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Direct Marketing Magazine: Dimensional Mail in the Digital Age

Retail is rapidly changing – we see it all around us.  Amazon is venturing into brick and mortar stores.  Big boxes are wading deeper into e-commerce.  Online retailers are mailing print catalogs.  It seems like everywhere, brands are rethinking their business models and marketing strategies.  Direct mail is right in the mix, because when done correctly, it’s a powerful component of the kinds of multi-channel marketing strategies needed to survive and thrive in today’s Wild West of retail.  Direct mail response rates are at their highest point in over a decade, with dimensional mail response rates at the top.

Digital marketing is nimble and quick to execute, but it doesn’t pack the same punch as something tangible that you can put your fingers on.  A Temple University neuromarketing study found that direct mail tops digital for engagement time, recall and purchases.  Digital ads seized the attention of consumers quicker, but physical ads held that attention longer, elicited a greater emotional reaction, and played a more direct role in purchase decisions.  While consumers who received direct mail offers were able to recall the brand 75% of the time, consumers who received digital-only versions could remember the brand only 44% of the time.

But it’s not about pitting digital marketing and direct mail against each other – because they work best together.  When a catalog mails, online sales spike across all web channels.  There isn’t always a clear cause-and-effect relationship between a strategy and the revenue it generates though.  That’s because for most customers, the path to purchase is a journey with many potential stops along the way.  In the end, direct mail and digital marketing should both be parts of a holistic customer experience.  Multichannel marketing isn’t just about getting your message out there in as many places as possible – you need to give customers a unified, personalized experience across your various marketing channels.

Here are some great ways to optimize your direct mail with digital channels and data to provide a holistic multichannel experience.  These strategies will help you acquire new customers and market more effectively to the ones you already have:

  • Triggered postcards: Similar to how triggered email is automatically sent when a shopper leaves your website without making a purchase, triggered postcards are automatically sent to the shopper’s postal address.  And just like triggered email, the postcard can contain images of products the shopper viewed on the website, as well as recommendations for similar items.  One advantage of postcards is that with email, the web visitor needs to be opted-in to your email list before you can send.  That’s not the case with postcards.  Using the right service provider, you can identify web visitors not on your list and send them a postcard.  You can also use postcards as a second line of communication to follow up with triggered email recipients who don’t open your emails.  Because postcards are more expensive, it’s important to use a service provider that captures and analyzes intent data for signs that a shopper is motivated to buy.
  • Dimensional Direct Mail: Dimensional mail brings higher response rates, but is even more expensive than flat mail – which makes sending to the right people more important than ever. Some of your best audiences for dimensional mail are former customers and prospects that you’ve had previous contact with.  Recency is important, so the time delay associated with traditional methods for defining a mailing list can undermine your efforts.  To make the most of dimensional mail, you should be using recent online engagement data – including who’s been on your website, what they looked at and carted, and who’s been engaging with your emails.  For example, former customers who opted-out of your emails yet recently visited your website are likely to be worth the higher investment.
  • Email: Messaging such as “Your Spring Catalog is on the way, keep an eye out for it” will often increase catalog engagement, leading to higher conversions. Send this just prior to the expected in-home date.
  • Facebook audiences: The average Facebook user spends more than 30 minutes per day scrolling through their newsfeed. You can easily reinforce direct mail using Facebook Audiences and vice versa. The right service provider will be able to match your mailing list to email addresses and help get you set up with a Facebook Audiences campaign in sync with your direct mail. Think of it this way, if you commit to a cost of $0.50 per catalog to get in front of a consumer, the incremental 1 or 2 cents to supplement that with a coordinated Facebook ad is a good investment.
  • Hotlines: The most recent customer names acquired, called hotlines, are typically the most responsive to direct mail. In many cases, marketers restrict hotlines to recent purchasers only.  Increasing your hotline pool by adding website visitors who didn’t make a purchase can be an effective strategy for increasing hotlines and response rates.  Is your catalog about to go out?  You can look to see who’s been on your website lately and add visitors who are not on your current list.  You can also test including new names with different levels of engagement, such as cart abandoners only or cart abandoners plus product browsers. Recency is king – it always has been and likely always will be.  By introducing real-time web consumer feeds (visitors and purchases) to your mail stream you can improve recency in ways that historically have not been possible.  The result: improved response rates and increased sales.
  • Predictive models: Web visitor and email engagement histories can help you improve your mailing segmentation strategy.  Many direct mailers use predictive models to drive mailing segmentation and mail/no mail decisioning.  In many cases, purchase recency is one of the strongest variables in the model mix.  An effective strategy can be to “re-activate” older buyers based on recent engagement from web visits and/or email opens and clicks.  Check with your modeling team to see if they can incorporate web and email engagement data to increase your model’s effectiveness.  We have seen that housefile models that use recent online data average a response rate lift of 43% and a dollars per book lift of 26%.
  • Intelligent lightboxes: Sometimes it’s challenging to measure the extent that direct mail is driving customers to your website. Purchasers are typically asked to enter a catalog code at checkout, but this often doesn’t happen.  In addition, this tracking method fails to measure the increased engagement of customers who are driven to the website but don’t make a purchase at that time (which is still valuable, because the more engaged they are with your brand, the more likely they are to make a purchase in the future).  With intelligent lightbox technology, recent catalog recipients can be identified and welcomed – with their activities tracked from the moment they enter your website.  Look for a vendor that can link your mail file to your real-time website visitors and pre-populate the catalog source code.

As you can see, there are many ways to leverage digital channels and data to reinforce your direct mail programs and vice-versa.  They key to success with offline programs is to use expertise in list brokerage and analysis.  While the benefits of successfully deployed direct mail campaigns will yield great results, there can be greater risk because the cost per contact is typically much higher.  You need resources with expertise in both digital and direct mail program management to be successful in this landscape.

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Shawn Firehock Joins 4Cite as Vice President of Strategic Growth

Albany, New York, Sept 19, 2017 4Cite, a leading consumer identification and data insights company announced that Shawn Firehock has joined the company as Vice President of Strategic Growth. In this position, Shawn will oversee 4Cite’s worldwide sales team and be responsible for supporting the company’s strategic sales mission, performance and growth.

“Shawn is a digital transformation leader with 20 years of experience delivering strategic value to his clients and leading successful sales organizations,” said 4Cite Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jack Sturn. “He has proven experience defining, implementing and leading the execution of high impact solutions that drive measurable growth and optimization of client operations. We are thrilled to have him on the 4Cite team.”

Most recently Firehock was Vice President, Digital Consulting Leader with EXL, a global provider of digital transformation, analytics and operations management solutions. Prior roles include strategy and growth leadership positions with Blue Slate Solutions, SS&C Advent software and Pega.

MarTech Series: Interview with 4Cite CEO Bob Gaito

On Marketing Technology

MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? (What inspired you to be a part of a Marketing Automation company?)
I am one of the company’s co-founders and have served as CEO since its inception. Prior to launching 4Cite, our management team owned and operated another marketing service company – I-Centrix.  That business, also focused on retailers, built and managed Marketing Databases for its clients.  In addition, I-Centrix also had a strong list processing offering as well. We sold I-Centrix in 2007 and exited the organization in 2010. At that point I wanted to build another organization and leverage our deep retail history. This time around we chose to concentrate on real-time digital solutions. Our team was fortunate to have decades of retail experience and saw, first hand, where retailers were struggling to evolve in the digital world. We had the experience, the connections, and the where with all to launch a business to help address these needs. Today we serve hundreds of top ecommerce retailers including such well known brands as StaplesVera Bradley and Harry & David and non-ecommerce companies in the automotive, financial services, healthcare, not-for-profit, hospitality and travel industries.

MTS: Given the changing dynamic of online engagement with customers, how do you see Marketing Analytics platforms evolving by 2020?
It has become clear, in my opinion, that Marketing Analytics is morphing from an ‘after the fact’ process designed to measure performance into an ‘inherently actionable’ process that drives results – in real-time.  Let me give you an example…let’s consider the following scenario: A marketer launches a Facebook campaign to drive site traffic.  Traditionally, Marketing Analytics might be used to measure the success of that campaign via any number of KPIs.  These metrics are difficult to measure with precision because of other, overlapping, programs that result is muddied waters in terms of sales allocation.  Don’t get me wrong, reporting and allocation is a vital role for Marketing Analytics platforms and will remain so in the future.  However, that will be only one aspect of the capabilities required going forward. We are seeing a shift toward real-time harnessing of Marketing Analytics data.  In the above Facebook example, we are using engagement data to build audiences and trigger messaging in real-time.  Ideally, the marketer will be able to know, in real-time, when a visitor comes to their site because of that Facebook ad.  Then, instantly look at that consumer’s previous engagement with the brand (i.e. has she been to the site before? Is she engaging with emails? What products has she viewed? Has she made prior purchases?).  With that data in hand, the Marketing Analytics platform should be able to make offer recommendations, product recommendations, and maybe even trigger a series of customized communications in other channels if this visit doesn’t result in a purchase.  You can see from this example that Marketing Analytics data is vital to the derivation of the marketing message.  Properly done, it will be used to drive sales – not just measure them.

MTS: How should B2B marketers leverage customer data analytics to improve marketing campaigns with greater authority?
Make data a part of each marketing program and use it in real-time to drive content. Expand beyond customer segmentation and contact planning.  Be sure to use it to drive offer recommendations, product recommendations, and channel execution.

MTS: How should CMOs visualize the disparate and complex data to build a unified, singular definition of a customer? Could you give us a preview of the dashboard analytics provided by Cross Link?
Establishing a unified definition of a customer is not a new concept, but the ever-changing options for consumer engagement has made it increasingly difficult.  It seems funny to us that one of the latest trends is ‘People Based Marketing’.  Wasn’t that always the goal?  Have we become so confused by the digital landscape that we actually focused on devices instead of people?  Sure, cookies and device IDs are important but only to the extent that they can be linked to a person.   In the digital world, we have seen a consistent trend toward using a hashed value of the consumer’s email address as the chief identifier.  If there is evidence in the offline data that a person has multiple email addresses, that data can be further aggregated.

It is important for CMOs to ensure that ALL digital identification is done deterministically.  This simply means that there is a direct correlation between the engagement data being captured to the email to which it is associated.  In an effort to provide ‘more data’ some providers use probabilistic identification.  As the name implies this technique relies on less reliable data points and use models to indicate that the activity in question is ‘probably’ for a particular consumer.  In my opinion CMOs should stay clear of using these techniques when building the customer views.

Concerning dashboards…4Cite’s services are geared towards identifying consumers and triggering real-time, relevant messaging – all within our customer’s existing vendor stack.  We are not looking to replace vendor relationships that our customers have and, in almost all cases, directly feed our clients existing platforms with our data.  This approach has been well received because our clients don’t have to learn how to navigate yet another set of interfaces or reports.  They can harness the same tools and technologies that they are already familiar with.

MTS: With the recent changes in data privacy policies, how do you see advanced visitor identification and tracking platforms delivering personalization?
Privacy is always a concern but keep in mind that most marketers are using data collection as a way to better communicate with their customers, not to offend them.  Consumers have expectations, too. They have come to expect to be communicated with in a way that is timely and relevant to them. They tend to respond better to marketing efforts that appeal to their wants and needs. Similarly, they are quick to opt out of campaigns that are generic and repetitive in nature.

From a data collection perspective, we advise staying away from intrusive technologies and make sure that consumers can opt out at any time. Privacy policies should also be clear and transparent. We advise against long and hard to understand policies and favor clearly worded, easy to understand policies.  The privacy landscape, as we see it today, favors marketers that respect the relationship they have with their customers.  They tend to operate in a permission-based mindset and make opting out a readily available option.

MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
We tend to watch new trends and potential channel opportunities more than we do individual start-ups.  We are currently exploring Amazon’s latest Advertiser Audience announcement.  We are also watching LiveIntent and their ability to deliver ads is unique in the industry.  We feel that both companies provide meaningful ways to deliver relevant, personalized messages.

MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
We believe our marketing stack provides our clients with a competitive advantage that is not available from other marketing service providers.   We are the only solutions provider that combines advanced customer identification services with multi-channel real-time message deployment. In addition, we do all of this without requiring our clients to change their existing vendor stack.

To help shed more light on these differences, let’s start with our customer identification service – CrossLinkTM.  CrossLinkTMleverages the data network we have built across our retail client base.  This is a significant market differentiator for a few reasons.

  • First, there is massive scale. The network – branded The 4Cite Data NetworkTM – monitors over 1.3 Billion email sends and over 800 million retail page views per month.  Our approach is different than others in the space because we focus on traffic that is purchase oriented.  The visits and linkages we collect are not only substantial from a scale perspective but they also represent consumers that are showing shopping behavior.
  • Second, CrossLinkTM uses Deterministic techniques to identify visitors. That means that there is an extraordinarily high confidence level that the linkages we create are correct. Many of the other identity service companies use Probabilistic techniques.  They are by definition less accurate and although they may prove satisfactory for banner ad programs, they should not be used for CRM initiatives.

Identification is hugely important but by itself does not generate ROI. In order to be of value, once a consumer is identified they need to be communicated with in a relevant and timely manner. We find it interesting that most companies that offer Identification services don’t also provide services that enable their clients to generate revenue.

This is our other main point of distinction in the marketplace. Our Interaction HubTM is seamlessly integrated into CrossLinkTM and can trigger real-time campaigns in a number of outlets (email, light boxes, Facebook audiences, On-demand post cards, etc.).  We can even use it to generate product recommendations, offer recommendations and drive other dialogues via our LiveContentTM service.

When combined, our technologies have been a game changer in influencing purchasing activity. The potential use cases are almost endless and we have helped our clients in managing their acquisition, retention, and reactivation campaigns. We consistently hear from our clients that we increase their campaign revenues 20% after the first 30 days of implementation and more as the program continues.

Another unique aspect of our stack is that our services are really easy to implement. We have developed API integrations with the leading ESPs and our services use a variety of technologies that integrate with a host of other marketing providers for website customization, real-time marketing database updates, and social advertising. We even make identification and engagement data available to the browser so it can be leveraged by our client’s website development team as well as third party tools.

We see ourselves as an extension of our clients’ marketing stack and, in the end, we are partner agnostic. Our goal is to provide identity and engagement data to our clients to use however they see fit.  Whether we trigger campaigns on their behalf or simply provide data for them to execute themselves, our goal is to simply add value.

MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success?)
We had a retailer that was experiencing declining performance with their bulk email campaigns.  As the number of their mobile email opens grew, sales fell at almost the same rate. The client made a significant effort to improve the mobile experience but that had very little effect. This client came to 4Cite in hopes to find a solution. Before we get into the solution, I’d like to share some perspectives with regard to marketing on mobile devices. It is clear that almost every potential shopper has one. It is also clear that they spend a lot of time using these devices. That might lead you to conclude that emails read on a mobile device would perform well.  The truth is, that is not really the case. Think about all of the times you check email on your phone. Do you check it while waiting to pick you your son or daughter from soccer practice? At the airport while waiting to board a flight? Maybe even while walking to your next meeting? Now ask yourself if you actually had any shopping intent at those times. Probably not.

That’s why 4Cite created the Shopping Elsewhere™ Email Trigger.  This is a service that looks for your customers as they are exhibiting shopping behavior and triggers an email (in real-time) while he or she is in shopping mode. We accomplish this though The 4Cite Data Network (Keep in mind that our tags are in 1,300,000,000 emails per month and are fired more than 800,000,000 page views per month on retail websites).  The result, we see double digit increases in performance. Also, since we have API integration with the leading ESPs, we trigger that email on our client’s existing email platform. There is no need to warm up other IPs or worry about establishing another email sending reputation. We have a number of clients that are using this technology with great success.

MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
AI or Machine Learning is an area of opportunity for marketers.  As we discussed earlier, relevant and timely messaging is not only a good practice, it is becoming a consumer expectation. AI can assist with improving this type of personalization. That said, AI is 100% dependent on the accuracy and timeliness of the data that feeds it. In preparing for an AI-centric world, my advice would be to start today and evaluate all of your data collection processes. Start with customer identification and then move on to engagement details. If you aren’t properly identifying your customers, the data you associate with them is meaningless and worse yet, any AI generated messaging may actually perform worse than ‘unintelligent’ messaging. Data is king – focus on getting that right first.

This Is How I Work

MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
Organized. Like most executives today, time is in high demand and is in short supply. I like to set aside time to tackle big picture items in my mind and am diligent in making that happen. It is important to me to take time to reflect and contemplate on our business.

MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
In addition to the Microsoft suite, which I can’t see anyone living without, I am somewhat partial to an app called Wunderlist. It is a basic but effective task management application.

MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
I always end the day with the same final task…ensuring that I lay out my work plan for the next day. That way I can go to sleep at the end of the night knowing exactly where to begin in the morning. The day may not go as planned, but I take solace in having a plan of attack before the actual work day starts.

MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I tend to do most of my reading online. I can’t say I am an avid book reader, instead, I search for opinion pieces on various ‘topics of the day’. As you can imagine, almost anything related to digital marketing always peaks my interest.

MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received—your secret sauce?
Always keep your eye on the prize…providing services that your customers actually want and need. All too often I see companies that build great technology but it doesn’t completely resonate with the customer’s immediate needs. One of the best feelings is when a customer says “Finally, that is exactly what I was looking for. Why isn’t anyone else offering this?”

MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Echoing the sentiments above, I think we do a great job putting ourselves in our customer’s shoes when developing our capabilities. We have a long history servicing retailers and continually work with them to understand their needs and challenges. Although those discussions may not prompt an immediate thought for future product development, they have indeed been the inspiration for every success we have had.

MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Jeff Bezos

MTS: Thank you Bob! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

About Bob

With over 25 years of experience in servicing the direct marketing community, Bob is intimately familiar with the increasing challenges faced by today’s marketers. In early 2000, Bob set out to build a better solution to meet these challenges and founded I-Centrix, which was purchased by Haggin Marketing in 2007. In 2010, Bob helped found 4Cite Marketing, a multi-channel marketing service provider. Under his leadership, the company has shown continued growth and is recognized as a truly innovative marketing organization. Bob remains focused on ensuring that the company continues to develop solutions that directly impact its clients’ bottom lines. Prior to founding I-Centrix and 4Cite, Bob spent eight years with Experian.

About 4Cite

4Cite is the first and only full-service, Real-Time Interaction Management services provider that uses proprietary web visitor identification, advanced data and analytics and Send-Time Perfection™ with Shopping Elsewhere Triggers™ email technology to enable e-commerce retailers to influence their customer’s purchasing activity and optimize conversion rates.

4Cite uses its proprietary 4Cite Interaction Hub™ to enable e-commerce retailers to identify customers and improve engagement with real-time, personalized offers that enable retailers to acquire, retain and reactivate customers, fostering brand loyalty and driving increased revenues.

MarTech Series Article: http://martechseries.com/mts-insights/interviews/interview-bob-gaito-ceo-4cite-marketing/#1501785390320-2d44fa50-740c5a4b-c27aca64-108e97c4-35b4

Internet Retailer: Amazon -The Slayer of the Way We Used to Shop

How merging in store and online shopping data, as Amazon will be able to do after buying Whole Foods, will drive sales and change the way we shop forever.

Consumers could summon Amazon’s driverless fresh produce food truck to their door via the click of a mouse, enabling them to inspect the fruits and vegetables for freshness before making their purchases.

Bob Gaito, CEO, 4Cite

Bob Gaito, CEO, 4Cite

Amazon is known for its commitment to providing an exceptional customer experience. People who work at the company like to refer to it as “Customer Obsession” and take great pride in the fact that the company consistently outperforms other retailers in ACSI customer satisfaction ratings. So customers love them…what about the rest of the industry?

In ancient Greek mythology, the Amazon were described as a tribe of man-slaying women warriors. They were strong, intimidating and a force to be reckoned with. Similarly, today’s Amazon is sometimes described as a slayer—of brick-and-mortar stores—blamed for the demise of multiple retailers. So, it’s interesting that the world’s largest online retailer has offered to pay $13.7 billion for Whole Foods and its brick-and-mortar footprint of more than 460 stores.

The deal came the same day Wal-Mart announced plans to beef up its online presence by acquiring online apparel company Bonobos for $310 million. There may be a lesson here for retailers about finding the right balance between online and offline, which likely has to do with both providing omnichannel personalized shopping experiences and optimizing distribution channels.

Speculation abounds about what Amazon is going to do with its shiny new toy. It’s easy to imagine the company integrating Whole Foods’ infrastructure into existing Amazon services, including Prime membership and AmazonFresh grocery delivery, to further revolutionize how and where consumers buy their groceries. In the process, the grocery checkout line could become a relic of the past, as could grocery stores, as we know them.

It’s also easy to imagine Amazon using its new footprint to expand shipping and distribution capabilities, making it easier for the company to claim a chunk of revenue from FedEx, UPS and other shippers via speedy drone deliveries. Even more future-is-now than a sky full of delivery drones is imagining an Internet of Things (IoT) home where you tell your Refrige-Alexa what you need and it shows up within hours.

But perhaps most important is how Amazon will use the influx of shopping data to further personalize the shopping experience. Amazon has always been a leader in gathering information about how consumers shop, but to date has had no way to determine how they shop in stores.

This is changing. Picture tracking in-store customer movements—she’s looking at organic coffee right now, he’s considering which type of imported cheese to buy—via Amazon’s phone app and in-store beacons that relay this data in real-time. Just like Amazon.com tracks customer browsing and makes recommendations based on current and historical browsing and purchasing data, in-store shoppers could receive friendly push notifications—or even a visit from a friendly helper robot rolling up and down store aisles—telling them which brand of organic coffee or imported cheese other shoppers like them have purchased in the past.

Its integrated online and offline shopping experiences, together with new shipping/distribution options, could meld together in surprising ways. For instance, with the advent of driverless cars, consumers could summon Amazon’s driverless fresh produce food truck to their door via the click of a mouse, enabling them to inspect the fruits and vegetables for freshness before making their purchases.

Whatever the future holds, it’s clear that retailers will need to nail down personalization, including dynamic content, offers and recommendations. To do this, they need to identify their customers as they shop and collect the wealth of data that drives personalized marketing and communications. The ability to automate these processes, whether internally or through service providers, will only become more essential as we wade deeper into the era of Amazon, the slayer of the way we used to shop.

Bob Gaito is CEO of Albany, New York-based 4Cite, the first and only full-service, Real-Time Interaction Management services provider with a centralized interaction hub that uses innovative web visitor identification technology and advanced data and analytics to identify previously unidentifiable customers and influence purchasing activity. For more information, visit www.4cite.com.

4Cite provides technology for personalizing email and website interactions with consumers.
Internet Retailer article: https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2017/07/19/amazon-slayer-way-used-shop/

Chain Store Age: CEO Bob Gaito Amazon’s Biggest Bite Yet In-Store Shopper Data

Today’s Amazon is sometimes blamed for the demise of multiple retailers. So, it’s interesting that the company has offered to pay $13.7 billion for Whole Foods Market and its brick-and-mortar footprint of more than 460 stores.

The deal came the same day Wal-Mart announced plans to beef up its online presence by acquiring online apparel company Bonobos for $310 million. There may be a lesson here for retailers about finding the right balance between online and offline, which likely has to do with both providing omnichannel personalized shopping experiences and optimizing distribution channels.

Speculation abounds about what Amazon is going to do with its shiny new toy. It’s easy to imagine the company integrating Whole Foods’ infrastructure into existing Amazon services, including Prime membership and AmazonFresh grocery delivery, to further revolutionize how and where consumers buy their groceries. In the process, the grocery checkout line could become a relic of the past, as could grocery stores, as we know them.

It’s also easy to imagine Amazon using its new footprint to expand shipping and distribution capabilities, making it easier for the company to claim a chunk of revenue from FedEx, UPS and other shippers via speedy drone deliveries. Even more future-is-now than a sky full of delivery drones is imagining an Internet of Things (IoT) home where you tell your Refrige-Alexa what you need and it shows up within hours. But perhaps most important is how Amazon will use the influx of shopping data to further personalize the shopping experience. Amazon has always been a leader in gathering information about how consumers shop, but to date has had no way to determine how they shop in stores.

This is changing. Picture tracking in-store customer movements – she’s looking at organic coffee right now, he’s considering which type of imported cheese to buy – via Amazon’s phone app and in-store beacons that relay this data in real-time. Just like amazon.com tracks customer browsing and makes recommendations based on current and historical browsing and purchasing data, in-store shoppers could receive friendly push notifications – or even a visit from a friendly helper robot rolling up and down store aisles – telling them which brand of organic coffee or imported cheese other shoppers like them have purchased in the past.

Is either shopper leaving the store without making a purchase? If so, Amazon may choose to send an email later in the day offering a discount for purchasing the product online. Or perhaps Amazon will use the shoppers’ data — along with complex algorithms — to send a product recommendation for organic, gluten-free biscuits designed to enhance the flavors of the coffee or the cheese.

Strategies such as these for integrating online and offline shopping have been touted for years, but Amazon will bring it to a “whole” new level.

Its integrated online and offline shopping experiences, together with new shipping/distribution options, could meld together in surprising ways. For instance, with the advent of driverless cars, consumers could summon Amazon’s driverless fresh produce food truck to their door via the click of a mouse, enabling them to inspect the fruits and vegetables for freshness before making their purchases.

Whatever the future holds, it’s clear that retailers will need to nail down personalization, including dynamic content, offers and recommendations. To do this, they need to identify their customers as they shop and collect the wealth of data that drives personalized marketing and communications.

The ability to automate these processes, whether internally or through service providers, will only become more essential as we wade deeper into the era of Amazon, the slayer of the way we used to shop.


Bob Gaito is CEO of 4Cite Marketing, a multi channel marketing service provider, which he helped found in 2010. Prior to that, he founded I-Centrix, which was purchased by Haggin Marketing in 2007. Prior to I-Centrix and 4Cite, Bob spent eight years with Experian.