How Harris Scarfe Used High-Value Customer Personas to Increase Email Engagement

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Harris Scarfe is a multi-channel department store retailer with over 160 years of experience. After implementing Lexer’s Customer Data Platform (CDP), the team at Harris Scarfe evolved their “blast” email marketing approach into a more sophisticated, segmented, and performance-driven strategy. Here’s how they use Lexer to power customer insights and email segmentation to improve engagement.

With over 160 years of experience, Harris Scarfe helps their customers feel proud about themselves and their homes by offering an amazing range of bed linen, kitchenware, homewares, electrical appliances and apparel.

With a high-low pricing structure and a vast library of engaging lifestyle content, the team at Harris Scarfe knew that there was an opportunity to do more with their data. That knowledge and desire to evolve their customer engagement strategy into a more data-driven approach is what led them to Lexer.

In this case study, you’ll learn how Harris Scarfe uses Lexer’s CDP to: 

  • Gain customer insights and develop high-value customer personas.
  • Set up tracking dashboards to measure key ecommerce metrics by persona segment.
  • Use these insights and measurements to inform a company-wide launch of personalized campaigns.
  • Improve email engagement up to 270%.

Harris Scarfe’s pre-CDP email marketing strategy: Blast, blast, blast!

Prior to implementing Lexer’s CDP, Harris Scarfe’s email marketing strategy was a classic “batch and blast” approach—but as most modern retailers have realized, that approach isn’t the most effective for building sustainable customer relationships.

“It would be nothing for us to have a dozen emails in a week going to everyone in the database back in the day,” says Simon. “There wasn’t a lot of science early on, and there wasn’t a lot of respect for the customer base. We could see pretty quickly as our business developed and our place in the market developed that we needed a more sophisticated view of the customer.”

To get that sophisticated view of the customer, Harris Scarfe would need a clean, rich, centralized database that would be easily accessed and managed by the non-data scientists on their team.

“We wanted to be able to access that data easily, and that’s one of the important things that attracted us to the products we chose in our martech stack,” says Simon. “[We wanted to be] in a position where the data was so easy to get to that it limits the amount of extra team we’d need to hire and improves the number of people who might find it valuable.”

As Harris Scarfe evaluated different martech solutions, they knew they needed to balance their ambitious goals with ease of use for their limited team.

“We needed to find other ways to activate other than the big red and yellow stick of price, understand what our customers’ needs are relative to our proposition, and make sure we can do that in a way that’s personalized and meaningful to the customer, but also pretty easy for us to do,” says Simon. “There are plenty of ways to do that that are really complicated, but we were looking at really simple methods.”

To build the business case for Lexer’s CDP, Simon pointed out the clear connection between the benefits and use cases of a CDP and the current Harris Scarfe business strategy. Because the Harris Scarfe leadership team was already bought into the value of engaging customers with lifestyle content, the decision to implement Lexer was solidified by emphasizing the positive impact of a CDP on the current content strategy.

“We’ve got this way of engaging with customers that we know is really rich, so people were then buying into something that they already knew,” says Simon. “We determined that a segmented customer engagement capability needed to be a part of our strategic plan.”

Lexer’s CDP powers customer insights and segmentation for Harris Scarfe

Today, Harris Scarfe uses Lexer to combine, standardize, and enrich their data to create a true single view of the customer.

Specifically, Lexer is consuming customer, transaction, and product data from Harris Scarfe’s SAP Hybris database, email engagement data through a direct integration with Emarsys, and web browsing data from a javascript tag within Harris Scarfe’s Google Tag Manager.

Lexer creates over 140 retail attributes out of the box, so the Harris Scarfe team can easily view customer metrics like customer lifetime value, total spend, average order total, latest order, products purchased, categories viewed on the website, email opt-in status, location, brands purchased, channel preferences, and more. The database includes enriched profiles for both customers and prospects, which typically make up anywhere between 30 to 50 percent of a business’s database.

With all of their data combined and easily accessible within Lexer, Harris Scarfe is now able to:

  • Gain customer insights and build customer segments.
  • Activate segmented campaigns across multiple channels, including Emarsys, Google, and Facebook—both for one-off tactical campaigns and always-on audiences that update multiple times per day.
  • Measure and report on segment-level performance for key retail metrics such as customer lifetime value.

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Building Harris Scarfe’s customer personas from unique, high-value segments

Shortly after implementing Lexer, Harris Scarfe discovered a correlation between high-value customers and engagement with lifestyle content. They also learned that customer browsing behavior is a high predictor of purchase intent, and that customers are habitual in nature—in other words, they’ll usually buy from the same category again.

“This is where using Lexer got really cool for us,” says Simon. “Our behavior years ago was really just about banging out bargains and special offers, but we’ve built a deep content pool which allows us to engage with customers well beyond price…. We wanted to look at things like browsing behavior and see if it was a high predictor for sales for certain segments.”

Using Lexer’s javascript tag to track customer engagement with lifestyle content on the website, Harris Scarfe noticed a distinct pattern in browsing behavior that Simon calls “prowl and pounce.”

In the “prowl” phase of website engagement, customers spend a lot of time browsing through the content hub, although they may bounce off the website before they convert. During the second “pounce” phase, the customers who do return to the website tend to jump hard on the sales and specials.

By tracking these customers as they engage with the website, inferring their interests based on the content they’re viewing, grouping customers based on their common interests, and enriching each group with past purchasing behavior to understand their relative lifetime value, Harris Scarfe was able to create five high-value persona segments:

  • Cooking Club: People in this segment have visited the Harris Scarfe Cooking Club Hub and viewed articles.
  • Manchester: People in this segment have visited the Harris Scarfe Linen Club Hub, viewed Bed Linen and Bathroom content, engaged with the Linen Club eDM, and viewed Shaynna Blaze and Jane Lamerton Manchester products.
  • Womenswear: People in this segment have visited Harris Scarfe’s women’s apparel pages, viewed Jane Lamerton womenswear products, and engaged with the Jane Lamerton new Spring Collection eDM.
  • Menswear: People in this segment have visited Harris Scarfe’s men’s apparel pages and engaged with the menswear eDM catalogue.
  • Bargain Shopper: People in this segment have viewed clearance items and engaged with an offer-focused eDM.

These segments help Harris Scarfe personalize their communications to increase customer value, while also easing the pressure to send frequent blast emails.

Click here to read Lexer’s practical playbook for creating data-defined customer personas.

Personalized, persona-driven campaigns increase email engagement

Informed by their new personas, the team at Harris Scarfe formed a hypothesis: If a customer engages with the Harris Scarfe lifestyle content, then they’re more likely to deliver higher value over time.

As they continue to ramp up their persona-driven engagement strategy, Harris Scarfe is only sending relevant content to each persona-based segment, A/B testing to identify which content and messages perform best, and testing customer behavior in the broader data pool to assign segments to customer profiles.

“We’re giving ourselves the opportunity to respect our customers’ needs by feeding them the kind of information they’re looking for,” says Simon. “It’s early days for the program, but we’re already seeing some strong results. Now, it’s really about rolling this out and embiggening it across the greater dataset.”

So far, Harris Scarfe has seen up to 46 percent higher open rates and a 270 percent improvement in click-through rates. As they continue to collect new engagement data and feedback about customer behavior, they’ll work with Lexer to refine their persona segments and inform their acquisition strategy as well.

“Lexer has been super useful with this, both in terms of the tool itself and in terms of the consultative approach that Lexer provides,” says Simon. “The beauty of that regular consulting approach means that there’s always someone on the team to help us accelerate the thinking a bit further or help us build the dashboards, the approach, or the personas. That’s one of the differences we saw between Lexer and some of those other tools, is that it democratizes data both in terms of making it easy to use and also teaching people in the organization how to use it.”

Segment-based tracking dashboards help Harris Scarfe test, learn, and grow

Along with the persona-based email campaigns, Harris Scarfe set up custom dashboards that track the growth of each segment over time.

“The [Track] dashboard is really cool,” says Simon. “It allows us to look by segment at all of that rich data and really be able to understand in real time how the program is developing and how the customer is responding. It helps us determine pretty quickly, what are the key metrics and what are the things we should be measuring success on?”

Currently, the Track dashboard is helping Harris Scarfe visualize changes in key customer metrics including customer lifetime value, RFM (recency, frequency, monetary), and average order value—but the team is continually looking to add new measures to better understand performance over time.

Lexer’s impact on Harris Scarfe: Understand, engage, and measure

Lexer’s CDP and persona-driven strategies have made (and will continue to make) an impact on Harris Scarfe’s business development, customer intelligence, and engagement with customers. Harris Scarfe now has the opportunity to deeply understand their customers and engage them with personalized, relevant experiences that drive results.

“This strategy allows the customers to tell us a lot about themselves just by the way they engage,” says Simon. “That allows us to learn more about those customer behaviors and informs the content we’re building, as well as the product range, so we can make sure we’re engaging with customers in relevant ways and to adapt, learn, and modify as we go.”

From here, Harris Scarfe plans to use Lexer to power personalized campaigns with a multi-channel approach, to adapt their acquisition strategy using the new insight they have about their high-value customers, and to continue honing their approach as they learn more.

“We’re already getting great results, but we’ll be consistently, constantly measuring, determining criteria, evolving as we go, and making sure we have a performance-based attitude here,” says Simon. “That’s one of the important reasons why we ended up with the martech stack that we’ve got, is that it really does allow that level of agile thinking.”

Additionally, Harris Scarfe is currently working on setting up a preference center to allow customers to self-identify their interests and rapidly sort customers into persona segments within the CDP.

Lexer’s CDP helps brands and retailers like Harris Scarfe to genuinely understand their customers and engage them with the experiences they deserve. Our technology and team help you master your customer data at every touchpoint—from marketing to sales to service—so you can deepen customer loyalty and drive profitable growth.

Interested in learning more about persona-building and personalized engagement with Lexer? Use the calendar below to book a demo.

Elizabeth Burnam
Marketing Copywriter

Elizabeth Burnam is a content marketer and a poet at heart. She has a degree in Professional Writing and experience developing high-impact marketing assets for a broad range of industries.

Outside of work, she enjoys reading, painting, people-watching, and exploring the natural wonders of Vermont.