"Over the last forty – or even five – years, the retail landscape has dramatically changed. It's exciting and daunting at the same time," said Erwin Hinteregger, CMO of Aldo Shoes.

The forty-year-old business with 2,000 stores across 100 countries has been changing its business culture to stop thinking of itself as just a retailer, but a brand which really understands its customers.

"It's all about the brand and truly understanding the customer," Hinteregger said at the NRF 2017 conference in NYC.

He said creating 'customer delight' is how the business has reframed its thinking internally. "It's about creating customer experience wherever the consumer connects with us – coherent, consistent, and really creating memorable moments."

In store

In store, the retailer recently created a mobile app which identifies shoppers due to beacon technology. If customers opt-in, they can request assistance in the store through the app and select shoes to try on before they've even entered the store.

And customers who use the app in-store provide Aldo with more data about their shopping habits. "The famous 360-customer view," said Hinteregger. "But that's just step one. The holy grail is to really make sense out of it."

Since the end of 2014, Aldo has been using Salesforce to do just that. While the retailer already used Salesforce in its call centres, it had yet to use its CRM capabilities to really understand all the data it had captured on its customers.

Email marketing

Following the conference, Essential Retail spoke to Ian Richards, VP of CRM and analytics, to learn how the retailer was using customer data to improve its email marketing.

"Before I joined, we were sending out 4-5 emails a week, and there was very little segmentation – there wasn't a lot of thought around the customer," said Richards. "There wasn't an email problem, but there wasn't a lot of CRM around personalisation."

Using Salesforce, in the space of 12 weeks, Aldo reduced its email volume by 50%, it now only sends a maximum of two emails per week.

Richards explained: "Back in 2014, there were a lot of nervous people thinking our traffic was going to go down. But low and behold, in space of 12 weeks, conversion, opens and engagement rates went up three fold."

In the first year, email revenue results went up 70%, despite sending 50% fewer emails. "That sums up the power of CRM," he said.

"Nothing is perfect, but when someone browses the website, we now have the predictive intelligence and our messaging is based around the information the customer has given us."

When a new customer comes to Aldo's website, they are prompted to sign up to the email marketing A-List programme. In order to be part of the loyalty programme – which provides an initial 15% off and benefits such as early access to Black Friday and a treat on their birthday – customers have to give a few extra pieces of information. "That's really key, we used to say just give us your email, but we didn't know their agenda, age, where they lived, gender."

Now the customer is in the Aldo database, the retailer can use Salesforce to connect browsing behaviour back to the customer and target with CRM programmes such as abandon basket reminders.

"At first, I was sceptical to turn it on."

But Richards learnt customers genuinely get distracted and the automated email within an hour reminds them of the product they left in their online basket, leading to conversion rates of 10%. "It's hugely successful," he said. "And we take whatever was in that cart and through predictive intelligence we'll recommend other products at the same time."

The new CRM programme doesn't just remind customers of what they may have left in their basket, but it also reminds customers of what they were browsing. "The customer wouldn't realise it's an automated email, only that they've sent me a highly personalised email."

"When someone hits the website it's golden information to take back to the customer and you yield really great results."

Overall, the CRM programme's automated email programme – including abandon emails, welcome emails and birthday messages – accounts for 5% of Aldo's email marketing, yet it yields 35% of the revenue contribution.