Meet the Marketer: Phil Irvine from the Bouqs

In this ongoing series, we chatted with some of our customers to learn more about the ways they are using customer data to drive growth. Phil Irvine is the Director of CRM at floral delivery company the Bouqs and is responsible for leading the company's retention marketing activities.

Hi Phil. We're interested to hear what made you want to become a marketer?

What has really drawn me to become a marketer is the concept of understanding how to sell a business/service to a customer base at scale. In marketing classes in school the first lesson you are taught is that you can’t be everything to everyone, and that concept is so true to become successful in this profession. I really get excited about conceptualizing what types of creative, messaging, and positioning strategies help to move the needle with getting customers to become engaged with your brand.

What’s one funny marketing mistake you made early on in your career?

I actually have to go back to my college days to highlight one of the biggest mistakes I made in marketing. I attended college in South Bend, Indiana and there weren’t a lot of nightlife party options outside of hanging out at dorms in our free time. A few friends and I decided to start planning and throwing parties at off campus venues. We were certain because of the lack of entertainment options, we could convince people to pay top dollar to attend one of our events. At our first party we rented out a space at a local Marriott ballroom, paid $1000+ for a professional DJ, and paid a fair amount for food for the event. Accordingly we just thought about our cost, and charged people $25 to hopefully make a profit solely based on covering our cost.

We quickly learned this was way too expensive for a college student, and had maybe 50 people show up at the party! We didn’t think about our value proposition form their perspective. In the future we learned that by scaling back costs (i.e. size of venue, no food, working with cheaper DJs), we could charge more reasonable prices to college students. For future parties we would have regularly have 300-400 people in attendance and were very profitable!

Through differentiating copy to recognize where these customers are in their lifecycles we’ve seen incremental revenue and will continue to pursue these strategies in the future.

We are seeing more and more companies use their first-party CRM data to improve ad-targeting. Are you already leveraging data to make The Bouqs' ads more relevant? Is it working?

This is definitely an area where we have tons of opportunity, but we have made some headway with using first party data to improve ad targeting on Facebook. Historically a lot of our ads on Facebook have been very engagement focused to help improve our brand perception to the general public. We recently made a shift to introduce ads that are a little more direct response focused to drive purchases, and a large part of the shift is utilizing copy in the ads to speak to customers at their various lifecycle stages. The big areas where we have seen wins are with speaking to recent sign ups and customers that haven’t engaged in a long time with our brand. Through differentiating copy to recognize where these customers are in their lifecycles, we’ve seen some incremental revenue and will continue to pursue these strategies in the future.

Phil likes...

  • Suspense/Horror movies from the 80’s and 90’s
  • Endurance sports – mainly triathlons
  • Thai Food with spicy chili sauce

Phil dislikes...

  • Shopping (at stores)
  • Crowded spaces
  • Cold weather mixed with rain

One-to-one personalization has dominated retail marketing vernacular for years. It’s fed by a large number of technology vendors promising to deliver an elusive experience so differentiated and personal your customers won’t be able to help themselves from adding items to their cart. What does marketing personalization mean for your business? Do you think 1-to-1 personalization technology really delivers on its promise?

This is a concept where I definitely see value add with pursuing, but it’s definitely a balance that has to take place between level of effort and actual value that can be realized with these types of tactics. Recently we saw big wins for Valentine’s Day where we recognized customers had purchased a particular type of flower type in the past and encouraged them to buy a similar product for V-Day. We also saw wins with segmenting by gender and talking to males and females differently in our campaigns.

Where you have to evaluate level of effort versus value though comes into place where hyper-targeting becomes too niche to really scale. For instance if we wanted to target all daisy purchasers in Kansas City with a particular ad, that sounds great in theory, but the total audience size may not warrant the effort to design a specific creative for that target audience. Depending on the size of the team and technology in place these efforts may not justify the return. But with new campaign personalization technologies in the marketplace, a lot of these barriers can be removed and there can justification to pursue these types of efforts.

How are you using segmentation today? Do you think segmentation still matters?

I have been in the fortunate situation with the Bouqs where I have been able to introduce a lot of basic and complex segmentation strategies that we have been able to implement quickly. Having just finished our second busiest season, Valentine’s Day, we found aligning creative strategies around gender was a big win for us. Additionally we began to introduce a “VIP” strategy introducing particular deals and collections to our higher value/loyal customers which led to some success as well. Outside of that we have also testing aligning specific landing page experiences with customers identified as being big spenders versus average which has been interesting to test as well. We still have a long way to go, but definitely see this as a staple for how our program will evolve in the next coming year.

At Custora, we often talk about two big challenges retail marketers face: “smarketing” and “farketing.” With “smarketing,” you’d like to do smarter marketing but you struggle to extract customer insights from your data. With “farketing,” you have great insights, but there’s too much friction in the the marketing department to turn your insights into actionable campaigns. Would you say you have more of a smarketing (trouble extracting value from data) or farketing (great insights, but too much friction) problem? Why?

In our case because we’re still ramping up our program and pretty green, we’re operating more on the farketing end of the spectrum. Because of the partnership with Custora, we just went through an exercise where we were able to successfully do a deep dive into our best and worst customers to identify key behaviors that differentiate each segment. Out of the exercise we have developed an immense amount of clear actions and behaviors we want to start incentivizing to help graduate our worst customers to becoming our best customers. The opportunities spanned across new segmentation strategies, email and other online channels, customer service treatment, and offer strategies among others.

I’m a big fan of campaigns that incorporate interaction with customers to spearhead engagement and ultimately sales.

With us “friction” isn’t really the issue to implement our findings, it’s more of an issue with resources to help scaling these ideas to have true impact. We understand though we’ll have to take baby steps to capture value with all of these opportunities and have already started to put a few low hanging fruit opportunities into market and have seen some positive impact.

What marketing initiative or campaign were you (or are you) most excited about? It can be something The Bouqs is driving or an inspiring approach from another brand.

I’m a big fan of campaigns that incorporate interaction with customers to spearhead engagement and ultimately sales. One campaign that I’ve been a big fan of is with Hilton Hotels where before a big season, they’ll send out an inquiry type email to customers asking them what type of promotion they would like to see for the upcoming season. Options they provided included bonus points for their loyalty program, free room upgrades, $ off, among others. Based on the engagement of customers with this campaign, they then promoted the corresponding winning offer throughout the season to help drive up sales.

For the next generation of marketers, I would encourage them to become familiar with common metrics to understand concepts like marketing spend tolerance, post campaign measurement, and how to determine return on investment/ad spend.

In a similar vain at the Bouqs, we recently launched a campaign to have our customers vote on their favorite “Valentine’s Day flower arrangement” with an interactive poll we surfaced in an email campaign. For customers that voted we had two triggered actions. Immediately after they voted, we incentivized them by providing them with a discount code to use towards their next purchase. Additionally for those who didn’t purchase, we retargeted them with an email a week later that highlighted the flowers they voted for to entice them to purchase. This campaign by far and away was our highest performing campaign during Valentine’s Day.

As the world of marketing becomes more and more automated, templated, machine based, predictive, dynamic and data-driven, how do you see the role of the marketer evolving? What advice would you give young people looking to become our next generation of marketers?

Because of this evolution with technology and data starting to influence marketing strategies and tactics at every lifecycle stage, this points to the huge importance of understanding more of the analytics and quantitative side with marketing. I think in the past with marketing, it was known to be somewhat quantitative, but was perceived as being heavily creative and qualitative with how decisions were made. Now in my time here at Bouqs and even in my last few career stops, metrics have been central to every decision that is made. For the next generation of marketers, I would encourage them to become familiar with common metrics to understand concepts like marketing spend tolerance, post campaign measurement, and how to determine return on investment/ad spend. Knowledge of these terms and comfortability with speaking to these concepts will become even more important as new automation type technologies emerge in the marketplace.

What is one technology or trend emerging today that has the potential to fundamentally change how we approach marketing?

I think the combination of two factors could really change how we approach marketing. Obviously Artificial Intelligence is the new hot topic that a lot of companies are investing in, and some have seen dividends thus far. I think some will see value from it and others may not, but I definitely believe it is here to stay. On top of leveraging AI to inform targeting, content, and offers with marketing tactics, I think there is a huge cost reduction play via reduced resources that could shift the way teams are staffed in the future. Additionally I believe the concept of delivering a more seamless purchasing process to the consumer is another big trend that could change approach to marketing as well. Outside of making a more connective experience by connecting marketing campaigns to the website experience for customers, the other part of this is reducing the amount of steps to actually make a purchase. I recently saw a demo where a technology could bring in the checkout process in an email campaign which I think could be very powerful to leverage in the future.


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