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August 9, 2012

Tech Profile: CrowdTwist

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crowdtwist-1What is CrowdTwist and how did you guys get started in this?

CrowdTwist is a customer relationship and loyalty platform that is expanding and revolutionizing how loyalty is thought about and rewarded in today's marketplace. Loyalty, historically, focused on the point of sale primarily and sought to reward customers for what they spent, because this was the only trackable moment of interaction that could be tied to brand impact. Along cam the digital revolution though and with it came many more places and ways for people to build value based relationships with brands.

We carefully evaluated the marketplace and developed a platform that bridges the gap between what traditional loyalty measured and all the other ways people interact with a brand. Brands can now incentivize, recognize and reward customers at any touchpoint or any point of engagement across their entire ecosystem, online and off.

I was working at ClearChannel where I was responsible for rolling out and managing loyalty across all our stations. I recognized the power of loyalty to drive interaction and engagement as well as deeper customer understanding, but saw enormous shortcomings in the platforms that existed at that time — many of the interactions and touch points weren't measured or accounted for.

How can an advertising agency or marketing company use CrowdTwist in order to create a better campaign performance or understand their customers in a deeper way?

First of all, we do not do anything on a campaign basis. We operate differently than the way advertising agencies typically run their businesses. We are adamant that loyalty should be an ever-present, year-over-year exercise and it needs to be treated and thought of as such. If loyalty is treated as a campaign, the program has to start, stop and continuously restart with a series of disjointed campaigns to acquire and engage customers.

Agencies can work with CrowdTwist to invest in an overarching program and platform that sits above mobile initiatives, email initiatives and all online or offline campaigns. We offer an evergreen platform and an evergreen program that is consistently and continuously engaging customers, learning more about customers, rewarding loyalty and keeping customers involved with the brand. Our platform allows an agency’s new campaign or new initiative to fold into this existing program. As brands gather more data from each campaign, their understanding of customers and depth of knowledge only increases. Instead of having to acquire new customers and then relearn their behavior and customer profile each time, every campaign is tied together.

Can you provide us with an example of a brand using the CrowdTwist platform especially well?

We’re currently working with Zumiez, one of the largest action sports retailers in the country. Zumiez is a $500-million-a-year retailer, with more than 500 stores across the country. With CrowdTwist, Zumiez customers can earn loyalty points for everything they do online and offline related to the brand, instead of just earning points at the cash register.


This means Zumiez customers earn points for not only purchases in the store and online, but also for engaging in activities on Twitter and Facebook; checking in on Foursquare in stores and at events; reading, opening and engaging with email marketing; adding items to a shopping cart; sharing their wish list with others; rating or reviewing products; and many other online activities.

As Zumiez runs different marketing campaigns, they tie each campaign to point-earning actions from the ongoing loyalty program. Instead of going out to acquire and gather data about new customers, Zumiez can focus on measuring actions among their existing loyal customer base. Additionally, as new consumers engage with the campaign and become loyalty program members, Zumiez can more easily create long-standing customers, rather than customers that only stick around to take advantage of a fleeting one-month campaign.

The Zumiez program provides loyalty program members with points they can redeem for exclusive items that can’t otherwise be bought. With CrowdTwist, Zumiez can now understand engaging with each campaign in relation to how that customer engages across the entire Zumiez ecosystem.

CrowdTwist rewards existing users, but how does this lead to a brand forming relationships with new consumers and advocates?

We believe that loyalty means more than just spending money on a brand. As a customer, you can create value for a brand beyond the cash register, and oftentimes that value creation starts before people even make a purchase. CrowdTwist’s platform captures customer value much earlier on in the customer journey while also encouraging them to potentially purchase sooner, purchase more often and spend more when they do purchase. Furthermore, our platform helps develop advocacy, and ensures that a brand stays top-of-mind when a customer must make a purchase decision. That's a big change from the ecosystem ten years ago. You can build a strong, lasting relationship with a customer before they've even walked into your store.

What’s value in tying all this data about consumer behavior online or offline together?

CrowdTwist is helping brands to understand their customers with more depth than they’ve had before. Previously, customers that engaged with a brand across six or eight different channels—online, offline, through mobile, social, email and more—looked like six or eight different people. Now brands can tie this information together to see that the customer on Twitter and Facebook is the same one that shopped online and who has now set foot in the store.

It's difficult to recognize and reward the best customers, especially if their behavior is not tied together across multiple platforms. CrowdTwist allows brands to realize each customer’s actions as an individual to ultimately see who is highly-engaged, most valuable, and touching a brand across different places and in multiple ways.

Has using CrowdTwist made CMOs, marketing teams or agencies more brave when creating social media initiatives knowing that they will be able to measure the ROI and/or offline results?

CrowdTwist is demystifying a lot of questions around social media such as, "What do all these social initiatives that my social team is running actually mean for my bottom line? What do the visitors to my websites actually mean for purchasing? What do these email campaigns actually mean and how do they tie to sales?”

We're tying digital activities back to actual purchases, whether they happen online or in the store. This is extraordinarily valuable for anyone selling anything today in the real world because they can see what it means for their bottom line when a customer brings in 20,000 new Twitter followers. CMOs over the course of the next 18-to-24 months will be able to challenge floppy marketing metrics out there now and will better understand their true meaning.

With CrowdTwist, CMOs and agencies can look at multipoint attribution for a single customer and know exactly what sorts of behaviors and behavior patterns influence the person to buy. Then they can look at other consumers within the membership base on the platform that are demonstrating similar behaviors and better understand their value. Ultimately, brands can better understand overall what is most impacting their brand rather than simply what specific channels are impacting their brand.

How does the trend of gamification relate to the loyalty and rewards programs in place for many brands?

I fundamentally don't believe in gamification as it's defined in the marketplace today. Gamification can be relevant for some depending on what their goal or desire is, but ultimately gamification is just one engagement layer. Gamification drives people to “do more stuff” such as comment more or view more photos online. However, there are a couple of areas where gamification falls short. First of all, the notion of digital recognition and rewards, while it can be right in some regards, does not work to engender long-term loyalty. Secondly, engagement and driving more action is just more and means less if you can't tell people what "more" actually means. Marketers are going to demand, "I don't want to know just what the engagement you drove was, but I want to understand what it means for my business.”

Oftentimes, the folks that are truly focused on gamification can’t provide that depth of knowledge. We use elements of game mechanics in our platform to drive people to engage, but it doesn’t stop there. We must also evaluate ROI and explain what value we deliver from a revenue standpoint for our clients.

It's not about getting people to do things they don't want to do. It's not about figuring out by virtue of a game how to trick customers into doing a few things that they don't want to do because the end of the day that's not valuable and that's not loyalty. The likelihood that the consumer is going to come back and do that again is pretty low. It's about measuring the things that people are already doing and encouraging them to do more. It’s about allowing them to explore all the other areas where they can engage with brands that they love. It’s important to build longer-term and more valuable relationships that reward customers for their actions across any channel.


Irving Fain is the CEO & Co-founder of CrowdTwist, a NYC-based Customer Relationship & Loyalty Platform that helps brands increase sales and engagement in an increasingly cross-platform world. Prior to founding CrowdTwist, Irving ran Digital Marketing & Social Platforms for Clear Channel Radio Digital, developing and implementing an online marketing and social strategy for 1,000+ radio stations. Prior to that role he led the Content Team, creating fresh content and experiences for artists and advertisers to get noticed amongst the myriad of programming online. Irving knows first hand the challenges of developing programs which create lasting engagement and is excited to lead a company which can drive change quickly in the rapidly developing social loyalty space. Prior to his life as a media entrepreneur, Irving wore a suit everyday in the world of finance. He spent time both as a venture investor here in New York as well as an investment banker, specializing in raising capital for early stage companies. He holds a B.A. from Brown University. In his free time, you can find Irving in search of surf or else planning his next traveling adventure.


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