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Sue Smolenski, DVP Marketing Strategy, True Value Company
Sue Smolenski is an expert at identifying and implementing strategies to drive business outcomes across an organization – marketing, sales, inventory, merchandising, operations, finance. she has significant experience in brick & mortar retail, online retail, home improvement, franchise and licensees’ networks, travel and airline industries. Sue, with experience in implementing marketing innovation, new capabilities and process improvement exclusively talks to CIO Applications for a special edition of Adobe.
How True Value Company’s innovative marketing know-how has been instrumental in helping it evolve as a trusted and recognized brand?
True Value originated from a cooperative founded in the 1940s by a man with a clear vision for small business owners. He knew that retailers could thrive if given the best access to product and low pricing while retaining their complete independence, and he took action to make that happen.
Today, True Value continues to be driven by the very same goal— focused on enabling the success of our 4,500 independent stores by ensuring they have access to innovative products, competitive pricing, and the best retail assortments. We also support them with marketing programs and services to keep them relevant in the evolving world of online and offline retail.
Our store owners wear many hats in running their business. They are CEOs, CFOs, HR, CIOs, and CMOs but they are not experts in marketing. This is where we come in with our extensive, omnichannel experience. In addition to promotional marketing and loyalty programs, we support store owners with campaigns to meet their local needs and budget.
In 2019, our marketing program is the most innovative and customizable approach to supporting retailers that exist in the industry. We’ve developed the capability to allow our store owners to customize their print and digital advertising to reflect the products and price points that are relevant for each of their markets.
As the only hardlines wholesaler with an iconic, globally recognized brand and 70 years of experience serving independent hardware retailers, we will continue to focus on providing our store owners what they need to run their business smoothly and profitably every day.
Please shed some light on how you align your business model with the changing market trends and customer requirements?
In 2013, True Value recognized the importance of leveraging customer data and insights as shopping trends and customer expectations on personalization were rapidly changing. As a wholesaler, we understood the profile and buying patterns of our store owners but lacked that same insight about customers shopping in-store and online.
Adobe with its acquisitions is well positioned to deliver the best solutions that seamlessly meet our needs
Like many retailers at the time, we had customer data in disparate systems and lacked the ability to drive insights to influence business decisions across our company including product assortment, new store locations and targeted, relevant marketing. As a result, we kicked off a strategic project to aggregate our customer data and invested in tools to analyze the data and implement one-to-one target marketing.
One of the first tools selected was Neolane—a robust campaign management solution with the ability to support multi-channel marketing. Shortly after signing the agreement, Neolane was acquired by Adobe. Since True Value was already using Adobe Analytics, we were excited by the opportunity for the two solutions [Adobe Analytics and Campaign] to work together to better understand customer behavior.
Later, based on True Value’s strategic business plans, we decided to upgrade our store owner portal that provides store owners access to company-specific information. We wanted to leverage a best-in-class content management solution and ultimately settled on Adobe Experience Manager (AEM). We use AEM for our store owner portal as well as AEM’s community features to facilitate dialogue with our store owners, answering questions and gathering their feedback.
How do you think Adobe is at the center of True Value, driving the company to be successful?
True Value mostly relied on traditional marketing media forms such as television ads and printed circulars. Last year, we shifted our marketing approach to be digital and hyper-localized.
Leveraging customer insights from the project initiated in 2013, we determined that each store attracts customers that live and work within a specific radius around their store. Investing on a national level was wasting marketing dollars by reaching customers who didn’t work or live near a True Value store.
Our solution was to implement innovative digital packages that our store owners could opt to target their customers and prospective customers. The packages leverage our first-party data and come alive in search, display, social and email at the individual store level. Adobe Campaign and Adobe Analytics are part of the solution stack that has enabled True Value to be successful in making this shift from heavy traditional media and national marketing to digital and hyper-localized marketing.
Continuing True Value’s investment in redefining the customer experience, we re-platformed our branded website, TrueValue.com in 2018. After an in-depth RFP process and technology review, we selected and implemented Magento Enterprise Edition and Magento Order Management. Shortly after True Value implemented Magento, Adobe acquired the company.
Today, most of the marketing capabilities at True Value are backed by Adobe’s suite of solutions including Adobe Campaign, Adobe Analytics, Adobe Experience Manager and Magento.
Being an Adobe user for years, what advice do you have for other businesses harnessing the potential of Adobe solutions?
As technology continues to evolve and new opportunities emerge to engage customers and prospective customers in meaningful ways to drive profitable outcomes, as Marketers, we need to be able to articulate our current and future use cases, understand our data needs and define our own business requirements. This will ensure the solutions that we select and implement with internal IT organizations or external vendors will achieve our business objectives.
Also, the marketing solution landscape is constantly changing with innovative opportunities to reach and service customers. It sometimes feels overwhelming as vendors are reaching out via email and voicemail, but I recommend having regular update meetings with your current solution providers as well as allocate time to explore new solutions that pique your interest. If you did your due diligence in selecting your current solution, there is a good chance that they are leading innovation through new development, partnership or acquisitions.
At True Value, we continue to evolve our delivery of personalized customer experiences, effective digital and localized marketing and using customer data to influence business decisions and the Adobe solutions we use continue to meet our needs.