Four Common 1:1 Marketing Obstacles — and How Kendra Scott Conquered Them

October 17, 2018 Kira Byrne

Jewelry brand Kendra Scott overcame its growing pains to achieve personalized 1:1 marketing on a massive scale.

To say that jewelry retailer Kendra Scott has come a long way since its founding in 2002 would be a massive understatement. From a one-woman operation run out of a spare bedroom and an initial $500 investment in craft supplies, the Kendra Scott brand now encompasses 95 retail stores nationwide and is valued at over $1 billion. It even opened its first New York City store in Soho just over a month ago. Now, Kendra Scott’s bright statement pieces are ubiquitous among women of all ages across the country, a far cry from the brand’s humble beginnings.

Kendra Scott’s precipitous rise may be unusual, but almost every retailer can relate to the challenges the brand faced along the way. With rapid expansion comes growing pains, which is exactly what Kendra Scott experienced when it grew from an Austin, Texas-based boutique brand to an international sensation.

Kendra Scott knew that achieving personalized, 1:1 marketing on a massive scale was the only way to ensure steady, sustainable growth, but with its rapid growth came new and unforeseen obstacles. The retailer understood that it needed to strategically leverage customer data if it was going to maintain a 1:1 connection with thousands of customers — but building a massive customer data program is easier said than done.

Here are the challenges Kendra Scott faced along the way, and how the brand overcame them to achieve 1:1 personalization at scale.

1) Difficulty Scaling Findings

From the start, the Kendra Scott team has been data-savvy. The company knew that there was valuable information hidden within its customer data: the length of time between purchases, trends between first and second purchases, and cross-product purchase trends, for starters. But understanding your data’s trends on a macro level and getting into granular, customer-by-customer insights are totally different stories. Kendra Scott needed to analyze the behavior of individual customers if it was going to achieve 1:1 marketing at scale.

2) Difficulty Defining the Customer Lifecycle

Building customer lifecycle models is a difficult task to begin with, but understanding the customer lifecycle for each and every customer? Now that’s a real challenge. Kendra Scott understood that the typical customer lifecycle didn’t actually apply to every individual. For example, lapse time varies wildly by customer — while Donna might make a purchase once a month, Laura may only buy a new necklace every two years. If you offer them both a promotion three months after their last purchase, Donna is already long gone, and you’ve given Laura a discount for no reason. So the challenge for Kendra Scott lay in reconciling these timelines and ensuring that their marketing strategies and promotional offers were tailored to each customer’s unique purchasing habits.

3) Technology Limitations

This problem likely sounds familiar to most retail marketers. You may have all the customer data you could ask for, but you feel like you spend all your time trying to extract useful information from that mountain of purchase histories and product sales numbers. Then, once you’ve found an insight in the data haystack, you log even more time building the business case that it’s worthwhile to invest in new technologies to help you leverage customer insights at scale across your organization.

4) Difficulty Utilizing Findings Across Multiple Channels

When juggling paid, display, social, website, and email marketing, retailers frequently fall into the trap of thinking in terms of channels rather than customers. That’s what we call a channel-centric mindset, and it can’t come to the phone right now — it’s dead. Savvy retail marketers are increasingly turning to a customer-centric mindset, which requires communicating holistically across all channels to create a consistent experience for each customer.

At the end of the day, 1:1 marketing boils down to finding out who your customers are and sending them campaigns centered around the products they like.

How Kendra Scott Navigated These Obstacles

If you are all too familiar with these obstacles, never fear: Kendra Scott overcame them, and you can too. Here’s how.

  • Find the right technology to support 1:1 marketing. Remember when we talked about convincing everyone in your organization that you should invest in new technology? Before you do that, find a system with purpose-built models to address retail pain points (such as churn, product affinities, lifecycle stages, repeat rate, and discount sensitivities) that can also integrate into multiple marketing platforms and be used to perform analysis at scale. Reach out to customer intelligence system providers to explore the potential ROI of their solutions. You want to invest in a system that’s built to last.
  • Get your customer segmentation strategy down pat. Customer segmentation is one of the most important ingredients of successful 1:1 marketing. Find out who your customers are, their common attributes, and their desires, and tailor your messaging accordingly. Maybe your emails don’t address your customer by name, but they do offer them something that’s relevant at that point in their lives. Guess which is more valuable?
  • Use customer segments across platforms. No matter where your customers shop, they should receive consistent communications from you. That’s why it’s important that you unify across channels to create a single customer profile, and use that profile to serve the customer tailored messaging anywhere they come across your brand. Whether via email, paid search, lookalike acquisitions, display advertising, or an interaction with a store associate, every touchpoint should be consistent with the overall customer experience you are aiming to cultivate.
  • Tackle organizational challenges. Time and time again, retailers fall into the silo trap. Each team works on their own projects with their own information, and valuable insights never make it from one team to another. Create a culture of sharing insights across different teams, breaking down boundaries and facilitating communication across the company. If everyone has access to the same information, everyone is working toward the same goals.
  • Keep it simple. At the end of the day, 1:1 marketing boils down to finding out who your customers are and sending them campaigns centered around the products they like. Once you’ve unified your data, pinpointing the preferences of specific customer segments becomes much easier. For example, Kendra Scott has a number of customer personas, including the fashionista, the mom, the older woman, and the man buying jewelry as a gift, and it targets communications based on what its customer data has indicated that each persona likes and wants to see more of.

Last but not least, test and learn. Say it with us: one-to-one isn’t one-and-done. Achieving 1:1 marketing isn’t just a goal; it’s a continuous process. Use A/B testing with multiple creatives and messaging, see what’s working and what’s not, and constantly improve based on those insights. Test, learn, adjust, and grow — that’s the secret to data-savvy, customer-centric retail marketing that improves with age.


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