Allstate: Marketing Becoming About Small ‘Touches’ Backed By Technology

SanjayGuptaBrand marketers are shifting from outbound, push-based approaches to creating recurring engagement, fueled by data and technology.

This was a key trend at the IBM Smarter Commerce Summit in Tampa Wednesday, where marketers from Allstate, Intercontinental Hotels and David’s Bridal spoke about their respective brands’ journeys from push to pull marketing.


Sanjay Gupta, EVP and CMO for insurance giant Allstate said the typical customer journey with an insurance brand once revolved around, “get a bill every six months, and if you get in an accident, you go through a claims process,” he said.

This, of course, presented some limitations in turning Allstate and its portfolio of brands into a trusted, go-to source for consumers who wanted to do more than file insurance claims. “We now run about 100 campaigns to about 128 million contacts a year now,” Gupta said. “We use data to see how we can engage with relevant content rather than only doing a product push. These are small touches backed by technology.”

Allstate in the last year has rolled out a series of mobile apps designed to engage consumers in unlikely ways. For instance, the Allstate QuickFoto Claim allows users to snap a picture of vehicular damage and upload it to an insurance agent via the Allstate mobile app. Allstate concurrently ran a TV ad campaign “App For That,” demonstrating one family’s unfortunate turn of events and the new, easy file-claim process they could turn to through Allstate.

Allstate also segments and groups customers based on unique attributes, such as the Esurance brand, which caters to a lot of “self-directed customers who want the assurance of a brand that uses cutting edge technology to engage with them,” Gupta said. Thus, Esurance introduced a quick Video Appraisals process that promised to settle claims faster, a brand-specific feature it amplified through a Super Bowl commercial in the first quarter.

Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts

Like Allstate, Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts, which operates nine hotel brands, technology serves both as a marketing means and an engagement opportunity.

“Traditionally, we built a nice, analytical view of the customer that initially focused on email, SMS and other forms of outbound marketing,” Billy Turchin, director of CRM technology, for Intercontinental Hotels told AdExchanger. “We’re now bringing that into mobile where we can speak to you both digitally and offline when you’re checking in at one of our hotels.”

The idea of a “marketing campaign” has expanded beyond the standard view of a channel. “A campaign is not just an email campaign,” Turchin said. “You have billboard [out of home], content such as pamphlets in the hotels and we’re always always trying to reinforce the next ‘moment’ with mobile. We started with marketing automation as a huge focus but now we like to talk about how we’re on this journey from CRM to CXM [customer experience management].”

David’s Bridal

The largest bridal retailer in the US, David’s Bridal, has found 50% of its traffic comes from mobile devices. Although a significant portion of brides still prefer to buy in-store, when the company opened its online store seven years ago, it sold over 50 dresses the first week, according to Jerry Baklycki, director of interactive technology for David’s Bridal.

Because David’s Bridal does not usually have repeat customers, the brand segments customers with tighter constraints – month-by-month leading up to the big date, post-event, or targeting friends and family who may be part of the wedding party.

The brand’s highest priority right now is mobile – specifically, evaluating the benefits of mobile Web vs. native app development. Television is equally important to the brand in markets were there are fewer stores and less word-of-mouth recognition (Philadelphia, for instance, has nine stores and more of a localized familiarity of the brand, so TV spots are fewer here since awareness is higher.)

“We have our mobile group working with Web and interactive,” Baklycki said. “With two-thirds to three-quarters of all of our emails opened on mobile now, I worry about what’s next with mobile and what technologies do I not have present in my business now that I need to know about.”


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