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What I Want Marketers to Know: Chelsea Mueller, CMO, CTD, Inc.

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Marketing Director, Americas , Emarsys

Chelsea Mueller is a multi-talented CMO who, among many other successes, has lead her marketing team in the incorporation of AI into their marketing strategy to increase customer engagement and conversions.

Since adopting AI marketing technology, Chelsea’s pure play e-tail company has seen a:

● +12% increase in open rate

● +8% increase in click-through rate

● +56% increase in open rate for browser abandonment notifications

She’s helped lead initiatives using AI to automate replenishment campaigns, simplify email management, and optimize subject lines.

Today, she’s sharing exactly what she wants marketers to know about tech, AI, and leveraging data at scale.


Location: Fort Worth, Texas.

Current Role: Chief Marketing Officer at CTD, Inc.

One word that best describes how you view the state of marketing today: Evolving.

Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I started my career in journalism, working on the editorial side at newspapers before transitioning into marketing (spoiler: newspapers were not a booming business 15 years ago, either). Being a journalist required understanding people, their motivations, and what would get them to talk. Transitioning that into marketing meant leveraging those emotional drivers that get people to buy.

In marketing as in journalism, it’s all about the right messaging to the right people. I’ve sold knights on horseback to moms of 10-year-old boys (Medieval Times), red-carpet jewelry to celebrities (Ylang 23), the perfect centerpiece bowl to newlyweds (Nambé), and the right MOLLE gear for a weekend at the range (Cheaper Than Dirt).

Outside of living the CMO life, I’m married, write novels, and am always trying new martial arts (I’ve just taken up fencing!).

What do you wish marketers knew (but you’re pretty sure they don’t)?

Best practices are not static.

I don’t mean that if you simply don’t like them, you change them. We’ve all been it that sales pitch, that board meeting, that webinar when someone tells us we do things a certain way because of best practices. Or that we shouldn’t do things differently because of best practices.

As technology advances and as our understanding of customer behavior expands, we need to constantly revisit what best practices should look like. Best practices for one retailer might not be the same for another, because their customers are vastly different. If the data shows “best practices” aren’t best, change them.

What do you see as the biggest challenge faced by marketers today?

Levering data at scale feels daunting. There’s this impression that if you don’t have the budget for Watson, then you can’t leverage customer data in a scalable way. It’s not true, but our hurdle is incorporating more IT and infrastructure knowledge into our marketing teams.

How can they overcome this challenge?

Make friends with your IT team. Take the CIO to lunch. You may not have a robust CRM. You may not have data scientists on your team. That’s okay. At a minimum, you have purchase data. Talk with your colleagues about collecting it and reasonable ways to share it. If you want a data-driven marketing plan, make use of the colleagues who are happy to “nerd out” on numbers and data and code with you. You’ll discover what data you do have, and you can begin to build a plan that way, show gains, and grow the program over time.

If you could tell all marketers just one thing, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid of using big data to get to know your customers on a personal level. It isn’t creepy if you make their lives easier.

Technology has already transformed marketing in so many ways. How do you see tech continuing to revolutionize the marketer’s role?

Long term I expect we’ll see stronger branding with a personal voice as a result of leveraging AI as a tool. For marketers, this means a return of emphasis on creative and branding skills.

What are you currently reading, or what would you recommend for marketers?

I love hearing what other marketers have done, and how they achieved those changes. If you enjoy case studies, I recommend picking up Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman. She interviews 22 branding experts on their experiences, and it’s a great read for anyone interested in consumer behavior and what we learn from it.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ________ answer these same questions.

Sylvie Rouaix, ‎Vice President of Product Development and Brand Marketing at Sephora.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to marketers?

My big prediction for 2018 is growth in adoption of natural language search in more than in-home device like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomePod. Customers are getting more comfortable with dictating and talking to devices. As we continue to capture micro moments on mobile, being able to adapt your on-site search to understand voice requests will quickly become an essential feature.


Chelsea is one of the most forward-thinking marketing leaders today. She is managing cross-functional teams within the organization, and working to integrate artificial intelligence across the enterprise — all in an effort to better serve customers.

Special thanks to Chelsea Mueller for her time, energy, and insight.

Connect with Chelsea: @ChelseaVBC •  LinkedIn

Know someone who would be a great fit for “What I Want Marketeers to Know”? Email Michael at Michael.Becker@Emarsys.com.