Mary Hennen will speak at AdExchanger's Omni.Digital conference in Chicago on September 8.
At home design retailer The Tile Shop, “The very foundation of everything we’ve done is understand who our customers are, and who they’re not,” said Mary Hennen, VP of marketing and ecommerce.
Minneapolis-based The Tile Shop has 117 locations in 31 states, and first-party data is at the core of its cross-channel marketing approach. Insights from both homeowners and professional customers (read: contractors and interior designers) inform everything from store location to product selection to digital ad spend.
“We have a competitive advantage in the data world because customers are willing to give us their information and opt in to programs for email,” said Hennen.
Because tiles are an expensive and semi-permanent product, customers often opt in to receive email marketing and promotional materials to do proper research. They also share personal information for shipping of both in-store and online purchases.
“We have names, addresses and personally identifiable information on virtually all of our transactions, so there’s no guessing, no matching back and hoping you’re getting the right person based off of their ZIP code or something on the credit card,” Hennen said. “Consumers give that information to us.”
The Tile Shop aggregates its first-party data sets to predict larger audience shifts and trends that inform its marketing strategies both in-store and online.
Location-specific demographics, for example, play into in-store merchandising. A store in a lower-income neighborhood might represent a less expensive SKU mix, and vice versa.
“We use that information to make sure that our customer base isn’t changing,” Hennen said. “If it is, are we reaching our audience with our marketing?”
Using audience insights to monitor search and social channels allows The Tile Shop to identify trends.
“Data from proprietary sources, as well as broader cultural trends, [indicate] that glass tiles are here to stay,” said The Tile Shop’s CEO, Chris Homeister. “The different formats and glazing continue to modify in a very aggressive way, and I think we’re leading that trend versus being behind as we might have been in the past.”
A popular in-house credit program for The Tile Shop's professional audience opens an easy channel to send and collect data from promotional materials. This in turn helps The Tile Shop align with organizations that support its professional audience to augment its first-party data.
“The [National Association of Homebuilders] and the American Society of Interior Designers are really important business partners for us because we work with a lot of interior designers and homebuilders,” Hennen said. “Being able to append those records helps us quantify and invest into these different segments.”
As a company that buys most of its digital media in-house, access to robust data allows The Tile Shop to target better. The company teams up with most major third-party data providers to augment its direct marketing and prospecting lists. It’s working with Epsilon to trace point-of-sale data back to online media spend.
The Tile Shop continues to explore exciting data opportunities. Design Studio, a digital visualization tool launched in July, allows users to model tiles in a digital representation of their home. Shoppers can use the tool both in-store and online to manipulate tile size, material and grout space while filling the room with furniture, lighting and measurements that mirror the exact specifications of the room they are tiling.
For now, Design Studio is being used solely to enhance the customer shopping experience. But that doesn’t mean the data opportunities aren’t there.
Design Studio detects device type to render the correct visual, opening up a potential cross-device play. The tool can be used to augment The Tile Shop’s existing CRM strategies, which involve personal follow-up emails and calls from sales associates, Hennen said.
“If [a consumer] builds plans in our stores our sales associates follow up already today,” she said. “That’s going to be the avenue that we would pursue with this.”