Marie-Helene Cusson, Lowe’s Canada: Owning Business and Customer Intelligence to Drive Conversions

In this episode of Conversation CX, Marie-Helene Cusson, Brand Marketing Director at Lowe's Canada, explains how to turn customer and business data into actionable insights that increase sales and customer satisfaction. 
Listen to the interview to:
- Identify the mistakes to avoid when it comes to business and customer intelligence
- Learn how data can help you deliver the right marketing messages
- Leverage all of this data to improve online and in-store customer experience
About Lowe’s Canada:
Based in Boucherville, Quebec, Lowe’s Canadian business, together with its wholly owned subsidiary RONA inc., operates or services over 450 corporate and independent affiliate dealer stores under different banners, which include Lowe’s, RONA, Reno-Depot, and Dick’s Lumber. 
More info:
Marie-Helene Cusson’s LinkedIn profile

Interview highlights :

Hello, welcome back everyone to another conversation with short, insightful discussions with CX leaders and innovators. Today's focus is using business and customer intelligence to drive conversions. I'm pleased to be joined by a member of one of my favorite retailers worldwide and, as an aspiring do-it-yourself, I don't believe you can see the poor paint job behind me, but I've admired Lowe's, commitment, especially in the past two years, to safety and employee wellness during the pandemic, really a topknot organization. Today, we're joined by Marie-Helene Cusson, the brand marketing director of Lowe's Canada and a very dear old friend of mine. But it's an absolute pleasure to have you here, Maria-Helene, to tackle owning business and customer intelligence to drive conversions, how are you?

I'm good. How are you?

Good, great! It's again a pleasure to talk to you, It's been a little while and I really appreciate you joining us today.

Thank you for inviting me, I really appreciate it.

Pleasure is all ours, so how have you been in the last two years? So much has changed, obviously for tons going on.

It's been challenging honestly because we were considered as a business that didn't close, so we were super busy. But honestly it was a great time to be alive. I learned a lot. We learned also how the customer evolved during this crisis. So it was challenging, but honestly it was also super interesting to live this.

Yeah, and everyone is stuck at home, bored, working on their house. And I know that for several home improvement retailers this was a time of like incredible traffic attention, so you just feel like you're being pulled in 100 different directions. So Marie-Helene I want to put you in the consumer seat, have you had any memorable experiences as a consumer throughout the pandemic?

Yes, I did and it's going to make you smile because I was shopping at Holt Renfrew and they were having a promotion and I was wondering about the promotion. I had some sizing issues and you know Holt Renfrew sells clothing that are a little bit expensive. So you don't want to make a mistake when you buy online. So I had tons of questions and on the website at the bottom left there's a chat bubble that says you can connect with a store associate to help you shop online. So I clicked and I entered the question, I think the overall discussion lasted, maybe five minutes, I was connected to a store associate that helped me with my questions, I had a question on the sizing, on the promotion and basically five minutes after I bought online and it was honestly was one of the best experiences I had on shopping online and having that direct access to a store associate in that small amount of time was kind of really perfect.

And it was over a video?

No, it was just by text, but honestly it was super fast and the person knew everything and the experience was really enjoyable.

And, most importantly, you did not return it.

I did not return that. The main thing behind it is that if that bubble of chat was not available on the website, I wouldn't have bought anything online because I was not confident enough to buy what I had in my basket.

Right, interesting. So you're starting to use some new technology, some things that you haven't used much as a shopper before.

Yes, exact!

Wonderful, so let's actually get right down to the topic of the day again So you're owning business and consumer intelligence to drive conversions with that in mind, how are you structuring your team and a lining around common goals with that?

Yeah, so what I've learned in the past month is that if your priorities are not clear, it's not good and you cannot focus on the right thing. So basically, if you don't give clear priorities to your team they're going to hand up doing everything at the same time, nothing's going to be good, nothing is going to be like super well attached. So it creates more confusion, it creates less productivity and more frustration. So at the end you don't win with that. So I've also learned that even having too much information and too much data, is not good at all. Because people, when they have tons of data, they don't know where to look in and what's the insight. So you really need to find a balance, so you really need to know your priorities, and what you need to look into as a data. So a really clear message, clear priorities and not too much information are the keys.

Absolutely so. Where the next natural side question is: what are your key sources for this, for your organization and where is this flow coming from?

Yeah, so basically super simple. It's first party data and we have our second and third party data. But we normally use all this data to create a story. So basically you have to ensure that when you look into the data, first it answers an objective, then you have a story and then you have actionable insight that you can leverage and your team can work on. So all our campaigns right now that we produce are anchored into data. So if you listen carefully to all those various sources that you have from the first, second and third party data, it tells you where you win and it tells you where are your opportunities and biggest gaps, where you need to tackle more things on your side.

And do you have any sort of internal framework that you can share about how to triage and prioritize?

Yeah, so basically what we do is first we plan the year. So let's say we have our marketing calendars and this year we're going to have seven big stores and these stores are anchored in this data, and that's the reason why we're doing that. But after that, when the big overall planning is done, we dig into every store, we dig into our type of customer, we dig into the region. For example, we're in Quebec, Ontario, where we're nationwide and the shoppers don't shop the same way in all the provinces, there's ethnicity particularity in some regions, women also that needs to be targeted in a different way. Then there you have your pro customer, your DIY customer. Once you get all this data, you know all the people that are shopping, you know exactly how to communicate and what message needs to be in the market to drive that conversion.

Now, Marie-Helene, I know that your previous role was integrated marketing manager and one of your many responsibilities was the connection between the digital experience and the actual physical store. How are you applying these insights across? Because, especially during the pandemic, digital became the first touchpoint for a lot of consumers.

Well first, to me, physical stores or online stores are the same at the end. So the consumer might not shop the same way, they shop online versus they shop in store. But at the end, physically or virtually, if they go and visit your brand that means you have an opportunity to seize. That being said, though, there is a strong connection between the two differences: the online and in store experience. Let's say that if I'm a customer that goes online, I'm going to go on a website and most of the people are going to go on the website before going into stores. It's really important to have your website up-to-date and really running well, because he's going to look for product prices, availability, what store I can go to on my next shopping trip etc ... So let's say you're going into a store, but you have a project in mind, you want to ask questions to your associates, you want to see, you want to feel and touch the product. You're going online, you see your extended assortment online, there's that color. I didn't know if it existed. So everything is connected and you just need to make sure that in store and online stay connected. You can use QR code for shopping experience when you're in a store. Or you can drive your customer to talk to an associate in store if they have questions. So it's only a matter of understanding your big ecosystem and leveraging the strength of every channel.

During the pandemic how were you able to use these insights to address concerns around safety?

Yeah, so basically clear messages and communication to our customer was always the key. So we added a survey to understand if our customer felt safe in our store. Because it was our number one priority. So with this feedback we could scale and adjust some things. But at the end we were already doing the right thing. So it confirmed that our customers were feeling safe in our store. But honestly asking the customer is always the key, because that's the most valuable insight you're going to get. So we were sending emails to say that our stores were safe, we were having paid media campaigns. We had signage in store and on our website, so it's communication and honestly to take the pulse.

And was there any learnings that made you change your pivot, which you were doing?

Well, the fact is that we were actually really good, but we wanted to make their life easier. So we deployed new things that were not existing before. So we wanted to provide tools to help the customers when they are planning their trip to stores. They don't spend too much time outside because it was stressful. Like you said, people were scared. So we wanted to limit the interaction, limit the time they were out and provide the right tool so they can feel comfortable coming into our store.

Excellent. So what's the next step for the evolution of your brand?

So to me is what helps you build the overall plan, the overall strategy. So without these insights, you don't really know anything. You can't trust your feelings. You can do the things because you've always done it, but in the end you can't be 100% sure. So you need to measure the success, you need to do a postmortem, you need to dig into the data, you need to improve what you do, you need to scale, you need to learn. So basically, data starts a project, and the data ends the project also. So there's two and three for data. So at the beginning collect everything that helps you build what you're doing. But at the end you measure your success and you do a postmortem. So you learned out of it and you make the next one successful.

Do you have anything? Is there anything still unknown?

Of course there's time to dig in again, but right now on my wish list is just that there's a lot of work that's done manually right now by my team and it takes a lot of time. So everything that can automate reports, so my team can work and dig into that and provide feedback and recommendation it's what I'm looking into right now. So really automation is key right now. So extract the report, and the analysts can concentrate on doing their job and do the analysis of the data.

Wonderful! Any closing words of wisdom for someone who's paying attention.

Honestly, I think that customer centricity is really key to success. You need to listen, there are tons of data that exists from just the sales, seasonality, the basket size, the type of category. Just start looking at small pieces and it's going to help you understand your customer, because at the end you just want to keep your customer engaged towards the brand and if you listen to him and you show your emotion and you're targeting the right way, he's going to stay with you.

Wonderful, that was how to use business and customer intelligence to drive conversion. This is Marie-Helene Cuisson of Low's Canada brand marketing director and an old friend of mine. Absolute pleasure to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

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