Over the past few months, we’ve written a lot in this space about what a new reality might look like for consumers and businesses when the country emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Which changing consumer behaviors will take hold, and which will recede? Will businesses make the necessary digital transformation to keep pace with a digital-first customer journey, or will they hope a stopgap effort will suffice, pinning their hopes on customers reverting to familiar engagement models?
Sometimes when you get caught up in the macro trends, it’s easy to forget that there are real people at the other end of customer engagement scenarios, people for whom the economic and health tolls may have prompted unexpected changes. I was reminded of this during a recent conversation with Phil Bienert, the Chief Marketing Officer for 1-800 Contacts, a new 2020 Redpoint customer and the largest contact lens retailer in the U.S.
Seeing a New Way Forward
Contact lenses do not immediately spring to mind as an online product. According to Bienert, before COVID-19 only 20 percent of contact lens wearers regularly shopped for lenses online. So even though many types of retail ecommerce sales skyrocketed in the spring with the onset of shelter-in-place directives and business shutdowns, many contact lens wearers remained confused about their options; as turning to an online purchase did not seem, to them, an obvious alternative.
This challenge, Bienert said, drove the point home that the goal of delivering a personalized customer experience isn’t just to check off a marketing box, but to provide convenience and relevance as a means of helping to improve people’s lives. Because 1-800 Contacts was up to the challenge, they were able to help meet the needs of audiences the company hadn’t previously targeted.
These include first-line responders unable to wear prescription eyeglasses because of PPE restrictions/challenges, and new customers who were unaware that they could procure contacts from anywhere other than their now-closed doctor’s offices. Telemedicine eye exams that were unfamiliar to consumers pre-COVID, were suddenly the norm in how medicine was being practiced.
A recognition that every customer has a unique need helped 1-800 Contacts accelerate its digital transformation efforts, based on fundamental business changes which had started well before the pandemic. As Bienert explained, the company was not preparing for a pandemic, but once it arrived the company’s ability to engage customers with a personalized experience paid off.
Bienert said, “We’re most proud of the fact that we’ve been able to help hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t think they had an option.” An increase in revenue is undoubtedly a nice ancillary benefit for the company, but for many of the employees delighting a customer with a personalized experience unique to their customer journey is ultimately more rewarding.
“Over the last two years, we have been evaluating what we could do to run more like a lean, ecommerce direct-to-consumer company by 2020. A lot of that was thinking about customer engagement marketing in a much more digitally-centric way,” he said. “A lot of thought also went into managing more personal communications. Most of our marketing was not sophisticated, rather a standard ‘order more contacts’ message. While often effective, we realized how we connect with the consumer could dramatically improve the experience on all levels. We’ve re-engineered the business to make those communications far more personal to each customer; to know what they’re wearing, their true pattern of wear, and to know the right thing to say at the right time.”
A Single View Comes into Focus
Using the Redpoint rgOne platform, 1-800 Contacts can enable a one-to-one personal connection at scale. The company is also in the process of developing a real-time, single customer view; the Redpoint Golden Record provides marketers with an instantly accessible up-to-date record of every transaction and behavior. With advanced identity resolution and automated machine learning, marketers have a single control over data, decisions and interactions with which to intelligently orchestrate a next-best action for a customer that is always in the context of a unique customer journey.
Bienert said that one of the key benefits that he is excited about in partnering with Redpoint is the simplification of the process. Because the personalization platform does all the heavy lifting of integrating the data and optimizing insights behind the scenes, it’s actually less work for the everyday marketer to provide a far more sophisticated level of personalization with a wider array of customers – all because the next-best action recommendation is always at their fingertips, in real time.
The technology, he said, allows for scale but also maintains and improves upon the human connection that 1-800 Contacts is known for.
“Redpoint will serve as the engine to orchestrate all those personalized experiences for our customers no matter where they touch us. When they have that human-to-human, personalized connection with our associate, our employee seems almost like a superhero,” Bienert said. “The technology informs the associate everything else the customer has done, so they can proactively offer help for that customer’s situation at the exact moment of need. To the consumer, it’s almost like they’re mind-readers; that’s their superpower. And that capability will be largely powered by Redpoint.”
“We’re excited to see how the market continues to evolve,” Bienert continues. “I think there have been some fundamental changes in consumer behavior that will have lasting impacts. Together with Redpoint, we are working to meet the needs of those consumers now and into the future.”
To learn more about how Redpoint Global can put your personalization goals within reach regardless of which industry you’re in, you can schedule a demo. Or click here to learn more about how rgOne helps ambitious marketers lead markets.