by Dustin Collis, Partner and Chief Information Officer at NavigationArts, now an EPAM company
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 50 years, chances are you’ve heard of Mary Kay.
Yes, we mean that Mary Kay—the multi-billion dollar makeup mogul that has been empowering female entrepreneurs since 1963. If any organization knows how to create lifetime customers, it’s them. Mary Kay’s business model is anchored in creating personal relationships with its Independent Beauty Consultants.
At first, the longevity of Mary Kay’s legacy seems baffling: How has a company that was founded on home party sales and social purchasing lasted the constantly changing consumer environment? Well, as it turns out, the days of word of mouth and makeup parties aren’t over. They just happen to be taking place in a different way—digitally.
Expanding in the Chinese Market
One of the fastest growing markets for Mary Kay (along with many other companies) is China. Growth in Chinese sales via mobile has driven enormous overall e-commerce, with a 150 percent year-over-year increase in transaction volumes. Mobile is the digital channel of choice for many Chinese consumers who might not otherwise have access to physical stores or the Internet via desktop. But it’s no longer just about accessibility—the major e-commerce players, such as Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu, having all recognized the mobile potential of the channel have used their size, reputation, and brand equity to capture new customer bases and deliver mobile payment systems that are trusted, secure, simple, and quick.
Typically, adapting a digital approach for a foreign country is relatively straightforward and focuses on localizing for language, currency, and cultural sensitivities. However, the Chinese market is a bit different. Adapting a digital experience to local requirements and circumstances poses a unique set of challenges: erratic bandwidth, widespread use of mobile devices, slower browser version adoption, and the presence of Chinese firewalls are all factors that can negatively affect a user’s experience.
So although Mary Kay has been in the Chinese market for 20 years, the company recently realized the need to enhance its digital presence if they wanted to compete with other mobile vendors in the same space. This is where NavigationArts (now an EPAM company) and Mary Kay worked together to solve the following: how much marketing automation is needed and what are the right tools for a global enterprise.
Designing a Proof of Concept for Marketing Automation
At the center of this Proof of Concept (PoC) was the idea of marketing automation and its potential to overcome some of the obstacles that characterize China’s digital market. Based on 3rd party research and case studies from each organization, an integrated and automated customer process returns significant dividends for companies that invest in marketing automation. The most compelling numbers include:
Mary Kay is a unique business where potential consumers are also potential independent sales force members. Mary Kay needed a strategy that would focus its marketing automation and customer experience on measurable areas of independent sales force activities, including opportunities to reach new potential sales force members, increasing regional sales opportunities, and aligning marketing, IT, and business units at scale.
Choosing the Sitecore® Experience Platform™ (SXP)
In the end, Mary Kay chose the Sitecore SXP, a single connected platform that stores customer data, content and assets in one place and drives every interaction a prospect or customer has with a brand across any marketing channel: web, mobile, social, email, print, apps, and commerce. Sitecore enables brands to use this data to deliver a personalized, relevant and consistent experience and turn customers into brand advocates.
Customer experience management (CEM or CXM) is the process that companies use to oversee and track all interactions with a customer during the duration of their relationship. This involves the strategy of building around the needs of individual customers.
Using Sitecore SXP, Mary Kay will be able to acquire a 360-degree view of the Mary Kay independent sales force that will offer opportunities to cross-promote content on its website and through other marketing channels. These functions are necessary for the Chinese market as they will streamline the purchasing process that otherwise might be impeded by China’s spotty Internet connection or slow browsers.
Features like multivariate testing and content optimization will allow Mary Kay marketers to categorize visitors based on the content they view, the number of times they’ve visited, and the searches they’ve performed. Mary Kay can elect to trigger specific A|B or multivariate tests based on the category of products the visitor views. For example, prospective skincare buyers might be presented with an advertisement testing the effectiveness of the words “repair” vs. “wrinkles” vs. “aging.” Viewers of color products might be tested against terms such as “makeup” vs. “beauty.”
Sitecore is an open platform and easily integrates with other systems. For this PoC Mary Kay used Eloqua to manage lead generation activities and Salesforce for customer relationship management, both best of breed digital platforms.
Team & Results
The Proof of Concept results were a true testament to the best in class nature of the technology vendors and the business units at Mary Kay. Each element of the POC was proven; as a result, Mary Kay is moving at breakneck speed to implement Sitecore SXP and its automated marketing features on a global enterprise scale. Each aspect of the POC is now getting broken down, localized, and then implemented through Mary Kay’s digital channels and across its digital ecosystem.
Paul Jones, VP Brand & Digital Marketing and executive sponsor of the project at Mary Kay, said of the project, “Dustin Collis and the NavigationArts team partnered with Mary Kay, Sitecore, Oracle, and Salesforce.com to deliver a robust marketing automation architecture that exceeded both our business requirements and financial goals. The pilot’s performance in China allowed Mary Kay to build a business case extending the deployment of marketing automation globally. NavigationArts worked in partnership with our internal IT team challenging both vendors to deliver a solution that perform to our requirements.”
The effort was led by Paul Jones and supported by members of Mary Kay IT, Mary Kay Digital Marketing, Mary Kay China IT, Mary Kay China Marketing, and Mary Kay APAC.