10/09/2014 02:48 pm ET Updated Dec 09, 2014

Marketing Titans: Dasha Gastol and the Art of Ecommerce

The interview below continues my series from Connections 2014. Dasha Gastol is a Digital Marketing Manager for Diesel USA based in the New York City office. In leading digital acquisition strategy for the Diesel USA's Ecommerce team, her focus is on personalization and customization of the customer journey. Prior to Diesel, she worked at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, where she developed digital marketing strategies for dozens of hotels throughout North America. In this interview, Dasha continues the theme found in all of my interviews: It's serving about the customer.

When did you realize the importance of relevant content?

"Relevancy coincides with personalization. For me, understanding that such a thing was a trend and that it answered the problem question of "how do we reach the customer" was what converted me to the idea. Also, (quite frankly) it's obvious. Get the right information in front of the right customer at the right time. Diesel markets to a highly specialized consumer, so the more personal we are with them better they will respond. For example, one way we accomplish this is through predictive intelligence. We implemented this with our web campaigns and as a result, are able to provide a personalized interaction with the consumer; this connotes relevancy which, as said before, coincides with relevance. Such a thing is just another example of a process we can use to stay relevant with the consumer and use information to walk alongside them by providing a personal experience."

How do you keep from falling back on old marketing techniques such as personas, focus groups, etc.? Do those tactics even have a place anymore in modern marketing?

"Without technology, marketing to each individual is impossible. Predictive intelligence allows us to do this, and does the work on our behalf. Sometimes you still have to use those old methods to supplement the fact that you don't have access to the technology. Other times, there are messages that you want everyone to hear. For example, when we were launching our Fall/Winter 2014 Collection we wanted to send it to everyone, not just a select few. Everything should be taken in context, so if you have the ability to personalize the customer experience and its appropriate for the campaign, then do it."

How has online engagement changed over the last three years?

"First, it's not just online anymore. Consumers are interacting with brands in an omni channel world. There are many touch points and as marketers, and because of this, we need to ask the question of how do we reach the appropriate person on the right channel. Is it all channels? Is it just one? I don't think that any one marketer has the answer to those questions. The best we can do is using the process of personalization, we respond to the customers as individually as we can within the campaign's specified objectives. One of challenges being added to questions like these is the fact that there is so much data that the marketer needs to learn when to scale back in the evaluation (of data) process."

What attracted you to ecommerce and how is that related to your background in the hospitality industry?

"I have always wanted to work in a field that made me excited where I was working. I was able to 100% do that at Starwood, and am able to 100% do that at Diesel. With ecommerce, I'm attracted to looking at the big puzzle of big data and analyzing it so that I can deliver results. I had to same attraction to Starwood. Solving the puzzle means I can get closer to my customers. As a marketer, I can't think of any better result."

What are the top three ongoing challenges you face in ecommerce?

"We are a small team with access to innumerable tools. The evaluation of all these tools takes more time than we have available. That's where predictive intelligence comes in; with real-time data we have the ability to influence the decision personally. For example, if you purchased a leather jacket six months ago, I can safely assume you won't want to purchase another leather jacket in the next six months. But if I know that you are shopping for one I can send you a personalized email showing you different options. The difference between having access to real-time data and old data is part of personalization. We have the option to get to know our consumer beyond the demographic data, and in that knowledge we can learn about who they are as people in the moment, and what compels them to take action."

Do you see digital marketing becoming more personalized?

"I hope so. What we are trying to do is bridge the gap between meeting someone in person and meeting them in a digital environment. To accomplish that, we need more information about the customer that thankfully, they give us. The more we know about the customer the more personal we can be."

How do you define content?

"I define it as what's relevant to the specific consumer. Are you looking for content that is framed around "shop-by-look" or more a catalogue? Content varies on the person, and that is one of the biggest challenges with marketers. Deliver content that's relevant to customer. That goes back to personalization, and meeting the person where they are at any given point in the sales process."

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in your industry?

Learn from people in the industry, and follow brands who resonate with you and figure out how they do it. Become a student of the industry, and never stop learning or being curious.

This interview continues my series dedicated to the interviews and experiences had at Connections 2014. In marketing, it's no longer about tricking, persuading, or influencing the customer. Marketing is about serving the customer. Special thanks to Dasha Gastol for this interview.