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Godiva Gets Personal

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More and more consumers are seeking the information and convenience they derive from e-commerce when shopping in the bricks-and-mortar world.

“Unfortunately, we are not there as an industry” yet, says Mahender Nathan, vice president, direct, of Godiva Chocolatier, based in New York City. “The overall challenge for retailers is how to respond. This forces all of us to [decide] how to deliver an omni-channel customer experience.”

The overall goal of personalization is to deliver a unique experience based on individual shoppers or customer segments. At the turn of the 20th century, small neighborhood stores created and maintained personal relationships with their shoppers; those businesses thrived on repeat customers, and the only way to foster the relationship was through understanding customer needs and preferences.

A century later, the ever-growing breadth of retail offerings and the proliferation of large chains add degrees of difficulty to the pursuit of genuine one-on-one relationships with shoppers. Technology can help, but “The question remains: how do we get there?” Nathan says. “The key is to look at human interactions happening in retail stores and online and use solutions to make powerful conversations, not generic, cold messages.”

Realizing the need to identify unique groups of shoppers and share targeted messages, Godiva is leveraging technology to bridge the digital gap. Where the company was falling short, however, was in personalization.

“We previously had limited personal interactions with shoppers, making it a daunting task to quickly execute a personalization program or A/B test and achieve results,” Nathan says. “We still learned from the test, but we were unable to apply the learnings to a broader group of customers, so we failed to achieve results. That was when we knew we needed a better way to approach personalization.”

For example, targeted e-mail messaging inviting shoppers to visit the site is a critical piece of Godiva’s digital marketing strategy, but the company had no way to test campaigns against a control. There was also limited functionality for making website changes without involving IT or creative departments.

“We needed a solution that could make it easier to create an experience and test our hypotheses,” Nathan says. “For personalization to work, you need to know what is the most relevant thing to say to the customer and what will resonate. This has to be hypothesis-driven.”

Turning tests into features
Godiva needed to identify the customer, create a hypothesis and generate efficient messages. The ideal solution had to be strong in analysis but still user-friendly; flexible and able to handle customer privacy issues. Monetate offered the best solution to fit the organization’s needs.

Working as the foundation of Godiva’s strategy, Monetate analyzes the sub-segments of customers to determine the best messages to send. “We have clear ideas about our targeted messages,” Nathan says, “but if we send the wrong ones to an entire segment, it could be a disaster.”

By running controlled tests with a small sample of customers, “it is no longer a big deal if we get the concept wrong,” he says. “As we use this to build our foundation, we can better understand the nuances of our customer relationships.”

Godiva uses Monetate’s Agility Suite, a framework delivered through an intuitive, user-friendly web-based dashboard interface. The solution allows Godiva’s marketing team to understand test results and makes it easy for them to turn winning tests into site-wide features.

Agility Suite includes multivariate testing, product recommendations, visual site search and powerful out-of-the-box targeting features, as well as inclusion of proprietary targeting data, all factors that enable the company to create effective testing campaigns that blend in as part of the website experience.

“It allows us to create a potential store that should define the customer experience,” Nathan says. “Then we can go into specific messages and see which customers returned, who purchased this product earlier this year, even on what specific days. We get answers within minutes.”

Three-month ROI
Personalization continues to evolve into a mission-critical strategy. Forty percent of retailers reported that personalization would be one of their top strategic areas of improvement within the next two years, according to “The Connected Store 2011: Store Operations Automation Best Practices” report from Aberdeen Group. In 2012, Godiva is proving a personalization strategy not only drives consumer responses and redemption, but also helps the company control costs and achieve maximum returns.

The company experienced 1,000 percent increases from better targeted e-mail promotions. Another promotion that tested targeted thresholds regarding minimum costs for free shipping produced a 9 percent average order value increase. And another test — using multiple merchandise images on product pages — produced an 18 percent conversion rate and 15 percent average order value increase.

These types of programs helped the company receive a return on investment within 90 days of implementing Agility Suite, Nathan says.

Godiva continues to use the solution to optimize and personalize a greater portion of the customer experience. Agility Suite will also help Godiva as it prepares to launch its new website later this year; the solution will allow the company to utilize its findings to add “more personalization on the new site and further build our shopper relationships,” Nathan says. “There is no end in sight for all of the potential ways we can further leverage the solution.”