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How Michaels Uses In-Store Experiences to Drive Meaningful Data & Insights

Jessie Dowd
Editorial Director
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Jen Harness (left) Daniel Yaffe (right)

Craft-lovers and makers have been flocking to classes at Michaels stores for years. But it wasn’t until somewhat recently that the brand tapped into the power of its interactive in-store experiences to better understand its customers.

Partnering with data and insights platform AnyRoad, Michaels launched the Community Classroom Project, which allows the retailer to manage experiential marketing programs and turn them into valuable data.

Path to Purchase IQ (P2PIQ) stole a few minutes from Jen Harness, director – content and experience, The Michaels Companies Inc., and Daniel Yaffe, co-founder and COO of AnyRoad, to talk about using experience to drive more meaningful data and insights. (Sign up to hear the full deep dive on this project during the Shopper Insights and Measurement Forum. Register here.)

P2PIQ: Can you share a little background on the Community Classroom Project? What was the goal behind launching it?

Harness: Community Classroom was an evolution of our in-store class program that centers more around community. Our goal was to empower makers in the community to teach what was relevant by providing them with a place to teach and a means to publish and market their classes. In turn, it would provide a wide variety of classes for our makers to choose from at their local stores.

P2PIQ: What role do you see data playing in driving experiences and building customer profiles?

Yaffe: Experiences provide retailers an opportunity to deanonymize store visitors and, ultimately, generate meaningful data and insights. With consent, the retailer can capture consumer data through registrations; uncover feedback, regional preferences and shopper demographics; and use this data to develop their retail experience, personalize interactions, run targeted marketing, and take a “test and learn” approach to rolling out new experiences, products and content.

To make this work, retailers are connecting their experience management technology to point of sale, CRM and CDP data. The quality of the insights from experiences can make a meaningful difference to delivering better personalization across the customer journey and ultimately improve lifetime value.

P2PIQ: What are some of the most interesting findings that resulted from the insights gathered via the Community Classroom Project? And how has that influenced future initiatives?

Harness: Some of our biggest learnings were around the makers who wanted to teach and the commonalities among those who were successful. It was an unexpected segment that we [are] about to build on as we look to build the program.

P2PIQ: What data points did this experiential marketing program deliver that were the most unique?

Harness: By connecting the community of makers who wanted to teach with makers who wanted to learn, we gained unique insight into their organic behavior. This, in addition to their direct feedback, allowed us to market the classes that mattered to them most and gave us learnings that will help us shape our in-store class relaunch.

P2PIQ: What’s your advice to retailers looking to connect better with their audiences via brand experiences in a post-GDPR world?

Yaffe: Experiences are a powerful way to drive loyalty and create a pool of high-value consumers. They also complement existing loyalty programs and, ultimately, create a community of shoppers that can be converted to lifetime loyalists. However, in order to identify these future loyalists, it's not good enough to simply deanonymize your store visitors. You have to create a meaningful value exchange for their data and ensure this value exchange is based on trust and transparency. Legislation like GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] and CCPA [California Consumer Privacy Act] are designed to protect the customer and increase transparency. We see more and more brands generating first-party data with experiences and doing so with the long-term trust of the consumer.

This is a big deal as data is expensive to generate and brands are facing a loyalty crisis. In fact, McKinsey found that during the pandemic, 73% of U.S. consumers changed stores, brands or the way they shop. Experiences are ideal for connecting with consumers to build loyalty and community — especially as consumers leave their homes and are looking to connect with brands. We’ve seen experiences result in 20% more store traffic and consumers lingering 15% longer. Ultimately, these experiences increase revenue per visit and LTV all while generating valuable customer data.