Data moves to center stage

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Hastings VP of marketing, Kevin Ball, and its director of merchandising, Miea Levery
Hastings VP of marketing, Kevin Ball, and its director of merchandising, Miea Levery

Cross-channel marketing still challenges retailers, but some are using platforms that bring data together, Chantal Todé reports.

Amarillo, TX-based Hastings Entertain­ment Inc. is a multimedia retailer which sells movies, books, CDs and video games, both online and in 154 stores located throughout the US. The chain's movie rental business, however, serves as the foundation for its latest multichannel marketing strategy: It is min­ing the data from its millions of rental customers to send targeted e-mails and direct mail offers.

That is only the beginning. In June, Hastings will inform customers that their movie rental cards are now Entertainment Passports that can be used anywhere in the store and will come with loyalty card benefits such as targeted offers.

At first, the company wasn't sure how to use the movie rental data. “Through research, Hast­ings learned that it had millions of people with rental accounts and a lot of customer information as a result,” says VP of marketing Kevin Ball. “However, the company didn't have a good way to dive into any of that information.”

Data are often in separate locations

Industry talk of multichannel marketing is so prevalent that one would think it was a fait accompli for many companies. But creating a cohesive communication strategy is still a work in progress for some retailers.

Part of the problem, experts say, is that retail­ers can't find people who understand each of the channels well enough to effectively manage a multichannel program. Another is that the necessary data from each channel is often still located in separate repositories.

One way retailers are addressing the latter problem is with powerful business platforms that automate campaign creation and execution across multiple channels, housing all the neces­sary data in a central repository.

Hastings went live with Unica's Affinium multi­channel campaign management platform in Janu­ary, after spending a year developing an internal CRM system that could provide customer data going back only 90 days and only offered recency and frequency analytics. With Unica's system, Hastings can look deeper into the database and run queries based on customer patterns.

In an industry where CD sales are dropping and many retailers are suffering, Hastings has a diversified model that it thinks helps buffer it from those problems. For the fiscal year ended January 31, revenue decreased 0.1% to a total of $547.7 million. Used and budget-priced products account for approximately 11% of sales while rental accounts for 16%. Some of the other top categories contributing to the coffer are books, video, music and video games.

Then there's the company's Internet business, which offers consumers access to 1.5 million new and used products. Through its proprietary GoShip program, Hastings fills Internet orders for used products placed at its Web site, GoHast­, as well as on Amazon, for product that is shipped directly from 110 of its stores.

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