Q&A: Paul Rosenblum, MyBuys cofounder

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The cofounder of MyBuys and the e-commerce software provider's current VP of products and strategy, Paul Rosenblum, spoke with Direct Marketing News' senior editor Rose Gordon about the release of its new mobile offering. The company, which built its name by delivering personalized product recommendations on e-commerce sites, revealed MyBuys Mobile last week for the iPhone, Android, the Blackberry, iPad and other devices.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): You just launched a new mobile offering. Can you explain what it is and how it works with MyBuy's existing e-commerce tools?

Paul Rosenblum: From the beginning we've taken a multi-touch approach. We're big believers in making the consumer happy. What was true on the Web is now even more true on mobile. Mobile is something you're holding in your hand. You really have a personal relationship with that consumer.

We think [mobile] is a big revenue opportunity for retailers and consumers are ready for it. I think it really is the year of mobile.

The approach we've taken is to deliver an entire turnkey solution here; we can deliver the whole site for you built on best practices we've learned from the website. And if they have a mobile site, we can plug into those as well. We offer them the ability to integrate with an existing mobile site or the entire turnkey solution.

DMN: Why did it take MyBuys this long to jump into mobile?

Rosenblum: Honestly, we were waiting for consumers to be ready. If we tried to do this five years ago when we launched, iPhones didn't exist. I've been a big proponent of mobile and the problem was consumers weren't ready to use their phones in that way. Also, browsers were lousy, the screens were tiny.

What we believe we're seeing in mobile parallels what we saw in e-commerce. I think over time as more younger people use their mobile devices, you're going to see more and more traffic happening through the mobile device.

DMN: One of MyBuys core offerings is the ability to remarket to consumers across e-mail, direct mail, and display advertising, as one of your core offerings. Remarketing is sort of a holy grail in direct marketing. How readily are clients embracing this new capability and where are you finding you still need to educate them?  

Rosenblum: We've been doing remarketing in e-mail since five years ago. We added display advertising remarketing this year. I think retailers totally get it. I don't think a lot of education is required. There's not much convincing there.

DMN: You're collecting a lot of data for retailers, including product views, purchase history, e-mail click throughs. How do you organize this data and how do you counsel clients in managing the overwhelming amount of data marketers seem to be handling now?

Rosenblum: We're collecting very fine grain data. We know what category, what brand was on sale when you shopped. We can take offline data. We collect terabytes of data, and that's good but it's also daunting. The more data that you get, the dumber you can look. When the data volumes go up, the queries go up. We think about how to structure the data and how we can the right responses to data. In the instant that we have to serve an ad or create a recommendation, we have it ready.

We do all of the population levels and then we have the individual's profile in the server in the instant we're going to serve the ad or recommendation. We can change it based on inventory levels, based on what the consumer is doing in real time.

Web analytics collects a good amount of data, but you have to know what to do and then do something.

DMN: A lot of these programs you're offering, retargeting and personalizing a customer's web experience based on browsing behavior, are under scrutiny in Washington right now. Are you expecting new regulations? What do you hope comes of the debate in DC?

Rosenblum: My hope is that we'll continue to see an evolution of the self regulation framework. I think it's a good framework. I think it's easy to explain, it's straightforward. I think they have something that strikes the right balance.

If you think about e-mail, it's one thing to be CAN-SPAM compliant, but the fact that someone's opted in, doesn't mean you should send them 12 e-mails a day. Some of the existing retargeting is similar. They are burying you in ads wherever you go. Our approach is to be a little more thoughtful and respectful and to see what works and what doesn't work.

If you show them an ad and they don't respond, show them a different ad. If they still don't respond, give up. The core issue is frequency, not privacy. Our view is be useful and to think about the customer experience.

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