement. So we're using all that data to our advantage of being a little bit more nimble. We can make that personalization happened faster, but yeah, segmentation is important. I think it's standard, but it could dilute the way we look at KPIs and could make the situation seem prettier than it is.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Right.

 

Véronique Dorval:

 

Yeah. I would add to that what Aaron said. To me, personalization push further than segmentation and in two ways. So it also personalize the content. So segmentation doesn't mean necessarily that your content is personalized beyond a segment. So that's one important aspect and the other aspect is also the ability to be dynamic. So it's not only you segment and you then treat the whole segment in the same way. There's then, that conversation that starts in that relationship. And you're able to in a dynamic fashion to add that, to what a client is selling you.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Right. So being- go ahead.

 

Rachel MacQueen:

 

Sorry. I was just going to add on that. I think that's really where machine learning and automation are so critical because that allows you to actually do personalization at scale. And that's beyond what you could execute it at a human intervention level. But when you've got machine learning, looking at thousands of variables to get the right offer to the right person, based on what they have specifically bought themselves, rather than what a segment has spot, then that's actually, when you get to... Aaron gets a diet Coke offer versus Véronique gets a Pepsi offer because that's actually what they buy. So that is sort of enabled by automation to be able to do that at scale.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Right. So that brings us to my last and most interesting point. Let's circle back to where we started, which is that tweet from Tom Goodwin, the idea that moving away or big tech moving away from personalization and one-to-one marketing is a good thing because it enables a little bit of creativity. He basically says we can make delicious moving images and all these crazy ads, but we have never had as many possibilities as now. Yet, most ads are dire. You've decided technology means, we don't need to dream and we can build up strategy from tactics. Do you agree with that? And how do you balance creativity with personalization, and machine learning, and that level of automation? Very quick, final thoughts on that?

 

Véronique Dorval:

 

I would say they do enable creativity. It's all about going really fast from data to insight hypothesis, and putting that into application and systematic, that's similar. I think the creativity is not the same creativity than 20 years ago, And in marketing, today it's really... It enable creativity.

 

Rachel MacQueen:

 

And I would just to jump in quickly, I would just say, marketing continues to be an art and a science, and I think there's still head and heart that's required. And I think there's creativity in both sides.

 

Mo Dezyanian:

 

Absolutely. Thank you so much everybody for the time. Thank you for attending. And this was a lovely discussion, so much more to talk about and we'll see everybody soon. Thank you so much fellow fellas.

 

Rachel MacQueen:

 

Thank you.

 

Véronique Dorval:

 

Thank you.

 

Aaron Spivak:

 

Thank you.