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How Customer Data Can Help Build Better Marketing Campaigns

Online service Windsor Circle uses customer purchase histories to help small businesses improve their email marketing.
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While online giants like Amazon endlessly analyze customer data to recommend new products, offer promotions and generate sales based on buying history, such sophisticated customer relationship management has been beyond the financial reach of most smaller e-tailers.

Windsor Circle, a new plug-and-play service, is changing that. It extracts customers' shopping-cart data and integrates it with e-mail marketing platforms such as ExactTarget, Constant Contact and VerticalResponse, allowing small shops to create targeted e-mail campaigns based on buying patterns and other trends. Call it the new era of big data writ small.

Because Windsor Circle allows its clients to segment customers and create targeted promotions, merchants can easily reward big spenders, send coupons to folks who haven't purchased in a while, recommend replenishment orders or suggest complementary products. Business Supply, an online office products company, used Windsor Circle to pull a list of its most recent, most frequent and highest-spending customers, then send them a thank-you e-mail and a $10 coupon. The blast generated a nearly 400 percent ROI.

The results have also been impressive for customers like, an online jewelry-supply shop. Windsor Circle co-founder Matt Williamson was convinced that Artbeads was missing an opportunity by promoting its popular seashell-theme products only during the summer. Wanting to take advantage of Artbeads' annual end-of-year uptick in sales, he crafted a winter e-mail campaign (blasted to only 2 percent of the company's list), which generated a conversion rate of four times the average campaign sent to Artbeads' full list.

Windsor Circle formed in January 2011; in addition to Williamson, its management team includes Brad McGinity, formerly of online marketing platform Bronto Software, and Chris Humphres and Scot Catlin, formerly of LssiData. The group closed on a $350,000 round of seed funding in just 60 days last June. Six months later, it closed on a second round of $400,000. At press time, the company was working on raising a $3 million round of Series A venture capital funding.

Williamson says Windsor Circle's fees vary depending on the size of the client, but most pay $500 to $2,500 per month. For companies like Artbeads, that investment can change their entire approach to e-mail marketing. The jewelry company now does fewer segmented e-mail blasts than before, but their overall performance has increased, says founder Devin Kimura. He adds, "Using Windsor Circle opens your eyes to different behavior and different possibilities to leverage your marketing spend."