Redbox Draws Eyeballs with Personalized Data

The movie rental company bets on hyper-targeted email campaigns to stay relevant in a crowded space.

In 2002, the year Redbox launched its firsts DVD rental kiosks, the movie rental business was vastly different. Rental companies like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video were still in business and few people had heard of digital streaming. Fast forward to today and viewers have a plethora of shows and movies at their fingertips as Redbox, Netflix, Amazon, and others compete in a highly fragmented space.

With nearly 35,000 U.S. locations, Redbox has managed to hold on while other rental companies folded. The company faces enormous pressure, though, to remain relevant in an increasingly crowded space where viewers are growing accustomed to streaming their entertainment. 1to1 Media sat down with Jennifer Partin, senior manager of email marketing at Redbox, to discuss the company's strategy for engaging customers with targeted content and messaging.

1to1 Media: Who is your average customer?

Jennifer Partin: It's a mix. There's the mom getting entertainment for her family and people who like watching certain genres like comedy or horror. We have a range of customers and we want to target all of them based on their interests. But there are a lot of different factors that we're taking into consideration in our targeting.

We moved our marketing program to the Salesforce Marketing Cloud last year to help us better reach our customers. So far we've implemented several different email journeys for segments like new customers, inactive customers, etc.

Can you give me an example of how you're engaging customers through these campaigns?

One of them is a welcome series for new customers. We call it the new customer journey. When people rent for the first time from a kiosk, they give us their email addresses and we send them a series of messages to tell them about Redbox and how they can enhance their experience.

We'll send them one message every week for about eight weeks. We also want to engage people online and on mobile, so those are a couple of other campaigns that we work on. Once someone has lapsed, say for 90 days, we'll send an email asking her why she hasn't rented. She can choose from a series of answers like she's streaming, too busy, or not interested. Based on those responses, we'll send her a promo code to try to get her back.

What data points are you using to further personalize the emails?

We have a marketing data warehouse that we built internally. This lets us personalize the emails with details like their preferred kiosk or geographic location. Sometimes we also put title recommendations in our emails because we have a large algorithm that we've worked on based on customer behavior that will predict what type of titles or genre customers want to see.

For example, Cinderella just came out and it doesn't necessarily appeal to everyone. We try to segment as much as we can to make sure the content in their email is relevant to them and engage them to click through. I don't have the exact number, but we've seen that targeted title recommendations provide a significant lift.

What's your strategy for connecting your email campaigns with other channels, like social media?

We have a mobile manager, social manager, and someone to manage our SEM channel. Everyone has an integrated overall marketing strategy and a marketing calendar that we all follow. Email and mobile are the most interrelated and right now, we're working on identifying the overlap of customers that are both on our email and mobile-safe lists and figure out a strategy for communicating with them with the right cadences, context, frequency, and overlap.

We've done some testing where we check if we should send an email and a text on a Tuesday or just a text on a Friday. Is there a certain group of people who respond better? Do they need both content? Do we throw a push notification in there? We're working on testing all that to find what works best.

What differentiates Redbox from its competitors like Netflix?

Netflix is practically a complementary service to Redbox because it's a streaming service. Redbox's value prop is 'we're still the most affordable way to get newly released entertainment.' Especially when you look at on-demand services, you can get a brand new movie from Redbox for $1.50, where you typically have to pay more for on-demand or some other digital services. We're also trying to grow the video game side of our company, which is about 10 percent of our business. We have email campaigns for video games and we're updating our consoles.

What challenges have you encountered in trying to deliver the right content to the right person at scale?

The challenge that we have is a lot of people are unknown to us. When people use Redbox, they swipe their credit cards and that's all we know about them unless they also give us their email addresses and then we can start learning more about them. If they create a customer profile and add their phone numbers, we can start making even more connections. But it's still a challenge to identify people [across channels].

Do most of your customers prefer to engage with your brand over email?

I wouldn't necessarily say so. Some prefer text. Our largest list is email addresses, though. That's our biggest outbound channel in marketing. At the same time, customers who took the time to download our app are more profitable to us because we know they're more engaged. And email is right below that. Right now we're working on a survey for our customers to help us understand more about their preferences, like how they want to be contacted.

How are you building customer loyalty?

We launched our new loyalty program last October, which is the Redbox Play Pass program. It's a punch card where you get a free rental after 10 rentals. We also have a points system where you get 10 points for every rental and after every 100 points you get a free credit. Our loyalty program has increased engagement a lot. The program is about a year old and once people join the program, their engagement frequency increases rapidly. Putting us on your email safe list is the only requirement so we can talk to you. It [the loyalty card] is linked to your credit card so every time you swipe at the kiosk, we know it's you and you earn points.