Senior Director, Digital Marketing
For office supplies retailer Staples, brick-and-mortar sales are crucial. Connecting those offline behaviors to the digital realm is complicated and requires a solid data layer as well as a far-reaching customer relationship management (CRM) system. Jay Poropatich, senior director of digital marketing at Staples, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about why the brand prioritizes validity over scalability.
eMarketer: What has Staples’ CRM journey been thus far?
Jay Poropatich: Our efforts date all the way back to when direct mail was the best way to reach customers, and then we shifted over to email. Today, digital CRM means identifying a customer and reaching them in a nonhandraiser scenario, because both direct mail and email are opt-in environments. We’re engaged with internal parties and consultants to figure out what our road map will be. We’re in a state of evolution as we start to integrate with more media touchpoints.
eMarketer: What is your biggest CRM challenge?
Poropatich: The biggest one that we’ve come across is validity. Brands often get caught up in match rates and scaling programs, but we’ve done a number of proof of concepts with the biggest CRM players to test their customer matches against our files. For example, even though a vendor says they reached three-quarters of our customers, we want to know how many of them map back to a customer that we have already segmented.
“Staples is a mature data-driven marketer, and we have the necessary infrastructure and piping. Activating that data is the challenge that we face today.”
eMarketer: How do you tackle all the data management associated with a well-oiled CRM system?
Poropatich: We do not have a data management platform in place today. Without it, we have to activate our customer data in multiple realms. We have to work with display programmatic data, paid search data, Google match data and Facebook Custom Audiences data. It becomes a logistical challenge as we scale the efforts. Staples is a mature data-driven marketer, and we have the necessary infrastructure and piping. Activating that data is the challenge that we face today.
eMarketer: What role does digital CRM play in the quest for omnichannel marketing?
Poropatich: The majority of our US sales happen in-store, and that’s our advantage when we go against online competitors. That’s why enabling means of measurement is huge. As customers display offline behaviors, we’re able to influence online creative, so that messaging takes into account whether they’ve bought a laptop in our stores in the last six months. That way, we can drive cross-sell and upsell messages.
eMarketer: What do companies need to know about implementing a digital CRM, especially when switching from a legacy system to a more agile environment?
Poropatich: Data infrastructure must be in place. Sometimes companies chase scale and get excited by high maturate numbers, but we’ve been very self-critical about vendors coming back and suggesting that we can reach a vast majority of our customers. We want to understand what those numbers actually entail at the customer level.
eMarketer: Are vendors delivering the kinds of CRM solutions that brands need?
Poropatich: Vendors have the capability to deliver solutions that brands need, but there’s no consolidated solution in many cases. Big CRM players have attempted to map most capabilities under one house through mergers and acquisition, while tech giants such as Google and Facebook are sitting on a wealth of data, but [they're] not enabling that data far beyond their ecosystems. We’re [optimistic] that the industry will figure itself out.