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Jul 11, 2019

How can you leverage new tech to ride the personalization wave into a best-in-class swell of engagement? Taylor "The Creator" Gibb and Jaz "Personalization Queen" Noble join me to discuss the future of personalization and how to make it work at scale.






PJ: Hi again and welcome back to Brace for Impact, your martech industry discuss digest and today I have two very, very esteemed colleagues with me both from the Success Org to my right Taylor Veronica Gibb and to my left Jaz Victoria Noble. It's good to have you guys here with me.



Taylor: Well it's great to have you here as well. PJ, the Victor Jay-



Jasmine: Let's give him a V, yeah.



Taylor: Maybe a V, to fit in here.



PJ: You guys missed it, we opened with talking about the origin story of both these lovely women have V middle names and so we were just kind of like hearing a little bit about their ancestry.



Taylor: Absolutely. As we start every podcast with deep personal questions to the guests in the room really gets those creative juices flowing.



PJ: Exactly. Tries to get us in the zone.



Jasmine: I'm real excited to be here, you guys.



PJ: Yes, Jaz is back. She was on our very first podcast, which was merely a hackday project about six months ago and now finally we have her back for another one.



Jasmine: I'm micced up. I have headphones. It's official.



Taylor: Much more official.



PJ: It's official.



Taylor: If I remember correctly, the first podcast, everyone was kind of talking very close to PJ's laptop.



Jasmine: Yes.



PJ: No headphones. Didn't know what we were doing.



Taylor: Nope.



PJ: Picking up a lot of ambient noise. We've gotten a little bit better and it's good to be here.



Jasmine: Hilarious, though. I was very funny in that.



Taylor: Hilarious. That's a great one.



PJ: You were very funny in that one.



Jasmine: Yeah.



Taylor: I think we need to release that someday. Like a little bonus track.



PJ: For all you listeners out there. Our listeners will receive a special Easter egg treat of the hackday first ever podcast.



Taylor: For those of you who pledge a certain amount of money we'll be sending to you with a set of Ginsu knives.



PJ: Absolutely. Well, you know we're a big family.



Jasmine: Make those checks out to Jasmine Victoria Noble.



PJ: It has to be in full. It's the only way they'll pay it out.



Jasmine: Get the V.



PJ: Well, we're fresh off a 4th of July break. Hope you guys had a lovely time. Go America, Women's national team winning the World Cup. A lot of cool things have happened, but today point break personalization. I mean, I'm thinking of the movie obviously because I loved it and not only that, this week is the 28th anniversary of when Point Break was released.



Taylor: Oh my God.



Jasmine: Oh really.



PJ: It is.



Taylor: Point Break could rent a car. Point Break, you know is getting settled in the world, like Point Break is-



Jasmine: Finally making some money.



Taylor: ... 28, yeah, 28 years old is a good time to be around. But I was actually just asking PJ before we got on the air here. I'm like, I love Point Break. I love personalization. What does Johnny Utah have to do with Braze and personalization here?



PJ: I'm so glad you asked. So really we're thinking the movie fantastic, but we're thinking more about the concept of point break and what point break is, it means the wave, it gives you enough time to spend the most possible time on the board standing up. So a point break is what surfers really look for because it gives you the perfect ride, and that's what we're talking about. Personalization being the perfect method because as you move forward with your marketing initiatives, there's going to be more and more competition. People get overloaded in their inboxes every day. How can you stand out amidst the crowd and make your message heard? Personalization is the number one way and it doesn't have to be perfect today. It doesn't even have to be perfect next week, but a more perfect campaign will help you stand out amidst the crowd and call out your users by name and let them know that you know them.



Taylor: I'm glad you cleared that up. I actually came in a president mask today ready to rob a bank with my surfboard. For those of you-



PJ: Are you Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter?



Taylor: Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter.



PJ: And if you haven't seen Point Break for the love of God, please go see it. We won't really talk any more about Point Break during this podcast. It was just kind of-



Taylor: That's a you thing.



PJ: But yeah, I mean what the first thing and last thing that I'll say about Point Break is it was really lauded for the relationship between Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. This like, you know, bros for life. It was a heterosexual chemistry that could only have been created during that time, if it was accompanied by guns and waves and all these manly things. It's like through that atmosphere, it's okay to show a nice heterosexual close, intimacy between two men.



Taylor: The origin of the bromance is what I'm hearing. All right.



PJ: Yeah, jeez.



Taylor: All right, well I think we've got to spin off podcast at the ready.



PJ: I think we do.



Taylor: But let's talk a little bit now about personalization.



PJ: Actual personalization. When we say personalization, my God, you must've heard it a million times already just in the-



Jasmine: It should be a drinking game at this point.



PJ: ... Last five minutes.



Taylor: Yes.



PJ: Yeah, exactly. If you're following along at home, you should be wasted. But personalization at Braze, it means being able to email out a huge campaign to all these individual people and within the campaign have texts, call out users by name or reference specific things about those users based on their behavior in app or on the website. The way we use personalization is through a template language called Liquid. And this was created by Shopify and it helps us input things like first name, the very common one that I'm sure you've all seen. Hello Taylor, hope you're having a good day. Here's some deals relevant to you. And those deals can be in a specific category that Taylor has been known to search very often. More complicated examples is like dynamically pulling in content or materials or thumbnails based on information that they're collecting about how you interact with the brand. Do you guys have any examples of really smart personalization that you've seen? You know, being in the Success Org, these two are in the weeds of campaign creation day in and day out.



Taylor: We're in the trenches as you mentioned, and it's kind of fun be able to be a part of a lot of our client's planning, about getting strategic about the personalization that they use. I'll probably bring up a couple examples as the podcast goes on, but off of the top of my head, I work with a dating app and they started using personalization with Braze using Liquid and connected content. By the way, shameless plug, go check out the lab course on this, if you guys are interested in learning more about these things. PJ is featured as well. But they use this to essentially customize the version of an email you get based on if you're a man or a woman, based on if you're looking for a man or a woman or maybe none of the above, you'll get a different personalized email for you with different content and different styling. So they're doing a little bit of this kind of micro personalization and getting really down to exactly what you're looking for and it's something that's so simple and seamless. You may not even realize that it's personal to you, but it just feels like you.



PJ: Jaz, do you have any?



Jasmine: I definitely do. So we talked about how Liquid allows you to insert dynamic variables. The simple example of the first name, we also touched on how you can pull in dynamic URLs, right, image URLs, things like that. One of my favorite ways to use Liquid is actually what we call conditional logic. So I can start saying within my message, if X equals Y, send this message to my user. If A equals B, send this other message, right? So I can start to build these conditional statements, if you will. And one of my favorite ways to use this is actually with weather. Braze is really flexible in that we can connect to external weather APIs. And quite literally say if it's raining right now, send this email and this is one thing, one of our customers does, is send out an email to say it's raining, why don't you order it. Or it's sunny, so get outside and make that reservation, I should say. So I really appreciate the conditional logic and think weather is a cool example of that.



Taylor: And Jaz for all of you listening in is actually the queen of connected content here at Braze. Taught me everything I know, but she is your-



PJ: Is that official?



Taylor: ... Personalization wizard. She is. She doesn't always wear the tiara, but for special occasions she will dawn the crown and connected content queen.



PJ: Where's the sash though?



Taylor: Ooh, next time.



PJ: Scepter?



Taylor: Scepter, we'll see. We'll see.



PJ: Conditional logic, that's all happening in the same campaign. Even in the same like text field. Right?



Jasmine: Exactly. So quite literally you're putting in the different versions of the copy depending on what variables you have in place. So using that example of weather the conditional Liquid statement in the Liquid logic language would say, if degrees equals below 50 send, "hey, it's cold, grab a coffee." Alternatively, if the weather is higher than 50 degrees, send this generic message that I was planning to send to the user anyway.



PJ: Cool. That's just a little sample of what you can see as far as personalization in the Braze platform. Conditional logic using Liquid. If you have access to Lab, please check out our Liquid course. Also, there's plenty of free resources on Liquid online, so just do some searching. Now let's jump into some other articles that are going to help us understand a little more about personalization in terms of what the future looks like and how you can do personalization at scale. The following articles were provided to us by McKinsey. McKinsey, thank you so much for your research and all you do. So this first one, let's jump off Tay Tay. What do you got?



Taylor: Oh, hey there. Well, not only do I have this article, but I went ahead and brought along my crystal ball here cause we're going to be taking a look into the future of personalization. That was a terrible dad joke, but moving on. First-



PJ: I can add like kind of like...



Taylor: Like crystal ball.



PJ: Sound in the background.



Taylor: Ooh, I love that. All right, well then perfect. Well we'll edit it in the future of personalization. Physical spaces will be digitized. We've seen this a little bit. Jaz, you and I, I think are both Sephora fans, so you may be familiar with this already, but essentially the fact that when you walk into a physical store space, brick and mortar, what you see is going to be personalized to you. Some of the examples pulled out in the article were places where you could try on makeup or clothes just by standing in front of a mirror. In the future it could be that you'll see on screens around the space, places where you can try on clothes just by looking in the mirror, things that recommend a color for you based on your skin tone or things that you like. And I thought this was particularly interesting because I feel like just a few years ago we were talking about the fact that brick and mortar is on its way out, especially with the rise of Amazon. So can you see this as being maybe the resurgence of brick and mortar just by using this idea of personalization?



PJ: I mean, you hit the nail on the head with the rise of Amazon and all this stuff, it seemed like physical is on the way out. But with all of these things, fad or not, it always feels like there's some sort of pendulum at play, where the pendulum goes to one side as we do more and more online purchasing. I'm not going out of my apartment. I don't need to go try things on. Like I know this brand, I know their sizes. And now I think we're starting to see the pendulum go the other way because physical storefronts are still going to be a part of the business, especially living in New York City, what is it, Sixth Avenue that's just a mecca for storefronts and for a brick and mortar businesses. So I think the secret sauce is being able to capture all that information in the store front and tether it to all these other touch points and this is not my idea or a nuanced perspective on it, this is something we've all been talking about for awhile. So I don't think brick and mortar is on the way out. I think this is a way to bolster or supercharged that brick and mortar experience when you're in front of one of those mirrors and you have that try-on experience probably makes you want to go back again.



Taylor: How about you, Jaz.



Jasmine: I actually just recently had an opportunity to visit Amazon HQ and hear from some of their panel of leaders that work there. And one of them was brought on to bring Amazon back into the brick and mortar space. You guys have seen these Amazon stores popping up.



Taylor: The Four Star Store.



Jasmine: He admitted, they're not necessarily profitable yet, but the company that really closed down a lot of brick and mortar spaces is now recognizing, realizing the value of bringing these experiences to your point outside of someone's apartment and off of their couch and in physical spaces. I think the challenge that Amazon and other companies who are rethinking about how they approach brick and mortar is in what ways do the digital and the traditional shopping experience play together and how do they play nicely and where does digital enhance. I mean, Taylor you mentioned Sephora, by the way, I just became a rouge member.



Taylor: Oh, congratulations.



Jasmine: Which means-



PJ: What does it mean.



Jasmine: It means I spent a lot of money at Sephora. But anyway, I was in the Sephora store and online you have the opportunity to kind of, they have some new technologies that we can try on different shades, but one of the hard things as a women is, especially with summer, we're trying to tan right? And now my foundation color has changed because my face color has literally gone several shades darker. Thank you Bahamas. And so I had to go into the store because I trust them to kind of match that. And they have face matching software, like a program where you sit in the chair and they quite literally scan your face and then tell you, okay, here is your color profile and here are the different foundations that match that and they direct me to the place in the store where those are found so I can pick them up, hold them, look at other aspects of marketing. Right. The bottle, is it pretty, right? There's a lot of things that go into that purchase decision, but it started with a digital experience, a technology coming into play to, essentially pull out where I should start.



Taylor: And you brought something up earlier. Maybe a quick segue into another point that the article made. Talking a little bit about both with Amazon and in your Sephora experience, kind of that end to end personalized experience. And it's interesting to think, I would hope in Sephora, we'll see this some more, it sounds like Amazon's focusing in on it, that your experiences in the store don't end in the store. So if I go in on the store, I try on a certain shade of lipstick, maybe that will follow me and I'll see an ad later or I'll see an in app message that says, you looked really great in this shade of lipstick earlier. Would you like to order, there's a sale. Things like that that make you feel like you're understood and you're seen as a person both in and outside of the store. That's all personalization at work. And one other thing that I wanted to kind of bring up in this article before we transition over to Jaz's article that she looked at, is something I thought was interesting. They pointed out that empathy will scale within personalization. Now at Braze, our favorite besides personalization drink, our other favorite hot button topic is humanization, right? Making it feel like a brand not only knows you, but that they understand you as a person, that they empathize with you. And it sounds like brands again, like Amazon, are starting to think about becoming more human. One thing that was brought up in this article was the fact that they've patented technology. We're in the future. Voice recognition devices. We'll realize if you sound different than usual, so let's say you've got a stuffy nose, you can begin getting deals or outreach for brands of cough drops, for chicken noodle soup recipes, things like that, that it'll know that you're not feeling well. It's interesting and something that I want to hear from you on, first of all, is that creepy or caring?



PJ: I don't know if it is creepy just because you know what is creepy is when you say something out loud amongst your friends and then you look at your phone and there's an advertisement for something you said audibly, that creeps me out, right?



Taylor: Oh, big time.



PJ: But, to introduce this intuitiveness into technology, I think it's definitely going to be considered creepy to some people and it's going to be a learning curve, I think for us. But that is the exact kind of humanization in technology that I want to see more of. That doesn't feel like they've captured something that I've said, or they've captured an action that I've done and it's like, we all know it, right, when you see something in your phone like, oh, I know exactly where this came from.



Taylor: Right.



PJ: Either something I said, or something I clicked on. But then when a computer program offers you cough drops because it can hear your voice a bit hoarse, you're going to have a moment of like how, you know. And I think that almost introduces a little bit of magic until the whole relationship with the brand. That's one that I'm really excited for. Jaz hot takes?



Jasmine: One thing I will share is we were just talking about Sephora, still top of mind, because did I tell you guys, I'm a rouge member.



PJ: You said rouge, right?



Jasmine: Oh yeah, rogue, in case I didn't already mention it.



PJ: That's like red.



Jasmine: Yeah, red, rogue. So a recent experience I had shopping with them to actually, this is the experience where after I did it, I got the confetti lipsticks that said I made rogue, right? I shopped for several things, I needed a new makeup brush. I needed like setting powder, a few things, right. Sent them all to my house. One did not arrive.



Taylor: Nightmare.



Jasmine: And each item is north of $50 so I wasn't going to just let that go. And this is, I think, where companies, we haven't seen a huge shift necessarily is when it comes to customer service, right? So I missed this brush and instead of being able to, like right now with an Amazon app, I know we're talking about Amazon and Sephora quite a bit, but clearly I shop there a lot. With Amazon, if something didn't come in my order, I just like go through this tool where I say, I select options from a list. It didn't arrive, what didn't arrive, it gives me the list of things in the order. I click that. I click the one it wants. Where do you want it shipped? I click my address. I'm never talking with someone, or it doesn't feel like I'm talking with someone. With Sephora, they encouraged me to send an email to a customer service representative and that might never be their real name, but like a Stacey B emailed me back, right. To say that she was so sorry that I had that experience, wanted to make it right, like using words like that and that's where you feel the human piece of that brand as well. Both are good experiences. I think with Amazon it happened instantaneously, within five seconds, within five clicks, I was able to get that piece that they had missed sent to me. With Sephora, I had to talk with someone, but at the end of the day I kind of felt like Sephora was sorry about what happened.



PJ: That's a really great point. Like when does the initiative bubble up where customer service has to meet the same high standard that our personalization tech does?



Taylor: Well, and that's where personalization tech can shine, right? Because it makes empathy and it makes humanization scalable so everybody can feel like Stacey B is paying really close attention to them. That knows is exactly what you're talking about. I mean to avoid a bit of a Her scenario if those, if you guys have seen that movie. Maybe there's a point where it goes too far, but I personally really love the fact that when you have a customer support experience, when you have a shopping experience and it feels like they know you, exactly. That's that hyper personalization.



PJ: Well, until it does go too far. Stacey B, thanks for all you do.



Taylor: Stacey B this one goes out to you.



Jasmine: Shout out Stacey, pour one out.



PJ: Jaz. What do you got from me?



Jasmine: We've talked a lot today already about the tools that Braze has, right? Which are really just vehicles for providing the personalization. Taylor touched on strategies and why you'd actually want to use some of these tools to put those programs in place, but now we need to talk about a team that's actually going to action on them, right? If a company decides they want to care more about personalization, they want to provide more personalized experiences, how do they do that, particularly if their tech stack isn't in a super fluid place where everyone's playing nice in the sandbox. And one of the ways that McKinsey talked about it and one of their most recent articles called Marketing's Holy Grail, Digital Personalization at Scale really talked about building a war room of people. Because at the end of the day, this is going to be a marketer, this is going to be a data engineer, this is going to be a software engineer that's going to help you bridge these gaps, get the data where it needs to be to ultimately action on things like including first name, including previous shopping behavior. All of the amazing examples that we walked through today would be nowhere without having the data and infrastructure in place. And so that's one of the things that this article touched on and it kind of reminded me of some of my own client experiences working here at Braze, as a CSM, I got a chance to see the types of teams that our customers are bringing together to ultimately action on this. And I would say it's interesting how some are very nimble and small, while others more at maybe enterprise sized corporations are thinking about, no, it's actually doesn't end here. Let's pull in an agency, right? Let's outsource some of this. Let's fill our stack with a bunch of tech partners including a Braze who can help us achieve all of these things. Like creating that right lineup of a team doesn't necessarily have to be someone at their own company. It could be outsourcing some of that talent, bring it in to be able to action on it.



PJ: And also even with the enterprises, right? They think, you know they have agencies, they got a really souped up tech stack. They're outsourcing a lot. But I think the key here is having that small group of decision makers. So even though you have this monster stack and you have all these different moving pieces, you still have that core group of decision makers that can move quickly. So even though you have this big group and you have all these resources, you have the right people that can flip a switch, shoot out a campaign and do something. Because that, you know, I'm sure we see that right, the bigger the company, the more red tape, the more approvals. So how can you stay nimble as you expand?



Taylor: Absolutely, and interestingly enough, this kind of very digital idea of this digital marketing personalization takes a lot of humans to make it run and to make it feel human. So maybe the robot uprising is farther off than we thought.



PJ: Skynet we're looking at you.



Jasmine: I mentioned kind of pulling together this team of specialists that could be people within your own organization with the ideas. You could also be bringing people outside from agencies, et cetera to for that strategy, right? The core group of people who are deciding how do we actually action on this, provide personalized user experiences. One of the things that you have to think about is what stack do you have in place? What technologies do you have at your fingertips to be able to action on this? And one company that I think did an excellent job at this and I actually had the pleasure of working with closely is Burger King. Fernando, their CMO talks extensively about this in an AdWeek article about how he assembled a stack. He knew that when they wanted to do and roll out this detour campaign that they were going to need someone to be the action layer. That's Braze actually getting these messages out to people. They are going to need someone to do location. That's Radar. They were going to need someone to connect their POS purchasing to user profiles and making sure that brick and mortar restaurant data actually got to a place where they can see the conversions, right, that's mParticle. And then they also have Branch, encouraging people to get those app downloads from an attribution standpoint. There are others obviously who played a piece in this tech stack that allowed detour to happen, but I think it started with Burger King saying, we can't do this alone. We need to assemble the right players who are flexible enough to play nicely with each other to allow that data to come back and forth and ultimately deliver on this user experience, which ended up being people downloading their app, going to a McDonald's, saying they were at McDonald's, and then getting a one cent whopper. How do you deliver on all of that? And that's one of the things that I thought they did a really good job at was actually thinking about rewiring and hard-wiring.



Taylor: Absolutely. Yeah. And I would hope that the great success and the story of working together with this Avengers of a stack that you just mentioned, will kind of help other large enterprise size companies to realize that they may need to take another look at what they've set up over time and do a little bit of reworking. So many of the teams that Jaz and I work with are working with outdated software. Something that was best in class 10 years ago for this personalization to really work seamlessly and to make these great experiences. You need the best in class right at the bat.



PJ: Right on the money. So take advantage of personalization tools at your fingertips.



Taylor: That's us.



PJ: Pay attention to the tech, to the team. Make sure it's the right people that can move nimbly. As far as the tech, always be reworking, always be focusing on the right tools that allow your teams to move faster. And that's about it for Point Break Personalization. Taylor, Jaz, thanks so much for being here.



Taylor: Hang loose.



Jasmine: I thoroughly enjoyed my time with you both.



PJ: And thank you as well for being with us. Take care.