Kill Zombie Marketing with a Shot of Personalization

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Kill Zombie Marketing with a Shot of Personalization

By Joe Skorupa - 10/13/2015

By Joe Skorupa

Minimal intelligence goes into a zombie attack like a poorly executed marketing plan. Zombie marketing? You know the kind. Generic promos spammed daily to the widest possible mailing lists or remarketing ads that display products you bought weeks ago. Fortunately there is an antidote. It’s called personalized marketing and it was a major topic at the recent Shop.Org conference.

Zombies were on my mind last week during Shop.Org, which was held in Philadelphia. Halloween advertising was in full swing in the city and an official Shop.Org event was held at the Mutter Museum, which features an extensive human skull collection, numerous skeletons and even Einstein’s brain, or at least pieces of it.

So, naturally enough, I made the zombie connection. Zombie attacks, like mass marketing efforts, are based on the principle of overwhelming numbers. Intelligence isn’t required, which is why zombie movies generally have happy endings. Eventually the survivors, although small in number, fight back with intelligence and the zombies lose their edge.

A similar trend is occurring in retail marketing for two reasons: the first is that mass marketing is becoming less effective due to shoppers tuning them out, and the second is that marketing departments are adding intelligence to promotional campaigns and tailoring them to specific shopper segments with relevant content.

Numerous presentations and vendors at Shop.Org hammered home the theme that technology can create discrete, data-based shopper segments and then dynamically deliver a content stream that is relevant and personalized. This is the antithesis of simplistic mass marketing and it is a true zombie killer.

The Shop.Org Experience

The opening keynote presentation by Mike George, president and CEO of QVC, was notable for kicking off the personalized marketing topic. George noted that QVC faces a major challenge in “feeding the content beast.” Relevant product and/or marketing content grows old very quickly in the 24/7/365 world and when it does it turns into a zombie. (Ed Note: I added the zombie reference.)

To help solve this problem, QVC is learning from the recently acquired flash-sales retailer, Zulily, which starts each day at 6 a.m. Pacific Time with 10,000 new offers. Yes, 10,000 new offers daily! It sounds suspiciously like an overwhelming zombie attack, but Zulily knows all of its customers (you have to create an account to log into the site) and actually tailors each visit to its website based on previous past purchases and web-page tracking.

Advanced analytics and machine learning are used to identify each shopper and understand who she is, and then the website makes adjustments in real-time. In essence, each time a Zulily shopper goes to the website she sees a different, dynamically tailored experience. This is the future of retailing.

One night at a dinner hosted by RIS News in a terrific restaurant (Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse) the personalization theme was echoed in a comment made by a CIO sitting next to me. She asked me what I was responsible for at RIS and I said creating relevant content. She responded, “Aren’t we all.”

Yes, indeed. Relevant content is the essence of personalized marketing, the anti-virus needed to kill zombie marketing, and the future of retail.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: RIS wants to thank IBM, Exchange Solutions and Wipro for being a part of our exclusive executive dinner at Davio’s and the executives from the major retailers who were in attendance. Special thanks goes to Gaurav Pant of EKN Research for enlivening our robust dinner conversation. Congratulations goes to Bob Gras of Chico’s who won an iWatch. And finally, I want to thank Karen Shunk, Tom Litchford and Vicki Cantrell of the NRF for putting on a fabulous Shop.Org conference. I encourage every retailer who wants to become a vital part of their company and a contributor to retail’s future to attend Shop.Org and, of course, the NRF Big Show. Anybody who is anybody in retail attends these conferences.)

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