Data Delivers Detente Between Product And Marketing At Relay Foods

RelayFoodsSegmentIt’s common for marketing to do its thing on one side of the room while product toils away on the other.

Often they just ignore each other. Sometimes they clash.

“Everyone felt the tension,” said Jeff Bordogna, VP of product at Relay Foods, a Virginia-based healthy online grocery retailer serving 12 regional markets across the mid-Atlantic.

Out of an overall headcount of about 200 employees, Bordogna oversees a team of roughly 10 developers and designers who build out technology interfaces for the Relay site. Around the same number of people work in Relay’s marketing department.

“Product and marketing were pretty much in separate worlds,” he said.

Mainly, that’s because Relay was winging it on the data front. If marketing wanted to do something – say, generate more site registrations by tweaking the registration process – the product team wouldn’t necessarily want to make the change because there was no data to support why it would work.

Like most businesses, Relay works with a smorgasbord of tech vendors. Mixpanel for analytics, Optimizely for A/B testing, Keen IO for event tracking, FullStory for on-site playback of user sessions, MailChimp’s Mandrill for email, Twilio for text and SMS, Tableau for business intelligence and, of course, Google AdWords, Google Analytics and Facebook – and each was essentially its own data silo.

“We had lots of reports, but we didn’t really have that many insights,” Bordogna said. “We struggled to combine those data sources into a more cohesive story.”

Recently, Relay was looking to revamp its messaging strategy to see whether text messages or email were the best form of outreach.

Marketing had a hunch based on customer feedback that SMS would be a more engaging channel for certain customers, but there was no easy way for the product people to run an experiment. For one, Mandrill isn’t integrated into Twilio. But even if they were connected, in order to prove ROI, Relay would need to use a separate vendor to tie message engagement to a site visit and then that visit to a subsequent checkout.

“There was a broad sense of click rate and open rate, but that was about it,” Bordogna said.

To get a better sense of the overall picture, Relay started working with Segment, a data management company that aggregates and normalizes the web and mobile data being collected through disparate third-party sources, everything from customer service to tag management, which it puts into one repository that clients can access through one API.

Segment has hookups with around 200 different vendors across analytics, email, advertising, mobile, SQL, surveys, attribution, live chat, A/B testing, help desks, CRM, fraud, security and deep-linking.

“There’s a lot of janitorial data engineering work that has to go on under the covers,” said Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt.

Having all the raw data in one place lets the engineering folks funnel data from one source to another to run cross-platform queries, like Relay’s experiment around text vs. email.

Relay ran its test with a subset of its user base, noting that customers who received an SMS message were twice as likely to engage with it than the same message via email. Relay also noticed its cart abandonment rate decrease by a few percentage points.

Since piping its data into Segment, there’s been more than a truce between product and marketing. The teams now regularly collaborate on shared projects.

“We look at product and marketing less as two distinct things and more as one continuum focused on the customer life cycle,” said Bordogna.

If a landing page isn’t converting the way it should, for example, or people are abandoning their carts, they create a mini ad hoc crew with members from both the product side and the marketing side to tackle the problem.

“Historically, we haven’t had a great way to say what’s working and what’s not,” Bordogna said. “Now we’re thinking about the intersection between messaging, merchandising, marketing and product and we can run better tests around what we show people on landing pages or on sales pages or in the search results.”

 

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