Boosting profits, loyalty through better marketing

Staples uses marketing automation to execute more targeted campaigns

With $27 billion in sales, Staples serves businesses of all sizes and consumers in 27 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Staples invented the office superstore concept in 1986 to make shopping for office supplies easier for consumers.

Over the years, Staples discovered that the best way to grow and build loyalty is to target customers with offers that interest them. To do that, Staples relies on SAS® Analytics for predictive modeling and insights, and SAS® Marketing Automation for fine-tuned marketing campaigns.

"Customers are interested in faster and more efficient ways of ordering from us – they want the information at their fingertips to inform their buying decisions," says Jim Foreman, Director of Circulation and Analytics at Staples. "There's a substantial part of the retail customer base that engages us online and uses the website not as their primary means of shopping, but to research a product. They might use it to find the closest store or quickly see what's currently on sale. That's all relevant to the retail side of the house. My team is involved in the analysis of online and offline customer behavior, building linkages between the two to give us a complete picture of the customer."

"It was evident that as we got more advanced with analytics, we needed to better translate the insight into profit-generating campaigns," says Foreman. "One of the biggest things that SAS Marketing Automation did for us was to help bridge the great work we were doing on the analytics side with the campaign generation and execution side. We can now go to market very quickly and easily, based on insight, and realize significant benefits."

Staples executes nearly 1,500 multichannel campaigns annually based on 25 million customer records. "We did a financial analysis of the implementation, and we found that we were getting an internal rate of return of 137 percent," explains Foreman. "That's about as much of a slam dunk as you're going to see."

We did a financial analysis of the implementation, and we found that we were getting a rate of return of 137%. That's about as much of a slam dunk as you're going to see.

Jim Foreman
Director of Circulation and Analytics

Another area in which the SAS® solution provides value is reducing customer attrition. Staples can quickly identify when spending for regular customers drops and send personalized offers to bring them back. Before choosing SAS, the company's marketing tool didn't have the level of sophistication that Staples needed to do this.

"We have several models that attempt to predict customer attrition," says Foreman. "These models allow us to look at an individual customer's purchase history and model that customer's buying pattern. We score customer models frequently enough to know that if a certain amount of time goes by between a customer's purchases, a flag is raised identifying the risk of attrition. There may be a hundred reasons why, but if there is an issue, our insight allows us to take action proactively before that customer switches to another provider and builds loyalty elsewhere.

“Our data is one of the most valuable assets we have. Given the company’s investment in data acquisition and storage, you want to be able to mine it effectively and discover nuggets that can generate incremental sales and profit. It's a shame when you do all the work and you can’t produce actionable results because your existing tools can't facilitate the transition from an analysis to a campaign. SAS Marketing Automation does that for us.”

Fewer Contractors, More Savings

SAS has improved efficiency, Foreman says. And he relies on fewer contractors to execute campaigns. “Without doing any new campaigns, or generating any additional revenue, the cost savings from optimizing our execution process alone would have paid for the cost of the solution within two years. We couldn't be happier with it.

"Associates both on my team, as well as elsewhere in the company, have been using analytics from SAS for a long time," continues Foreman. "As well as their skills, we can leverage their code and bring it seamlessly into the campaign solution. Reuse of completed work provides real efficiency gains.

"SAS Marketing Automation was the right choice for Staples because of the integration capabilities. It was very important for us to score models within the campaign tool itself. We don't want to have additional processes to score models externally, which would necessitate the need to import and translate scores back into the campaigns. The SAS solution lets us bring models, as well as other non-modeled segments, directly into our campaign diagram, and it just executes as part of the campaign. There's no data back and forth. The efficiency is really unparalleled."



  • Grow business, build loyalty with customers.
  • Segment profitable customers automatically.
  • Predict when top customers might leave and lure them back with the right offers.
  • Make campaign execution more efficient.


SAS® Marketing Automation


  • 137% rate of return.
  • Efficiency gains, cost savings in campaign execution by reducing contract staff.
  • Maximum profitability through product calibration.
  • More profitable customer offers.
  • More personalized offers for increased cross-selling, up-selling.
  • Less customer attrition.
The results illustrated in this article are specific to the particular situations, business models, data input, and computing environments described herein. Each SAS customer’s experience is unique based on business and technical variables and all statements must be considered non-typical. Actual savings, results, and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. SAS does not guarantee or represent that every customer will achieve similar results. The only warranties for SAS products and services are those that are set forth in the express warranty statements in the written agreement for such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. Customers have shared their successes with SAS as part of an agreed-upon contractual exchange or project success summarization following a successful implementation of SAS software. Brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies.

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