A Q&A with PebblePost: User Experience Crucial to Converting During This Holiday Season

We’re officially into the fall season, and brands are now laser-focused on strategies to drive increases in customers and revenue throughout Holiday 2016. As retailers gear up their messaging and marketing tactics to both engage loyal audiences and achieve new areas of growth, relevancy and timeliness have never been more critical for driving conversions. With the digital world growing increasingly crowded, filled with competing noise from alike brands and products, tapping into customer intent when highest will continue to be a much needed edge. The always-on digital consumer is engaging with brands across a vast variety of online touch points, and so getting something to really resonate requires thinking about the right combination of marketing channels in a fresh, new way.

In light of the Holiday ramp up, we sat down with Jacquelyn Goldberg of PebblePost, the Programmatic Direct Mail® platform that connects consumers’ digital behaviors with highly personalized, relevant direct mail. Officially launched back in 2015 holiday season, PebblePost is a wholly integrated platform with insight into real-time consumer behavior, and tools for campaign management, dynamic production and performance optimization. With an emphasis on “high interest and intent” customers, PebblePost helps brands to achieve more conversions by creating a significantly more timely and relevant consumer experience – effectively closing the gap between interest and conversion. Below, Jacquelyn sheds more light on marketers’ success with the platform, as well as the challenges it’s helping brands overcome.

  1. Why is the user experience so important for driving conversions, particularly at a time when marketers are plagued by issues with ad blocking and ad fraud – and as a result, disengaged consumers?

As a consumer, I don’t visit CNN to see an ad. I’m there to read content. And I don’t necessarily go to Facebook to see an ad either, rather I go there to socialize. When I’m served an ad, I’m not in a “situation” to act necessarily because it’s a disruption of my experience. Everyone has experienced what it’s like to be followed all over the web by an ad after viewing that product or having their inboxes bombarded with messages to return to the site. Ad blocking is a natural human instinct, I believe, as a result of this disrespect of the consumer experience. Ad fraud exacerbates the problem for marketers who are trying to reach consumers, only to have their ads either not viewable by humans or paying for false impressions on fake sites. It’s no wonder that marketers have cranked up the lever on efficiency of ad spend to be everywhere at once, but at what cost? User experience has suffered for sure, as has effectiveness.

  1. How does PebblePost combat those issues, and help marketers to connect with the customer in a more meaningful way?

“Bots don’t have mailboxes. And they don’t buy pants at Bonobos.” That’s the long-running joke at our office. But there’s truth in satire. Programmatic Direct Mail® connects the power of digital’s real-time intent data with the efficacy and high brand impact of physical media into home. We solve several of the biggest problems in digital — viewability, fraud and ad blocking — just by the very nature of the Programmatic Direct Mail® experience.

Imagine how you yourself browse brand sites. You’re looking for pants and view a few product pages, but life intervenes as it often does. Your attention is taken away by a ringing phone or a child in need or you’re not necessarily in the situation to purchase just yet. Digital ads may follow you for the next 48 hours everywhere else you browse but again, if you’re not in the situation of your choosing to act, that’s a wasted impression. Now think about how you spend time with the mail. Everyone makes a stack of relevant mail to follow-up on and the irrelevant (“junk”) for the recycle bin. Programmatic Direct Mail® falls into the relevant stack because we’re making a connection to your expressed interest and intent, which allows that brand to continue the conversation in a 1:1 and respectful way. You decide when you’re ready to transact. When is it “situationally” appropriate or convenient for you to act versus digital disrupting your experience across the web and in your email.  Marketers see the huge upside in personalization as do consumers, who said the number-one benefit was a reduction in irrelevant ads, according to eMarketer.

  1. Timeliness is clearly crucial here. Since your focus is on tapping into that intent-driven action of browsing the site, reaching that person in as timely and relevant a fashion as possible is key to convert him or her.

Timely, relevant, and respectful. That’s the key difference. Digital by its very nature works really well at capturing intent in real time and optimizing within that first 48 hours on what’s categorized as relevancy. But again, if you’re not in the right situation – a situation of the consumer’s choosing – to act, then that first 48 hours doesn’t matter. The beauty of Programmatic Direct Mail® is that it transforms that real-time intent starting with online activity into a personalized and dynamic physical media impression that the consumer decides to act on when the situation is right. When is the last time you taped a banner ad to the fridge to consider later?

Ultimately, we need to stop trying to tell the consumer what they should want and listen more closely to what they’re telling us. PebblePost offers a powerful opportunity for brands to continue the conversation in a 1:1 way that gives control and choice back to the consumer.

  1. PebblePost coined the term Programmatic Direct Mail®. Talk to me about the connection to programmatic.

What is programmatic? Our definition is data-driven decisioning with high levels of automation to continually enhance efficiency and efficacy. The PebblePost platform is a closed loop from the initiation of that event capture of the consumer’s real-time interest/intent to the dynamic creation and distribution of that Programmatic Direct Mail® piece to tracking of daily response and conversion rates. Real-time analytics every day optimize tomorrow’s Programmatic Direct Mail® every day. We didn’t just coin the phrase, we received a trademark in it. Further, we have also filed extensive utility patents on the manufacturing of a physical piece of programmatically generated, privacy-compliant direct mail.

  1. What’s your current niche? Do you find you’re catering to retail, primarily?

Yes, retail and ecommerce has been our primary focus. We plan to expand to other verticals in 2017 that behave similarly, in terms of the customer journey, to retail and ecommerce. We will also be expanding our collateral line and into other countries.

  1. Talk about your drive-to-retail approach. For a lot of retailers, the store is still incredibly important, and driving tremendous portions of revenue. Particularly as we get closer to holiday, driving more customers to the store is a huge part of overall strategy. How are you complementing that, in addition to driving people back to the brand’s website?

We collaborate closely with our marketing partners on their goals for each campaign. If driving store traffic is the objective, then we may suggest geo-targeting to a zip code and focus on a 10 mile radius from the store. That dynamic message may be more of an awareness play, as in “Your local store is here.” We’ve also helped marketers inform customers of store openings and closings. Understanding objectives and expectations upfront has been key to our success – and our marketer partners.

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