On Marketing Technology
MTS: MarTech Series caught up with Jared Blank, Senior VP, Data Analysis at Bluecore, to talk about the new Bluecore Decisioning Platform for Commerce.
New York based Bluecore started out as a triggered email marketing service in 2013, and the company launched a a rebranding effort at the annual eTail West conference in Palm Springs in February. MTS spoke to Bluecore about the release of the new Bluecore Decisioning Platform for Commerce and how the company has gone from an email marketing provider to a Real Time Interaction Management (RTIM) company.
As one of the first start-ups which had a triggered email product, Jared Blank learned about them as a client when he was at Tommy Hilfiger. “What intrigued me about Bluecore is the ease of the integration,” said Jared. “The main differentiator for Bluecore, was that 3-4 years ago if you wanted to do a triggered email campaign, it required an enormous amount of coordination on the part of the retailer, where we had to mash together the different feeds from product information, web analytics etc, and it took an enormous amount of time and difficulty to scale that.”
“That was the original value proposition where could get together 10-12 different triggers up and running for our retail clients, using our code. We saw tremendous traction with that product working with around 300 different brands, and some really large e-commerce players. They adopted Bluecore, because they knew we could scale with them.”
“That was the first three years of the company. As that evolved and as we thought more about all of the triggers and all of the data we are collecting and how we have this interesting way to connect user behaviour with product catalogue. That led us to launch the Bluecore Decisioning Platform last month,” he concluded.
MTS: What are some of the major pain points that Bluecore wants to alleviate for retailers, with the new Decisioning Platform?
Jared thinks that the main advantage is that it allows users to bring data in from a whole bunch of different sources that can be your website, offline data, email provider. “It allows the marketer to create audiences who will be interested in whatever marketing messages you have, and push those audiences to any of your marketing channels.”
“If you think about creating email triggers, we collect data about your product catalogue, and by matching it with customer behavior, it allows you to, for example, create an audience of people who left some item in their cart. and then we can push that audience to your email provider reminding them about the item they left in their cart.
You can get even more sophisticated than that. Say for example you have some new high boots coming out, you would create an audience for all those who have an affinity for high boots and seamlessly link that to Facebook so that you can target them ads, buy targeted display ads, and optimize your home page for that audience.
It is really about creating audiences, bringing in data and seamlessly pushing that anywhere.
MTS: With marketing getting more and more data driven, will platforms like this address the problem of IT -Marketing alignment, making data based decisions easier for marketers?
Typically, e-commerce players are great at pulling data in and they are terrible at exporting data. That’s where we fit in. Marketers can target whoever they want and IT folks can concentrate on pulling data out of the commerce systems.
“The problem most e-commerce players face is that they can make decisions on how really want to contact customers but only in that channel. You have an email provider and all your email data sits in there and you have a web analytics provider and all of your site data sits in there, you have a CRM system which has all the customer purchase data and leads.”
“While I hesitate to use the word omnichannel, the fact is today, customers may decide to shop with you from lots of different places. So many of our clients found that customers have interacted from different places through different channels, but it is really hard to pick data from different places and make decisions on it. and reach customers where they are.”
Marketers have always done some of these things at some levels, feels Jared, but they had to work with IT teams to get data. “Often marketers would come up with an idea to create campaigns for specific segments. You would have to go to the CRM team, ask them to write a query and a week later they will be sending you a CSV file back. Or you go to the IT team and ask them to go to the e-commerce platform on and create data out of there.”
“Marketers can target whoever they want and IT folks can concentrate on pulling data out of the commerce systems – it just speeds up the entire process.”
“This is about scalability. We have brands like Gap and Nike and Staples – some of the largest retail brands in the country. People come to us because we can capture that catalogue without requiring a product feed. We don’t require them to send us feed of their products so that we can retarget people.
“We place a script or code in their website to get an up-to-date version of their catalogues. And these retailers have millions of SKUs in their catalogues. There is no other provider who can manage that many SKUs in a way where they can make recommendations for an email or across platforms the way we can.”
“The other differentiation with our platforms, is that the other companies in this field come from either CRM side or ESP side. Both technologies do what they do really well, but they were not built to manage e-commerce data. The way the other platforms go about doing this involves an enormous amount of custom work. We are natively built to handle e-commerce catalogue data, and marry that data to customer behaviour.”
The idea that we understand that a sweater has both color and size may seemlike a tiny thing, but if you are not built to handle that, then you are forcing a square peg in a round hole.
In terms of how Bluecore’s approach solves this problem, in taking the IT work off the table and allowing marketers to focus on what they do, Jared thinks they have quite a unique solution. “Because we built a platform that understands the target market for a specific product, you allow them to answer questions about that like no one does.”
MTS: Any future product development that you are excited about?
“We are very excited about taking additional marketing platforms where we can push data too. Right now, we can push data to Facebook, Omniture and many other platforms. There are certainly more platforms out there where we can push to audiences.”
“And there is a lot more we are doing about understanding a client’s product catalogue regarding which product performs best. It’s about allowing marketers to make quick decisions regarding marketing campaigns they can run to help improve their bestselling product.”
MTS: What does he think are the big issues impacting the retail industry today?
“I think the two biggest questions on everyone’s mind in the business is firstly – what can we do about Amazon, and the second – what is the relationship between our websites and our retail locations?
I think there are a lot of questions about the proper mix of retail location. If you change the mix of retail locations, what effect does that have on e-commerce?
“That’s where we will probably start to see some pulling back in the coming year, because we still have so much so retail per person, in the US as compared to Europe or in Asia. Jared thinks that this is a question to which a lot of retail industry players will be looking for answers – how physical pull back in the retail world is going to affect e-commerce growth?”
MTS: Are AI technologies coming into the e-commerce platforms as well?
We are going to hear a lot about AI in the coming year and everyone is going to be talking about it differently, much like the case of omnichannel. For the first year omnichannel meant a bunch of different things before it actually shook out and people understood what it means.
The entire idea about AI is that we the marketer can help you the customer make better decisions or we can help you with product recommendations that makes sense to you personally.
Personalization has been around forever, but the fact that AI is driving personalization is the real story. AI is going to help us get smarter in how we recommend products and services to people because we are going to have the infrastructure.
Whether that matters to end consumers or not is an open question, feels Jared, but on the retailer side he thinks we are going to hear a lot more about AI driven personalization this year.
MTS: What about the shift to real-time marketing?
“Real-time is one of the phrases that a lot of people say a lot about, without it actually being true. In reality, you cannot actually be truly real-time. For us, it’s all about allowing the marketer to decide for himself when is the best time to act on data. Yes there are times when that would be immediately. But in reality, when we talk about a real-time decision making, the marketer is not necessarily going to do it immediately.”
“We are collecting the data in such a way you will be able to make decisions on it whenever the need arises. To me the real-time aspect is more of a backend thing, its not about running overnight queries or anything like that.”
Real-time does not have to mean everything available up to the second, it is really about allowing marketers to take control. The data is ready when the marketers is.
“We have predictive models that allow marketers to earmark predictions onto the audiences they create. If you want to go after a segment and if you want to buy media to go after that audience, you need the platform to show you how many are interested and predict who would have a high lifetime value. There are predictive models that allow you to figure out a lot of things like – which of my customers have the highest lifetime value, which of my customers are fond of using discounts, and which ones don’t use discounts.”
We have AI that drives those decisions but we don’t believe that AI by itself is the main differentiator. It is about how can a marketer make better business decisions.
Senior level digital marketer with deep expertise in e-commerce management, omnichannel implementation and online strategy. 15 years experience creating digital commerce businesses from the ground up, including e-commerce replatforming, site redesigns, implementing omnichannel integrations, and managing full P&L responsibility for large-scale businesses. Focus in online retail and apparel.
Bluecore is the leading Decisioning Platform for Commerce, powering unique interactions by unifying customer and catalog data. At Bluecore, we are empowering the world’s top retail marketing organizations to take meaningful, immediate action on data through the creation of highly targeted audiences for multi-channel use.
Backed by FirstMark Capital and Georgian Partners, Bluecore is one of the country’s fastest growing SaaS start-ups and works with more than 200 of the world’s top retailers, representing more than 325 high-end apparel, electronics, automotive and other consumer brands.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.