Johnny Cupcakes Blends CRM Data With Social Intelligence

Johnny-CupcakesAs the walls separating CRM data from social and other paid media channels continue to crumble, marketers are experimenting with how to leverage the added insight into their current and prospective customers.

One such business owner is Johnny Earle. Back in 2001, Earle launched a confectionary-themed fashion brand, Johnny Cupcakes, by selling hand-printed T-shirts from the trunk of his car. Today he oversees a company of 32 employees that generates about $5 million in yearly revenue by selling T-shirts that start at $40. The company is based in Weymouth, Massachusetts and has locations in Los Angeles, Boston and London.

“It started as a joke and it made a lot of strangers smile, so I kept making more T-shirts and over time, I went from selling T-shirts out of the trunk of my beat-up ’89 Camry to opening retail stores independently,” Earle said.

In order to continue growing, Earle knew he needed help finding new markets. In December he sought help from TrueLens, a Boston-based data analytics company. Earle’s goal was to “learn a little bit more about our customers and their buying habits and other tidbits of information that we never thought to look into.”

TrueLens uses algorithms to compare a brand’s customer records (mainly email addresses) with public data culled from Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media sources to find a match. From there, TrueLens analyzes customers’ public social media posts to uncover their brand preferences, interests and offline behaviors such as upcoming vacations. The company provides individual-level data, but to be “privacy compliant” it  groups customers into segments for targeted campaigns. It calls this data “socialgraphics,” or social behavioral customer intelligence.

Even though the social marketing space is already crowded (Facebook offers its Custom Audience tool and has, TrueLens has carved out its own niche, insists CEO Roy Rodenstein. “We can give you a picture that is a much more well-rounded view of your customer,” Rodenstein said. “What do they like, what are their interests, what are they in the market for right now? We can help companies find those things out so they can do a better job of targeting that need.”

For Johnny Cupcakes, TrueLens identified 19 million social expressions that were tied back to Johnny Cupcake customers. Among its observations, TrueLens learned that customers wanted a larger inventory. “We were under the impression that most of our customers were collectors,” Earle said. “So we were mostly selling limited edition shirts, but our shirts have been selling out really quickly and we didn’t have room to grow. Now we know that we should be looking for ways to re-engage one-time customers and always have certain shirts on hand, so customers don’t just see a bunch of sold-out shirts.”

In testing a few targeted email campaigns, such as an email that was sent to certain customers about a “midnight snack shirt” being sold at midnight, Johnny Cupcakes saw a 42% increase in click-through rates, a 120% increase in conversion rates and a 141% increase in revenue per campaign.

In terms of advertising, Johnny Cupcakes has relied mainly on word-of-mouth marketing, but the company is looking into putting ads on Facebook and other social networks, in addition to sending more targeted emails. Earle said, “We are going to be using the information TrueLens has given us to target different customers in areas like gender and how often they’ve shopped with us, and also how we design the photos and where we put the ads.”

Earle added that he is also interested in having TrueLens analyze his CRM data (the company uses MailChimp as its CRM system) and customers’ social media activities to identify shared interests among its high-value customers, applying those findings to convert one-time shoppers into more valuable customers.

Founded in 2010, TrueLens has 11 employees and has raised $1.2 million in an initial funding round led by Google Ventures. Its other clients include Neiman Marcus, Game Show Network and Force Factor nutritional supplements.

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