Q&A: Tarik Dekkar, Americangreetings.com

Tarik Dekkar, VP of online marketing for Americangreetings.com and its online subsidiaries, on changing strategies

Q: Your background is in e-commerce and multichannel marketing. What trends have had the biggest impact on your approach?

A: I started in offline and saw a rapid decline in the offline world. Online direct marketing is cheaper, and you get instant results. When I got into online in early 2000, I noticed a lot of it didn’t have a direct marketing approach but more of a mass media approach, blasting e-mails out and so on. Because it was cheap, there was no optimization or customization of offers or messages.

Q: AG recently made changes to its site, adding targeted landing pages to increase conversion rates. What impact did that have? 

A: I removed the mass media approach and looked at segmentation and customization when I started here two years ago. No two customers are the same. We did a lot of customization, and it had a huge impact on our business. If someone comes to our site and all they’ve been looking at are funny cards, I’m not going to show them a sympathy or religious card. 

Q: What other improvements would you like to make to the company’s site? 

A: The improvements that are the most challenging are integrating all the channels with mobile and social as these continue to grow. In paid search, we can optimize it all, but in Facebook, they don’t have the level of customization to the extent in tracking that we have in more established channels.

Q: How has continued weakness in the retail sector impacted your team? 

A: Maintaining retail stores, which we no longer have, which we sold, is difficult. At Circuit City, when I took over direct marketing, there was no integration with retail. Direct marketing allows you to customize a discount. Not everyone needs a discount. Some people need $10, some need $50 off, and this can help you manage your margins. To get a customer to buy something, you have to go the extra mile and differentiate yourself.

The big challenge for us on the Internet is more that people now can just post a birthday greeting on someone’s Facebook wall. We don’t have the same challenges retailers do, but we have to adapt. It’s not about an e-card anymore; it’s about the greeting. We have an iPad application coming in November, an iPhone app in January and a birthday calendar launching in November on Facebook. We want to be wherever the consumers are.

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