By Ramin Eivaz
If you think back to the best gift you ever received during the holidays, I’ll bet for most of you it’s not just the most expensive present or the one that came in the biggest box. No, the best gifts usually come from people that really know you and put a lot of thought into personalizing that gift just for you.
At HSN, we feel the same way, and it serves as a motivating force that guides how we engage with our customers during this important time of year. We believe we know our customers better than any other retailer in the market, and that connection and intimacy we share with them really shines during the holidays. It’s much more than just providing our customers the best products at the best value – it’s about offering the products that are just right for each and every customer.
But with millions of loyal customers, we can’t just mass market our holiday offerings to them by making an email list and checking it twice. Those one-size-fits-all techniques are long gone and are about as welcome by our customers as a holiday fruitcake. Today retailers need to be able to deliver the right offer at just the right time, and for HSN, we need to do this on a massive scale across all platforms – from television to mobile devices.
That’s where the magic of big data and analytics comes into play. Analytics allows us to truly understand our customers’ wants and needs so we can give them the best possible experience at every turn. We’ve been able to cultivate an extremely deep and rich intelligence about our customers which not only helps us to sell them cool products but ultimately allows us to tell them stories about those products that will connect with them on a personal level.
And as our customers’ behaviors change, we can detect these subtle shifts and adjust our campaigns on the fly so we are meeting their ever changing expectations. One way we do this is through the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, which provides us with real-time data across more than 370 key performance indicators – providing us the ability to tailor and tweak our marketing campaigns minute-by-minute.
The insights we derive from this big data are particularly helpful in understanding how our customers engage across different platforms. Of course most retailers today take a multichannel approach, but HSN is a bit different than most when you consider we were the first television shopping network. (And don’t forget, we got our start on radio more than 37 years ago, but that’s another story.)
It’s not uncommon for our customers to be watching us on TV while simultaneously ordering from their laptops or mobile phones. Our customers don’t shop in silos, so we need to be attentive to their needs and tune our approach to how they like to engage or shop with us.
For example, analyzing our big data allows us to better understand our customer journey across all the platforms and the continued growth of mobile dominance in their daily life. As a result, this year we’ve adjusted our game plan by offering special digital and mobile-only deals through our HSN mobile app during Cyber week, Dec. 1-5. We’ve also found a big boost in referrals coming from social media, so we’ve integrated Pinterest into key shows, such as leading fashion show The List to drive even more customer engagement.
But while the holidays are of course a critical time for all retailers, it’s also a fleeting moment. Many retailers will burn out their customers with excessive offers in the pursuit of wringing as much holiday profit as possible, but we find that approach to be shortsighted. To that end, we use data analytics to not only understand how to best serve today’s transaction but also discover where the customer may want to go on their lifelong HSN journey in the future. We engage with just the right amount of cadence in a way that offers real value to each customer so they feel comfortable coming back to us as we measure and focus not only on delivering a differentiated experience every time but on customer life time value.
Without insights culled from Big Data and analytics, it’s nearly impossible for us to engage with our customer base on the deeply personal level that we do. And during a hectic season like the holidays, our ability to bring unique value to our customers and make their lives a little easier is one of the best gifts we can give them this season.