Q&A: Jeff Hassemer, VP of product strategy at Experian Marketing Services

Jeff Hassemer, VP of product strategy at Experian Marketing Services, discusses his company’s upcoming digital catalog app and how brands can leverage marketing technology to build customer loyalty.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): There’s been a recent shift from CRM to customer experience management (CEM)? Can you explain the significance of the shift?

Hassemer (Experian): The shift has been tied to a shift in customer behavior. CRM is a term that came about in the mid-90s. CRM was essentially a communication stream from the client to the end-user. Now you’ve got consumers interacting with a brand at the time of their choosing, at the place, across multiple outlets. That forces brands to change and think differently about how they engage from a relationship to an experience they want to form over multiple interaction points in that lifecycle of the customer. Brands must create a cross-channel profile of who consumers are and what they look like. The next level is applying what you know to create a consistent experience across all interaction points throughout the customer lifecycle.

DMN: Does the shift from relationship management to experience management mean anything in terms of customer loyalty?

Hassemer: There is a correlation between the experience we present and then the relationship it creates for consumers with the brand. The gap between CRM and CEM is that we don’t control our own brands anymore. Someone once said “our brand is a sum total of the communications about our brand and not the messages we control.” Creating positive customer experiences is how you engender that positive relationship and loyalty.

DMN: Does social media make it more difficult to create loyalty because consumers are more empowered? How can it be leveraged to foster more loyalty?

Hassemer: Being able to identify who it is you’re speaking to or who is making comments allows us to help tailor interactions with customers. Are they brand advocates who made a negative mention you may handle that with a personal phone call? Is it a customer that doesn’t necessarily have a huge influence or following you may treat with just a response on Twitter to make the interaction better? Marketing services can help identify those people and feed the profile into the interaction points.

DMN: Can brands use social media proactively to make sales?

Hassemer: Brands do that everyday. Victoria’s Secret has 14 million followers on Facebook. Putting out messages to that audience about products or services and driving them to stores and websites is a natural process. Different medium have different value to the brand. Twitter is much more service-oriented than transactional. Facebook is the opposite. Facebook allows you to connect with your audience to drive sales. You can look at things like Groupon and that’s maybe a great place for a CPG marketer or local marketer to increase sales. You can argue it’s a social form as well.

DMN: Email is a huge part of what Experian offers its clients. Do additional digital channels make it so that email becomes less relevant?

Hassemer: For you to interact on any social site or mobile medium you need an email address. It is here to stay. I’ve been in the business 22 years and I always hear one medium will kill another medium. They all blend together. There may be some cannibalization. But it’s really about creating a mix and understanding where and how they interact in that environment. We might not see growth in email volume but it isn’t going away.

DMN: Isn’t it possible that in the foreseeable future print may go away?

Hassemer: I don’t see print going away. It’s possible it may go away in the future but not in the foreseeable future. [However] we’re building a mobile catalog app for anyone who wants to download their catalog to a tablet. Consumers will be able to browse the catalog and purchase right from the catalog application. You can introduce video to provide a richer shopping experience. We are talking to a few clients that will go into beta and we will see a full launch in Q1 of next year.

DMN: What was the impetus behind the decision to build the app?

Hassemer: In talking with my customer base the thing I hear most often is ‘I have a fixed marketing budget and I’m not going to be able to hire more people and add more budget to communicate across more channels. I need to allocate properly to meet my customer base across these channels’. We need to lead our customers into that new world and allow them to take advantage of new channels. It’s a natural leap to apply technology that allows somebody to view a catalog via a tablet. It’s a very easy transition. Supporting that effort is a huge marketing opportunity for us as a business. It helps us migrate clients to the new digital reality they’re facing. We should be able to do not only targeted direct and email but also targeted communications on mobile applications as well. We will be able to put the app on the iPad and Android, which gives us a broad range. The iPad has something like a 98% market share so you know where we’re going first. If we have clients who want that for the mobile phone we can adapt it.

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