Podcast: Braze for Impact – Visual Experience Platforms

In the latest episode of Braze’s Next-Gen Email podcast series, Movable Ink’s Julio Lopez explains the concept of a visual experience platform & how it can be used to create dynamic, personalized emails that move across channels.

Julio Lopez (Client Strategy at Movable Ink) joins us at Braze HQ to share the concept of a visual experience platform and how it can be used to create not just dynamic, personalized emails … but also to keep that unique experience in tact as customers move across channels and even onto a website.



PJ Bruno: Hello again. Welcome back to Braze for Impact, your martech industry discuss digest. And I’m so happy to be joined today by Julio Lopez, associate director of client strategy at Movable Ink. Julio, thanks so much for being here.


Julio Lopez: Yeah, I’m happy to be here, nothing like a podcast for a marketing nerd like me to participate in.


PJ Bruno: I love it, podcasts on a Friday. And thanks for coming in under these heat conditions. It’s a ridiculous.


Julio Lopez: It’s really warm out. I’m happy that I got to make it into your office and cool off a little bit.


PJ Bruno: And I’m glad that this isn’t a video podcast because you’d see us both melting in our pants right now. But anyways, let’s cut to it. Julio, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself?


Julio Lopez: Sure. My role within Movable Ink is to partner with key clients to identify and deliver strategy frameworks that drive meaningful results. I started my career at CheetahMail focusing on strategic email development and deployment. Then went on to lead the customer success team at RevTrax, which is an offer management platform. And before joining Movable Ink,I was leading integration work streams for Eversight, which is a retail pricing and promotion optimization firm. I’ve now been with Movable Ink for a little over a year, and it’s my pleasure to be here today to discuss the exciting world of email marketing.


PJ Bruno: Yes, and I’m so glad you were able to fit us in the schedule, man. Really appreciate it. So, why don’t you just tell us a little more about Movable Ink for those of us out there who have not had the pleasure to experience your brand?


Julio Lopez: Of course Movable Ink is a visual experience platform. And our technology enables digital marketing leaders to create unique, relevant and compelling visual experiences across email and web and display at the exact moment of engagement. We work with over 700 of the world’s leading brands and have over 300 employees across the globe.


PJ Bruno: Wow. I heard you say visual experience platform. Can you expand on that? What is that?


Julio Lopez: Sure. A visual experience platform is a SaaS solution that allows digital marketers to free their data from the silos that they’re typically housed in and activate that data to generate intelligent creative with millions and millions of unique variations based on things like consumer context, consumer behavior and third-party insights. And all of it is done in real time.


PJ Bruno: Oh man. Cool. That sounds really valuable. So yeah, data silos can cause a lot of frustration for marketers, as I’m sure you’ve seen, who try to activate them. But applying that to email specifically, what are some of the ways that Movable Ink helps marketers take email to that next level with visual experience platforms?


Julio Lopez: Well, our primary goal is to help brands create these one-to-one visual experiences that based on data, and there’s a lot of ways that we can do this. It could be something more sophisticated, like pulling any customer’s loyalty data into an email in real time and converting a points value to a specific reward recommendation. Or it could be something as simple as pulling in a customer’s name into an email header and using a custom branded font. One of our travel clients use that strategy to add their customer’s name to a header image, and it was an image of a boarding pass, and it was a really clever and eye-catching way to get the customer’s attention. But to be clear, we do like to focus on more sophisticated use cases. And some of my favorites are realtime pricing for hotels and airlines, as well as real time inventory for eCommerce brands. And when I say real time, I mean that at the exact moment that the email is opened, the information updates automatically. And again, these are just a few ways that our clients are using Movable Ink to take their emails to the next level. But there are tons and tons of use cases that we’ve developed across all verticals.


PJ Bruno: That’s amazing. So, this real time aspect, it sounds like a fairly novel solution to a newer problem as marketers have access to these increasing amounts of consumer data. So how do you see Movable Ink bringing traditional marketing into the new age?


Julio Lopez: Well, if I stop and think about the current state of marketing, it becomes really apparent that we’re living in a visual era. Images and visuals are now the language that moves people. And I think this has led to an all new set of requirements for digital marketers. Brands need to create compelling visual experiences that are unique to the individual every single time that customer engages with the brand. But creating these personalized visual experiences at scale is really, really difficult. And the difficulty stems from the fact that traditional martech stacks weren’t designed for the visual era. So, as a result, many marketing investments are no longer moving the needle. And not to put too fine of a point on it, but as the number of digital touchpoints continues to increase, the problem will snowball, and those unique visual experiences will only become harder and harder to create. So with that in mind, I think that marketers are kind of faced with a false choice. They can either create personalized experiences for small segments in a non-scalable way, or they can create generic experiences that reach a broader audience. And this is where I see Movable link bringing marketing into the new age. Using our visual experience platform, companies can thrive in today’s visual era by freeing their data from those silos and activating that data to generate creative with millions of unique variations. And you’re doing that across multiple channels and personalizing for every individual at every touch point.


PJ Bruno: It feels like we’re living in the future. So I want to hear more about visual experience platform because this is new to me. This is the very first time I’m hearing about it. So what other benefits do you see for organizations who leverage this?


Julio Lopez: Sure. I think the core benefit is the scalable and personalized creative that’s generated in real time, at the moment of each engagement. The scalability translates to marketers finally being able to move away from focusing on segments to focusing on creating these one-to-one, unique and relevant experiences. Also, because of the scalability, production becomes highly automated, which means that teams can now focus less on low level tactical activities and more on strategy to create those innovative, on-brand experiences that drive revenue. And I’ll also add one more thing. One of the best things about a visual experience platform is that there’s no need to rip and replace anything. You can use it with your existing martech stack, supercharging the value of those investments that you’ve made.


PJ Bruno: That sounds like a game changer. But so something like Movable Ink that has such an impact, I mean it sounds like it could be complicated potentially. How simple is it to inject Movable Ink into a company’s marketing initiatives, into their stack?


Julio Lopez: It really is very simple. So the way that our platform works is that we look for a data source that houses customer information, and call up that data source every time the customer is engaging with the brand. So those data searches can be internal, for example, an API into the data warehouse. Or they can be external, say an API into a brand’s offer management platform. Because our core focus is on activating existing data sets in real time, we are effectively partner agnostic and work really well with third parties. And we’ve actually got a robust list of existing partners that result in a ton of out of the box solutions. And we also regularly launched client-specific specific integrations. So because we’re partner agnostic, we can supercharge the investments clients make in their existing martech stack by activating the data that’s housed across all their vendors.


PJ Bruno: Can you give us an example of how that might work though?


Julio Lopez: Sure. So, say that you’re a retailer with a loyalty program. A big part of your marketing efforts to this loyal customer base is going to be to have them redeem their points so they keep coming back. So by tapping into a loyalty platform, Movable Ink can pull in each member’s unique rewards information into an email in real time, things like point balance. And taking it a step further, Movable Ink can then convert those reward points into redemption opportunities. So if we know that our reward is worth X number of points, we would only show the rewards within a specific threshold based on how many points the individual has in their account. We can then compound additional waterfall logic to surface the right loyalty content for the right individual.


PJ Bruno: That’s fantastic. As marketers, you and I, we understand the importance of personalization and how that personalized experience can be more immersive, as what you’ve described. On the topic of immersive though, I’ve learned Movable Ink is now powering augmented reality in some client communications. Is that for real? How does that work?


Julio Lopez: Yeah, it’s something that we’re really, really excited about, basically because it’s a newer way for us to deliver these highly personalized experiences in a very, very engaging way. And there’s plenty of ways to delight customers, but AR has proven to be very, very successful. And I think a big reason for the success has been the easy customer experience. So a brand will simply send out an email with a call to action to the AR experience. That click on the email brings the customer to a landing page where they can flip through different background filters. And it’s all done within the browser, so no app download is needed. One client example comes to mind, which was really, really popular and successful. It was Virgin Holiday’s Wish You Were Here campaign. So when we powered that, the email had a CTA that brought the customer to the landing page. And in that landing page, customers were able to take caricature-like photos with Snapchat-like filters overlayed on themselves. And they were able to switch between five different destinations, so you had New York, Hollywood Las Vegas, Florida, and also a scuba diving destination. And the images that they took directly from that email experience were easily shareable to social media. So the reason why I think this was so successful is that, not only did this email serve as an entertaining and immersive experience, but it was also great brand exposure. You had all these shares going out that the brand team wasn’t paying for, and it was on-brand. It was calling out what the company could do, and it resulted in sky high engagement rates across clicks, shares and dwell times.


PJ Bruno: That is so cool. What a cool campaign, and a fun way to engage customers too. It sounds relatively easy to implement. I would’ve thought it’d been a little stickier. But let’s switch gears a little bit. So you sit within Movable Inks client strategy team. That’s right?


Julio Lopez: That’s correct, yes.


PJ Bruno: Okay, cool. And you focus on retail. That’s your vertical, right?


Julio Lopez: That is right, yes.


PJ Bruno: So what types of companies are you working with? And what are some of the common trends that you’re seeing in the retail vertical?


Julio Lopez: Yeah, so let me give you a little bit more background on that. So we went to market with the client strategy team in Q1 of this year, and spent the better half of last year planning our engagement model. My focus on retail is to work with our top 15 organizations and align directly with the executive teams that oversee all digital marketing, so not just email. So my goal is to understand what their pain points are and map out a framework for addressing those pain points. It’s a very consultative approach that involves shepherding clients through their digital transformation efforts. And there’s been quite few common themes across the clients that I’ve worked with, whether it’s retail apparel, luxury retail or pure play econ specialty retailers. I think the biggest trend is how much more these marketers are being asked to do and deliver with less and less resources. I think we all know that retail margins are razor thin. And to survive, many of these organizations need to make some very tough choices to protect the bottom line. And what ends up happening is that, because the teams are understaffed, more and more focus goes to operations, since everyone is spread so thin, and the overarching strategy receives less attention. So I think it’s clear to see that eventually this working model becomes unsustainable. So, smart marketers are realizing that now. A lot of the strategic frameworks that I design for my clients focus on automation, modularity, and more importantly scalability, so the few resources that remain can be deployed to focus on strategy.


PJ Bruno: Gotcha.


Julio Lopez: And then another trend that I am seeing is data cleanup. So over the years, brands, and all of us honestly, got caught up in this idea of big data. And we collected tons of user information, but we never really used it. And the way that much of that data was collected was fragmented and disorganized. So then we moved all that data to data lakes, which were mainly designed for data science teams to learn more about the customers. So, this ended up creating a different problem because the data became difficult for marketing teams to access, especially in real time. So, marketers are now focusing on getting access to their own data in real time to deliver these personalized experiences.


PJ Bruno: Oh wow.


Julio Lopez: Yeah. Now that I’m thinking about trends, I think this access to data is becoming more and more important because of a third trend, which is the exponential rise of direct to consumer brands. So, D2C brands are digitally native. So, from day one, they’ve had access to realtime data to personalize the user journey. So in order to compete, traditional retailers need to up their personalization game. D2C brands have set an entirely, entirely new bar for the shopper experience. They are more immersive, tailored, experiential shopping journeys, and all of that is made possible by how nimble they can be in activating that customer data.


PJ Bruno: That’s awesome.


Julio Lopez: Yeah, I’m really excited about all this. I think that as we keep an eye on these trends, more and more retailers are going to shift their focus to these three things.


PJ Bruno: You’re really in the weeds with retail. You weren’t kidding. What are some other trends that you’re really excited about for the upcoming months and this year?


Julio Lopez: Yeah. So, I guess taking it away from a little bit of the negative and more in the positive, one thing that I’m excited to see develop is the rise of experiential retail. So, the traditional retail model has always focused on the product first, but more and more consumers are looking for an engaging experience. And largely this is driven by the millennial generation.


PJ Bruno: Of course.


Julio Lopez: Their preference over experiences over physical things is a big part of their core values. So now you’ve got interesting concepts like DSW’s Nail Bar. So I’m interested to see how retailers look to stand out from the pack with these experiential retail experiences.


PJ Bruno: Fantastic. Thanks for sharing those, Julio. So, in talking about trends, we have to bring it back to the core trend we started this discussion with, and all around personalization. For those brands out there looking to up their personalization game, what are some easy ways to start right now? What are some quick wins?


Julio Lopez: Yeah. I think a one easy win would be to leverage your website to personalize your emails. So your brand website will have a ton of information, including browse behavior, cart abandons and inventory levels. So pulling in that website behavior into your promo emails will make every touch point feel like a one-to-one communication to the customer. And we do this regularly for our clients and have seen some amazing results.


PJ Bruno: What kind of results are we talking about here? What do you normally see?


Julio Lopez: Yeah. So we tend to see big lifts in engagement and revenue. So, for example, we had Under Armour implement a reusable product recommendation module in their promo emails. And the recommendations were based off of website browse behavior. And with that module, they’ve seen a 132% lift in click through rates, and also a 49% lift in conversion rates. And I think another not so obvious result from this was that since the content is dynamic to the user, the email only had to be coded once, so Under Armour’s saw a 75% reduction in the time it took to produce the email.


PJ Bruno: Oh wow. Okay. That’s definitely a hugely successful campaign. And I’m sure Under Armour lauds you for your efforts there. Good stuff.


Julio Lopez: Yeah.


PJ Bruno: Julio, thank you so much for joining me today, man.


Julio Lopez: It’s been great to be here.


PJ Bruno: [inaudible] Come back and see us again soon, won’t you?


Julio Lopez: For sure.


PJ Bruno: And you guys come back and see us again some time too. Take care.