Hallmark ramping up BI for new branding campaign

Retailer must broadly expand data analysis efforts in plan to maintain constant engagement with customers

LOS ANGELES -- Hallmark Cards is ramping up its Business Intelligence capabilities to accommodate an ambitious, recently-launched new branding campaign.

Under its new Life is a Special Occasion tagline and campaign theme, Hallmark hopes to be able to convince consumers to purchase customizable 'any day' cards and other merchandize for what it is calling the "perfectly imperfect, unplanned moments" in their lives.

Rather than just trying to get consumers to purchase its cards and gifts during holiday seasons and other milestones, Hallmark is embarking on a mission to engage them continuously. "We need to figure out how to engage consumers across time," said Jay Dittman, vice president of marketing strategy at the company.

Dittman offered glimpses of the company's plan, and its use of data, at the Gartner Business Intelligence conference here this week.

For example, the new campaign will use consumer data generated from retail sales, as well as data gathered from ongoing interaction-based consumer engagement, he said.

The company is moving "from a traditional seasonal and date driven calendar to a persistent flow-of-life calendar consisting of moments" that matter to individual consumers, he said.

The new program offers consumers an opportunity to offer information about themselves -- such as the birth of a baby -- which Hallmark will use as a base to build a continuing relationship.

The goal is to use consumer supplied data, and information gathered in what Dittman called a "non-creepy" way from social media channels and other online resources, to target specific consumers and their friends with tailored Hallmark offerings.

For example, by knowing that a consumer's child likes Disney characters, Hallmark could suggest they purchase Disney-themed party plates and other appropriate items for the child's birthday. The goal of the program, Dittman said, is to interact with customers on a continuous basis.

"We have to give her something that matters in her life-- something based on who she is versus what she shops for," he said.

Dittman said the program was driven in many wasy by what he described as broad changes in consumer purchasing behavior over the past several years. Therfore, Hallmark had to establish a clear differentiation from online competitors, Dittman said.

"Power is shifting to the consumer. The question is how do you survive and thrive in this era," he said.

From a BI standpoint, Hallmark already has data compiled from more than 13 million consumers in its loyalty program. That data must be merged and rationalized with the data that Hallmark collects as part of the new program. "We've got to figure out how to merge the data and how to organize it. We've got to figure out how to architect the system," he said.

Hallmark currently uses technology from SAS Institute, including the Enterprise BI Server, as well as its data mining and advanced analytic tools to support its overall BI requirements.

The SAS tools are used to analyze data compiled from Hallmark's point-of-sale systems, its loyalty program and other sources.

Hallmark also uses SAS software for predictive modeling.

At this point, Dittman said it's unclear whether the SAS tools can support the new campaign in the long run. The company will do a full technology evaluation to determine what technology will be needed, he said.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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