E-retailer Soft Surroundings is rolling out marketing technology and services firm Knotice’s new K5 data management platform, which builds unique customer profiles that include every single interaction a customer has with a brand, from the web and mobile to social and e-mail. Knotice, which is especially known for its work in mobile, is being acquired by marketing firm IgnitionOne.
Bill Siwicki , Editor, Mobile
There was a time after the dawn of e-commerce when consumers’ interactions with retailers were more or less limited to visiting a store, shopping a web site and reading marketing e-mails. Not anymore. Today, in addition to those three activities, consumers shop mobile web sites and mobile apps, use smartphones and tablets in addition to desktop computers, frequent a host of social media sites and apps, sign up for text message alerts and app push notifications, and engage in other new and developing ways.
Soft Surroundings, a women’s apparel, accessories, beauty and home décor chain retailer, wanted to improve the way it markets to its customers, and to do so, it believed it needed to know everything each individual customer ever does when it comes to engaging with the brand. Everything.
So Soft Surroundings e-commerce director Jim Gallagher turned to marketing firm Knotice, which has specialized in mobile marketing for some time but also offers e-mail and web marketing technologies and services. Gallagher had used Knotice in his previous position at Charter Communications Inc., a cable TV, phone and Internet services provider, and was quite happy with the firm’s services and team.
This time, though, he signed up to be one of the first retailers to use the latest version of Knotice’s data management platform, called Knotice 5, or K5, which creates a single profile for each one of a retailer’s known customers by importing data from various points at which customers interact with a brand. It even saves anonymous web site activity and mobile browsing behavior data and matches it later on to individual shopper profiles once a customer engages in an activity where she identifies herself. That allows Knotice to make a connection between the anonymous behavior data and that consumer.
“I’m all about channel of choice, that’s my mantra, and I need to fully understand where consumers wish to engage,” Gallagher says. “If a customer checks our Facebook page from time to time, mostly shops on her tablet but goes to her desktop to buy, then sometimes calls us, my understanding that behavior, and that sequence of behavior, in other words, how that individual customer wishes to engage with us, is incredibly important. We then can know where, when and how to market and advertise to her.” He says knowing “when to retouch a customer with what kind of marketing” will increase how often customers shop and how much they buy.
That is why Gallagher is rolling out Knotice’s K5 data management platform. There are a number of data management platform providers, including Adobe, Aggregate Knowledge, Blue Kai, CoreAudience, Knotice, nPario and X Plus One. In a recent report titled “The Forrester Wave: Data Management Platforms, Q3 2013,” Forrester Research Inc. analyzed all of the aforementioned vendors’ data management platforms, and regarding Knotice says: “Knotice is, in many ways, the outlier in this report, with its early focus on linking e-mail, mobile and on-site experiences and first-party domain orientation. However, its Universal Profile Management technology, released in 2008, with its explicit focus on the linking of anonymous and known profiles, has increasingly made it an attractive choice for audience management, primarily for small and midsize businesses.”
It turns out Knotice’s technology makes it an attractive choice for more than just SMBs. IgnitionOne, a global digital marketing firm, announced Wednesday it had acquired the privately held Knotice. The acquisition adds data management and multichannel digital messaging—e-mail, text messages, push notifications—capabilities to IgnitionOne’s web-hosted Digital Marketing Suite offering to enable full customer lifecycle marketing, IgnitionOne says.
“The acquisition of Knotice is consistent with our vision of bringing speed and simplicity to marketers through centralized data that automates the process of delivering the right message to the right user at the right moment at the most efficient cost—on the site, off the site, and through mobile and e-mail,” says Wil Margiloff, CEO of IgnitionOne, which will discontinue using the Knotice brand name later this year.
Gallagher at e-retailer Soft Surroundings specifically is looking forward to using Knotice’s K5 platform to remarket to customers.
“We have had an internal order management system that has been the database of record, and that information is sent to our current customer relationship management system, which is not the actionable database that Knotice’s Universal Profile Management system is,” says Gallagher, speaking from his experience with Knotice at Charter. “Knotice K5 will get a data dump from the CRM system, and then real-time feeds from our web and mobile order management system, call center, in-store system, and other sources. All data for a customer is stored in a universal profile with a unique Knotice customer identifier. Then we’ll be able to retouch customers with things like e-mail recommendations based on a store purchase a day after a store purchase.”
Soft Surroundings will have a much more complete understanding of its customers across many points of interaction and subsequently will be able to better provide custom-tailored shopping and messaging designed around the interests or needs of each individual customer, Gallagher adds.
While Knotice does offer retailers the ability to make use of “third-party” data, that is, data gathered from sources other than the retailer itself, the marketing technology firm historically has focused on “first-party” data, information owned or collected by the retailer. The idea is to know exactly what a customer likes, shows interest in or purchases so the retailer can market precisely to that individual. So whenever a customer visits a retailer’s web site, mobile site or mobile app, makes a purchase at a store, calls the call center, opens a retailer’s e-mail or text message, or interacts with a merchant’s social network page, that activity can be captured by Knotice and stored in that individual customer’s universal profile, says Knotice. The company stresses all data is proprietary to each of its clients and is not for sale or otherwise made available to others.
“If any sensitive information is ever collected, it is securely hashed before it is stored to a user profile,” says Patti Renner, director of marketing at Knotice. “That means the system uses an algorithm to change, for example, purchase data into a unique data string, essentially creating a unique data fingerprint. That’s the ‘hash.’ Typically when the platform ingests transactional information, it creates an internal customer account number; the account number can be one of many identifiers for a profile. Data intake from commerce transactions can happen via real-time application programming interfaces or through bulk data uploads.”
Customers in stores are identified by e-mail addresses or phone numbers they offer or by names or other information from loyalty card transactions. For customers on web sites or apps who are not logged in to their accounts with that retailer, Knotice stores this anonymous activity as a “unique unknown.” Once a customer engages in “an identifiable event,” the Knotice system can connect anonymous behavior with identified behavior and tie all activities together.