When Ian Cameron led global marketing and brand sponsorships for Epson, trying to determine what each customer bought across Epson's myriad sales channels was an immense challenge that had no good solution.
As Fobi's new Vice President of Marketing, Ian confides that Fobi's Device is precisely what major brands like Epson need to connect fragmented sales data from various online + in-store channels - and reveal how much value each customer actually generates.
On this week's episode of the Fobi Experience, we talk to Ian about his time at Epson, and why he thinks Fobi's technology will finally unlock true omnichannel marketing for operators in the Hospitality, Sports, and Retail sectors respectively.
The following is a transcript of the conversation between Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel and Vice President of Marketing Ian Cameron.
Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel: Epson probably not only directly sold to customers, but there are resellers and there are channel distributors. How were you able to kind of combine all that data to really understand your customer?
Fobi VP of Marketing Ian Cameron: Well, we never did. To be really frank, that remains an issue for most brands and manufacturers out there. It's almost impossible to get full 360 degree view of your customer and that's even months after the fact. Really, I think one of my biggest pain points at Epson was kind of understand the actual customer lifetime value of an Epson customer. I mean, that's one of the reasons why I joined Loop is it's just so exciting to see this actually working and be able to offer this solution out to people who are in a similar position to me because I feel their pain. And to be able to have a solution that actually solves those problems, is just so exciting.
Devon: Hey, you're listening to the Loop Experience podcast. Join us for exclusive interviews, behind the scenes updates and all things Loop. Coming at you from the head office storage room, I'm your host, Dev.
Welcome back to the Loop Experience podcast. Our guest today is Ian Cameron, Loop's vice president of marketing. First of all, welcome to the team Ian. I know you've had some exciting first few weeks here at Loop. I hope you're adjusting well. I know that we have a very fast paced environment here.
Ian: No, it's great. I've worked at very large organizations previously like Epson with over 80,000 employees worldwide and I've worked at small start-ups. And I have to say that I love working at smaller organizations. Just I love the pace and the ability to to see the impact of what you're doing for the organization so quickly and so immediately. It's really, really exciting, and I'm really excited by the vision and the team here at Loop.
Devon: And we're super excited to have you as well. First, let's start off this episode by talking a little bit about your past experience and why you've joined Loop in such a pivotal time. You have previous working experience working in marketing and communications, and most notably the working title that you held as general manager of Global Brand and Marketing Communications at Epson. First, tell me a little bit more about Epson. I think most people know them as just a printer company, but they're are a lot more than that.
Ian: Yeah, I think everybody's image of Epson is the little inkjet printer that they have at home, and a lot more of you have them now thanks to COVID and work from home. But actually, yeah, printers are actually... consumer inkjet printers are just a small piece of what Epson does. They have quite a huge chunk of business in things like projectors. So they're number one projector manufacturer worldwide. They're also the number one printers as well, but the number one point of sale printer manufacturer worldwide. If you go into a restaurant or purchase something in a retail environment, there's a 50% chance that that's being printed out on an Epson printer. So, definitely, Epson has some huge areas of the business that people don't really know about. And they're about 50% to B2B and about 50% to B2C.
Devon: And we definitely know Epson from working with our integration, specifically with the Fobi hardware device in between the point of sale and the printer. So we've had a lot of work with Epson. So that's great to hear that now on our team, we've just have even more experience for that piece of the puzzle that we're solving there. So let's talk a little bit more about what your specific role at Epson was and what you were able to do with your position there.
Ian: Yeah. So specifically at the end, I was the general manager of Global Brand and Marketing Communications. When I first started at Epson, they actually didn't have a central marketing function. Epson was what I would call a very locally effective and very globally inefficient. You had multiple regions around the world that had their own marketing and sales organizations, and they were very good at what they did. But I mean, again, you had eight different regions creating their own marketing materials, taking their own photos of all the products, creating their own brochures, making their own videos. I mean, the products were actually identical all around the world, but the main problem was that the naming for those products was different in each region.
Ian: So really what I brought to Epson as my sort of mission there was taking... Trying to keep that local effectiveness, but really increase and improve the global efficiency and the global execution of how things went. So I built the first sort of centralized global marketing team. And we started to basically centralize some of the functions that made the most sense from a sort of an efficiency perspective. And so that meant things like harmonizing product naming globally, which had never been done before, but that saved Epson probably twenty to thirty million dollars a year. And then we took those savings that we generated from the increased efficiencies from that. And we invested in additional growth activities such as the global sponsorship activities or on the global ad-words advertising that we did.
Devon: That's great. And you touched on a little bit there about how the company was operating, and looking at it's sales as a whole, was there a big disconnect when you realized that all of these different sales channels were disconnected and you weren't able to really see it across a complete picture?
Ian: Yeah. I mean, obviously disconnected a little bit regionally, but really, I think one of my biggest pain points at Epson was trying to understand the actual customer lifetime value of an Epson customer who had bought online an inkjet printer. We could see that revenue and figure out what our margin was on that. But if they then bought in cartridges through our retail channel, or if they bought a projector, a home theater projector through Amazon online, we had absolutely no visibility into what they were purchasing through the channel unless we could convince them to fill out a registration form. But typically, your registration rates were very low on that side of things. So it was just that inability to have that visibility into how our offline and sometimes online customers were interacting with our channel and what they were buying through that and the inability to see that, and really be able to drive proper personalized promotions that took into account all these other products and potentially services that they were purchasing that we had no visibility into.
Devon: And what were the ways that you kind of fixed that or created workarounds to actually get that data and understand what your customer journey was? Because Epson probably not only directly sold to customers, but there were resellers in their channel distributors. How were you able to kind of combine all that data to really understand your customer?
Ian: Well, we never did. To be really frank, that remains an issue for most brands and manufacturers out there. It's almost impossible to get full, 360 degree view of your customer and that's even months after the fact. I mean, there workarounds and things that we did around. Certainly product registration, pushes for that. We also did campaigns and contests and encouraged people to push the information back that way. But ultimately you're only getting a fraction of the data. And so it was very difficult to act upon that data and be able to push out truly relevant and personalized campaigns to people because we only knew what they were doing through our direct e-commerce channel. We had almost no visibility into what was happening through our distribution and other retail channels out there.
Devon: And looking at that we know that what option for some other companies is, is they turn to these large data companies such as IRI, Nielsen, Axiom, even MasterCard and Visa, that are able to consolidate and provide trends and insights back to brands and companies. But a real key piece that you're missing, and I think a key piece that you were already even talking about there, is you could have access to this data but it was on a monthly or quarterly basis. But the real game changer that I think Loop actually provides is access to that data in real time.
Ian: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's a few different issues that we face. One is that a lot of the data that those providers give you, particularly if you're looking at retail aggregate sales data by product or SKU again, you can track it in the aggregate, but you can't really track down to the actual person that used it. And the data that you're getting will often be very different region by region from that. And as you say, it's at least one month, if not six months, out of date. And so very difficult to activate that even from a sort of an aggregate segmentation perspective, let alone one-to-one personalized communications. I would have loved to have had Loop's solution when I was at Epson because it would've given us just an incredible ability to get all of that customer data, whether it was offline and online.
See the insights from that and then be able to act on those insights in real time and push those amazing promotions out to customers and then be able to track the attribution, to see which promotions were actually generating the most engagement and return on investment and which promotions were actually driving the biggest increase in customer lifetime value. So to me, that was the Holy grail and now, I mean, that's one of the reasons why I joined Loop is it's just so exciting to see this actually working and be able to offer this solution out to people who were in a similar position to me, because I feel their pain. I know what they're going through and to be able to have a solution that actually solves those problems is just so exciting.
Devon: That's great to hear. And now that you've got to join the Loop team and really get to pull back the curtain, see everything we're working on and with your experience with large brands and probably using IRI or Nielsen to supply you with that extra data around your customer purchasing habits, what do you see Loop as providing potentially a benefit back to them?
Ian: Yeah, absolutely. We had a number of subscriptions to different data services out there and they were very useful as I say, from a sort of an aggregated or segmentation perspective. However, what they didn't give us and was really a level of personalization that we were looking for. And the really important point is that that last mile, that the real time insights and ability to engage in real time to have somebody in a Sobey's who you know that... If you know the beer and diapers story in retail. A lot of analysis went in. Big data companies did some analysis of grocery stores and found that there's a great correlation between beer and diapers because on the way home the dad would stop off to get the beer and his wife would say, "Hey, by the way grab the diapers as well."
We can now with Loop, we can actually right at the POS, if we know somebody has come in and they're buying beer and previously they bought diapers, we can actually give them a 10% off promotion right there at the till and remind them that, "Hey, by the way, your wife's expecting you to bring diapers home." The power of that is just absolutely spectacular. And to see then what percentage of redemption actually happened on the offers that we're pushing out in real time and the ability to analyze that and improve your ROI and improve your campaigns is phenomenal.
Devon: And I think this is such a important piece to tell our listeners as well too is that this group of data companies that are specialized in these insights are also a market to that, we're looking at providing insights towards as well. It's not just the brands and the retailers, but there is this whole other business of data insights where, like you said, they're missing that access to that real-time data and Loop is really that piece that can bring them from providing post-transaction data, providing after the fact data to actually being able to provide their customers with real-time insights.
Ian: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we are a data company, so we're obviously looking at different partnerships out there in the industry. But again, our unique differentiation really is our ability to collect or ingest data from multiple sources, including both online transactions, and offline brick and mortar transactions. Take insights from that data that we've collected and then act upon that and engage with people. But the key point is, nobody else is doing right now, is real time personalized offers and campaigns at the point of sale. And I think that's what's of interest to not just Sobey's, not just the bricks and mortars who are looking to compete with the online commerce giants. This is a data play that anybody who is looking at data and wanting to gain better insights into their specific industries but then drive right down to the individual customer and personalized campaigns. I think that's a key piece of our business model and our revenue model.
Devon: And that piece there that you talk about monetization of the data is really a good focus of what we're doing with sponsorship. So we look at brand sponsorship and being able to market to customers based on these segments that Loop's able to provide to them. Tell me a little bit more about your experience with sponsorship at Epson, because I think that's a really interesting topic to touch on as well.
Ian: At Epson, yeah. I ran their global sports sponsorships for about 10 years. Did quite a bit of work on the portfolio. When I inherited it was a little bit underperforming. We had an interesting deal with a female pro golfer from Australia. It didn't really support our business goals. We also had a deal with the world athletics championships, which again, lots of different reasons for why those were chosen, but unfortunately they didn't really align with the business strategy. So I took a look at what the business strategy was, which was really around increasing Epson's B2C business in emerging markets.
So we initially signed a deal with the Manchester United, because again, they've got millions of fans in China. Just unbelievable coverage in Indonesia and the same thing, which was where we started selling our big tank printers in the beginning. And then as that business grew, B2B also became very, very important. And so we signed a deal with the Mercedes Formula One to focus on getting access to the C-suite to large enterprise organizations from a B2B perspective. Again, projectors and those sorts of side of things. So sponsorships for Epson were a great way for them to... from a sort of a reasonably priced customer acquisition perspective. That was the way that we approached it within that, both from a B2C and B2B.
In terms of what Loop's doing right now, looking at the sort of the target verticals that we're working with, obviously sports and entertainment is huge. Both, I think from the brand perspective, such as Epson looking to get better engagement with people out there using something like our wallet pass technology, but really it's also getting back to that customer acquisition strategy and getting access to... Again, for example, Manchester United fans in China, and they could have a Man U wallet pass, but Epson would get the opportunity to actually get in there and put their promotions and offers into that pass. So particularly now with COVID and the inability of people to actually go to the events, because typically that's where a lot of your activations are actually happening is in the venue.
With that not being possible now, properties and certainly brands are trying to figure out new and creative ways to activate around these sponsorships because brands like Epson have paid millions of dollars annually to get these activations. And now they're just not seeing as much value from that. So I think what Loop is able to offer, certainly from that fan engagement perspective, the cross-promotional perspective in the wallet pass, I think that's absolutely relevant for the brands, for the teams, the sports properties themselves. I mean, you look at what we just did recently for the WBC and the wallet pass that we did for one of their big fights and the ability to push promotions out to people because they can't go and watch the fight in person anymore. But they can now engage and feel like they're more connected to that whether they're at home or in a bar watching it with their friends. So I think that's there's just so many opportunities and possibilities.
Devon: So we talked about how Loop assists in retail, how it helps with sports and entertainment on the brand side. How about travel and tourism? What's your take and your insight into travel and tourism and how Loop's helping there?
Ian: Yeah, sure. That's another really important focus area for us right now. I think in travel and tourism, obviously there's the sort of the basic level which is helping support the reopening. Obviously with our sort of venue management and contact tracing the solutions we can absolutely help both in the sports and entertainment side of things as well. Similar to what we've done recently with the NCAA bubble for the big West tournament in Vegas, but we can roll out similar solutions for the hospitality and tourism industry as well. But I think over and above that, really the story for hospitality and tourism and particularly around travel is really the ability of using our solution to enhance the customer experience through travel.
We can provide a way for direct messaging and in communications with customers who are actually booking travel. Sort of integrating everything into our wallet pass whether that's travel documentation or booking references, or hotel reservations and flight tickets, and transportation, travel insurance, your COVID test details, pre and post. Have you been vaccinated or not? There's a wallet pass around on that. So really it's about sort of simplifying the integration and the ease of use for travelers. That's really how Loop is going to transcend the current very challenging experience out there and really raise the bar as the economy begins to reopen and people begin to travel more and want to have better experience for travel.
I mean, I hate to say it, but right now Canada is actually certainly not leading the way in terms of making travel a simple and unified sort of experience. Again, the challenge is even once you've taken the test before getting on your flight, then landing in Canada and having to go through all of that. Certainly we want to be as safe as possible, but I think the end of the implementation of that has been challenging. And I think there's a lot of value that we could actually offer in that space to improve the customer experience is happening entering into Canada right now. So a little shout out to Justin. If you want some help, we're here. Happy to talk anytime.
Devon: That's great. And I'll just wrap up our conversation today with talking about a question that we're asking most of our interview guests. COVID has obviously impacted the way we work, the way we're living, but what are kind of some hobbies or things that you've picked up or learned over this period of maybe being locked down or this time that it's been different than the normal for us?
Ian: Well, I will say that probably similar to a number of other people out there, my cooking skills have definitely improved. Had a little bit more time to spend preparing for meals, obviously without the commute and whatnot. And so really appreciated that, as has my wife. I'm not too sure if my kids have or not, but certainly I think my wife has.
I also have been learning the guitar, which is something that it was sort of a lifelong plan of mine, but to never quite had the time or the energy to do that. So that's something that I really enjoyed getting into. Still, certainly not at the level that I'd like to get to but after having lived in Japan, working for Epson for 19 years and doing karaoke so many times, I'd love to be able to actually sing along to the songs I could play on my own guitar.
And another hobby that I actually worked on through the pandemic was getting back to my roots as a juggler. I actually, I used to be a professional juggler and one of my jobs through a university, part-time jobs was actually busking on the streets of Vancouver while going to UBC. And so I can actually juggle five balls and flaming clubs. So that helps me juggle multiple projects here at work in this very fast paced start-up that we've got here.
Devon: Very interesting. Very interesting. Maybe you can add in guitar to that as well as you're juggling. The amount of many skills at once.
Devon: That's great to hear. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day and to be on the podcast. For our listeners, thank you for listening. We'll return next week with more interviews.
Ian: Thanks, Dev.
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