CMO Peter Elarde believes that being able to personalize the customer experience sets the company apart.

Loyalty360 talked to Elarde about this theme, among other customer loyalty issues.

What prompted the new website and what are your goals for it from a customer engagement/customer experience perspective?
Elarde: With the new website, we now have a single platform powering our mobile, tablet, and desktop sites enabling a consistent user experience and feature set across devices. We had been adding popular features to our mobile site over the past year and we wanted those available everywhere. 

We want customers to see as a trusted partner in their wine journey. The goal of the site redesign is to create a more personalized site experience, with rich wine content, that you can access anytime, anywhere. 

To differentiate us from brick and mortar retailers, we want customers to feel like “knows me” and my personal tastes.

For example, the home page can be customized with different merchandising and promotional messages for different segments of customers. Furthermore, the specific wines we recommend on the site, in email, and on Facebook are personalized based on each customer’s individual behavior. And we’ve created a new place called My Wine that saves all your favorites so you can easily remember them and re-order. 

With the redesign, it’s now a more immersive experience. When you look at a product page, you’ll see beautiful images of the wine label, wine bottle–front and back–the winery, region, and variety of grape.  We want you to be able to not only learn about that wine, it’s winemaker notes, professional ratings and reviews, description of the winery, region, and grape variety, but also to immerse you in a rich visual experience of that wine and region. 

And we want to tap the power of mobile to have all this great content at your fingertips whenever you’re enjoying wine. With our new app, you can easily scan a label to read about that wine, rate and remember it, and order it for fast and convenient delivery right to your door. If you ever need help choosing a wine, just click the chat button to talk with one of our friendly wine experts seven days a week. 

How sophisticated would you say your customer experience and customer loyalty initiatives are?
Elarde: It’s still the early days. We’ve always thought about customers as individuals, but with today’s technology, we can actually design and deliver individualized experiences. 

We’re quickly getting more sophisticated. Over the past year, we’ve added personalized recommendations in email and on Facebook. The web site is now smart about reminding you which wines you’ve purchased before or rated. And we’re getting better at lifecycle marketing and leveraging multiple channels of communication for acquiring, activating, and retaining customers.  

Do you feel customers are changing and, if so, how are you adapting to that change?
Elarde: Two big trends for us are the shift to mobile and the growing influence of millennials. Over the past few years, we’d seen a shift in traffic onto our mobile site. Now consumers are getting more comfortable ordering on their phone. With our new iOS app and mobile site, that trend is accelerating and mobile revenue growth is taking off. 

Wine is a category that people become familiar with in their 20s and 30s, so millennials are now in that discovery phase. And that demographic is much more comfortable with technology so we’re seeing rapid growth in both mobile engagement and e-commerce among millennials. 

How does employee engagement fit into customer loyalty discussions?
Elarde: We all want to feel like we’re working for a bigger purpose that matters. In our case, we know that wine can be an intimidating category, but with the right approach and tools, it can be a really fun one. When we talk at meetings about being customer-focused and building great customer experiences, it gets the team fired up to work hard and work smart to try to delight our customers. 

What challenges do you face with data, analytics, and creating insights today?
Elarde: The explosion in data is a real challenge even for data-oriented companies like Since we are creating a wine discovery and buying experience, we’re bombarded with signals about what wine customers are engaging with as well as purchasing. It puts a premium on some key principles. You have to start with a business strategy and a vision for the customer experience you want to create. From that, you can decide what key metrics will help you measure progress toward those goals. There’s a lot of heavy lifting involved in actually gathering and analyzing the data, but if you get those first two steps right then you can analyze the data to get to actionable insights. 

What does customer loyalty mean to your company and has that definition evolved in recent years?
Elarde: The company used to be very transaction-oriented. We cared a lot about a good customer experience, but we thought about it one order at a time. Now we’re much more focused on the lifetime journey and lifetime value of customers. It’s forcing us to think more holistically about all the touch points we have with customers. 

We’ve also adopted the Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a way to measure how well we’re serving customers. Armed with quantitative and qualitative feedback from customers, we’re getting better at improving the overall experience. We’ve enhanced the value proposition by expanding our assortment to offer the world’s largest selection of wine. And now we’re enhancing the website by giving customers a more personalized experience and better tools for shopping that huge assortment.   

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