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How to Create Customer Profiles to Elevate Your Customer Experience

Ashley Sefferman  //  August 21, 2018  //  18 min read

Data is only as good as the decisions it enables you to make. That’s why the ecosystem of solutions providers team up to bring more context to the data they provide, allowing you to enhance your customer experience through more robust data.

We were thrilled to host an expert panel on creating more robust customer profiles at this year’s Customer Love Summit. In this talk, Landon Ainge, Senior Product Manager at Overstock.com; Robi Ganguly, CEO and Co-founder of Apptentive; and Michael Katz, CEO and Co-founder of mParticle, share how leveraging data partnerships can help you create rich customer profiles, which allows you to build a hyper-personalized customer experience that drives loyalty.

If you prefer to read rather than watch, we’ve included the transcription below the video.

Transcription

Robi: All right. So, we’ve got a few scripted questions to go through and then we are definitely going to be listening for questions from you as we talk about this so that we can tailor it more to the audience here. So, just to start off for everybody’s understanding, I’d love Landon if you could kick us off a little bit about Overstock, your role there and then the mobile team and the goals that you’re driving towards.

Landon: Yeah. So, Overstock, if you don’t know us, we sell furniture and home décor. And over the change of time, you know, they started originally about 15 years ago and started with, you know, liquidation goods and over that course of that time a transition completely to just new products. And so, we’re still finding actually repercussions of, you know, that message and having to rebrand and teach people that we sell new goods only and that’s what we sell. And our mobile team is great, we actually launched with the App Store when it originally went live. And so, it’s a very old but also very great in the fact that I’ve been there a little under two years. And when I came we kind of had to go through a rebuild essentially to look at who we are. So, our app, our goal is to get people to purchase, now as people…customers really initially weren’t used to or ready to purchase online like we know, and so, our job is to make him feel more comfortable with that purchase and help those users that want to buy in 30 seconds or those that want to plan out their life and prepare to make that life changing purchase of furniture. It’s, you know, when have a child, when you move into a new home, all these things usually spark changes in your life and usually we help with that.

Michael: My wife just tells me what to buy.

Man: From Overstock of course.

Michael: Obviously. For sure.

Landon: She’s more of our target customer.

Michael: Exactly. I make no decisions.

Landon: Yeah. I don’t trust you with our design.

Robi: So, Michael could you tell us a little about yourself and mParticle and then share some more of the details around how you’ve been working with Overstock. Because as background, Apptentive’s been working with Overstock for a number of years, mParticle has been working with Overstock independently and then what we’ve done over the past couple months has come together. So, give us some of that context and background.

Michael: Yeah. For sure. So, hey everybody? Michael Katz, I’m the CEO and one of the co-founders at mParticle. We’re a customer data platform. So, we help brands unify their data from different touch points, digital touch points as well as any data that they may have sitting in back-end systems, create unified views of that customer and then make it easy to integrate that data into any system primarily for the purpose of measurement and marketing to ultimately drive growth. So, we started working with Overstock just over a year ago, we’ve been working together for about 18 months. We started talking to them and they had some pretty big aspirations on how to build out like a best in class growth stack. They were trying to implement a data pipeline that would ultimately inform a lot of their ML which would then translate on the front end to product recommendations to drive alternately better experience and move people kind of throughout the funnel. So, we kicked off our partnership with Overstock like the beginning of last year, and the first thing that we did was just help them get their data strategy in order, figuring out what is the data that they need to ultimately drive the type of experience that would kind of accomplish whatever they were trying to accomplish which is better overall customer experience and monetization at the end of the day.

And, you know, I think when people start thinking about like data planning and data strategy, I think like there’s been a bunch of I think bad advice given throughout the past 10 or 15 years which is like just collect everything because you never know what you’re going to need. So, we try to like distill it down a little bit more which is like you don’t need to collect everything, you need to collect everything that matters, right? And what matters maps to some sort of or some sort of KPI or some sort of business activity. So, it’s becoming like a little bit more targeted in what you’re tagging and kind of tagging with the intent to do something with the data. And I think we were talking what earlier this year saying, you know, we have all these overlapping customers but we’re kind of still in silos, and I think like from a customer experience standpoint, felt like that was not necessarily in line with like either kind of our core value props or like our brand mission.

So, it was at MWC, right? Where we came together and said, “We have to do this.” And so, I think that the work that we’ve seen, Robi and his team at Apptentive do for Overstock and now a number of other customers that we have together is phenomenal, like the signal that you guys are able to create by creating that engaging customer experience and getting people to kind of volunteer that information and kind of raise their hand and say, “You know what? I love this experience or I like this experience or I’m not quite satisfied.” Like that’s a really important signal for all brands. I know Overstock is doing it a ton with that information and number other customers are too.

Robi: Yeah. Let’s talk about that a little bit. We’ve been partnering together for multiple years and, you know, we’ve evolved. So, can you share a little bit about how we started out and some of the things that we’ve done over time.

Landon: So, how we started out is we saw you guys for app ratings and that was good for a long, long time and then essentially with some changes and, you know, me coming in from the outside looking at it saying, “We have way more opportunity to utilize their services.” For us, it was mostly…Apptentive first order of operations relations was the app ratings and, you know, we started as having a lot of users and having a rating of about 4.3 trying over the last six months transitioning that to about a 4.8 in IOS app store mostly from using your, the events passing through an mParticle to then target users at the right time to say, “When is the right time to prompt the user and when will we most likely get the feedback that we need and not interrupt that shopping experience?” Because you’ve got to balance. You know, we talked about EPS earlier and MPS.

So, how do we know when’s the right time to ask them. We want to make money, but when is the right time to ask them those questions? So, we’ve driven that App Store rating significantly and then now we’ve started using really important tools like notes and surveys to couple them to ask very simplified questions that take about 15 seconds and we call it, like, our spitfire, you know survey to say, “Tell us how we should improve, and we give them some options of some things and then three-questions survey, and from those results, a 15-second survey, we completely relaunched the design of our app from that customer result.” It sounds a little scary, but we felt very confident about it because we’ve known about what the results or what our customers really cared about. If you simplify it into a hierarchy of priorities, it’s a lot easier to make your decisions when you talk about resources as a product manager.

Robi: And I think one of the cool things is when we went down this path and started to get more into helping you with the redesign, you said, “Hey, what I want to be able to say to my customer is that, you’ve spoken, we’ve heard you, and we’re making changes.”

Landon: Yeah. That’s the most important thing to me is saying, “This is customer focused, so I don’t really care what my app looks like, and honestly, I want my customers to care about what my app looks like and being willing and open to take feedback from them.” And then it also just every research study shows that if people are involved in the decision-making process, they’re more welcoming to that change. If I’m as a person who own my product decide to change it because I want tom and then I force it upon you, it’s a much different conversation to say, “We’ve really listen to what you said. Thank you.” And how do we provide this? We’re changing some things. If we’ve messed something up or if we’ve done a better, tell us. It’s okay to fail and it’s okay to learn, but as your customers tell you those things, it’s a much better relationship. So, yeah. I would say on the front end the mParticle integration enabled us to drive a more apt way to ask our customers at the right time and that was the initial solution and then you guys kind of took it when you’re on-site because we talked a lot about the goal of the apps is to be a loyalty play, to drive people into the next stage of feeling comfortable with us as their choice provider of furniture or décor. And so, then you guys had your conversation which was very helpful.

Robi: So, we in February met and talked. For a number of years we’ve known each other, we haven’t an mParticle kit that’s helped pass events through. But we talked about some of the data, the love data in particular and how it was kind of unique to us and might be able to be really helpful for our customers and when I put that in front of Michael and team, they’re like, “Yeah. That actually would be really valuable because that would be like this signal. They could flow through all the other systems we connect to and it doesn’t exist either provider system, this is very unique.” And then we went and visited you. So, Patrick Cotter and I from our CSM team, that’s Pat back there. We went out and visited, and we spent three hours. So, one of the awesome things about customers who are deeply partnered with us is they make time for us. We make time for, you make time for us. So, we had three hours where we got to meet several of the piece of the team and learned about Club O and initiatives around Club O from a loyalty perspective. And that’s where, I think, we really started to understand, “Hey, there might be some really specific use cases around driving Club O when understanding who loves the Overstock brand. So, educate people on Club O and, like, the play there and in particular what I’m curious about is if you can share the way in which the product team is moving into more of a strategic role over all of the business.

Landon: Yeah. You know, when you look at this panel, you realize there is one person not like the others, maybe in title or maybe in responsibility. But that’s partially because you know my role as a product manager is shifted dramatically where historically you look at product managers and their job is to change, you know, slight changes in the product, but I’m, you know, very much involved in marketing as well as our Club O initiative which is our loyalty program as I call it better than prime. Basically, just when you look at it, we help our customers say, “If you like us, we want to give you that…if you want to be loyal to us, we want to be loyal to you. We want to give you better pricing, we want to give you better rewards, we want to get you all of these things.” And so, kind of starting over like my role is shifted dramatically as we’ve grown and viewed apps as like a first step to help people or increase their propensity of becoming a loyalist. And so, as that change has happened, my role as a product manager, I’m very much involved in marketing partially because I like it and partially because it drives the users to you.

So, you know, I really want to talk…I don’t want to like talk so much about what I’m trying to sell in reality because I am your customer and this is customer love summit. So, I really want to talk a little bit about like for me. I’ll explain what the solution was, I’m going to go off script here. Essentially, what we did is we built an integration or they built an integration to connect the fan and opportunity, the love dialog data and pass that into mParticle which then gets passed into all of our downstream emails, push notifications and other services. And so, ran a kind of a test around those and we’re really excited with the opportunity that lies there. The test right now are greatly…it’s all extrapolation for what it could be, but the ability to test those to say, “We should interact with our customers that are already loyalists differently than if they are not.” If they love Overstock, or if they’ve changed from loving it to not loving it, that should probably trigger some sort of action to us, and how do we then react to that.

So, phase one, we’ve launched some test around push notifications and found actually when we suppress people that love Overstock with broadcast push notifications, we actually had a better response rate which is counterintuitive to everything that I would say as what we find is that push notifications are top of funnel kind of awareness place and we’re the goal of push is to…It’s kind of saying, “Hey, look at us.” And when our loyalists actually had a negative effect on loyalists when we ping them too frequently. So, suppressing those audiences for weekly sales or things like that actually had a positive impact to money, making money which is our goal at the end of the day. That’s where we’re at currently, but I do want to ask you guys because I have many service providers, I’m customer to many people, how did you guys get over solve the problem of working together? Like, a lot of times compete maybe not you two but a lot of SaaS providers compete with each other.

Michael: I mean, more often than not, I mean, it comes from the top down, right? And it’s a mentality and it’s kind of a values-based approach to how we think about our role in the ecosystem. So, we have no aspirations of doing any of the things that our partners do. You’re never going to see us pivot into, like the engagement space or the analytics space, like, there is a clear need for what we do and market. And our partner’s success is our success, our customer’s success is our success. And that really has to kind of start at the top and then kind of flow downward. You know, it’s interesting you brought up push notifications and suppression and a lot of, like, the important tactics. You know, I think philosophically, you know, when marketing is done right, you can’t tell if it’s like marketing or if it’s a customer experience, it all feels right.

And for us, we want to be that that conduit or that fabric kind of behind the scenes that make sure that that data is not only flowing to empower those experiences, but it’s doing so in real time, right? Because I think without that and without that cooperation between, you know, our companies and then a bunch of the other services that we’re integrated into, your kind of stuck, right? You have awesome vendors that you work with, but if the systems aren’t talking to each other, you’re not going to be able to get that seamless experience because I think customers today expect nothing less than a kind of a fully intelligent, fully optimized approach when they’re working with brands, right? If you start on one screen or one platform, and then you decide to pick up on a different device and continue your journey, the expectation is like, “I shouldn’t have to start over, I should know exactly kind of where I’m kind of picking up, or the branch you know kind of where I dropped off so they know where to where to pick up.” And so, I think again philosophically just being, you know, two CEO’s that are very customer-centric, it’s kind of a, I mean, it was a very easy to spot, I mean, I think it was…

Robi: Yeah. I mean, I think I was really surprised when I heard you like, “You know, most of the people we work with don’t really take these kinds of suggestions or even ask us about some of these opportunities.” And we showed up kind of thinking we have some ideas. Because we’ve been working together for a while, we know the value of being part of the mParticle ecosystem. When our customers use the mParticle, it makes the integration easier, we get the events passing through faster, it lowers the time to integrate for our customers which means that they get to spend more time on the core job that they have which is really delivering a great experience.

So, we’re kind of surprised when you said hey, you know, you would do that. Our other vendors are not doing these sorts of things. Because I think we saw an opportunity to accelerate what we’re doing, and in fact the thing that we, you know, we’ve had in common for a number of years is this idea that fundamentally most brands want to do the right thing, but their tools limit them, right? And most teams and most product managers really do fundamentally get into the business because they love delivering something that surprises and delights consumers, but them the tools don’t enable them, right? And they’re all these limitations. And so, that’s kind of why we are in this in the first place we think people aren’t served. So, anytime a customer says, “We will do work with you to take this to another level, we get very excited.” And this when I vetted with you the idea that we had some data that might be unique and a new customer, you said, “Yeah. Absolutely.” And this I could see how this is an accelerant for growth teams, loyalty teams, marketing. I think we had all of the components of something that was really successful, right? We had commitment and we had shared goals.

Landon: And Michael talked a lot about beginning, you know, adding events, that we need to limit some of the events that we just collect, but at the same time we need to get enough that are actually informative and actionable. And as we talk about the changing industry of AI and machine learning, you know, we build out our own teams that Overstock, a significant portion of our company’s moving in that direction. Having this data on whether these people love Overstock already and being able to pass that through mParticle, then passing through our system to then run an algorithm and evaluate those tools, that empowers us for the future. And so, each one of you guys have done…I’ve seen the value of the product manager, but I think the potential future value of the synergy passing through is greater than what I’ve even gotten from each of you individually. So, that’s my message, kind of, like of that’s the value to me as a customer.

Michael: It’s funny when you just like kind of strip out of everything else and you just aim to do the right thing for the customer, everything else like just tends to fall in place, like, it does…and it sometimes it takes one or two or a few times of seeing it all the way through and then it becomes like really simple and really obvious. Because I also think like, you know, in today’s day and age where everything is mobile at the center, you have to move from this notion where like marketing and advertising and the experience that most people have become accustomed to experiencing with brands is based on kind of interruption and moving at a much more towards engagement, right? And if you can get that survey data or that App Store data or whatever, other types of data points to help inform that, I feel like that that paradigm shift is kind of well underway. So, there’s really no reason not to.

Robi: Do we have questions, Marissa? Because we’re down to the last five minutes so I want to make sure we’ve got time for that. But while you’re coming up here and kind of organizing those, on this point, right? So, we’ve been working together for a while, we’ve had this kit. Now, we’ve just released the upgraded kit that actually passes the love data back through mParticle and other systems, what does somebody need to know about this if they’re an Apptentive customer and they don’t know mParticle? Like what’s necessary if they were like, “Hey, this sounds interesting?”

Michael: Yeah. So, I think if there’s if there’s any Apptentive customers in the room that are not currently mutual mParticle customers…I mean, we tend to think about data first more so than like tools first to help our customers get a coherent kind of approach to data thinking about what are all the things that you want to do, what are your what are your KPIs, how do you think about segmentation, what is the ultimate kind of experience that you’re trying to solve for, what does what does that look like? And if you guys have a bunch of vendors that you guys work with and interoperability is important and maintaining kind of real-time and consistent views of the customers to be able to pass really high-quality signal across lots of different other systems either for like closed-loop analytics or kind of more advanced or sophisticated segmentation, we have a bunch of folks from our team here today. So, whether it’s myself for somebody else on the team, feel free to grab us.

Robi: All right. Marissa, what questions do we have?

Marissa: Yeah. So, we have a lot of questions, We’re not going to be able to get to all of them. So…

Robi: We will be around all day.

Marissa: Yes. Exactly. So, the first question is how do you balance giving customers what they ask for versus giving customers what they don’t even know they want? Think the Steve Jobs philosophy.

Landon: I knew this question was coming. Pretty much I get it every time internally as well mostly from my Unix designers which I have a great relationship with. It’s really around…when you’re balancing it, you have to be able to balance use of qualitative and quantitative data to talk about what’s there, but when you’re talking about new features and things that you don’t know what’s going to be there, you have to kind of introduce your own quantitative data to say, “You know we have to provide forecasts to say how many people will use this, what is the likely test of it?” User testing is a huge piece of that. If we’re ever introducing even an idea, we’re going to try and introduce a new feature and then allow others to test it out before we even get to anything of wire framing and structure and feasibility of that downstream effect. So, it’s a very hard question to answer, and there’s kind of the Apple model and other models where you build what the customer is going to like and they are involved a little bit in the process but you’re kind of telling them what they want. You have to answer the question of does this solve customer problem. If your new feature doesn’t solve customer problem, there’s no point. And even if it’s the coolest thing ever, there are some projects that I really wanted to work on, but it just doesn’t add value. So, that’s my short answer. I don’t know if that’s a question for you guys or not.

Robi: I mean, I think the notion of this in our world, right? B2B SaaS, we’ve struggled the same thing. And I think that this idea that our data was unique and powerful and could be valuable to our customers if we unlocked it through other systems was a hypothesis that we tried to test A, with a partner we thought we could accelerate this and ask them questions and that helped us. And B, then trying to find a customer. And I think we’re loathed to build things very deeply without a customer who says, “Yes. I will take this or I want to do something with it.” And, you know, you’ll hear this a couple more times today about things, areas where we hear places that a customer says I will invest time and energy, and then that’s a sign for us. I don’t know about how you and your roadmap work.

Michael: Yeah. I mean, this question asked kind of like through the lines of like B2B software versus creating a B2C customer experience is like totally different for us as we’ve grown as a company. At first, it was like it was all about responding to the needs of our customers. And then you start to pattern match and then you say, “Well, I’m going to try to get the most out of every product release,” and you’re basically kind of triangulating a bunch of data points and seeing what are the most popular features or functionality that people are asking for and then you get to a certain point where you have to still do some of that, but then you have to kind of jump ahead and anticipate where the market is going, and it can’t just be based on what your customers are asking for. But, you know, I think, to Landon’s point, like it’s as much of an art as it is a science and you’re probably going to fail at some things and that’s okay, as long as you’re failing fast and not over pursuing. I mean, we see this like with enterprise sales, right? Like the best possible outcome is like your prospect a customer and you have a couple of good conversations, you find a great champion and like, they usher you all the way through and then you win the relationship and you kind of build upon that. The second best thing to happen is you cut it off like really fast. The worst thing that you can possibly do is over pursue and chase and chase and chase and then nothing happens at the end of the day, right? And I think the same thing can be said about product decisions and roadmap discussions. You end up thinking something’s really cool just because it maybe leverages the latest and greatest technology or somebody else is doing it, but if it doesn’t make sense for your business and you start to get that feedback loop, then stop, like move on.

Robi: Do we have time for one more question?

Marissa: Yeah. Let’s do one more. So, this question is for Landon, when you redesigned a based on a survey, did you also look at usage analytics, and were there times that they conflicted?

Landon: That’s a great question. So, that was our starting point. Like the survey was to address the need. We allowed a forum for them to express potential solutions actually. It was basically, you know, where do you see the biggest weakness, how would you rate us on our comparison to competitors? And then kind of a specific invitation to talk about how they might solve it. But once we got and found out there was a problem with, you know, potential navigation in redesign, then we went to the analytics to say, “All right. Let’s tear this thing and figure out what people are using and what are the user analytics telling us now and then how do we make sure that we’re not interrupting that service, so that the things that they are using are still top of mind or top of awareness?” And then drive down towards, “Okay. Here were some of the potential solutions. How do we integrate those solutions with the customer usage of the analytics? Happy to talk about that on a more individual basis but, yeah, you have to be able to couple it to, and that’s the hardest part of being a product manager, right? You have to be able to tie and make qualitative and quantitative tie together, but at the same time, time marketing and product together because if you separate them as Michael alluded to, you’ve already lost if it’s not a consistent experience from a marketing channel to a product perspective.

Robi: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. This has been a great conversation. We will be around all day, so if you have further questions, if you are an mParticle and an Apptentive customer of the STK that does what we just talked about, send us love data back through other systems is live now, so talk to your CSM. And if you need help trying to understand the value of that because you’re not yet a customer or one of us, find us outside. Thank you very much.

Michael: Thank you.

About Ashley Sefferman

Ashley Sefferman is Head of Content at Apptentive. A digital communication and content strategy enthusiast, she writes about multichannel engagement strategies, customer communication, and making the digital world a better place for people. Follow Ashley on Twitter at @ashseff.
View all posts by Ashley Sefferman >

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