Martech Interview with Director of Commerce Marketing, Mailchimp – Deana Thornton

Deana Thornton from Mailchimp puts light on the growing importance of a customer-centric approach & data in marketing strategies of eCommerce & Retail businesses

“The best marketing technology keeps customer engagement and solutions for acquisition and nurturing at the heart of the platform “

1. Tell us about your role at Mailchimp?
As Mailchimp’s Director of Commerce Marketing, I’m responsible for development and execution of marketing strategies to meet the needs of our e-commerce and retail users. I also lead the development of marketing content that helps this audience maximize the value of Mailchimp’s all-in-one marketing platform so they can connect 1:1 with their customers, drive increased brand visibility, and increase sales volume.

2. Can you tell us about your journey to this industry?
Before joining Mailchimp, I spent over a decade in the e-commerce field, working for
big-box retailers such as The Home Depot and Saks Fifth Avenue. I am extremely passionate about e-commerce and joined Mailchimp because I saw this role as an opportunity to make a significant impact on small businesses. My current role allows me to apply my e-commerce expertise and translate my passion into meaningful work— helping empower the underdog to achieve success online.

3. How do you think technology is up-leveling the marketing sector?
Marketing technology’s widespread availability has raised the bar for what marketers can achieve With a proliferation of tools at their disposal, marketers can know everything there is to know about a customer’s behavior, needs, and wants and develop a plan to reach them at the right time. The best marketing technology keeps customer engagement and solutions for acquisition and nurturing at the heart of the platform.
However, for the small business owner who wears a variety of hats everyday, this can be overwhelming. There are over 7000 marketing technology tools in the market, which is a lot to sift through if you’re a small business trying to find a platform to help you start and grow. That’s why we expanded our platform to include new marketing channels and better handle data from the entire customer journey— but in an intuitive and integrated way— so that our customers can only get better as they grow, with all their customer data in one place.

4. How has a customer-centric approach empowered marketing professionals?

We see that most businesses create their most successful marketing campaigns when they keep their customers’ needs at the core of what they do.

Sending personalized, relevant content based on a customer’s purchase activity and campaign and website engagement can help retailers create stronger relationships with their customers.
Our own customers are showing us a thing or two about this as they put their customers first and pivot to meet their needs, in some cases by getting online for the first time this year. Our retailers and e-commerce customers are communicating more with their customers during this time through channels like email, social media, and their own website to let them know about changing hours, order pickup, or delivery options, and any safety or social distancing measures they’re implementing for customers returning to stores. Mailchimp e-commerce users saw a sudden increase in online orders as people around the world adjusted to stay-at-home orders. In fact, our customers who have e-commerce stores have seen a 35% increase in revenue since the beginning of the pandemic.

5. How does Behavioral Targeting help in better customer acquisition?
If you want to grow your audience, or simply stay competitive, behavioral targeting is an important tool. In the noisy world of digital marketing, personalization is key to reaching your audience. But it’s no longer enough for marketers to send targeted messages based solely on their contacts’ demographics or interests—effective marketers also use data that shows how their audience interacts with their business. Behavioral targeting makes highly personalized and timely marketing possible by pairing contact data with real-time information about the actions (and inactions) that those contacts take online—like what they are (or aren’t) doing on your website, in your app, or with your multichannel marketing campaigns.
Behavioral targeting helps you make more informed decisions. Instead of testing marketing across channels or based on hypotheses about their customer journey, behavioral targeting gives you specific data about what your audience is doing so you can reach them when it matters. By developing marketing messages for the behaviors that are most important to their business, small business owners can better target people in their audience and create more personalized experiences for higher engagement and a greater return on marketing investments.

6. What are your predictions about the future of Email Marketing?
Even with many channels of communication, email marketing continues to be a consistent, driving force in conversion due to the low barrier to entry and high ROI: $52 for every dollar spent. With this ROI, the email marketing channel will continue to be a strong, revenue-driver and should be a component of a company’s multichannel campaign strategy. However, the days of sending out bulk, unsegmented emails are long gone. Personalization is growing in importance with the large amount of emails that are hitting a consumer’s inbox on a daily basis. As this space becomes more crowded, segmenting emails based on how your customers are engaging with your brand will continue to be a necessary strategy to drive increase in open rates and conversion within this channel.

7. What features of your Marketing CRM Platform differentiate it in the market?
For small businesses that have fewer resources than an enterprise retailer, it’s critical to invest in a marketing platform that allows them to create personalized content, automate messaging, and reach customers across different channels. Having the tools to understand customer navigation and purchase behavior helps retailers create relevant content that will increase email open rates and click-through rates to their website to ultimately make a purchase. Mailchimp is built to house the data and tools small businesses need to start and grow in one place and market smarter.
Marketing platforms with built-in tools like a Marketing CRM, segmentation, and behavioral targeting allow small businesses to track and better understand who their customers are and how they interact with their business. From there, online retailers can develop messaging strategies tailored to customer needs and automate them.
The 17th Street Athletic Club in San Francisco used a multichannel marketing approach to increase memberships with email, landing pages and digital ads— all created and managed in the Mailchimp platform. By combining multiple marketing channels to promote their six-week transformation challenge, the team at 17th Street Athletic Club was able to increase their signups for the program by 250%.

8. What advice would you like to give to retailers?
From being able to work under Mailchimp Co-Founders Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius and the strong leadership and business infrastructure they have built here, I would draw on our company’s motto: “Listen Hard, Change Fast.”

Technology is a fast-paced industry so it is important that startups are nimble and don’t get set in one way of thinking or doing something when it comes to your business. You have to set up your business structure in a way that allows you to quickly react to changes in your business environment or shift gears if something is not working to position your business for long-term growth.

In addition to being nimble, it is important to possess a high level of confidence and conviction in your business and what you have to offer to the world.
I would also encourage retailers to use automations in their marketing to save valuable time. Automating marketing campaigns or messages based on factors like behavior, demographics, and interests increases brand exposure and drives sales while decreasing the time business owners have to spend managing marketing. The proof is in the numbers— our customers see an average of 34 times more orders per recipient with abandoned cart automations than with bulk email alone. They also increase sales per email opening by an average of 150% with product recommendations.

9. What work-related hack do you use to enjoy maximum productivity?
I wish I had a cool hack to share, but really for me to achieve maximum productivity, it is all grounded in prioritization. Each week on Sunday, I go through my calendar to map out preparation needed for key meetings and then also prioritize the must-have things that I need to get done that week. This prioritization process helps me to ensure that I am focusing on the things that are of most value to the business and that are time-sensitive with regards to execution.

10. How do you prepare for an AI-centric world?
Our mission is to empower the underdog, and in a challenging year for small businesses, we’ve invested in developing tools that use machine learning and AI to make them more successful. With the introduction of our smart platform technology, Mailchimp users can do more marketing, better and faster, so that they can get back to juggling the demands of a business.
As we set out to design Mailchimp’s new smart platform technology, we started with the data that we’ve accumulated from millions of customers, and billions of their customers, and asked, what works best, and how can we give that knowledge back to our customers? From there, we developed Creative Assistant, Customer Journey Builder, and tools like Smart Recommendations to help our customers adjust and make their marketing more effective, which makes our tools more effective, too.
With Mailchimp’s smart platform, the data we see from our customers’ marketing gives other small businesses recommendations and automations that then give them back the time and knowledge they need to run their business. With machine learning, we can help move the needle on a global scale to make more small businesses successful.

11. What are the major developments you are planning, in the near-term?
Mailchimp is coming off the heels of our Fall Release that showcased new solutions, app updates, and new smart features that help your business grow alongside your ambitions. Being extremely passionate about all things e-commerce, I am especially excited about our new website builder with a newly-introduced Buy Button that is powered by Stripe (coming in October). This integration allows entrepreneurs to establish their online presence and accept payments, all while tapping into marketing features that help them grow their customer base. This product offering is extremely timely and critical, given the influx in online adoption for retailers this year as well as businesses getting prepared for the holiday season.

12. We have heard that you have a very positive work culture, so can you share with us some fun pictures of your workplace?
Mailchimp has by far exceeded my expectations on what it would be like to work here. Every day I feel lucky to come to work—well, now “log in” to work—and work alongside extremely talented people that are also customer-obsessed! Even in the midst of quarantine, we haven’t skipped a beat with our dedication and focus on delivering product features and solutions to help our customers navigate these unique challenges and still continue to generate sales for their businesses.

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Deana Thornton is the Director of Commerce Marketing at Mailchimp. She is a Strategic e-commerce leader with over a decade of experience in online merchandising, marketing, and advanced analytics managing business P&L of over $800M. She is a self-starter with demonstrated success in leading cross-functional collaboration and developing data-driven strategies to achieve business objectives.
She has a proven track record for empowering and developing associates driving an increase in engagement and overall team productivity.

Mailchimp is the world’s leading marketing automation platform for small to medium-sized businesses. As the backbone for customer relationships, they provide sophisticated tools anyone can use to grow their business and be successful.
Mailchimp is used to send marketing emails and automated messages, create targeted campaigns, facilitate reporting and analytics, and sell online. Millions of businesses and individuals - from community organizations to Fortune 100 companies - trust Mailchimp to connect the right people with the right message, at the right time.
Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Mailchimp has 700+ employees and is privately held.

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