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How Rakuten Uses MessageGears/Snowflake to Change the Data Game

When we teamed up with Snowflake to help marketers and tech teams really turn their data loose for cross-channel campaigns, we had high expectations for how much it would help the Super Senders we work with. We knew this partnership had the potential to be a game changer, empowering them to build and deliver whatever campaigns they could dream up without data or ESP limitations getting in the way.

But moves like this never fully hit home until you hear from a data specialist who’s in those trenches every day with a major worldwide brand, and he articulates exactly what you hoped for with your vision. It’s never been more clear: This is why MessageGears exists.

Below, hear Mark Stange-Tregear (Rakuten Rewards/Ebates VP, Analytics) talk about the night-and-day difference MessageGears + Snowflake has made for their data operation. If you’d like the read along, the full transcript is included with each section of the video.

“So the beauty of MessageGears, it’s I can just connect it directly to my data. It just uses what’s there, which means I really don’t have to worry about trying to keep a third-party dataset up to date.”

Interviewer: What makes MessageGears better than other cross-channel solutions you’ve worked with, for example data access service service and support?

Mark Stange-Tregear: What makes MessageGears better than the other services … I think the key differentiating factor for me for MessageGears, and I really hope that this is a pattern for other applications in the future, is it just works directly on my data.

I don’t have to … I already spend a lot of time and engineering resources bringing data into my warehouse. I don’t then want to have to send it to somewhere else as well unless I have to. I also really don’t want to have to worry about the fact that if I’m sending it somewhere else, the copy that I send may get corrupted, may have problems, maybe doesn’t have a date. I can’t control through logical changes.

So the beauty of MessageGears, it’s I can just connect it directly to my data. It just uses what’s there, which means I really don’t have to worry about trying to keep a third-party dataset up to date. I don’t have to audit it. I’m not spending engineering resources to try and maintain that pipeline, or I’m not paying for a third-party product to maintain that pipeline.

And I think what that means at the end of the day is I can be more confident that what is getting sent through MessageGears is accurate, is up to date, is going to the right people at the right time with the right information included, and it also means that we can get more innovative. If I can produce a data point or in the data warehouse, it’s immediately available to use in MessageGears. So if I can write some SQL that comes up with a clever way of personalizing an email, I can use it immediately. I don’t have to wait for an engineering path to integrate that and backfill a third-party system with that data before, I can use it. We can use it same day.

“It’s important that you can get the speed of innovation in your marketing messaging so that you can test a lot of different things to improve it for people.”

Interviewer: And then how did MessageGears help improve your company’s approach to marketing?

Mark Stange-Tregear: Again, I think it’s around innovation and just speed of thought. You know, it gives us that degree of flexibility around using new data points. It allows us to test things much more cheaply in the sense of kind of the time and effort put into test something now. Ideally, with marketing, you want to be able to test rapidly and fail often. You know, it’s very difficult to predict what will and won’t work with people. Sometimes, subtle changes have a big impact; sometimes, less subtle changes have no impact whatsoever.

It’s important that you can get the speed of innovation in your marketing messaging so that you can test a lot of different things to improve it for people. The other key thing it allows me to do is personalized message content easily. So I can try different things for different groups of people down to the individual level — again, very quickly, very cheaply, without significant engineering effort, data movement effort. And, again, it allows me to fail quickly, find out what works, what doesn’t work, and move the platform forward.

“That flexibility, that ability to be able to just think, “What do we want to do?” and trust that the technology can do it is a fairly fundamental gamechanger for us.”

Interviewer: And describe the ways your business now operates thanks to MessageGears’ direct data access to Snowflake.

Mark Stange-Tregear: I was talking to my head of email about this the other day. It’s an interesting shift.

If you look previously, we were always constrained in our email messages by what was available. Like, what can we get, and what we what we put in our email? We’re now almost at the other extreme of the problem where there’s so much available to him, he’s asking me to filter it back so that it’s manageable.

He can use almost anything. The technology is kind of taken out of the way and, rather than thinking we’d like to do this, can the technology do it, it’s kind of like, we can just assume the technology can do anything we want. Now, what do we really want to do? And what is our best plan moving forward?

And I think you know Rakuten Rewards isn’t a huge company. We don’t have, you know, hundreds of people just sitting there helping engineer email programs. That flexibility, that ability to be able to just think, “What do we want to do?” and trust that the technology can do it is a fairly fundamental gamechanger for us.

“Once you put MessageGears on top of Snowflake, you can do pretty much anything you can think about, and the technology just gets out of the way. And you can move forward, designing the program as you want to design it.”

Interviewer: On that last note, can you say again instead of saying that technology, can you say MessageGears and Snowflake will allow …

Mark Stange-Tregear: I can try. I’m just trying to remember what I said now. Yeah, I think you know the combination of MessageGears and Snowflake just allows us the flexibility and to be able to think about what we want to do rather than worrying about what the technology can do and then figuring out the best that we can do with the technology within the technology constraints. Once you put MessageGears on top of Snowflake, you can do pretty much anything you can think about, and the technology just gets out of the way. And you can move forward, designing the program as you want to design it.

“The combination of MessageGears and Snowflake just allows us the flexibility and to be able to think about what we want to do rather than worrying about what the technology can do and then figuring out the best that we can do with the technology within the technology constraints.”

Interviewer: How will MessageGears combined with Snowflake enable your company to continue to improve and just grow in the future?

Mark Stange-Tregear: I think this goes back to the comment I was making earlier about learning fast, failing fast. You’re not always going to be able to predict what’s going to work. So to be constantly innovating, to be constantly improving, from my point of view, the experience for our members … Making content more relevant, making it more timely, making it more what they’re interested in looking at and helping them actually find what they need on Rakuten Rewards comes down to being able to rapidly try different things, different email content through MessageGears, different timing powered by machine learning on top of Snowflake, and being able to combine those two seamlessly just allows a range of testing options, a range of flexibility so that we can we can make plans down to the individual level as to how to deliver the best content at the best time to those individuals to really have a marketing and a communication plan that works for the member rather than us trying to fit a member into some kind of prototypical template.

Jeff Haws

With 20 years of experience in journalism and writing, Jeff brings an expertise in producing impactful content, identifying audiences, and writing in a way people will want to read. He’s focused on helping businesses better understand who it is they’re talking to, and helping them reach those people via the power of words.

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