How SmartBox Engaged and Delighted Their Audience with Cheetah Experiences

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This is a podcast episode titled, How SmartBox Engaged and Delighted Their Audience with Cheetah Experiences. The summary for this episode is: <p>As one of Europe’s most notable gift-giving services, SmartBox had the unique challenge of having three different audience groups: buyers, beneficiaries and prospects. Buyers usually visit the site once or twice a year. So the key was to convert beneficiaries and prospects into returning customers.&nbsp;</p><p>Join us for this informative session on how SmartBox utilized Cheetah Experiences to learn more about their audiences and get them to spend more time on the website. With seasonally-themed spin-to-win games, contests and advent calendars designed to entice visitors to return daily, SmartBox has doubled the size of their active audience group in less than a year.&nbsp;</p><h5>Takeaways:</h5><ol><li>Smartbox has seen their actively engaged audiences, those who have visited the website within the last three months, grow by more than 800K in the last year.</li><li>Smartbox maintains consistent connections with beneficiaries and boasts a database of over 16MM names.</li><li>Smartbox nurtures the relationship with prospects through thoughtful content like personalized newsletters that translates to more than 50% of these groups as highly engaged site visitors.</li></ol><p><br></p>
Overview of Smartbox's offering & their busiest season
01:33 MIN
How Smartbox uses Cheetah's Experiences platform to collect zero-party data in a scalable & efficient way
02:12 MIN
Out of the 16M contacts in their database, Smartbox uses Cheetah Experiences to focus on engaging their "active" audience - a customer who has opened an email in the last 3 months.
01:32 MIN
How Smartbox uses Cheetah Experiences to collect data on & engage their buyers AND their gift beneficiaries
03:46 MIN
The importance of collecting zero-party data & psychographic info to improve personalization
01:43 MIN
Growing an active audience leads to increased business volume & sales, and Smartbox has grown their active audience by 60% over the last few years.
01:53 MIN
Smartbox added 900k active users in less than a year after adopting Cheetah Experiences.
00:59 MIN
How Smartbox is turning gift beneficiaries into loyal brand advocates
03:06 MIN
Cutting through the noise to get relevant content to your customers.
01:27 MIN
Progressive profiling via Cheetah Experiences builds a healthy database over time.
01:15 MIN

Tim: Welcome to Dublin, Ireland. Today I'm meeting with Gayle Gunning and we're going to learn about Smartbox's increase in engagement and revenue. In fact, they've seen a 60% year- over- year revenue increase and a 60% year- over- year increase in customer engagement. And that's because they've implemented Cheetah's Experiences platform to start understanding, collecting zero- party data. We're going to talk about everything, relationship marketing, from acquisition all the way to loyalty, but first I felt I had to look the part being in Dublin and all. So I got myself a 100% Irish wool sweater and I love the color. I also, because it's October, got myself a nice scarf, which is keeping me warm out there. It's usually rainy and cold here. And of course, I've got myself a little cat. So I can't wait to talk to Gayle, but I feel one more piece of my wardrobe is missing, one second. All right. There we go. Can you tell what I added? Every good handsome Irish actor has an awesome Irish beard. Now I feel ready. Let's do this. Well, Gayle, I can't thank you enough for having me here in Dublin, and I hope I fit the bill. I went shopping and I feel like a true Irishman, including my Colin Farrell beard. Everyone loves a Colin Farrell beard here in Ireland, right? No? Was this something I didn't need to grow?

Gayle: It's subjective, definitely.

Tim: Ah! Now it's just a Halloween costume. All right. Well, I grew up for you, but again, thanks for having me. I can't wait to learn directly from you what Smartbox is doing here with us. It's great. But let's start. Gayle, tell us your role here at Smartbox?

Gayle: I am the CRM director for Smartbox in Europe.

Tim: Okay, so that's everything digital.

Gayle: Pretty much. Yeah, it's basically cover eight markets across Europe, no English speaking, so all French, Spanish, Italian, and the Nordic markets as well.

Tim: Got it. For those watching right now who don't know who Smartbox is, can you give us a brief overview of what your services actually provide? What does it do?

Gayle: So we are the leading gift experience company in Europe. We do everything from stay boxes, so you can basically buy a box with a two nights stay in a chateau, and you can choose multiple different locations across France. The same in Italy, Spain, et cetera. Also, we do restaurant boxes, driving experiences, hot air balloons, you name it, we have it.

Tim: Got it. So the idea is, if I want to buy a gift for somebody I can go into, I understand you're almost in 18, 19, 000 retailers across Europe. I can go in, I can find an experience and gift that to someone else?

Gayle: Exactly.

Tim: All right. That's very cool.

Gayle: And you can go into a retailer or you can go online. We are multiple ways to purchase.

Tim: Okay, cool. So a lot of people are into this. It's experiential gifting. What are your big peak seasons? Do you have more holiday sales? Is it run of the mill? Is it all year? What's it look like?

Gayle: Well, I suppose as a gift experience company, obviously occasions are the key times to purchase a gift. So obviously coming into November and December in the Christmas season, that's the big time of the year. We also have times like Mother's Day, Father's Day, and obviously wedding anniversaries, birthdays, et cetera. But it's really November, December is where it really, really happens.

Tim: Got it. You've been doing business with Cheetah Digital for quite a while now. We've been your messaging platform for quite a bit. But what I really am hoping to talk a little bit about today is, you've adopted our Experiences platform. This zero- party, digital engagement, get consumers to lean forward, actually interact and give you some signals. Talk to me a little bit about why you moved and were interested in our Experiences platform?

Gayle: I think the key reason was that the platform has the flexibility to turn engagement activities around extremely quickly. Previously, when you're working across eight different markets and different languages and trying to actually create an engagement quiz, competition survey, et cetera, and do that quickly and get it out in the market, it's really challenging with different tech stacks.

Tim: So if you were just to build this ad hoc on your website, it would take a ton of labor hours, et cetera, so this gave you some scale?

Gayle: Exactly. It's not financially viable or efficient to be trying to get developers to try and build it. So when we knew that Cheetah had Experiences and we understood the benefits and the flexibility and efficiencies it could give us, and particularly within a team, at the time there was five or six of us in the CRM team, and trying to actually do something quickly, Experiences allowed us to do that and to start targeting our customers and engaging with them.

Tim: Got it. So we just recently published a report on the impact of embedding Cheetah's technology into your business and they said you can save up to 30% in labor savings. That sounds like the Experiences platform allowed you to do a lot at scale, different languages, clone and syndicate with a smaller team.

Gayle: Exactly. Something that would've taken potentially three to four weeks to produce on one market, we're doing and turning around really fast. We're running them once a month now. In some cases in high season and high gift occasions, we're doing four in one month. So-

Tim: Wow. For experiences and then in these different regions?

Gayle: Yep.

Tim: So scaling up. Wow, okay. That's a lot. Okay, so let's talk about a baseline for data here. Because we talked off camera a little bit about GDPR and some of the hurdles marketers have today. You had nearly 16 million contacts in your database, but to you, you have an interesting take on this. 16 million people only mean so much, it's activity and engagement. Can you talk to me about those numbers and what you really start to measure and care about as a digital market?

Gayle: Well, as we were talking previously, and one of the things that's important to me is that data needs to be fresh. It go off. If you don't use it, you don't engage with it, it's useless. It has no massive value. So when GDPR happened, it was a great opportunity to actually clean the data to actually see who are the valuable people in our database. With that, so we focus a huge amount on our active audience and really trying to grow that. And that's the importance of Experiences for us is engaging with them. When I talk about active, I talk about active three months. That's a customer who has opened our emails in the last three months. So they're constantly coming back and reading them because we know they're engaged. And Experiences allows us to gather those kind of customers, to identify them and to keep them engaged so that they do buy our products, they are loyal to our brand, they are engaging with it.

Tim: Yeah. Let's talk a little bit about your buyer personas, because you serve a few different audiences. You could have, me, if I bought and purchased a Smartbox, an experience, I gift it to someone else, let's say Jane Doe, then she receives it. You may know a little bit about me because of the transaction, but Jane, you don't know much about. How are you engaging Jane, and who else, what other personas are there that you're reaching?

Gayle: Yes, our, I suppose, audiences, are made up of buyers and what we call beneficiaries. So the buyer person goes, buys a lovely stay Smartbox and then they gift it to a family member or a friend. Now generally we won't get that person's data until they register the voucher.

Tim: So I've received it, I now have to go online or in your app and register the actual gift that I've got?

Gayle: Yes.

Tim: Oh, all right. That's an acquisition play. You're now turning me into a contact, a known contact.

Gayle: Yes. So we don't necessarily look at them as necessarily customers in the same sense as someone who buys, but they are a customer because they're the people who actually redeem and use our products. They go on the experiences and they have either hopefully a very good experience and that comes back, and eventually we try to convert those into buyers. So gift to the person who gifted to them an experience.

Tim: Got it. This is a really cool advocacy play because again, if I'm just purchasing a gift for somebody they don't know I'm purchasing it for, they get it, now they're introduced to the Smartbox brand. They register the voucher and they go take that experiential gift, whatever it might be, the stay, the gastropub experience. Talk to me about how you're using our Experiences platform in particular to get that person who received the gift a little more in, and getting them to opt into your marketing database, because that's a huge hurdle.

Gayle: We've been using Experiences now for just over a year, I think. We started last August, and 12 months. What we've been doing is exploring the different types of mechanics that we can use within the Experiences platform. So everything from the spin to win games, pairs games, instant wins, it goes on.

Tim: Yeah, there's like 80 library experiences you can inaudible. There's a million things.

Gayle: Oh, yeah. And they're kind of out of the box.

Tim: Yeah, they're ready to go.

Gayle: So you just put your branding and the creative that you want. We have very, I suppose, specific objectives for it. There's three things. One is, I want to increase my opt- in database. So we do that through using these games and competitions. We will have popups on our website when people come to the site, they see it, click into the game, and suddenly they're going into that experience and hopefully we get an opt- in from that. The other thing we use the different experiences for is driving our business volume. So with the instant wins, with the spin to win, it's all about engaging them. Though the spin to win particularly and the Paris game have proved very effective for us in terms of driving business volume. Then the third piece that connects it all is actually gathering data about our customers because we want to enhance what we have. We have a lot of transactional, but as I mentioned with the beneficiaries, we don't really know an awful lot about them. They've redeemed our experience, that's great. But outside of that, how do we build a picture of what they like, what their interests are. Did they get the right gift? What kind of demographics do we know about them? And then, how we use Experience is building that data, so we can actually then present a more personalized and relevant content to them in the future.

Tim: Relevant is a key word here, because I know roughly 70% of global consumers thereabouts are frustrated with irrelevant content and offers via the email channel. It just has nothing to do with them. So gathering that zero- party data we've talked a lot about is critical, and that's an excellent use case for the first stage of relationship marketing. First stage is, you have an unknown consumer, the gift recipient, now they validate the voucher, they get into the system, and you can ask them things about them and build out a stronger profile. How important do you believe zero- party data and psychographic information around an individual, things that they directly declare to your brand, how important do you think that's going to be to personalization efforts in the future of marketing?

Gayle: Oh, I think it's hugely important. I think if a customer is going to give you information and is happy to do so, you need to use it. That's probably one of the pitfalls that I see across multiple organizations, is people gathering data, they gather all this great information, but they never use it. Customers then stop giving the information. So it's about really using it and targeting them with relevant products to be able to understand everything from what a customer... what types of products they like, down to the details of a hot air balloon. Like to know a customer really likes hot air balloons in France in a particular region, then we can start to go, guess what, there's a great offer on this one, and we can present it to them.

Tim: That is hyper relevant and it really does get down to that personalization level.

Gayle: Exactly.

Tim: So, that's impressive. You've adopted this. You've said that the platform saves you labor and that you can build an experience and you can scale it out, but also it scales from this collection. You can now start to track and understand where people are coming from so you can map which channels are working and which products they want. What's the Holy Grail for a Smartbox when it comes to that engagement level? Is it to increase your personalization over the next year? Is it increase the volume of data you have? What are some of the KPIs you're really trying to drive at?

Gayle: Well, I suppose ultimately as any business, it's growing your business volume and your sales. In terms of specifically the CRM perspective, in order to get there, we need to grow our active audience. So, with the way I see it is, you grow your most engaged audience, you also grow your business volume and sales.

Tim: And this isn't a theory. Your numbers prove it.

Gayle: It's proven. Yes. Certainly over the last couple of years really, we've seen the CRM business in Smartbox grow phenomenally. What we've actually seen is that where our active audience is growing at 60 plus percent, we then also see the CRM business volume growing at a similar level year on year. So the two work in tandem. If you engage your audience, you send them relevant content, you will see the figures go up. It's a very, very basic, simple theory, but it does work. Now in saying that, there's always more you can do, and that's the thing I suppose for us as a team, is always challenging ourselves. What else can we do with the platform? How can we engage our customers even better, know more about them, personalize more, and basically convert more and have ultimately happy customers?

Tim: Now, you also have some impressive stats just in the growth. I think you've added nearly 900, 000 active users in less than a year once you started adopting Experiences. Would you give that a direct correlation? You've got these things that you can follow up on. You're not just transactional. You're not just selling them a product, asking if it was good or not and moving on, you're literally giving these moments to lean into, and you have an always on approach there. Is that a direct correlation from the adoption of Experience with active growth?

Gayle: It would pretty much be. It's a combination. It's the Experiences platform, it's the products, it's the offerings, and using those all together, the Experiences platform has allowed us to really get our message out there to the customers to engage them more than just putting a product in front of them, or putting a discount. It's that mix basically.

Tim: Got it. Allows them to lean forward to really engage in between transactions.

Gayle: Exactly.

Tim: All right. Well, this is great. You're using Experiences to not only engage your known consumer, you use it as an acquisition tool. How about the other end of that relationship marketing spectrum, which we would label as retention and loyalty? You've got these beneficiaries, they did not spend a dime, they were lucky to receive a birthday gift or Christmas gift. How are you thinking about turning those people into loyal advocates for your brand?

Gayle: I think the key thing here is looking at it from a very different... stepping back essentially from the traditional loyalty models, where it's all about RFM, or recency frequency and monetary value, which has been stamped into your head over the years in loyalty.

Tim: Yeah. Punch cards. You buy 10, you get one free. You buy 10, you get one free.

Gayle: It's the thing about evolving and learning from the different channels and how the world has changed with social media and everything. So for me, loyalty changes in the way we engage with our customers. It's not just about spend money and we'll give you points, which is, it works, but it's about interactions. Like you want customers to be immersed with your brand, and coming from a business that is all about experience, what better way to actually create loyalty is by looking at how that person engages with you, not just on buying a box and experiencing a stay or a driving experience, et cetera, but also by connecting with us through our social channels, through our app, just downloading our app, having the interest to do that. Engaging with our emails, our experiences, campaigns, et cetera. Building all of that together to create a loyal customer that's not just based on a purchase, but is based on interaction.

Tim: That's really the definition of emotional loyalty. Do something with my brand, let's have a positive experience, doesn't always mean get your checkbook out and buy something from me. That's huge. That is the future of loyalty right now. It drives advocacy and I'm sure people get these amazing gift experiences. They go off on a holiday and they come back and they just chatter to all their friends. That's brand equity for you.

Gayle: That's what we want. Yeah. It's really, really important for us that the whole customer experience, from start to finish, is fantastic. That when someone buys that it's easy to choose to find what they want. When they gift it, the recipient of that gift, the beneficiary has a smooth journey, has an amazing experience with one of our great partners, and then comes back and tells us about it and tells us how good it's been. Ultimately you have that returning gifting, that if someone's had a really great experience, they're more likely to give it as a gift to the person that gave it to them themselves, or to another friend and say, " This is brilliant."

Tim: Pass it on.

Gayle: It's about happy customers and whether they be buyers or beneficiaries, and learning about them.

Tim: Well, you're clearly doing something right because you're 60 plus percent growth, 60 plus percent engagement levels. I love your theory. I've always said the chief financial officer at any given company doesn't care how many emails were sent. They don't care how many were even opened. They care about, is there engagement? Is there revenue? Just have you, correlation of one to one is really important. So what's the future look like? You're in Martech, is it cleaning things up and figuring out how to get more signals in to make that experience better? What should marketers take away from this? What should be their goal that they should strive for?

Gayle: Well, I think the first thing is always evolve, because you can't stand still in this market. You need to continue to learn about your customers. You need to continue to find out what makes your customers tick essentially, and start using that in an effective way and targeting them in personalized and relevant content. We're all being bombarded with communications across multiple channels, not just email. It's on social. You go onto your feeds, you're constantly seeing ads. How do you get through that? You get through that by actually understanding what your customers actually want, learning and finding new ways to talk to them, because that's what we do. That's what I say to my team is, " Always think of new things to do, of new ways to evolve. Never stop learning."

Tim: I love that. And to that point, we've talked a little bit about progressive profiling off camera. So you as a marketer, let's say you have 20 questions you'd love every single person that ever touched your brand to answer, but you can't just go out and ask 20 questions. What's your theory there? Are you dripping them? Are you kind of using these experiences to chip away at people?

Gayle: Well, when we decided to start implementing Experiences, we actually built a table that will sit within Experiences and feeds into our messaging platform that has a certain set of questions that we want to know. It just allows us to constantly ensure that we're ticking the box of collecting that information so that we can actually apply it. As you say, you're not going to get every single customer to fill in the 20 questions and give you the accurate information.

Tim: Yeah, sure.

Gayle: So in each experience, we always have certain questions that we will ask that allows us to add that information into our database in order to make all of our communications more relevant when we're targeting those customers. It doesn't happen overnight, it takes time. There is no quick way to build a database with all the perfect information.

Tim: Well, Gayle, this has been great. I appreciate you taking the time, and look, this is a great marketing success story. You should adopt some of these practices. This is why we built the customer engagement platform and the Experiences platform is incredibly easy. It scales you. It helps you extend your labor and gets you great results. So I appreciate it. Can I come back maybe without a beard in the spring, without a sweater, and see how things are going?

Gayle: Absolutely. When it's warmer.

Tim: Good, let's do it when it's warmer. Everyone should check out Smartbox. You should send an experiential gift to somebody you know in Europe, and we'll follow up.

Gayle: Yep, absolutely.

Tim: We will see you next time.


As one of Europe’s most notable gift-giving services, SmartBox had the unique challenge of having three different audience groups: buyers, beneficiaries and prospects. Buyers usually visit the site once or twice a year. So the key was to convert beneficiaries and prospects into returning customers. 

Join us for this informative session on how SmartBox utilized Cheetah Experiences to learn more about their audiences and get them to spend more time on the website. With seasonally-themed spin-to-win games, contests and advent calendars designed to entice visitors to return daily, SmartBox has doubled the size of their active audience group in less than a year. 

  1. Smartbox has seen their actively engaged audiences, those who have visited the website within the last three months, grow by more than 800K in the last year.
  2. Smartbox maintains consistent connections with beneficiaries and boasts a database of over 16MM names.
  3. Smartbox nurtures the relationship with prospects through thoughtful content like personalized newsletters that translates to more than 50% of these groups as highly engaged site visitors.