Customer portals are an effective tool for managing customer relationships, but if a portal does not meet customers’ needs, the technology falls flat. In 2017, Optos Inc., a manufacturer of retinal imaging equipment used by eye doctors, realized that its customer portal was outdated and not doing a good job of reaching its customers—despite the fact its number of customers was growing about 20% annually.
To communicate with our customers in this way has been an extraordinary leap.
Sharon Shepard, director of digital marketing
The portal’s problem: Buyers could only access it if their account and product warranty information were up-to-date—a threshold met by only a fraction of Optos’s customers. “We not only wanted to make the portal accessible to a broader customer base, but have the portal do more, especially when it came to marketing,” says Sharon Shepard, director of digital marketing for Optos.
At the time, Optos’s customer portal offered a limited amount of information, such as product videos, diagnostic tools and product information. The sticking point to Optos achieving its goals, including an automated marketing program, Shepard says, was the lack of a substantial amount of customer data, such as email addresses.
Cleaning up data helps marketing automation
“If we were going to invest in upgrading our portal and marketing automation, we knew we had to clean up the information in our database and grow it,” Shepard says. “Otherwise, investing in marketing automation didn’t make sense.”
Optos, which was acquired by Nikon Corp. in 2015 for $400 million in cash, sells to a variety of eye care professionals, such as small and large ophthalmologist practices, medical facilities and health care plans.
The first step in laying the groundwork for updating the existing version of its Episerver digital experience platform was overhauling its customer database and expanding it. With its database updated, Optos has since grown the information in its database tenfold, Shepard says.
Emails triggered by customer behavior
With its new portal engine in place, Optos began using it to orchestrate marketing campaigns and sending emails triggered by customer behavior, such as making a purchase through the portal or registering as a new user. Customers making a purchase through the portal automatically receive a follow-up thank-you email, and newly registered customers receive a welcome email. Optos also uses the platform to send follow-up emails confirming service appointments and post-service emails soliciting feedback how on the service call went.
The company also has used the platform to orchestrate an email campaign in which it sent notices to customers that their service agreement was expiring and needed to be renewed. The campaign generated $200,000 in service contracts in six months, Shepard says.
The new portal also allows Optos to track customer movement within the portal’s pages and push pop-up windows to customers that appear in need of help.
“For us to be able to communicate with our customers in this way has been an extraordinary leap,” Shepard says. “Our communications are stronger and quicker than they have ever been.”
Clicks rates jump 32.4%
Since upgrading its portal, click rates on emails are 32.4%, compared to an industry average of 2.25%, Shepard says. Open rates are 60%, compared to 21% for the industry average, she adds.
In addition, Optos boosted the number of registered companies on its portal to 8,000, up from 2,000, in 18 months. The boost was aided in large part by a marketing campaign to encourage more users to register.
When the coronavirus hit earlier this year, Shepard says Optos saw an opportunity to pivot and use its portal to proactively provide customers with information about how to manage their business during the pandemic. The company developed a learning center on the portal that provides such information as how to clean its medical imaging devices to prevent the spread of the virus, as well as schedule staff training sessions for staff on operating equipment, including refresher courses for staff that had been temporarily furloughed.
Reaching out during the pandemic
“A lot of our customers shut down their offices when the pandemic hit in March,” says Shepard. “When that happened, we were able to reach out to them about the resources available through our portal.”
While the upgraded platform enhanced Optos’s marketing capabilities, the company views the upgrades as an ongoing process. Optos recently completed transitioning its portal to Episerver’s cloud-based platform, including Episerver B2B Commerce Cloud, Marketing Automation and Content Recommendations software. This will allow Optos to manage all its internal applications, including its ERP and CRM systems. In addition, it will ease the burden on the company’s information technology department, Shepard says.
“What we have now is the ability to consistently tie together content and marketing communications, such as linking content in social media and even our email campaigns,” Shepard says. “Improving and automating our marketing innovation was a big part of the decision to upgrade our portal.”
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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