How Hallmark uses Data Insights to ‘Send the Very Best’

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The 100-year-old card maker keeps its finger on its customers’ pulse with data science and analytics.

Content may be king, but it needs data insights to strengthen its reign. Such was the strategy Lindsay Roy, vice president of greetings marketing at Hallmark, outlined at the Mobile Marketing Association’s Leadership Forum. During an on-stage presentation, Roy explained how Hallmark, a more than 100-year-old company, is investing in data science and analytics to make sure that its messaging continues to resonate with customers.

“Hallmark’s mission is to bring people together,” Roy says. “And so we’re using research to understand the different relationships that people have.” She pointed to mother and daughter relationships as an example. The bond between a mother and daughter includes a wide range of emotions that Hallmark categorizes in stages such as a “challenging relationship” when a daughter is transitioning into adulthood and an “evolving relationship” when a young mother better understands her own mother. But instead of asking customers to define their relationship (which could lead to self-censorship) the company uses customer panels to review different types of copy to identify the messages that resonate the most with consumers.

Additionally, Hallmark employs data scientists to analyze reams of point-of-sale data to uncover shoppers’ core motivations when selecting greeting cards. It discovered insights such as the fact that people tend to buy cards that reflect their own personalities and preferences versus the recipient’s, and that contrary to stereotypes, Millennials also buy cards with long messages. Roy didn’t share conversion rate numbers related to these insights, but asserted that these findings help the card company ensure that its products are aligned with consumer preferences. In 2015, Hallmark also switched from a traditional ad network model to an entirely programmatic one.

The company now uses an automated system that mines information about its customers to decide where to place ads online. In the past, “someone might say we should advertise on this website or this platform because this is where we think our customers are,” Roy says. “But we’re sitting on a treasure trove of data about our users that tells us exactly which sites our customers are visiting so we can make sure we’re there too.” The company also considers factors like the time of day to decide when and where to show its ads. At 6 a.m., for example, Hallmark might prioritize ad inventory on weather apps since consumers are most likely checking the forecast at that time.

IDC estimates that corporations will spend $45 billion on artificial intelligence tools and software by 2020, up from $12.5 billion. Hallmark is one of those organizations. Roy says Hallmark has begun testing ways to use artificial intelligence to uncover more insights about people’s relationships and the different motivations and behavior of customers, such as a value shopper versus a premium shopper. “New mobile opportunities and A.I. are part of the next wave of disruption and we’re excited to see what’s coming,” Roy says.

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