Shifting retail: Cellarmasters responds with Marketing AI technology

Cellarmasters is one of the early adopters of the Albert Marketing AI technology in Australia, and whilst the brand is reaping the rewards, so are its customers.

Macro industry factors are driving rapid and unrelenting change into the retail industry. And this seems to be highlighted weekly with reports of the demise of high-profile brands such as Build a Bear and Shoes of Prey. This seismic shift is impacting both traditional and online retailers .

As businesses look deeply into what the data they are collecting is saying – the one thing that is certain – the digital customer journey is increasingly convoluted and difficult. With millions of data points to understand, it has become almost impossible for ‘humans’ to keep up as the algorithms of the major advertising platforms of Facebook and Google constantly change.

“As soon as you think you have worked it out, they change again,” says Luke Calavassy, Head of Innovation for Cellarmasters.

“Whilst data is paramount, so is staying close to the customer. As a brand I believe it is our responsibility to stay directly connected to our customers; this is not something we want to outsource to an agency. I know our success as a brand is directly associated with our ability to stay close to our customers”

The changes in customer behaviour and expectations are relentless; and brands cannot read the minds of customers. What a customer wants, how they like to shop, expectations of personalisation and frictionless transactions are all changing the face of retail as we know it.

This white paper on the changing landscape of the digital customer journey, spells this out.

The question that all retailers want answered is, ‘What do we do and how do we do it?” How do brands continually understand and know customers on an intimate level, that creates the opportunity to deliver the right message at the right time, without being ‘weird’ or invasive. It’s a fine line, and like many business challenges, technology can be a powerful enabler.

I interviewed Luke Calavassy from Cellarmasters recently to understand what was the commercial business decision-making process that saw them implement AI to their digital marketing program. He said they chose Albert marketing AI technology to drive better customer experience and commercial outcomes.

“We had to find a way to serve the right customer the right message on the right platform at the right time – and no human being can do this at speed and scale. The human element is really important when it comes to product, campaign, design and creative – but finding audiences (for less) is better left to Albert,” he said.

Problem solving: The Cellarmasters story

Cellarmasters is one of Australia’s largest direct retailer of boutique wines. Digital marketing has always proven to be the most effective way to find customers for the brand, and the pressure to continue to grow never goes away. With marketing managed in-house, Cellarmasters owns its data – but the cost of finding and acquiring customers (and the pressure on budgets) meant they had to find another way. Legacy data systems had created limitations for the brand to integrate with many of the latest platforms and applications, which meant limited access to enough data – or the right data – to execute fast and effective marketing campaigns.

Albert provided a marketing AI technology answer that could connect directly to Cellarmaster’s digital advertising accounts and would scale its marketing and product offer decision making at pace; reacting in real time to customer behaviour. Albert’s ability to execute autonomously and at speed also freed up their team to focus on strategy, explore new opportunities and realise efficiencies across their total digital marketing and distribution channels.

“Since implementing Albert the return on advertising spend has significantly increased to a level we could not achieve previously. Albert has also freed up time to allow our Digital team to focus more on strategy, product and creative and less on execution,” Luke Calavassy, Head of Innovation (Cellarmasters).

  • Google Search cost per acquisition (CPA) has reduced by 54% YoY
  • Google Search return on ad spend (ROAS) has increased 149% YoY
  • Google Search generic ads impression share has increased 34% YoY

Results from Albert provided timely and effective feedback and direction on creative so that the team could adjust messaging on the fly, to deliver the best possible customer experience. The team have also observed more effective product planning thanks to the availability of large data sets and results on hand, at any moment.

“It takes courage and trust to do something differently,” Luke said.

“But what I knew without a doubt was that continuing to do it the ‘old way’ was never going to deliver new results and allow us to continue to scale.

“The speed of change and the quantity of digital data needs a state-of-the-art solution that will continually learn and evolve as the digital marketing landscape changes, moment by moment. At some point we just had to bite the bullet and take the plunge – and I am so glad that we did it when we did… everyday counts now in this world.

“I think also to the outages of Facebook, Instagram and Google recently. I know that Albert dealt with all of that on our behalf, so our team could maintain focus… Albert does all the hard work on these ‘blips’.”

More on the Cellarmasters story.

This is a powerful story. Retail is not going to get any easier – and the ‘good old days’ are not coming back. Taking action is the only way to make a difference to the bottom line. They say that the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

The two most powerful takeouts here for me, are:

1. Cellarmasters on customer service: You must get close to your customer

You must get close to your customer. You can’t learn enough about your brand if you’re removed from the day-to-day insights and execution of your marketing activity. A business must always own the customer relationship – this cannot be outsourced. By handing over control of your first party data to externals you are effectively handing over your customer relationships. Externals give you bandwidth in other ways, such as creative, but to be able to act on the insights and recommendations made by Albert a brand MUST own its own channels – and these are important leadership conversations to have in business.

2. Cellarmasters on big data: Retail is not getting any easier

Retail is not getting any easier. If you think retail is tough now, just think what it will be like in two or three years’ time. Business and marketers must get set up now for what is coming, or they will be left behind. There are so many ‘solutions’ and it can appear overwhelming – the challenge is how to start and how to  know what’s right for your business. Integration is a key stumbling block for many businesses operating on legacy tech stacks – and this is a key advantage of a solution like Albert, as it connects directly to social and search accounts without the need to touch existing technology in the business. And this is also why it’s paramount to own your own brand data and the sources, and to have those conversations now to set your business up for a successful future.

Change is here and those businesses that do not act now will be left behind.

As Luke so eloquently put it, “I know that Albert AI is not for everyone – in fact I understand that unless the business meets certain criteria then he is not going to take them on. Albert knows how he works best, and he will only accept clients he knows he will be successful with. If nothing else I loved that integrity; not something you get from a lot of ‘vendors’ or agencies. We see a long and fruitful relationship ahead with Albert”.


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