July 28, 2021
Changing strategic courses at an established global brand like Grainger can sometimes be like turning a cruiseliner. But Grainger needed to shift into a new approach to content operations as quickly and as smoothly as possible—so they chose Aprimo.
Now one of the world’s leading business-to-business industrial supply distributors is embracing digital tools to streamline project management, smartly reuse the assets they have on hand, and integrate all the tools they love into a single system.
Emmy Lippold, Global Marketing & Strategy Director at Aprimo, met up with Grainger’s Mihir Shah, Leader, Marketing & Advertising Technology, and Monika Pickard, Marketing Systems Solution Architect, to discuss how Aprimo helped Grainger realize their vision of scaling up their digital asset management and complete a full digital transformation.
Note: The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and coherence.
Emmy Lippold: There was a moment when digital transformation became a need for Grainger. What were some of the challenges, what was the environment that caused digital transformation to become a need?
Mihir Shah: I think the biggest driver for us was the competitive pressure and the way the industry was moving toward digital. Definitely 2020 has accelerated that, but our recognition that we needed to be more digital than traditional was important in the sense we had to have the right technology that would enable us to move faster.
But we had to realize that we had to get onto the digital transformation bandwagon to make sure that we stay competitive. And with that came a lot more focus on marketing and marketing became a pivotal organization within Grainger to track demand. So with that we had to make sure that marketing was generating enough demand and we had the right people process and technology in place and thus came the digital transformation that we undertook within marketing.
EL: I know you’ve been pivotal in the implementation of Aprimo, Monika. How was that journey for you? And how have you seen it transform since you joined Grainger in 2004?
Monika Pickard: I’ve been in the marketing department in different roles throughout that time and used to actually manage projects as a project manager. Before we even had any system in place, we, you know, had Excel files. So then we, our vice president at the time went out and searched different applications to solve these work management challenges and came back to the table with Aprimo. At that time we used Aprimo on demand, and we’ve been with them since 2011. Once we discovered that Aprimo SaaS connected or integrated with Adobe Experience Manager, that was a huge huge plus. Aprimo also allows us to share access to final AEM files with everyone at the company which has saved time because our end users would go to our creative team or project managers to try to get access to those files.
MS: I think the biggest value proposition for Aprimo for us is not just the workflow piece but it helps marketing manage all our budget and spend and we use that module heavily on our side as well. We have integrations with our ERP system to bring in invoice information for marketing vendors back into Aprimo and then Aprimo becomes the source of truth for budget. Then that budget information actually gets pushed into our ERP. So we use Aprimo not just for workflow, but also leverages for budget and spend management for marketing.
EL: That’s one of the things that we hear a lot from customers. We call it ‘eliminating work about work’ so we can focus on the actual work. So this idea of eliminating redundancies and requests and having things that are easily accessible so we can focus on being efficient and on the actual work that needs to get done.
MS: Emmy, you kind of hit the key point there right when you talk about removing work about work. That was our driver. Marketing operations is all about generating efficiency for the marketing department, right? And the integration that Monika is referring to between Aprimo and AEM: Although we were the first maybe of your customers who were onboarded on that and we learned how to use it through trial and error. But in the end, the results were amazing. It’s all an automated integration.
There is hardly any manual intervention when it comes to an asset, the final asset that’s being completed through Aprimo and then going into AEM. It’s a fully automated, well oiled integration where we hardly get any errors. We work very closely with Aprimo customer service and the consulting team, but it was a good effort that’s paying dividends for us now.
MP: And I just want to add to that too. If we need anything configured, reconfigured. The teams that support that are awesome. They’re quick; it’s seamless. Also, the support afterwards has been great.
EL: How are you using Aprimo today? And even in the future? What’s ahead for marketing operations?
MS: We want to be able to personalize or target assets to our customers. For that, it’s the metadata that really drives the association between a customer segment and an asset. And our future vision for the next level of integration is Aprimo’s ability to automatically enrich assets with metadata to say this particular asset belongs to a healthcare facility where it has a healthcare image in it.
We want to capture that data within Aprimo when they are being created and populated in AEM with this integration. So then when we publish these assets we’re able to target specific customer sets with them.
So that’s our ambition. That’s the project we’re taking up in the second half of this year, but that’s how we’re thinking about moving and making the integration even more helpful for us.
EL: Are there any kind of specific success metrics that you’ve achieved with the technology, like reduced downtime, time savings, or cost savings?
MS: We have about 56,000 assets that marketing has produced so far. In 2020 we produced 8,000 assets that were designed and approved through Aprimo workflows and were pushed into AEM. And if you look at the trajectory of how fast marketing produces assets, you will see an upward trend of asset production since 2017. And we’ve done all that without increasing our team size.
MP: I can just tell you from a creative team perspective, as well as from a project manager perspective. Fact is, they say Aprimo is what keeps them organized, keeps them on task, you know. Before it was difficult, so now it’s much easier for them, I would say. Also, they love being able to annotate directly on the assets. That’s a big help for our creative teams, a huge timesaver.