Shutterfly CMO On How Data Became The Lifeblood Of A ‘Web 1.0’ Ecom Brand

Nearly 20-year-old photo-sharing brand Shutterfly “probably shouldn’t have made it” in a modern mobile world – and that’s the company’s CMO talking.

But despite competing with Apple, Google and Facebook, and needing to match new consumer behavior, Shutterfly’s revenue is up.

The early “web 1.0 ecommerce company,” as chief marketing exec John Boris referred to it, saw a 7% increase in revenue last year to $1.13 billion as Shutterfly repositioned itself from focusing mostly on photo books to the web 2.0 concept of safe and secure cloud storage.

Shutterfly is now bracing for its busiest quarter of the year. More than 50% of its business is transacted in the five- to six-week period following Halloween, and Boris is laser-focused on tactics that merge brand, performance and data.

In the last year, Shutterfly invested in a single consumer platform to unify product SKUs and data across its sister brands, Wedding Paper Divas and the more premium Tiny Prints. The intended byproduct of that investment was a greater push toward personalization.

Boris spoke with AdExchanger about Shutterfly’s shifting brand strategy and the data and attribution challenges that still remain.

AdExchanger: Where has the Shutterfly brand evolved most?

JOHN BORIS: We started out doing 4x6 prints, evolved to doing photo books, cards and stationery and pushed into photo books and home decor. Along the way, we became the home for customers to store 30 billion photos in original resolution that can never be deleted. It’s a pretty powerful system [and] ecommerce engine that allows customers to preserve and share their memories.

The biggest change is that mobile became the primary photo-capturing device, as well as a place to upload and engage with photos. We needed to make an app that facilitated that, but also enabled simple product creation. We added algorithms that automatically surface all the possible products people can make with their photos, [but] we only use data to make the experience better.

How far are you along in understanding customer lifetime value, considering that many of your customers give your product as a gift to other people?

Finding absolute incrementality or trying to get to perfect attribution is like chasing the horizon and you never fully get there. But we’ve tried to distill things down to lifetime value and incremental return on investment, what we call iROI.

Those are the guiding metrics we use, and from there we try and optimize the best we can based on customer segmentation and our media investments to extract the greatest return out of the dollars we spend. We’ve made lots of investments in our segmentation tools [and] predictive modeling and we’re in the process of moving forward with a DMP to help us with our media investments.

But it also comes down to customer relevancy. You can have the best data in the world, but need to apply common sense and judgment.

Are you a single cloud stack user or do you go best of breed?

It depends on the use case, but no one stack serves every need, so you’ll always need point solutions. It’s a fine line and a balance between the two.

But if you can show me a company that has the full stack between push notifications, CRM through to a DMP and customer service, I’d love to talk to them. You can cobble things together through a bunch of acquisitions, but that doesn’t mean they’re integrated.

Given it’s holiday time now, what would you add to your vendor wish list?

In a perfect world, I’d be able to tell which mediums you don’t respond to, as opposed to the ones you will. If you’re never responded in social, maybe I should reinvest those dollars elsewhere or save them.

But, if you engage with display, and we learn that display retargeting plus receiving a push notification is the combination to win you versus display and email. We’ll continue to work to refine that.

How iterative is Shutterfly as a marketing organization?

We are pretty relentless with our testing. We test, analyze [and] iterate over and over again. The gold standard for us is true lift tests.

We’d love to have a team 10 times our size full of data analysts so we can run true lift tests all day long. But as with any road map, there’s a greater list of wants than an ability to deliver, so we are judicious about the way we test.

We take true lift tests [and] update and recalibrate our multitouch attribution model, which we use to influence our iROI model. [That] informs adjustments around our investment strategy.

How has your media mix changed?

When I joined five years ago, we were very bottom-of-the-funnel-focused because we’re a pure-play ecommerce company. Over the last five years, I’ve emphasized building brand, which helps aid the performance of the bottom of the funnel and other DR channels. Direct mail is a good example and we continue to push into that, which seems counterintuitive for a pure-play ecommerce company.

But we tested, iterated and became one of, if not the single biggest, catalog drop in Q4 for holiday and several other campaign drops throughout the year. We’ve done television in the past and have done tons of earned media.

Is Shutterfly segmenting across brand or building personas more broadly?

We have our general audience, which is anyone who wants to connect with people and help share life’s joy through photo-based products, but then we also have weddings. There are2 million brides each year in the US, and they have very different need states than someone who is celebrating Billy’s birthday with a photo book. We try to use the data and industry knowledge we have to create the best experience for them.

There’s an average cycle of 10 months for wedding planning. If you come to our website and start browsing or set a save-the-date or give us the date of your wedding, we reverse back to your time frame and put you in our multitouch, seven-to-eight-month CRM bride stream. [We] send you relevant emails and communications to help guide you through a stressful time.

How do you maintain the integrity of individual brands if there’s audience overlap?

On the back end, we need to be sharing data and cross-pollinating to better serve our customer. In a perfect world, photo preservation really begins with your most seminal event. You get married, maybe use Wedding Paper Divas and then move into your first home. Maybe you want to decorate using home decor from Shutterfly and then commemorate the birth of your child with a birth announcement.

It’s finding the right entry point and creating that arc to follow your needs based upon your lifestyle. There is data sharing on the back end, but it’s equally about maintaining separate brand equity.

Interview condensed. 

 

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