Epsilon Leveraging CRM Data, Defining Audience Targets And More For Marketing Clients Says EVP Stein

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epsilonEric Stein is EVP of Digital Strategy at Epsilon, a data-driven marketing services firm and a division of Alliance Data Company.

AdExchanger.com: First, can you talk a bit about Epsilon's corporate structure and history?

Epsilon was founded in 1969 and has established itself as a preeminent provider of integrated, data-driven multichannel marketing solutions. Epsilon is an Alliance Data Company (NYSE: ADS) and operates in North America, EMEA and APAC with over 2,300 associates worldwide. Epsilon works with global brands in industries such as financial services, consumer packaged goods, retail, travel and pharmaceuticals markets.

Is Epsilon "email-only" when it comes to its services? What other channels will and do you address?

Epsilon's data-driven, integrated marketing solutions span a number of online and offline channels including direct mail, email, social media, mobile, web, and display advertising.

What would you identify as the difference(s) in the way display and email can address the purchase funnel? And, how can they work together?

Web display can have a significant impact driving brand impression and awareness at the top of the funnel. It can also be used to drive conversions as part of a broader acquisition program. Email, while it is also used to drive awareness, really shines when used as a way to maintain ongoing engagement with clients and prospects, driving cross sale and retention activity in the bottom of the funnel.

Historically, these two channels have worked independently and were difficult to integrate. That is no longer the case and bringing them together drives significant advantages for the marketer.  A marketer’s best data is what they already have on their existing customers – loyalty information, past purchases and preferences etc.  Email is a critical bridge to bringing this data online.  Integrating email with display allows marketers to augment the data they have with responsiveness to display ads and other online behavioral data. For example, we can help a marketer send an email to a segment or all of their existing email subscribers and then re-target the people that demonstrate interest in that email with display ads and integrate that with on-site behavior as well.  We’ll then learn which segments of their subscriber base responds well to display and which don’t.  From there, prospecting activities can be launched and integrated into the overall marketing mix.  (By the way, our analytics group does segmentation work on behalf of dozens of our clients already today).

These new possibilities have fueled new innovations in targeted marketing, including some exciting developments at Epsilon. Email campaigns complemented with a retargeting effort can help marketers reinforce their email messages to consumers or provide them with another relevant offer based on the consumer’s interests. Landing pages for web display ads also provide opportunities to capture email addresses and grow the marketer’s email audience. So in essence, these two channels are working hand-in-hand and driving cross-channel engagement.

What is Epsilon's target market? And, can you provide a use case or two for a typical Epsilon campaign?

Epsilon is a B2B company.  We work with clients across all major verticals, including 9 out of 10 commercial banks, 8 out of 10 top retailers, all top 10 pharma firms. In a typical marketing program focused on customer experience, an Epsilon strategy consultant would work closely with the client to define campaign target audience, potentially leveraging the client’s CRM data hosted by Epsilon, as well as transactional/demographic data overlays from Epsilon Targeting to get a clear picture of the customer, or just start with our 3rd party data for an acquisition campaign. Epsilon could then deploy an email campaign to the client’s customer email file using our email platform. Clients who click through the email or any related banner ad would be directed to a landing page built by Epsilon. If they continued on to the brand’s web site, they would have their site experience customized using Epsilon’s message targeting technology. Finally, the consumer’s response and purchase would be captured, and made available for use in future campaigns. When all this is complete, we are able to provide campaign results and analytics that will then help optimize strategies and drive future campaigns.

To marketers who are focused on driving purely brand awareness, they might perceive Epsilon as strictly D.R.  and, therefore, steer clear of your company's services. Are they right?

Not at all. First of all, I think the lines between strict DR and brand oriented activities are blurring.  Epsilon has deep experience creating and cultivating brands across channels. Epsilon works with brands across a variety of disciplines including strategy and analytics, creative, technology and data services. While many of our capabilities focus on direct connections with consumers to create unique customer experiences, we provide many other agency services that focus on brand awareness and overall marketing strategy. The real value Epsilon delivers is in helping customers capture and understand insights on their consumers and execute on these insights across measurable marketing channels. Those insights and the ability to execute are just as relevant in brand campaigns as they are in direct response marketing.

Given creative's importance in driving a conversion, how does Epsilon make better creative?

Ultimately, excellent creative starts with a deep understanding of your audience and finding something that will resonate. Epsilon’s data and technology enable clients to gain the kind of deep insights that make great creative possible. From there, in conjunction with our agency team or with the client’s existing agency, we focus on ensuring those insights make it from creative concept to each and every individual creative delivered.  The copy, assets, offer and other elements of the campaign can all be driven from the unique insights we can provide and drive better creative.

"Big data" is a buzz phrase that has gained momentum in the past year.  What's your take on "big data" today and where it's going for the marketer?

Epsilon has a long heritage in data with some of the richest resources available in the marketplace. It's not just about having the data resources, but the ability to capture and process more and more data and integrate it into effective marketing programs.  We’ve been using data to better understand the individual customer and to create one-to-one campaigns as a result of the data for a long time. We want to provide relevance as a result of a complete 360 degree picture of the consumer - a full understanding of preferences, demographics, a variety of behaviors, for greater marketing results. The promise of that offering is all the more relevant today as channels continue to fragment and touch points with consumers multiply, all of it creating more data.

What are the biggest challenges with providing cross channel attribution?

Attribution is tricky especially as channels become more integrated and more measurable. In many cases multiple channels are driving a purchase decision or consumer behavior. When you build a true customer experience, you build it across channels and you integrate the experience at every touch point. With each channel playing such a critical role in the customer experience journey, the challenge is to attribute the impact to one or more specific channels or touch points.

An effective cross channel attribution framework requires a few key components:  (1) A framework for translating success measures across channels – e.g. convert phone calls, clicks, impressions to a common value scale. (2) A common view of client value and how it is measured (3) Broad organizational support for the framework. Each stakeholder organization must buy into the system.  (4) Close the loop by using the attribution metrics to drive targeting / budgeting decisions.

Is an off-the-shelf, "silver bullet" solution possible or does each marketer need to come up with their own solution for attribution and media mix modeling?

Attribution and media mix modeling is best tailored to the specific objectives and goals of the individual marketer. The solution could vary even by brand or product.  There are common themes, and common frameworks (see above) for attribution systems. But, ultimately they must be tuned to each individual brand’s priorities, objectives, and marketing environment.

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