Cloud tech becoming crucial for online marketing

Vancouver conference highlights rise of automation in Internet advertising

Traction on Demand founder and CEO Greg Malpass, right, speaks at Rogers Arena with event MC James Carbary, founder of Sweet Fish Media, during TractionForce 2017 | Submitted

Buying and selling online is being transformed by cloud technology that allows businesses to gather customer data and use it to automate much of their digital marketing.

On a basic level, cloud technology is a way to store data online and share it with others from anywhere, as opposed to having data stored on site in physical servers. Commonly used cloud software includes tools like Dropbox for files and Flickr for sharing photos.

For businesses looking to scale up, the cloud software of choice is Salesforce, which has a range of products to manage and automate marketing strategies, and targets audiences based on their purchase histories and preferences.

The most popular Salesforce product for businesses is Salesforce Marketing Cloud, a platform that collects customer data and automates online marketing for businesses by automatically sending customers emails, text messages and mobile app notifications.

On May 11, around 900 people and 400 businesses and non-profit organizations gathered for TractionForce 2017 at Rogers Arena to discuss cloud technology business applications – specifically Salesforce and Marketing Cloud – and how they are using it to drive their online marketing strategies.

Some notable attendees were Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), Indochino and the Terry Fox Foundation. The consensus among them was that cloud technology is now indispensable for doing business online.

“Twenty years ago, when you were in e-commerce you were a ground-breaker, and people weren’t really expecting to interact with your brand online and buy online,” said David Jenkins, TractionForce’s vice-president of data-driven marketing. “Now, it’s a fundamental expectation.”

The biggest reason it has become necessary is that customers don’t shop exclusively in store or online, but are going back and forth to make purchase decisions.

“We know for our best consumers, they might research online and go into store, or do more research in store and want to look at everything online,” said Allison Brownlie, marketing director at MEC. “They’re back and forth between channels, so it’s no longer just about e-commerce revenue; it’s got to be all channels working together.”

MEC, which has been selling sporting and recreational gear to members of the retail co-op since 1971, started using Salesforce Marketing Cloud three years ago when it recognized the need to have stronger marketing tools for its online store.

“As we’re sending a promotional email, we are able to segment and target based on your past purchase behaviours, and also look at your email behaviour,” said Brownlie.

Indochino, a rapidly growing men’s custom suit label, began to use Salesforce Marketing Cloud late last year, primarily for its email marketing campaign.

“All of our customers who would be on our email list would be able to indicate preferences for how they’d like to receive information,” said Peter Housley, Indochino’s chief marketing officer. “We also see how they behave. So if they go to a website and they click on a product, I can send them what I call a dynamic retargeting ad, so I could actually serve them up an email with the products that they looked at when they were browsing the site.”

Salesforce has also helped non-profit organizations like the Terry Fox Foundation (TFF), which has been using Salesforce for the last six years as a marketing tool, to manage and support the volunteers who host the roughly 9,000 Terry Fox runs across the country annually. It also collects data on each online and offline donation made to the organization.

“We’ve customized it to make it a run site management tool,” said Heather Scott, director of development at TFF. “And so we can track the amount of revenue, the participation rates, who’s the co-ordinator and how many years they’ve been co-ordinating [at] each individual run site so we can support those volunteers, and also be able to thank them for their help.”