Ben Lockett, Ascent CRM sales VP, discusses the power of customer data for outdoor brands and retailers

An example of smart digital marketing? "We recently tested gender-based email and found that click-to-open rates saw an 18 percent lift for females se
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Ben Lockett is vice president of sales at Ascent CRM, formerly a division of Leisure Trends. With more than 65 clients in the outdoor industry, from brands to retailers to resorts, the company's specialty is turning data into marketing strategy.

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Lockett talks to SNEWS about integrating technology with the sales floor experience at specialty retail, gender-based marketing campaigns and more.

What's the role of technology — specifically smartphones and tablets — on the sales floor? Can you give an example or two of the most current ways a salesperson can use their device to help a customer (and their store)?
The role of technology in the retail sales process continues to grow and evolve as it improves and customers become more comfortable with providing an email address. Having said that, I sometimes find myself struggling to understand why more retailers don’t ask for email during a customer engagement. To start with, one overlooked way to use technology is at Point of Sale now that more and more POS platforms allow for retailers to email a receipt. Following Apple’s very successful model, enabling sales associates to check people out on the floor with a device, can only improve the customer experience further. Next is replacing the traditional paper tear sheet with an electronic version that is emailed to the customer. This tear sheet should not only contain information about the product the customer is interested in, but can begin a triggered email chain that nudges a customer back into the store to make a purchase. Once the email address is in the system it can be used to build a relationship with that consumer.

What's the biggest fear you see among outdoor companies when it comes to creating a digital strategy?
Most retailers I talk to have a fundamental belief that technology is a force for good. The challenge is in the execution from both a technology and marketing team perspective, not to mention cost. But if they find the right partner all of these concerns can be mitigated. On the cost front, the return on technology solutions can deliver more than pay for the investment. Hard returns in the form of increased revenue, softer returns in the form of freeing staff up to do other things.

What's the difference in how retailers and manufacturers use email marketing? Where do they overlap?
As the B2C relationship manufacturers have with their customers continues to evolve, that’s a harder question to answer than it would have been a few years ago. Given this changing dynamic, I actually don’t see much difference between how retailers and manufacturers use email. What I do know is that there’s a huge difference in the performance between the “everyone gets an email” strategy and email based on well thought through, segmented and relevant email, and both entities can benefit from that.

Customers get a lot of marketing material via email. What makes a particular brand or shop's message stand out?
Right message, right time, to the right person. Having a customer database and a decent segmentation tool can make this time tested marketing cliché a reality and we consistently see email that is relevant, directed to the right person, based on gender, interests, life stage and purchase history outperform bland and generic email. We measure this by looking at metrics such as open rates, unsubscribe rates and click through rates. As an example, we recently tested gender-based email and found that click-to-open rates saw an 18 percent lift for females seeing female creative.

Are there ways for retailers to make better use of data they already have?
Certainly. The amount of data retailers have about their customers continues to soar and proliferate. Using Customer Data Integration (CDI) technology to match customers into one 360-degree view means that different segmentation factors that come from different data sources can be used to create a list of target customers. For example create a list of all married men, living within 50 miles of my store fronts, who are college educated, bought more than $50 from me online and in my stores in the last six months and like to mountain bike.

What are some of your favorite ways to get outdoors?
Ha, that’s an easy one — anything on a bike and watching my son race in the Colorado High School Cycling League.

--Megan Mulligan

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