Understanding the consumer is key for retailers, and leveraging Big Data can mean big returns on marketing investments. It's no small task, by any stretch of the imagination, for retailers to make sense of consumer behavior.
Which is why retail marketers — along with marketers of financial services, travel and other B2C verticals — are signing on with SmarterHQ's multi-channel behavioral marketing platform.
Founded in 2010, SmarterHQ began by applying machine learning and predictive analytics to retail consumer data to gain behavioral and life-cycle insight — insight which companies leveraged to develop personalized email marketing methods, said Michael Osborne, president and CEO of SmarterHQ.
Since then, Osborne said, SmarterHQ has made a number of enhancements to its services. The company now takes into account offline data — such as in-store purchases and returns — and uses its system to customize website advertisements, as well as those in email.
“You're in an environment that maps to what you're looking for,” Osborne said. “A good example is, if you're a runner and you've shopped on FinishLine.com, the next time you visit, you may see a promotion for a new running shoe offering.”
Implementing SmarterHQ's system is relatively straightforward, Osborne said. The company places SmarterHQ's tag on its website, which then captures consumer browsing data — actions, purchases, product views, abandonment, etc. Additionally, SmarterHQ can take customer data from an in-store POS, order management system and the CRM.
The SmarterHQ platform runs the collected consumer behavior data through a machine learning-based predictive analytics model to gain insight into consumer life-cycles and develop personalized marketing and outreach strategies.
“We take the heavy lifting on ourselves,” Osborne said. “We transform the data to be usable for us to customize email and website marketing. It drives significant ROI — 12x to 15x across our clients on average.”
That ROI has been attracting attention from major retailers, other B2C entities and investors. Last month, SmarterHQ closed a $13 million venture funding round.
More recently, SmarterHQ announced a strategic partnership with Tulip Retail, a cloud-based software company that offers a mobile app suite for retail store associates.
The partnership works to solve the following. With online retail experiences, merchants have access to a great amount of information they can immediately use to analyze and derive ideal follow-up marketing.
But when customers enter a physical store, Osborne noted, store associates don't have access to that information in real time. Likewise, when customers shop in physical stores, the online marketers don't necessarily know if they should send a promotion.
The SmarterHQ platform will be integrated into Tulip Retail’s mobile application, allowing store associates to access customer activity from on- and offline channels in a consolidated customer profile.
“It's a great way to use our data,” Osborne said. “We are going to be informing the Tulip platform with the behavioral data from the customers we have in common.”
When a shopper enters the store, the sales associate can pull up the in-store data Tulip has, as well as the online customer data provided by SmarterHQ. Combined, these data sets will allow in-store sales associates to provide a unified online and offline experience for the consumer.
But the integration goes beyond matching up online product views with in-store sales. SmarterHQ's consumer life-cycle data and predictive insight will also make its way to Tulip. The way a store associate would go about working with a high lifetime value customer who has lapsed, Osborne said, would be different if the customer is new, not high lifetime value or not at risk for attrition.
“Having this insight for the in-store personnel — the past as well as the predicted behavior of the client that just walked in the door — gives them the ability to provide a vastly more personalized experience,” said Osborne.
Osborne hinted that a number of other major announcements were coming up for SmarterHQ in the coming year.
“We're working on a number innovations around the channels that we play in,” he said. “The channel ads, social ads and Facebook campaigns that retailers are doing today can also be informed by this data.”