MarTech Interview with Gavin Laugenie, Global Head of Content at dotdigital

Gavin Laugenie, Global Head of Content at dotdigital shares more on what it takes to boost value in your marketing outlook keeping more than just preferences and trust in mind:


Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Gavin, tell us about your journey through the years, we’d love to hear more about your role at dotdigital?

While I fell into the marketing industry a little by accident, I’ve been living and breathing email marketing for around 17 years now, and 12 of those I’ve spent at dotdigital.  When I joined the business, I knew that the platform is – and remains to this day – the easiest and most effective martech solution to use.  For me, this was the most crucial part – by taking away all headaches, our solution allows marketers and ecommerce leaders to focus on their strategies, creativity, and long-term vision, rather than sweating the small stuff. 

In previous roles I’ve worked with an array of businesses across several different sectors and countries to bolster their digital strategy, and now I head up the amazing team that delivers reports, white papers and blogs that the industry and our clients look to for validation and advice. It is this blend of best practice and advice that’s so exciting to be part of, as the content you’re creating is helping retailers and brands optimize their digital engagement with customers and has a tangible impact on a business’ performance.

Working with our network of partners, being a member of the DMA (Digital Marketing Association) email council and hosting our podcast means I keep as up to date as possible on the ever-changing landscape of email and digital marketing innovation.  And it’s that innovation and evolution in digital that keeps me as excited about the industry and the eco system as I was when I first stepped into it.  There are always new technologies, changing regulations and emerging innovations that have made us continue to push the envelope and become more efficient and better marketers.

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Email marketing is still a reliable channel for marketers across industries, with changing trends it is crucial for marketers to pay more attention to certain email marketing practices and analytics to ensure better ROI, what are some top proven tips that you’d share?

The question of ROI ultimately relies on how success is measured.  We’re seeing a move away from some of the traditional yardsticks with which email marketing’s success would have typically been benchmarked against.  

Open rates are the perfect example – in so much as they don’t paint a true picture of engagement, or value, that a shopper has displayed, and when taken in isolation provide little more than a vanity metric for marketers to report on.  

But by combining open rate information with additional metrics, such as page views, first party data, account log-ins, bounce rates, conversion or purchase information, this will all add up to a more comprehensive view of customer engagement and true ROI.

Transparency and honesty also sit centrally to improving marketing performance.  By adopting responsible marketing principals, you can be open about how and for what purpose you’re collecting customer information and can let them know how this will improve their overall experience when interacting with your brand.  By doing so – and not solely relying on opens – you optimize your owned channels and can then use engagement data to inform and enhance the buying journey for the shopper, no matter which channel they choose to shop with you on.

It’s also worth remembering that while email is king when it comes to cross-channel marketing, it’s even more effective when used as part of an omnichannel strategy, backed up with SMS, chat and retargeting. Those who have a strong omnichannel customer engagement strategy reportedly retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared to 33% of those with weak or no omnichannel customer engagement.

How in your view can marketers of today unlock more value from their marketing automation systems? Can you talk about a few top examples of how you’ve seen top brands optimize this.

Automation mustn’t stand still and needs to be constantly adapted and tweaked to be the most effective.  We tell clients that use the platform that they should never ‘set and forget’.  Each campaign will need fine tuning and tweaking so it can perform at its best, and lessons from the campaign can be filtered through so that engagement strategies continually improve.

As the adage goes, ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, so learn from what your competitors are doing and take inspiration from what the brands you love are doing too, even if they’re not in your industry or sector.

Content is one thing, but design can make the content sing, so make sure the design is optimized to drive through your calls to action (CTAs) and guide shoppers along the buying journey as they navigate their path to purchase.  The same goes for landing pages where data is captured, make sure the user journey is clearly signposted and easy from a user experience perspective.

Don’t be afraid to try new things – being an early adopter of tech can give you first-mover advantage as well as improving customer experience digitally.  In a world where competition has never been fiercer, the smallest of advantages can have huge pay offs. 

As martech becomes more sophisticated, the onus lies on marketers to not only extract value from their technology but also to ensure they have better data management practices, including better permission based marketing practices. What should marketers be doing more of here to draw value? 

Marketers can create an unlimited number of marketing preferences providing infinite opportunities to enrich customer data, by using surveys, forms, and preference centers for example. 

By encouraging shoppers to share as much information as possible, they can craft their own customized journey, and the data can be used to create relevant and targeted segments for further marketing efforts.  By using a combination of zero-party, or explicit, data alongside implicit data, marketers can build up a full picture of the customer, based on their unique digital body language, allowing for even greater personalization, and targeting.  

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Core initiatives marketers can focus on to optimize this and bring in permission-based marketing into their engagement strategies are: 

  • Doubling down on double opt-ins 

Double opt-ins ask the customer to confirm that they want to receive marketing, ensuring that the database is full of engaged contacts.  Following the Apple iOS 15 update, having an automated double opt-in process will ensure subscribers are fully informed about what they’re signing up to receive.

  • Let customers make the first move with live chat or conversational commerce capabilities

Live chat is an essential channel to enforce the connection between the brand and its customers. As a channel, it promotes two-way conversations that can be used to form stronger connections with audiences. Also, like zero-party data, customers have made the first move, so they are in control of the relationship.

  • Think about untapped channels, like SMS

SMS is a marketing channel that has never relied on open rates, now widely considered as merely a vanity metric, to measure success.  With read rates of 98%, its success is undeniable, so brands should be adding SMS to their marketing mix as a necessity. dotdigital enables marketers to use country-specific templates, meaning all the relevant opt-outs for each region are included to ensure SMS campaigns are up and running quickly and responsibly.

Based on all of this, we’d love to dive into one of your recent surveys on the Rise of the Responsible Marketer – can you share the top highlights?

Sure – we did a recent poll of over 2,000 US shoppers in our Rise of the Responsible Marketer report, and it highlighted some key trends around the growing demand for responsible marketing when consumers are engaging with the brands they buy from.

First-up, the issue of trust is now crucial to consumers.  Marketing is about building a relationship with the customer, and that has to be built on trust.  Marketing to consumers only works if they trust you.  And trust in brands has risen to the very top of the agenda, second only to price.  However, our poll showed that three quarters of Americans (75%) felt brands could do more to ensure the safety of their personal data.

Second, trust is not just about reputation, it’s about revenue.  72% of U.S. shoppers would be less likely to buy again from a brand that they felt hadn’t been responsible with their data, while a further 65% would actively discourage family and friends from buying from a brand that had handled their data irresponsibly.  In short: lose your customers’ trust, and prepare to lose your customers. 

Third, shoppers want personalization and privacy. Euromonitor coined the phrase ‘private personalization’ to embrace the paradox of consumers wanting content and communication to be relevant to them and accept that there is a trade-off in sharing data to get this, yet they still want their privacy guarded.  In our research, 40% of Americans said they wouldn’t mind giving up data if it made the online experience more personal.

Embracing these changes – both to consumer demands and to the changing regulatory landscape, from Apple tracking to Google opt-outs and the Digital Services and Digital Markets acts – retailers can ensure compliance naturally fosters trust, which is the key for consumers to share their data with a brand.  If a consumer trusts a brand, then they will be engaged; the value of a relationship nurtured over time will increase engagement and revenue performance.

How will the future of martech and marketing shape up in your view in the light of evolving data and privacy trends? 

The evolving data and privacy trends we’re seeing reflected in the market is putting the role of data stewardship and the need to market to customers responsibly front and center in brands’ customer engagement strategies. 

It is only by building this trust through responsible marketing that retailers can keep customers in a loyalty loop, retaining them and re-engaging them so life-time value is improved and ROI on marketing efforts optimized.  And this becomes even more crucial in the context of cookie-less marketing and new stringent – but well placed – privacy regulation and initiatives.

The explosion of ecommerce, brought about by the Covid pandemic, which has seen record growth in new cohorts of shoppers coming online, is good news for brands, but comes with a number of new challenges around consumer expectations, the capabilities of current technologies, and the limitations of processes built for a more permissive marketing environment. The imperative is for more responsible marketing that will enable brands to meet their regulatory responsibilities as well as reach and sell to consumers more effectively.

That means brands must put data stewardship at the heart of their marketing efforts not only to reassure consumers but to build the long-term meaningful relationships that drive loyalty.

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dotdigital empowers marketers to achieve their goals in faster and smarter ways; dotdigital’s easy-to-use Engagement Cloud combines powerful technology with passionate people to deliver an unbeatable service.

Gavin Laugenie is the Global Head of Content at dotdigital

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