Ask the expert: how the 2020 shake-up is making marketers rethink

An interview with C-centric Digital's Monica Deretich

After several years as a marketer for fashion brands like TechStyle (where she was the VP of Marketing & CRM), Hot Topic and Vans, Monica Deretich has struck out on her own as a consultant. She brings over 10 years of experience with digital marketing to help her clients improve their customer journey across all their channels. “I had the opportunity to strategically restructure an end-to-end CRM program from data management and technology to the customer-facing integrated marketing efforts. In my first year at the company, email marketing revenue increased 55% year over year. I’m proud of the program I developed at JustFab, which was ranked #2 of 250 in Sailthru’s Retail Personalization Index.”

We caught up with this marketing maven to pick her brains on why testing and learning are more important than ever “in these uncertain times.”

Here’s what Monica had to say…

Marketing in 2020: A moving target

Deretich’s extensive experience was put to the test this year, like so many marketers, by what we like to call “2020: The Year of Cray-Cray.”

“Many roadmaps and priorities were completely disrupted by the events of this year, and it has created both the need and opportunity to test communication. What worked in the past may not work today, and that gives us a great opportunity to test and learn new strategies.

This year, we’ve learned that email is a critical direct line to the consumer. That being said, effective email marketers in the next year will want to consider new behaviors. For example, many people are either working from home or unfortunately not working at all as a result of COVID-19. This could mean that the times in which people are checking their inbox might be wildly different from before the pandemic. Machine learning algorithms should be able to recognize and adjust to best reach the individual.”

Test your way into the new rules for engagement

Deretich believes that testing is critical to any well-oiled marketing program. “I believe a good idea can come from anywhere and that if at all possible, they should be tested and proven. A commitment to testing ideas, as well as cross-functional knowledge sharing, can result in broader wins across additional marketing channels.

While I prefer that every test results in a win, I think as marketers we stand a lot to learn from what doesn’t work. Personalized product recommendations have become almost a best practice in email. I probably would have bet on product recommendations to work within an abandoned cart email campaign. However, I learned that while click engagement was indeed higher, conversion rate was not a win. The hypothesis I accepted was that the intent of an abandoned cart email is to get the customer to complete their purchase. The addition of products may have been more of a distraction to purchase. This really showed me that email should always be clear on the action it wishes the recipient to take.”

“This year, we’ve learned that email is a critical direct line to the consumer. That being said, effective email marketers in the next year will want to consider new behaviors.”

Monica Deretich, C-centric Digital

“You want to test HOW many variants?”

Deretich knows that cranking out lots of variants to test isn’t easy. She believes that AI is a tool that can help. “I’d like to see AI help marketers automate the creation, iteration and optimization of content. A lot of work has been done within the ecommerce industry to capture and utilize data for segmentation, but I’d like to see it go to the next level. The average email marketing team is unfortunately not working with an army of graphic designers. Creative test variants often require planning and collaboration in order to achieve. I think email marketing can benefit from some of the same tools that exist and are leveraged within programmatic paid media channels.”

Machines vs creatives: No need to fight

But if machines are making emails, what’s left for creatives to do? “While I do think that technology will eventually help with creative iteration, formatting and identifying most relevant content, I do not think it will replace the role of creatives in the foreseeable future. Where I do see it going is a breakdown of the silo between creatives and marketers. An enhanced brand experience in email is something that requires both an understanding of data-driven technology as well as a clear and consistent brand identity. Creative content is key right now, and I see this as a collaborative moment as opposed to cannibalization.”

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