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DELIVERING DIGITAL | EPISODE 3

Catching giants: Leveraging the right data to drive personalized experiences

In this episode, we'll explore how to begin leveraging data with the Sitecore Experience Database to power personalized customer experiences.

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You’re not Google, Facebook, Apple, or Amazon—and you don’t have to be. New technologies are empowering smaller companies to offer the same experiences customers have come to expect from these behemoths. Learn how leveraging your own and third-party data with the Sitecore Experience Database powers personalized customer experiences, along with where to start.

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Transcript

Derek Dysart:
Gentlemen, welcome to the podcast.

Avi Patel, Derek Barka:
Thank you.

Derek Dysart:
For the folks listening in, why don’t you just give a brief introduction of who you are and where you work?

Avi Patel:
Hi, I’m Avi Patel. I’m the chief marketing officer at Fulton Financial Corporation based out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Derek Dysart:
Okay.

Derek Barka:
Hi, my name is Derek Barka. I’m the CTO at SilverTech. SilverTech is a Gold Partner of Sitecore and a digital marketing agency headquartered out of New Hampshire.

Derek Dysart:
So, Fulton, what area do you typically service?

Avi Patel:
So, we service mid-Atlantic, five states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey.

Derek Dysart:
And from a banking standpoint, what sort of product mix do you guys offer?

Avi Patel:
Yeah, so, we are a full commercial bank, meaning we offer personal banking products, business banking products, wealth management, so it’s full service.

Derek Dysart:
Okay, okay. And you guys gave a presentation at Symposium about kind of getting off the ground and running with a digital strategy. Could you maybe kind of set the stage of where Fulton was at with their digital strategy before engaging SilverTech and kind of—and then maybe talk a little bit about where you wanted to go?

Avi Patel:
Yeah, so, before—we started with what we had three years ago, and it was not a whole lot in terms of digital strategy. It was very—to me it was very important that we start with the website. That’s almost the front door.

Derek Dysart:
Sorry.

Avi Patel:
Yeah, no, it was important—

Derek Dysart:
So, yeah ...

Avi Patel:
It was important that we start with the website. That’s the front door to the house, and Fulton was very rich in terms of data and insights.

Derek Dysart:
Yeah.

Avi Patel:
And so what we wanted to do was how do we marry up that information on our customers that we have? We understand our customers really well. How could we leverage that through the website? And that was really the vision. That was the objective.

Derek Dysart:
Sure, sure.

Avi Patel:
And that’s where we partnered with SilverTech to see how we can make that happen.

Derek Dysart:
And, Derek, then, kind of when you guys came in, what was your assessment and where, you know, kind of how did you kick things off with Fulton?

Derek Barka:
Yeah, that’s a good question. We were actually really, really excited to start working with Fulton. Avi and his team had a really, really great and grand vision of what they wanted to do with the website and with data and with Sitecore, and they were in a unique situation where he had the team internally that could mine all that custom data that they had and get some really, really good insights out of it and then engage with us to figure out, okay, how do we—how do you leverage these insights? How do you put marketing strategy around it to create that personalized customer experience first on the website and then across the other digital channels?

Derek Dysart:
You hear a lot—a lot of times in digital strategy you hear the concept of personas, and I know you guys touched on it in your presentation. I guess for—I think a lot of people have different conceptions and potentially misconceptions of what personas are. When you guys think of personas, what exactly do you mean by that?

Derek Barka:
Yeah, so, I mean, personas are, at the simplest level, if you have two people that come into your actual store, whether it’s a banking branch or an actual store, and they’re two types of different people. Maybe you have a younger person who’s just starting off in their career, a young professional. Then you have an older person, maybe in their mid-50s. You’re not going to—in person you’re not going to treat them the same way because they have different needs. They have different motivations. They have different frustrations. They’re at different places in their life. They have different product needs and service and things like that, so you wouldn’t treat them the same.

Derek Dysart:
Yeah.

Derek Barka:
That should also extend to your website. The problem with the website is you don’t know—or any digital communication, for that matter—with the website is a lot of times you don’t know exactly who that person is or what they look like, so use personas to create these fictional representations of your key customer segments and then create a story around how you want to communicate with them, what products and stuff they need, what services they’re looking for, what their frustrations are, and what their ideal journey would look like. Once you create these fictional stories of these people, now you can actually start to have that conversation around, okay, what products are they looking for, what type of conversation do we have with them? Then once that’s there it’s much easier to start actually creating the content for the website and things like that.

Derek Dysart:
Yup. And kind of overlaying this, Avi, in the industry you’re in, how—I mean, there’s—I think, in my own personal experience, banks seem to all run the gamut of their digital adoption. I guess, how did you guys approach this from a standpoint of how you wanted to approach this for your customers and kind of differentiate yourselves?

Avi Patel:
Yeah, so, you know, we think about the customer’s journey, whether they’re exploring, purchasing, or managing. You know, we believe that the first place to start from a digital strategy is to look at your website, and then from there, at least in banking, we can start to think about, all right, purchasing, right? Exploring is going to be all website. Then purchasing. How do we fulfill the needs and wants of the customer through digital strategy? How do we allow them to open accounts online within 10, 15 minutes, right? Then going to managing, which is really online banking, mobile banking, so I think that’s the progression we wanted to take. Start with exploring. People will explore, right? Search for best mortgage rates. So how do we then introduce ourselves into that conversation?

Derek Dysart:
So, the other—I think the other interesting aspect you guys covered in your presentation that I think listeners would be interested in is the concept of customer data, whether that’s—and there’s different levels to it. I think it’s commonly referred to kind of as first-party data, second-party data. Derek, if you could kind of maybe talk about where, you know, where that data is coming from and kind of what level of data is which.

Derek Barka:
Yeah, so, the first type of data we talked about in the presentation was first-party data. The title of the presentation was “Catching up with Google, Netflix, Amazon, Apple” and learning how to leverage your data to create those personalized experiences. When you think about personalized experiences, you think about—almost immediately you think about, like, Netflix, Amazon and just how good they are at recommending products, recommending videos and things like that. They do that through their first-party data. First-party data is the data you have on your customers.

Derek Dysart:
Uh huh.

Derek Barka:
So if you’re a bank like Avi, he has all their information. He knows what products they own. They have checking accounts. They have savings accounts. They have mortgages. He knows how old they are. He probably knows if they’re married because there are two people in the household that have an account there. Probably knows their age, maybe even, like, where they work and what their job title is. There’s lots of rich, rich information there that you can start to mine and figure out what would be the next best product for your customer and that’s—Avi can really go into detail of how they go about doing that.

Derek Dysart:
Wow.

Avi Patel:
Yeah, so, the first-party data is gold because we understand our customers, you know, what products they have with us, how they engage us, you know. We have transactional data, so we understand, you know, their shopping patterns, you know, when one uses a debit card or credit cards. We understand, you know, what they’re shopping for and where they’re shopping and when and how and all that information. It’s about how you synthesize that ultimately to make it meaningful—

Derek Dysart:
Yeah.

Avi Patel:
—for the customer. It’s great that we can figure out, okay, the customer’s journey throughout their day was A, B, and C, right? But what does that mean for the customer? What we really wanted to do was solve for the one-to-one personalization. It’s the holy grail, but with what we have done and how we are leveraging the first-party data we’re getting closer to that. And by working with SilverTech and using Sitecore’s CMS, it enables us to get there.

Derek Dysart:
So, you were talking about first-party data and I think there’s got to be—there’s almost got to be an overwhelming amount of data. You talked about you have transaction data for your customers -

Avi Patel:
Yeah.

Derek Dysart:
—and, you know, it’s beyond kind of what a normal customer using your products has. You have the information on where, you know, where they’re using your, like you said, debit cards and stuff like that.

Avi Patel:
Yeah.

Derek Dysart:
I guess, how did you kind of get over that overwhelming nature of, you know, so much data to process?

Avi Patel:
Yeah, great question, so we wanted to bite size it. Otherwise, you’re right, you would just in perpetuity be analyzing the data, so we built use cases—

Derek Dysart:
Yup.

Avi Patel:
—which were based on business objectives. That is what’s important. You’ve got to start somewhere. To what end do I want to synthesize all this data? And so with two or three use cases in place, that’s where we started. And then once we had that going, we sort of had built a template for bringing more use cases into that—

Derek Dysart:
Okay.

Avi Patel:
—so that’s how we did it.

Derek Dysart:
Okay, and, Derek, so then that’s kind of first-party data. What is second-party data?

Derek Barka:
Second-party data is simply someone else’s firstparty data, so if you go to Amazon, buy all their customer information, that would be second -arty data.

Derek Dysart:
Okay.

Derek Barka:
Obviously, they’re not going to sell it to you, but if you could, that would be second-party data. There are companies out there that will sell their data to you to be used in marketing, things like that.

Derek Dysart:
Okay. And then third-party data?

Derek Barka:
Third-party data is a little bit different. I think of third-party data as—and the way I referred to it in the presentation is—it’s your digital footprint. So as you interact with different brands on the web, on your phone, in different places, you’re creating basically a digital footprint of everywhere you’ve gone. So if it was someone like me on Instagram, I’m liking certain brands, I’m doing certain things. On YouTube, I’m watching certain videos, I’m engaging with YouTube in a certain way. On the internet, I’m probably reading nerdy technical articles about data and stuff like that. Now, third-party data you can’t go and buy all that raw information about me, but what you can do is buy that aggregated form of that data in the form of audiences.

Derek Dysart:
Okay.

Derek Barka:
So it’s usually synthesized to a DMP, or a data management platform, and they’ll sell to you that information about different people. So you would go to them and say, “I’m interested in these audiences. I want to know who they are.” So for me my audiences would be something like IT professional, father, fitness enthusiast, business traveler because it’s going to pick up that I’m traveling to you because I access information from different places so it’s going to figure that out. And then when you marry that with your first-party data, now you start to learn all sorts of new things about your existing customers. When all you have is the third-party data, now at least you know something about the visitor even though they’re not a customer of yours. You can at least start to personalize experience on a persona level but maybe not on a one-to-one marketing level.

Derek Dysart:
Sure.

Avi Patel:
And third-party data is important. It was important for us because not all visitors to our website can be identified.

Derek Dysart:
Yup.

Avi Patel:
And so by leveraging third-party data, which is better than not using anything personalized, it becomes helpful to personalize those visitors that cannot be identified through first-party data.

Derek Dysart:
Okay. Yeah, and I think you started to touch on something that was where I was—my next question was you have these personas, so you’ve looked at who are the typical customers that we service? And we have all this data. Whether they’re—you know, you’ve gotten it from your internal systems or if you bought it through a data management platform. How do you combine the two? What do you do with that now that you kind of have all that data? What sort of actions did you end up taking?

Avi Patel:
Yeah, so, you know, through some modeling work we can figure out look-alike models. Using first-party data, we know definitively the visitor’s background, and so we can personalize based on that. For those unknown visitors, then we can use the third-party data to say, you know, who they may potentially look like based on our first-party data and then use that information to personalize, so that’s—

Derek Dysart:
Okay.

Avi Patel:
—how third-party data can be utilized.

Derek Dysart:
Yup.

Derek Barka:
Yeah, from a tactical and technical standpoint (or slightly technical), what we ended up doing is we were able to leverage Sitecore into a lot of this, so we took all that first-party data they had. We didn’t take the actual first-party data, like the personally identifiable stuff. We took the insights that they gleaned from it, pulled that into Sitecore, put it into people’s experience profile. Then when someone came to the site we took all that third-party data data we had about them, also put that into the experience profile, so now we have all this information about them. Then Avi and his team again gave us those models of if someone has these audiences from third-party data they’d look like this persona and map them over here. Once all the information was collected inside the experience database, now whenever someone comes to the site their marketing team can easily create rules that say, okay, if they meet this persona or have this promotion, you know, show this type of content.

Derek Dysart:
You guys sounded fairly advanced in, you know, if you’re processing that data today so you have kind of data scientists on staff and stuff. Obviously Fulton had a myriad of data on their customers and was advanced enough to have that, but if you’re kind of just getting started on this journey, I guess, what would your suggestion be to a digital marketer that’s kind of just getting started and looking at all this and—I mean, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by this. It’s so easy.

Avi Patel:
Yeah, I mean, I’ll start, and Derek can jump in. You know, I think the first place to start is take a look at your target market, your customers. Find a way to segment them.

Derek Dysart:
Okay.

Avi Patel:
Even if it’s five cohorts or five segments, six, whatever the case may be. Start there. Work with an agency like SilverTech, then say, hey, here are the segments. Let’s create the personas, and then that’s where you can leverage third-party data because once you have some understanding of your segments you can sort of back into, from a third-party data perspective, how to leverage that.

Derek Dysart:
Yeah.

Avi Patel:
And that’s where, you know, SilverTech or another agency can help you figure that out.

Derek Dysart:
Uh huh. So you guys are—it’s sounds like you’re using that data now to personalize the experience for customers visiting your website—

Avi Patel:
Yeah.

Derek Dysart:
—and that’s—has that been going well for you guys?

Avi Patel:
Yeah, it’s going really well. I mean, we’re personalizing at a very high rate—

Derek Dysart:
Uh huh.

Avi Patel:
—and so we’re happy about it, but certainly there are ways to even further improve that, so we continue to work on finding ways to get better.

Derek Dysart:
Yeah, and I think that’s a great point. This isn’t a one-and-done process. It’s not like launching the website. You’ve got it built. Now it’s ready to go, and, you know, we all go back to doing whatever we’re doing. This is a process, right? Could you guys maybe talk on that?

Avi Patel:
Yeah, it’s a process and a commitment.

Derek Barka:
Yeah, as Avi had mentioned earlier, the website was the first step in the process because, as far as marketing goes, especially any type of digital or online marketing, if you want to start doing more ads with Google or some other platforms, you need a place to drive them to, which means you need that website to kind of be that hub where marketers can easily create those messages that you want. So the website’s done but now we have the website. We have all this data now. It’s at Sitecore from both the first-party and the third-party perspective, and now we’re starting to explore Sitecore. What’s the next step? And it’s probably starting to use, like, the Sitecore market animation workflow. So now we have all this information. Let’s use that information to drive personalized emails. Amazon derives 35% of their business from product recommendations, but it’s not just product recommendations. On the website, a lot of it is from email, so they’ll mine their data, realize this is the next best product for you, and then send you an email about it proactively. That’s the next step we’re pulling to, I believe.

Avi Patel:
And then starting to understand how and where second-party data can further augment our successes.

Derek Dysart:
Sure. Yeah, and I think the concept of using email is a great—just even in this day and age it’s amazing the conversion rate you still get through email. Everybody kind of likes to think of the next best thing. Social was a huge platform, but email still converts. It still converts for folks, and it’s—you know, I see you guys taking that data and using that to drive an email campaign through marketing automation being a really interesting use of that data. You kind of talked a little bit about kind of how to get started and what are some early segments that you can do. I guess, what are some follow-ons, I guess, once—if somebody’s gone through and maybe they haven’t gone through a full persona definition,, but they have a good sense of, you know, these are the—like you said, the four or five segments of my customers. What are—you know, kind of what are some next steps from there that you would recommend?

Avi Patel:
Yeah, what I would recommend is this is where Sitecore’s CMS definitely helps us. Then how do you think about content? That really is the key: content. How do you curate or create that content based on that information and serving it up in a way it makes sense for that customer?

Derek Barka:
Yeah, as we talked about the presentation, we kind of—SilverTech kind of employs a crawl-walk-run approach just to kind of—because this is a—starting to think about personalizing the websites, especially, like, on the scale of someone like Netflix or Amazon. It’s very, very daunting. How do you—where do you even start? So, as Avi was saying, you want to start with those customer segments. What are the different—how do you break up your customers in different segments and target them with different products and things like that? From there you kind of build your personas, and then you have your personas. You figure out what their—what that journey is for each of those personas.

Derek Dysart:
Sure.

Derek Barka:
Once you have that defined, that’s kind of the basics. You need those before you can start anything else. Then you start defining the content, like Avi said. But again, even this is very overwhelming. You have a very, very large website. You have all these personas. Where do you start? We start with what we call, like, our content personal matrix.

Derek Dysart:
Okay.

Derek Barka:
We have a template that essentially says, okay, let’s pick the homepage first. Nice and simple. Here’s three places we can personalize. There’s a banner here. There’s a left CTA here. There’s a right CTA here. Then you just fill in the matrix, okay? So for persona A, we’re going to show this piece of content in the banner and this piece of content in the CTA. For persona B, we’re going to show this product in the banner. That way you can break it down into smaller and smaller chunks and, again, start crawling, start walking, and then start running before you have to get too, too worried. Once you’ve done that, now you can start thinking about, okay, how do we—we can put people in personas using Sitecore or using behaviors and things like that, which is—

Derek Dysart:
Yeah.

Derek Barka:
—a nice way to get there, but it takes a little longer because now they have to engage with you before you figure out who they are. Once you get that done, though, now you can start buying data, third-party data and things like that, and matching the third-party data to personas and then kind of take that next level, but you have to start somewhere. Start with the personas and the content journeys.

Derek Dysart:
Sure. And so for you guys, I think, you know, I think it’s pretty easy for most—at least in my head—for most people listening in to think of who are the—you know, who are your segments in terms of a bank. And you’ve got—everyone kind of goes through their own financial journey of you’re fresh in the workforce and maybe you’re a first-time home buyer all the way through, you know, somebody that’s nearing retirement and looking at handling wealth or just even a completely different segment of a business banker or an investor looking for, you know, commercial lines. So I think—how did you guys approach that from a personalization standpoint?

Avi Patel:
So we started with segments as well, right? Instead of overdoing it, over-engineering it, we had a certain number of segments. Then, because we were data-rich, we overlaid the data about that customer, so customer A falls into segment 1. That’s great but then we use that transactional data to further understand where that customer may be in her journey. That can drive the personalization.

Derek Dysart:
Yeah. So, I mean, it really kind of sounds like—Derek, to take what you had said—it’s kind of a crawl, walk, run. You know, look at the data you have now. Look at can you segment that and then what are early wins you can do with that data? And then, you know, as you look at going to third-party data, using that and how can you personalize on that? It sounds like you’re pulling all that data into Sitecore’s platform and then using the built-in personalization. This isn’t—you know, it’s not custom-built. You know, Sitecore does this out of the box, so it’s—it seems like a—you know, it seems like a worthwhile journey. I mean—

Avi Patel:
Yeah.

Derek Dysart:
—Avi, maybe you can kind of talk to the results you guys have seen.

Avi Patel:
Yeah, so, results. The primary metric we wanted to understand was at what rate are we personalizing because that was our big bet, using data, so we’re doing really well there.

Derek Dysart:
Yes

Avi Patel:
Certainly, we can get better.

Derek Dysart:
Sure.

Avi Patel:
And then the next set of metrics are, are we serving up the right content in the right way so that we’re ultimately monetizing the website? So, you know, we’re not quite there but our objective is to monetize the website.

Derek Dysart:
Yeah.

Avi Patel:
Right? So one of the key things I would advise is keep it simple. Start with some use cases. Make sure they’re tied to some financial or business objectives—

Derek Dysart:
Yeah.

Avi Patel:
—because a lot of, you know—we’ve been talking about data and personalization, but in the background, I have to go back and talk to my senior managers and sell all this—

Derek Dysart:
Yeah, right.

Avi Patel:
—and continue to invest in this. So it’s better to start small, simple. Tie the use cases to business objectives so that way you can show them—

Derek Dysart:
Sure.

Avi Patel:
—how it helped move the needle. And then, you know, you can invest more and do more with the website and personalizing.

Derek Dysart:
Yeah, ultimately at the end of the day, I mean, it’s—if you’re a data scientist you can geek out on this stuff, but it’s like you’re trying to drive conversions and trying to service your customer and give them the information they need. I think it’s—you know, people could get jaded and say, “Oh, you’re just trying to grow the business,” which, you know, to be fair, there’s part of that, but there’s servicing your customer better and giving them more, you know, worthwhile products that they may be interested in and are going to help their life.

Avi Patel:
Yeah, that’s right. You know, providing that advice, providing those tools and resources that are going to be helpful in figuring out how much more mortgage that customer can afford, you know, and how to apply for a mortgage. So how can we be more of a financial advocate by providing, you know, tools and resources that help them get to achieving their goal?

Derek Dysart:
Yeah, yeah. Well, gentlemen, thank you for the conversation today. If people wanted to find out more about you on—you know, where can they find out more information?

Derek Barka:
You can obviously find us at our website, silvertech.com. You can also go to the Sitecore website—there’s a Fulton use case there—and find out more information about it there.

Derek Dysart:
Great, great. Well, thanks a lot.

Derek Barka:
Thank you.

Derek Dysart:
Awesome. Thanks, guys.

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