Sailthru’s Fourth Annual Retail Personalization Index Highlights Thriving Retail Brands

Sephora Takes the Top Spot and Thrive Market Jumps to Second, While eBay and Fabletics Prove to be Additional Big Movers

Sailthru, a CM Group brand and the leading personalized marketing automation technology provider for retailers and publishers, today announced the fourth annual Retail Personalization Index, which provides a complete analysis of the omnichannel and personalization capabilities of today’s top retailers. This year’s report highlights how some retailers have thrived in a new era of commerce brought on by the pandemic.

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Sephora claimed the top score for the fourth year in a row, increasing to 89 points out of a possible 100, up from 79 points in last year’s Index, thanks to its focus on omnichannel personalization, user engagement and new ways to provide the personalized shopping experiences it is known for, now at home. Thrive Market and Best Buy placed second and third, respectively. Thrive Market doubled down on their omnichannel digital model, with well orchestrated customer experiences. Best Buy fared well thanks to the company’s strong digital investments that helped earn high marks for well-orchestrated online and curbside experiences. As big movers this year, eBay and Fabletics were part of the top 10 performers, outranking other competitors, alongside Bloomingdales, Adidas and The Home Depot. Multiple brands that served as a critical resource during the pandemic also claimed spots in the top 50, including home- and food-focused, Food52.

“The demand surge for online grocery resulted in a huge new member spike for us here at Thrive Market, and we had to double down on optimizing our personalization efforts,” said Lindsay McGovern, Sr Director CRM & Lifestyle, Thrive Market. “We used Sailthru to reimagine our approach to marketing campaigns and lifecycle programs, even adding a new channel, SMS. We’re proud to have placed #2 within this year’s list and to have been acknowledged within The Retail Personalization Index as the leading grocery retailer leveraging Sailthru’s innovative technology, three years running!”

“2020 created unprecedented demand for food and home products and inspiration. We listened to our audiences’ needs and reacted quickly, providing personalized commerce experiences and relevant content that ultimately resulted in our business more than doubling in revenue last year,” said Claire Chambers, Food52’s Chief Commercial Officer. “For more than a decade, we’ve been focused on fostering our community of 25 million cooking and home enthusiasts, and that community-first mindset proved vital to our success in an otherwise challenging year.”

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Brick and mortar stores with a strong online presence performed admirably even as in-person shopping was limited, such as American Eagle, a top 25 brand. In fact, brick and mortar stores that focused on personalized experiences, including custom newsletter content, relevant product recommendations and omnichannel commerce, such as incorporating curbside pickup and mobile commerce-driven email, fared as well as digital-only counterparts. These retailers are breaking internal silos with cross-functional digital marketing teams, doing more with fewer resources and increasing their agility.

“Brands at the top of this year’s Index — even those with significant brick and mortar investments — are financially successful because they operate at the speed of the customer, compared to many other organizations that have been challenged by a lack of agility,” said Jason Grunberg, CMO at CM Group. “Organizations with a focus on experience transformation across channels had the ability to thrive as consumers accelerated digital and mobile usage, and will be the first to test new approaches as people return their focus to in-store shopping.”

Produced through a proprietary evaluation method paired with a 5,000-person consumer survey, Sailthru analyzed and experienced the marketing capabilities of more than 260 retailers. This past year, there were many major shifts in consumer behavior that affected retail marketing, as survey respondents were most likely to say that they shopped on their mobile phones more than before, at nearly 50%. Notably, nearly one-in-three (31%) consumers bought something online for curbside pickup, while one-in-four (25%) said they were more likely to open email from retailers now.

During various stages of lockdown and stay-at-home orders, consumers focused their time on home improvement, health and wellness. As Sailthru’s Index shows, brands in these categories not only sold improvement products, but embodied the spirit of improvement with an approach to marketing that matched – starting with highly engaging experiences for all customers. The Retail Personalization Index uncovered these additional trends:

  • Consumers thrived at home: Home improvement brands had the highest average Retail Personalization Index score of any category, driven primarily by strong mobile scores. This proved invaluable, as millions more consumers focused their attention to home improvement via mobile commerce, driving an overall 11% increase in home improvement spending in 2020.
  • Shoppers chose omnichannel brands: The brands that fared best focused on an omnichannel strategy. Particularly, mobile shoppers drove preference for the newly needed X-commerce capability, the ability to adapt and extend the buying experience to move at the speed of the customer.
  • Brick and mortar stores emerged as online heroes: Online-first, or ecommerce, retailers were not that much more likely to have better site personalization than retailers with brick and mortar stores, which helped earn these brands top spots. However, ecommerce retailers stood out the most on mobile personalization, proving as an opportunity area for brick and mortar innovation.