Big Interview: Cormac Folan, digital marketing manager, TM Lewin

Like the rest of the retail industry, TM Lewin is struggling to identify customers shopping across online and in-store channels.

While TM Lewin has a single view of its customers, digital marketing manager, Cormac Folan, says the biggest challenge is putting the correct processes in place to collect accurate data from TM Lewin 's 85-strong UK store estate – not counting the five Australian stores and franchises across the world.

"It's a big difficulty, getting all of the data aligned, tracking people and knowing our customer wherever they purchase, be that online, in store, via a call centre, or wherever that might be."

Collecting data from the store is the trickiest part of the puzzle. Currently, store associates simply ask for email addresses at the point of purchase. But added value in exchange for this information helps to encourage the customer to pass over this data and Folan says he is looking at offering customers eReceipts in the near future.

"We're probably six-12 months away from doing it [eReceipts], and I think it will be standard in retail at some stage, but there are limitations because of our till systems," he says.

Accurately understanding how customers shop differently across various channels allows TM Lewin to send more personalised and effective marketing emails.

Six months ago, the retailer partnered with email service provider, SmartFocus, which provides a number of personalisation tools, including the ability to send automated abandon basket notifications to customers via email.

TM Lewin feeds its customer data over to SmartFocus which uses its Message Cloud technology to personalise customer emails. Folan says SmartFocus allows the digital marketing team to target customer groups as individually as possible, while automating marketing content.

TM Lewin's emails also include a weather widget, which feeds weather information into its email campaigns.

"If the weather is freezing we insert jackets and scarves into the email and if it is raining we include rain macs," explains Folan. The emails are generated automatically and display products depending on the weather in the location where the customer opens the email. "You set it up once and it just ticks over and is triggered dynamically."

The weather widget has only been included in TM Lewin emails in recent weeks, but Folan says the next step is to include location-based messages to encourage customers to visit their local store.

While it is still early days for comparable open rate figures and an understanding of ROI, Folan says being able to trigger content dynamically has had a positive effect on the retailer's 'welcome to the business' emails. TM Lewin now sends different emails depending on whether their details were gathered in store or online and this has seen a significant increase in open rates and decrease in opt-outs.

Folan explains it is also important to really understand your customers. He describes TM Lewin's customers – which are predominantly males shopping for males – as having a different online shopping behaviour than, for example, females shopping on Asos.

"Our customers have longer distance between buying cycles and we're famous for our multi-buys," he says." TM Lewin customers are more about functional than impulse fashion – it's more about work wear and shirts for everyday outfits, rather than one outfit for the weekend he can't wear again because a friend has put a picture of it on Facebook."

When it comes to personalisation, Folan – who has been working at TM Lewin for a year – admires Ocado's efforts which provides customers with relevant offers without disrupting their journey to checkout.

"Personalisation is such a big word at the moment," he says. "I use Ocado every week and it is always very strong and relevant. Especially from a male point of view, which I know is a stereotype, but we're lazy – we want to get in and get out."

But Ocado's success is down to its complete relevance to the customer. "If it is not relevant, it's a hassle and a deterrent to shop again," he explains. "Ocado reminds me when I forget something – when it's done right, it is really powerful, but wrong, it's a really bad customer journey. It's all about the balance between interrupting the checkout and natural process to buy, with recommendations, and it's a really fine line."

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