Marketing B2B Marketing CRM

Lessons from Forge: CRM will need to do the heavy lifting in the post-cookie world

By Michael Nutley | Writer for The Drum

February 7, 2023 | 9 min read

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We look back at the second day of customer engagement platform Braze’s Forge22 user conference in London, which honed in on the importance of relationships in driving revenue, loyalty and customer lifetime value.

braze forge

“If you don’t know something, don’t assume you do. There’s power in not knowing and asking for help.” - Ntsako Mokwena, DICE

“People in CRM sometimes lose touch with what the R stands for. The most important thing is building relationships with your customers.”

That comment, made by Ntsako Mokwena, global head of CRM at live event discovery and ticketing app Dice, set the tone for day two of Braze’s Forge22 conference. It came in the opening session, when she also advised delegates not to be scared of looking to other people for assistance.

“If you don’t know something, don’t assume you do,” she said. “There’s power in not knowing and asking for help.”

For Braze president and chief commercial officer Myles Kleeger, this is the essence of the Braze community. He described its 7,000+ members as “an extraordinary brain-trust of knowledge, experience and insight,” capable of delivering a quick answer to a campaign question or helping marketers find the next member of their team.

“That’s why we’re investing in the evolution of Braze Bonfire,” he said. “It’s time to level up from real-time chat to a more powerful connected platform that can serve as a one-stop shop for customer engagement resources.”

Data isn’t a problem, it’s the solution

Speakers throughout the day talked about how data should be seen as the solution, not as a problem. They discussed why it’s important to engage with customers at every step of their path to purchase, collecting data, and using it to personalize and enrich subsequent interactions.

Echoing the theme of the event – ‘Start anywhere, go everywhere’ – all of them described how they had started with the basics and then increased their maturity. They discussed their next steps, how much more they could do, and the need to build for growth, but they also recognized the process can’t be rushed.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” said Nick Peng, global head of CRM at global online food delivery marketplace Just Eat Takeaway. “You need to look at internal limitations and be agile to build solutions step by step.”

  “You need to look at internal limitations and be agile to build solutions step by step.” - Nick Peng, Just Eat Takeaway

Driving sign-ups in the post-cookie world

This need for strong customer relationships is about to become even more pressing, as cosmetics company Estée Lauder UK & Ireland’s transformation technology executive director Murali Kiruba, and data, insights and analytics director Daniel Lindsay, highlighted.

“Like many, we’re anticipating that the gradual reduction in third-party cookies will increase our reliance on first-party data,” Lindsay said. “So, for us, CRM and retention marketing will have to grow to pick up more and more of our marketing objectives.”

The focus of the Estée Lauder session was how the brand uses SMS and email in combination, particularly from the consideration phase of the customer journey onwards.

“We tend to see more consumers opting in to email earlier in the journey – before their first purchase – so it’s typically the channel that comes first in our engagement strategy,” Lindsay said. “SMS tends to be used more by our loyal customers, particularly those whose data is collected in store, so we tend to leverage SMS to drive to in-store events or promotions that are only available for a limited time.”

This use of SMS is the focus of the brand’s plans to join up the online and in-store elements of its customer journey, as Kiruba explained: “We’ve started to explore how we can use SMS from within our physical stores. Our in-store staff are a hugely important resource for us in how we deliver a high-touch experience and ultimately get our products in consumers’ hands."

braze forge

Kiruba added: “As they’re so close to our consumers, we want to empower them to speak to their customers more regularly. We recently launched new SMS technology within our app which allows in-store beauty artists to send real-time, personalized SMS to their most loyal consumers. We’re still in the early days, but when we sync up the CRM communication being driven by our corporate teams with ground-level comms from our retail teams, we’ll be able to drive a true omni-channel, personalized comms journey.”

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Don’t miss the moments that matter

Earlier in the customer journey, holiday lettings business HomeToGo is thinking about how to better develop relationships with so-called anonymous users. Samia Abdallah, senior product manager at HomeToGo, talked about how the brand has four times as many non logged-in users as logged-in, but that the value of logged-in users is far greater.

“Anonymous users are people who never gave us their email or signed up to a newsletter. They’re users we have no data on whatsoever,” she explained. “A typical booking starts when users surf the app to search and make up their minds, but then do the actual booking on desktop. If they’re not logged-in, it’s hard to know that they have made a booking, and to stop retargeting them on the app through push notifications, for example.”

braze forge

Her advice to marketers in the same position is to start an in-app campaign to acquire users’ details, and to recognize the crucial moments.

“Just do something,” she said. “An onboarding flow is not enough, especially when users are acquired via paid channels, because they are the least interested. You should always retarget the moment someone takes a relevant action on the app. These are the moments that are most important.”

This idea of capitalizing on key moments was also addressed by Michael Bate, group head of CRM & marketing capability at leisure, travel and tourism company Tui.

“Holidays are an exciting product, so we need to help customers get excited to nudge them down the conversion funnel,” he said. “This is all about having timely, highly personalized campaigns that we can send to customers based on a set of actions, to nudge them down the sales funnel towards booking.”

The power of community

For Braze’s Kleeger, this sharing of experience and insight was the key aspect of bringing Forge back into the physical world after two years online.

braze forge

“You can really feel the power of community here at Forge,” he said. “As Braze CCO, it’s my privilege to see this community in action every day, and it’s the diversity of roles, company types, and industries that makes it strong and vibrant. I’m constantly amazed at the creativity, curiosity, and persistence of our partners and customers, from those with their hands on the dashboard, building and optimizing campaigns, to those who are envisioning engagement strategy for the years to come.”

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