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LifeWay Christian Stores Has E.piphany, Raises Response Rates

LifeWay Christian Stores is counting its blessings after experiencing a 25 percent increase in response rates since installing a new database system from E.piphany last fall.

The Nashville, TN, publisher of Christian books and retailer of CDs and church supplies operates 118 brick-and-mortar stores in 21 states. It is a division of LifeWay Christian Resources, a nonprofit Christian publisher.

LifeWay also has a catalog call center, an e-commerce site at www.lifewaystores.com and a business-to-business division that sells directly to churches and businesses. LifeWay Christian Stores has 4 million consumers and 100,000 business customers in its database.

Data are collected at point of sale in retail stores. Customers also can opt in to the database while visiting the site or when ordering over the phone.

The company decided in January 2003 to upgrade its database system. The system used then included homegrown marketing applications and a solution from another CRM vendor. But marketing often had to wait days before accessing and analyzing vital data.

“We did not have fast and easy access to customer information,” said Bill Nielsen, vice president of marketing for LifeWay Christian Stores.

Information the company obtained from different touch points was scattered in eight databases.

“We just didn't have a solution that the average marketer could use,” he said. “We needed a computer programmer to write the queries for us.”

Often when the programmer gave the query's results to the marketing department, “the marketer's expectations might have changed, and then he would have to ask a whole new set of questions,” Nielsen said.

And since there was a limited number of programmers, “there was a bandwidth problem,” he said.

After gathering information from several customer relationship management vendors, LifeWay chose E.piphany, San Mateo, CA, in April. The system was operating in October.

LifeWay's data are contained in one data mart where the information is structured and optimized.

It used to take at least 24 hours for the marketing department to obtain crucial data, Nielsen said, but “now it might take a few minutes, since our marketers can easily write their own queries.” As a result, “we can develop campaigns and get quick responses. We now know which ones work and basically apply lessons learned and adjust our strategies accordingly.”

The E.piphany solution also helps LifeWay interact better with customers.

“The system allows us to identify who our most valuable customers are and who are most likely to shop during a given seasonal time period, or in response to a certain offer,” Nielsen said.

LifeWay uses various mailings, including targeted postcards and catalogs. The company generally develops campaigns in one of several categories: customer acquisition; prevention of customer defection; and maximizing its relationship with existing customers.

Before the new system, LifeWay conducted fewer than five campaigns monthly. Now, in an average month, “we are doing two or three dozen campaigns because we can be smarter and faster,” Nielsen said.

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