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05/23/2022

Mission Possible: Rising Star Uses Data to Understand 'Unknown' Guests

Courtney Maxedon oversees all digital initiatives for Kahala Brands. She was presented with the Top Women in Restaurant Technology Rising Star award at MURTEC.
Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor - Restaurants
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Courtney Maxedon at MURTEC
Courtney Maxedon, VP of Interactive Marketing, Kahala Brands is leveraging first-party data to boost the bottom line and drive loyalty.

Courtney Maxedon, VP of Interactive Marketing, leads the Interactive Department that serves all 29 of Kahala  Brands' unique restaurant concepts including Cold Stone Creamery, Baja Fresh, Planet Smoothie, Pinkberry and Blimpie. She oversees all digital initiatives for Kahala Brands including off-premise ordering, digital and social media, loyalty, SEO, digital design/development and more.

Maxedon has been working in digital marketing for years before joining Kahala Brands in 2018. “Understanding and working with technology is essential for anyone in the digital space, so coupling the two during my career path was a natural progression,” she says.

Maxedon is passionate about growing and understanding Kahala’s first-party data and has “significant strides” in growing its first-party databases through loyalty programs. While loyalty acquisition remains a goal, about 15% of its customers are members. She worked on identifying those “unknown” guests to better understand them and then to target them with marketing messages that resonate.

With a focus on Coldstone Creamery, Maxedon and her team set out to make their digital advertising more efficient and effective. She knew that with the more security and privacy updates being implemented by browsers and devices, the less reliant they could be on the third-party data.

She and her team worked with DataDelivers, a customer data platform. After a four-month pilot, the data told the story. By identifying the previously “unknown” customers and “meeting them where they are” across the digital landscape, they saw a +200% return on ad spend.

These results have proven the importance of digital, and Maxedon has shifted more advertising dollars into the digital space because of the opportunity for better 1:1 targeting and performance results.

“Utilizing data for actionable marketing seemed so far-fetched in our industry a few years ago, and the more technology evolves, the more we need to keep up and act upon the constantly changing space,” she says. Maxedon shared her expertise at MURTEC in the Day 1 session, Mastering the Art of Business Intelligence.

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top women award winner

Seeing their in-store and online data in one centralized platform has really opened their eyes to the need for centralized data. Maxedon and her team have just scratched the surface on what’s possible, and looking forward to honing in on that strategy this year.

Maxedon is most proud of the ability to see the impact of implementing new technology and the CDP pilot in particular. “We’re moving customers from inactive to active and seeing them become more engaged in our brand. As our strategy expands, the use of that platform is proving to increase efficiencies and inform decisions across departments,” she says.

Looking into her crystal ball, Maxedon would like to see “integrated systems with a sophisticated level of automation and reporting. Centralized and actionable data that’s personalized to the individual consumer. 1:1 messaging,” Maxedon predicts. “That’s the goal we’re striving for at Kahala. What I find to be challenging right now is how many marketing technologies are needed to be integrated together to be most effective and actionable.”

Maxedon was one of 10 women recognized in HT’s sixth annual Top Women in Restaurant Technology Awards, sponsored by Tillster, the global leader in powering online ordering and delivery solutions for restaurant brands.  

“It was an incredible honor to be nominated and considered for this award. I never considered myself to be in the technology space until I joined at Kahala Brands and started working in the restaurant industry. It’s been incredibly rewarding to work for a company who believes in and is passionate about data, technology and marketing to make an overall impact for our restaurants and Franchisees.  HT will profile each of the winners in the coming weeks and in the summer issue of Hospitality Technology.  

Additional MURTEC 22 coverage, including profiles of otherTop Women in Restaurant Technology Award winners, can be found here.