How the Estée Lauder Companies Deliver Unified Customer Experiences Across Channels
If there’s one constant when it comes to the customer engagement landscape, it’s change. New channels and touchpoints keep cropping up and customer expectations continue to shift, creating challenges for even the savviest brands. To meet those challenges and take advantage of emerging opportunities, the Estée Lauder Companies have undertaken a major digital transformation process over the past two years, creating a data-driven marketing approach powered by the latest analytics and execution technology.
This leading luxury beauty brand leveraged Braze to implement cross-channel customer engagement, enabling them to deliver the brilliant experiences their customers deserve and expect. However, they didn’t stop there. They also centralized their customer data, refined their data and analytics approach, and realigned their team structures to mirror the customer journey. All changes that have played a crucial role in pushing their digital transformation efforts forward.
At this year’s One-to-One Monaco Retail eCommerce event, we caught up with Daniel Lindsay, the Data, Insights, and Analytics Director at The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., to find out how this approach has advanced the brand’s strategy for lead generation, conversion, and engagement. Read on to explore six key takeaways you can apply to your brand today—whether you’re in the business of beauty, banking, QSR, entertainment, or any other sector seeking to secure sustainable growth through improved customer acquisition and retention.
1. Add channels to increase impact
Customer Engagement has always been crucial for the brands associated with the Estée Lauder Companies (ELC). But ELC hasn’t rested on its laurels; experimentation made possible by their use of Braze allowed them to introduce new channels to increase the effectiveness of their customer engagement efforts.
“Through extensive reporting and data analysis, we’re able to deep dive into what specific channels…are the perfect combination to deliver a highly effective multi-channel approach,” Daniel told us. That includes “introducing new channels such as SMS, content cards, in-browser messaging, and data feeds into third-party paid media activations as well. And inevitably, what we see through the econometric studies that we do is that the sum of the channels is much greater than the individual channels themselves."
2. Map teams to the customer journey
In many larger organizations, one consequence of their growth is a rise in the number of marketing teams that end up separate and siloed—for instance, a company might have an email team and a mobile team that don’t share data or coordinate campaigns. That kind of outcome can result in broken journeys for customers, potentially hurting overall performance. To avoid those issues, ELC—like many customer-centric brands—has taken steps to ensure that its team structure seamlessly mirrors the customer journey.
"As part of our digital transformation, we saw that we needed to move away from disparate teams working on different parts of the consumer journey and think of the consumer journey in its entirety," Daniel said. To achieve this, ELC reviewed ownership and integration of their customer journey and related data. "We now have a centralized CRM team that sits with me and works across all the brands who are responsible for those overarching strategic approaches,” Daniel explained. “So working with the likes of Clinique, Mac, and Aveda to build out a CRM campaign that works for their brand—yes—but also adheres to what we think is best practice for multi-channel activations."
3. Plan for cookie depreciation
Like all businesses, ELC is alert to the imminent retirement of third-party cookies and the impact this will have on marketers. “Cookie depreciation keeps me up at night,” joked Daniel. "It’s something that is going to completely turn around how we as marketers activate in paid media. Without having third parties to build out those consumer profiles that we’ve always been accustomed to, we’re going to have to leverage our first-party data more and more."
Using the Braze platform’s Audience Sync to Facebook feature, ELC’s CRM teams have been able to proactively address this potential challenge and while still finding ways to power effective customer engagement and acquisition efforts.
"What we’ve been able to do through Braze is launch a direct API between Braze and Meta,” Daniel explained. With Audience Sync, which is part of the Braze platform’s Canvas Flow customer journey tool, “Our CRMs teams are able to build out very bespoke, very customized segments of consumers."
"[From our own data] we know already who they are,” Daniel told us. “We know what brands they’ve purchased. We know what products they’ve purchased. With the API, we can push that information into Meta to either target them directly through Instagram or Facebook." He also noted that Audience Sync allowed ELC to “build lookalike audiences, reaching out to consumers who look like these existing consumers that we want to recruit to our brands. It’s a core part of how we do paid media now and it is inevitably going to be a bigger part of our strategy in the future."
4. Integrate data from in-person interactions
It’s important to remember that many retailers and eCommerce companies combine digital and physical touchpoints with consumers to obtain a more nuanced, holistic understanding of the people who engage with their brand. For companies in the space who aren’t yet collecting data from in-person interactions, that sort of information can help to enrich the customer experience and add value to customer experiences.
What does good look like when it comes to tying together this kind of information? Look at how ELC pulls together information from across their suite of physical and digital touchpoints. “The system we have now…you can go into Harrods and purchase your fragrance or you can go into a MAC free-standing store. At both of those different touchpoints across those different brands, we’re able to capture the consumers’ interactions and purchases with us,” Daniel explained. “All of that information…allows our team to understand that consumer journey across our different parts of the brand."
5. Measure metrics that matter
As part of its strategic transformation, ELC worked to understand the effectiveness of its cross-channel marketing using econometrics, media mix modeling, and multi-channel attribution. "We need to look at the big picture and how the channels are working in unison to understand what they’re driving," said Daniel.
He recommended retail brands look beyond sales metrics to measure the success of their marketing and engagement efforts. "As marketers, we know we’re driving metrics and KPIs across the full funnel. We invest in certain channels, not necessarily expecting to drive sales today, but further down the line. So what are the metrics that measure our success at that point?" He noted that ELC has “ worked on a very extensive framework across different metrics—in media, in the consumer, in profitability, in finance—and asked ‘If we’re driving this metric top of funnel, what should that mean as a mid-funnel metric, for example?’ We’re trying to get people to understand the value of data and think about how different data points are relevant across different channels.”
6. Fail fast and cheap
One of the guiding principles in data, insights, and analytics at ELC is that “you can test and you can fail, but make sure you fail fast and cheap.” In other words, don’t be afraid to experiment but do it in a way that manages and minimizes any negative impact. “My one piece of advice would be to ensure that your test is small enough to be isolated and not necessarily impact the wider business,” Daniel told us. However, he suggested that marketers still make sure that any test is “big enough to get people's attention and help you understand the size of the prize.”
Whenever we’re moving into a new venture or a new strategic approach, we always have an extensive testing and piloting period,” Daniel said. “For us, it might be working with one of our brands to activate a campaign and understand whether the new approach is actually working. When we have that evidence, we use that as buy-in for the rest of the business, to then hopefully scale across all brands and all categories.”
With Braze, ELC can experiment easily across their owned channels (as well as paid channels via Audience Sync) and leverage their own data, which minimizes the cost of testing new channels and approaches.
By leveraging the Braze platform’s customer engagement functionality (from customer journey mapping and campaign management to easy third-party integrations for paid media optimization), ELC has been able to take their marketing efforts to the next level and take ahead of the curve. To learn more about how the Braze platform can support brilliant cross-channel customer engagement, check out The Cross-Channel Marketing Difference.