To be the platform of choice for online investment, interactive investor (ii) needed to continuously nurture and engage prospective and current customers with information and news that was relevant to them.
By deploying a digital marketing automation platform, ii can finely segment its audience based on myriad data and run automated campaigns that use highly personalized content to engage customers.
Increased open rates for newsletters by over 80%by personalizing content based on a customer’s segment
Improved clickthrough rates more than 70%by sending emails to customers at optimal times
Attributes 10% of company’s overall website trafficto campaign emails
Business challenge story
Rethinking customer engagement
Be relevant or become irrelevant.
For many brands, this is a constant threat. At ii, it’s not just the driving motivator behind the company’s successful customer engagement strategies. It’s also the personal mantra of its Head of CRM, Phil Ireland. And it’s working.
The company’s approach to customer engagement shifted in late 2017 when, after acquiring a set of businesses, it found itself with three separate CRM platforms and databases. To make it easier to manage the data and execute marketing strategies, ii consolidated everything onto a single platform. Around that time, it also hired Ireland.
“When I joined the company, it was just moving its CRM marketing from three platforms into one: IBM Watson,” Ireland recalls. “I had worked with Watson before when it was Silverpop, so I had a good two years’ experience using it. And in one of my previous roles, I basically sourced Watson as a platform and chose it against others. So I knew the technology pretty much inside out.”
In addition to bringing his technological expertise to the business, Ireland brought a new way of thinking about the role of CRM in marketing.
He continues: “Before me, the company used an outside agency for campaigns and used CRM as the supporting channel for activities across the business, like tax year-end campaigns. I wanted to change the mindset by showing them that while CRM will support those channels, CRM is also a channel in itself — one we should use to engage customers.”
One of those actions is generating new business. Another is to keep encouraging customers, or traders, to use the ii platform for online trading.
Automating and personalizing campaigns
To engage with its audience, ii relies on IBM Watson Campaign Automation technology, a digital marketing automation platform offered as a software as a service (SaaS). The company is also in the process of setting up an IBM Universal Behavior Exchange (UBX) platform to infuse its engagement strategies with data from Google Analytics. IBM Watson Campaign Automation Consulting Services team is providing technical support.
“We have a very good relationship with IBM for client support and services, and a very good account manager who’s been great about making sure we hit certain deadlines,” adds Ireland.
The Watson™ platform continually ingests data from ii’s database systems, which hold information on all its customers. Ireland markets to all opt-in customers. “In its simplest form, the data is kind of split in two,” he explains. “We have paying customers who have an account with us, and we have free users who aren’t trading but have signed up for a free research account.”
Ireland segments customers into two groups: Active and Engage. “Segmenting our database has allowed us to look at different customer types and review their engagement behavior using IBM Watson,” he says.
The insight gained from segmentation proves invaluable when developing newsletter and email campaigns. “We piloted an idea for an email campaign,” recalls Ireland, “so we segmented some customers who held a particular stock. From those customers, over 60 percent went to our web page.”
With newsletters, both paying and free users receive daily stock information, but other content varies based on a customer’s segment. “Say, for example, a customer holds a Top 10 stock with us,” says Ireland. “The newsletter will show them dynamic news and discussion boards related to that stock.”
To boost open rates, Ireland takes advantage of the platform’s send time optimization (STO) capabilities; that is, its determination of the next best time to message a user based on when that user typically opens messages.
“We have quite a heavy CRM schedule of certain campaigns that we need to execute over a week,” explains Ireland. “Watson is always looking for the best times for us to send campaigns to our customers. Then we also look at different segments based on their behavioral engagement within our campaigns, for example, users who opened messages in a specific time period but haven't clicked. Watson makes sure that we're on schedule to engage with a different message to those customers.”
Some of the campaigns are automated journeys or programs designed to engage customers in different ways depending on their status and relationship with ii. The company runs active programs, including a welcome journey for customers who hold a research account and traders. “Watson’s perfect in terms of its automation and its ability to map out journeys,” says Ireland.
“I want to make sure that we don’t wait too long to get someone to reengage with us,” states Ireland. “For example, if someone stops engaging after a month, there should be a series of communications, not just email. Whether we use a text push or the UBX journey, we want to be at the forefront of the customer’s mind.”
Top-of-mind awareness, bottom-line results
If the results of its customer engagement strategies are any indication, the company is indeed at the forefront of its customers’ minds. Today, ii is recognized as one of the most active investor communities in the UK.
Open rates for newsletters have increased over 80 percent and clickthrough rates have improved more than 70 percent since the company moved onto the IBM Watson platform. Campaign emails drive more than 10 percent of the overall traffic to the company’s website, which boasts millions of visitors each month.
“We have an amazing editorial team in London who knows the industry inside and out, and they’re constantly updating the news section on the website,” says Ireland.
The content is so good, in fact, that customers personally request ii’s newsletters. “It’s quite funny because I've worked in industries, like retail, where you’re trying really hard to get customers to engage. Here, our customers are so engaged that if some don’t receive our newsletters, they actually ring in and ask, ‘What’s happened to my newsletters?’”
Success also comes from the company’s smart use of data, such as segmenting customers based on their stockholdings.
Moving forward, ii is working with IBM to implement kinetic emails and real-time campaigns. “We want to use our in-house APIs to optimize our campaign and pull information into a relational table in IBM Watson,” Ireland explains. “That way, we can send real-time personalized emails to our customers who would then be able to look back into those emails to see if things have changed.”
For Ireland, the future is also about looking after the customers and staying relevant.
He concludes: “Something that I say all the time is ‘Be relevant or become irrelevant.’ With IBM Watson, everything is tailored for the customer, and the customer is at the heart of everything we do. Watson is helping ii execute all of our ideas and has made ii’s holistic CRM marketing vision a reality.”
About interactive investor
Headquartered in Manchester in the UK, interactive investor offers an investment platform that provides unbiased information, analysis, tools and ideas to help customers make better-informed investment decisions. The company’s award-winning trading platform offers access to an extensive choice of markets, instruments and currencies within trading, individual savings accounts (ISAs) and self-invested personal pension (SIPP) accounts. This comprehensive investing service is underpinned by a strong focus on delivering value for investors, demonstrated through an innovative and competitive pricing model featuring simple, flat fees and unique “trading credits.”