They say that knowledge is power. Nothing could be truer when it comes to the world of business. Customer analytics insights can pack a powerful punch when it comes to your marketing efforts by creating a personal connection. If you know what your customers want, you can give it to them. If you give your customers what they want, they feel a personal connection with you. And that personal connection brings them back to you, time and again. Tune in as Tamara Gruzbarg, Senior Director of Analytics and Research at Gilt Groupe, joins Brent Leary for an in-depth discussion on this concept.
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Small Business Trends: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Tamara Gruzbarg: I have been working in the area of data analytics for over 15 years. I started my career in financial services, big banks, credit cards, and retail banking.
For those who don’t know Gilt.com, we are just five years old. We are one of the pioneers in the Flash Sales Space online in the U.S. and we have new sales starting every day at noon. We have a limited inventory of sought after brands in women’s and men’s apparel, home goods, kid’s stuff, gourmet foods, etc.
My role at Gilt is to lead the customer analytics and research team to figure out how can we get so personal with customers that they will say:
“I shop at Gilt because Gilt gets me!”
Small Business Trends: Can you fill us in on how many people actually visit the site?
Tamara Gruzbarg: We have over 5 million active members. These are people that come to the site on a regular basis. We have a pretty large group of people that we are in constant contact with. We send them emails around new sales that we are starting, and we figure out what makes it for them.
Small Business Trends: I would assume that having 5 million active folks must provide a lot of information you can capture about them?
Tamara Gruzbarg: We know a lot about people that come to the site because it is a membership site.
On top of all the transactional information, we know what you purchase, when, and what type of brands you like. How frequently you visit and when you visit. And what areas of the site are most interesting to you.
Small Business Trends: How has this wealth of information changed the way you go about doing what you do?
Tamara Gruzbarg: Big data is a new term and a not so new term. At the end of the day, you’ll try to get your hands on as many data elements as possible to figure out what the right thing is to do for the customer at every given point in time.
In order to be able to utilize it, you have to have pretty solid infrastructure. We have a great, scalable data warehouse here at Gilt. Built and maintained internally so our data engineering team can collect all of this disparate information from different sources – visitation, browsing, and emailing information.
We send so many emails. We are interested in the fact that people are opening, clicking our emails. When they are interacting with our emails, all of this information is available in our data warehouse.
Last obviously, transactional information, preferences, wait-listing and demographic information. All of this is in our centralized data warehouse location. We have various tools that allow us to access the data warehouse and perform different kinds of analysis.
Small Business Trends: Recently, Accenture came out with their customer survey  study finding 48% of respondents think a tailored experience is critical to a strong customer relationship.
Tamara Gruzbarg: For us, it’s absolutely mandatory. We don’t have any excuse not to be personal.
For example, we send out our daily sales reminder email. We have to provide you with enough information that will entice you to come to this site. When you have around 40 new sales starting every day there is no way we’re going to send information about all 40 sales into one email template.
We have this personalization algorithm we’re constantly developing and improving to help us figure out what the right sales to put in front of you every day in your email are, and also on the site.
Small Business Trends: What are some big challenges in creating those personalized experiences?
Tamara Gruzbarg: I think one of the most interesting questions is:
“How do you find the balance between 100% personalized vs. having this opportunity to introduce your customers to something new?”
Gilt is a curated site, and we pride ourselves on our ability to find new and exciting designers people might not necessarily know. When you are 100% personalized, then you are only basing your recommendations based on historical behavior information. You basically don’t have this opportunity to offer something new.
Small Business Trends: What are you measuring to see how successful these campaigns are?
Tamara Gruzbarg: Conversion is one of our biggest and most important KPIs, because we are in the business of selling merchandise and making money. In addition to that, we pay attention to what we call engagement metrics:
• Are people engaged with our emails, through open rates and click rates?
• How frequently they are visiting the site?
Then, we are actually following customer behavior throughout the channel to see where the potential drops-offs are happening. This information gives us an idea for site experience improvement.
We also have a referral program and we are very much interested in our existing members inviting their friends to join the site. Because through a lot of analysis, we figured out that our referral channel is one of the most profitable acquisition channels for us.
Small Business Trends: Ca we talk results?
Tamara Gruzbarg: We are consistently seeing double digit incremental return on investments (ROI) with the types of tools we are developing using big data analytics.
Small Business Trends: Has social media changed things?
Tamara Gruzbarg: Social media is definitely a very interesting area and something we pay a lot of attention to. We are not currently integrating social media data at the user level, if you will. So we cannot really go into the data warehouse and say that this person has so many friends on Facebook and this is this person’s interest on Facebook.
We are using data analytics in conjunction with social media when we monitor the sentiment about Gilt on the Web.
Small Business Trends: How about mobile?
Tamara Gruzbarg: Mobile actually influences a lot of how we are looking at our standard KPIs. More people are interacting with us on mobile. So they might see an email in their email box, and then go to launch their Gilt app right away, which would not translate necessarily to open rate or click rate. But definitely would translate into conversation and revenue.
Small Business Trends: Where can people go to buy something from Gilt?
Tamara Gruzbarg: You can go to Gilt.com . Register, and quickly receive an invitation and start purchasing right away.
This interview about customer analytics is part of the One on One interview series  with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the player above.