The Clymb’s ascent was nearly straight up, like a skinner’s hike up a pristine slope, when the flash retailer of outdoor gear launched in 2009. The Great Recession was on. There was a glut of close-out inventory available and a lot of cash-strapped skiers, climbers, hikers, and bikers eager to buy it at bargain prices. By 2013 the site was up to net revenues of $65 million and had expanded from gear and apparel into travel packages.
With its business stabilizing, The Clymb—founded by an outdoor gear designer and a brand marketer of outdoor apparel—went looking for ways to optimize its business and bought some email and SEO solutions. “Much of our tech had been home-built and the other tech we bolted on. Each of the systems had its own understanding of our customer. They were disparate understandings,” says Craig Schinn, senior director of online marketing at the Clymb.
The Clymb’s 4.25 million customers are actually members who gain access to the deals for free by providing personal information on applications. Seeking to make ultimate use of this first-party data, The Clymb turned to Lytics, a marketing activation platform that promises to identify individual customers across all digital touch points and, using predictive analytics, suggest how to best engage with certain behavioral segments.
“We can ID people who prefer to be contacted in certain channels and dayparts,” says Lytics CEO James McDermott. “Most predictive analytics models are batch-based. They import the data into Hadoop, run analytics on top of it, and in a month they have a report saying 18% of your customers are about to churn. By then it’s too late. We will say in real time, ‘You have 422,132 users in this group ready to churn.’”
Schinn says that Lytics opened a cross-channel door for the Clymb that had been previously closed to the business, allowing it in short order to more than double the effectiveness of its promotional spend. “We had been spending a lot of money on blanket promotions to our entire database,” Schinn says. “Now we’re able to do things like isolate customers who opened an email in the last two weeks but never visited our site. Consistent messaging in email and on the site sounds simple, but in reality it’s hard to pull off.”
Schinn has also used the technology to target members in favored channels. “Take new members who signed up 30 days ago and haven’t made a purchase,” Schinn says. “We can pull those on the fly, decide on creative messages, run them through Optimizely, and Lytics can push the message out into, say, Facebook and then refine it.”
Schinn reports a 10% increase in online sales among targeted segments since deploying the new technology earlier this year, and McDermott credits Schinn and his staff for their willingness to experiment with an entirely new way of doing things.
“Marketers are really challenged in how to get started with this,” McDermott says. “Not everybody is going to jump right into segments and do campaigns like the Clymb did, but activation is the most important piece. If you don’t use the data, then it’s not valuable.”