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How Dr. Martens’ VP of digital & e-commerce is using martech to create ‘super-audiences’
Kyle Duford, the Global Digital Lead for Dr. Martens, will be a part of the 'Creating Superaudiences: Personalizing the Customer Experience' panel at MarTech Boston.
Dr. Martens has built its brand around self-expression, individuality and rebellion — it is the punk rock boot. But even a punk rock brand wants to create relevant messaging that connects with consumers.
“I believe our learnings support industry findings — that delivering the right, tailored message, to the right group of people, at the right time — is not only best for the brand, but for the business, and ultimately, our customers,” says Kyle Duford, VP of digital and e-commerce for Dr. Martens.
In his role, Duford oversees all of the brand’s e-commerce best practices, optimization and growth. He says his newly formed digital innovation team is constantly looking for areas within the business where they can partner with other department heads to accelerate enterprise growth through digitization of the business.
In addition to surfacing internal opportunities to extend the brand’s digital efforts, Dr. Martens’ e-commerce teams have started creating super-audiences via personalization efforts to better communicate with their customers.
“When I see conversion rates of people that we hyper-targeted through super-audiences, I get excited because it tells me we got it right,” says Duford, “We delivered a poignant, timely message to our customer where they were able to best consume it.”
Duford believes the industry is on the cusp of another monumental shift further in the direction of consumer control, noting how online shoppers now expect the products and deals when and where they want them — with unlimited returns and 24-hour customer service.
“This is going to continue to shift to consumer-control, so we (and others) need to listen to them, and understand their needs — then deliver,” says Duford.
Duford will join Scott Brinker on stage at MarTech Boston next month to share the insights his brand has gained from its personalization efforts and how the creation of super-audiences has impacted Dr. Martens’ marketing strategy.
When did Dr. Martens begin using personalization within its e-commerce efforts to create ‘super-audiences?’
Duford: Individuality and rebelliousness is at the core of our customer. For decades, our product has been adopted by rebels, artists, musicians and more. To treat our modern-day customer as anything other than individuals is a big miss.
So you could say we’ve been doing this our entire existence. We now merely have a digital-facing, e-commerce strategy. We started experimenting in 2016 with small audiences and now we’re rolling this out to all our countries’ online shops through many channels: retargeting, email, social, etc.
What are some of the ways your brand is personalizing its marketing?
Duford: We now have the ability to add first names to emails, for example, which we know increases open rates, engagement, clicks and ultimately, conversion.
We’ve segmented by location, product type, type of visitor (returning versus new), and purchaser versus non-purchaser. Then we started adding layers to that: those who have non-purchased, but opened emails and haven’t clicked, for example. In this case we can serve them a relevant message on Facebook. Or, we can remind purchasers of a certain category of new additions to the line.
Really the slicing and dicing is infinite, but we start with affinity and behavior and go from there.
Are there any channels where your personalization efforts have proven more effective than others?
Duford: To say a certain channel is more effective than others already takes you out of the game. If we’re talking about people, the channel doesn’t really matter. It’s behavior-based. It’s sentiment-based.
The reality is that we measure audiences and how close we delivered to them, not the other way around. That said, social is typically where you see the most gains these days. It’s where people spend most their time, and therefore it’s easier to get their eyes on a message in that space.
What about campaign tactics versus channels? For example, do you see evidence of personalization having a bigger impact in retargeting campaigns compared to a campaign where you are upselling products?
Duford: Again, it depends. We’ve seen success in merely reminding people of limited editions and to purchase quickly before they sell out. We’ve also seen success in showing people shoe care products to help keep their Docs lasting a long time.
As we launch our new site this fall, starting with the US site, we will also have the ability to customize the home page experience based on weather, location, audience group, time of day or past purchase behavior.
What martech are you using to create your personalized experience? And what role does machine learning play in creating the brand’s super-audiences?
Duford: We’ve been relying on two key tools: Lytics and Cloud Engage — but from AdRoll to SailThru, all of our vendors play a key role. We now manage it all with Opal.
I’ll be honest, machine learning scares me. I know we’re not yet talking about Terminator-like AI, but when Elon Musk warns us it’s our greatest threat, I believe him. (Okay, so maybe that’s extreme.)
We use AI for complex algorithm data crunching, from shipping return analysis to likely-to-purchase behavior modeling. At some point in the next few years we’ll be able to determine how quickly we can get you a product from any location. More than likely, we’re close to solving the footwear-fit issue with better digitally-enhanced fit tools, be it from smartphone cameras or new in-store methods.
What has been your biggest challenge around creating and managing a personalized experience for your audience?
Duford: The starting point is the hardest part, because until you know something, you have to assume something — and that’s not very rock ‘n’ roll. And the looming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws in Europe will prove challenging to how we collect, store, transmit and use this data while still protecting consumer rights in Europe and beyond.
If you’re headed to the MarTech Boston Conference, be sure to attend Kyle Duford’s session on Wednesday, October 4. As part of the conference’s marketing track, “Creating Superaudiences: Personalizing the Customer Experience” will include Duford and Scott Brinker discussing how Duford’s brand is applying machine learning to gain customer behavior insights and the marketing tools that make it possible.