Learnings from Bulk Powders: winners of Hitting the Mark 2018 (part 2)

We’ve gone behind the scenes to see how Bulk Powders, winners of this year’s Hitting the Mark, nailed its email marketing and customer experience. Mark Sherwood, Head of Europe at Bulk Powders, kindly agreed to an interview to go through their everyday practices and long-term strategy.

We’ve digested the interview into a two-part blog; the first is focused on the day to day, while the second deep-dives into the brand’s strategy.

The interview: part 2

How important is email in your marketing strategy?

For retention, it’s our number one channel for sure. We’re a pure-play ecommerce company, so in that regard, we’re limited in cost-effective channels. So, email has become and is our most important channel.

Email is very close to my heart, I’m an email marketer. Whilst I’m here, it’ll be an important channel. I feel some people are skeptical about email marketing, saying it’s in decline and there’s a death of email. I can sympathize in some regards – sending the same email day in day out to your entire list is in decline. But, if you can email customers with the relevant and targeted information they want to receive, then for companies like us, it’s the best channel for retaining your customers.

Presumably your martech set-up is pretty integrated. How do you manage all of your relevant data flows?

It’s very simple once you have everything set up. We have tags on the site that monitor consumer behavior; they track users’ product/category views and purchases. This all goes into our CRM platform – i.e. which products they’ve ordered and which discounts they’ve used. Then we have all of their historic purchase rates in once place.

Overlaid onto that, we have category information to see which products fall under which categories. This means we can very quickly create affinities and personas based on the web behavior and purchase activity of users.

It wasn’t the easiest thing to set up in all honesty; it perhaps took us a little longer than expected to be in the position we’re in now. But, on a day-to-day basis, there’s no work for us – it just runs seamlessly.

What would you say is your main marketing challenge?

My main marketing challenge is how to reduce my email volume. We are in a very crowded, very competitive market, and generally the sports nutrition industry is heavily saturated with emails. That’s a problem for the market.

What we’re trying to do is reduce the volume of our daily email sends without jeopardizing our revenue. This is a key goal for us in the next 6 to 12 months, and we’ll achieve it by doing more triggered and targeted emails (like those you highlighted in Hitting the Mark) and taking it to the next level.

There will always be subscribers getting the daily stuff. But more and more people will be taken out of that when they actively participate in the user journey and enter their own unique program. That’s how we’re tackling it. Ultimately, we know consumers get bored of emails if you hit them too hard.

Have you expanded into other channels? If so, do they seamlessly work together across campaigns?

We’ve launched into other channels – email, SMS and social are key from a retention point of view. They all work seamlessly with the same data (CRM). A year ago, we looked at each of those channels in isolation; we sent an email here, an SMS there. And maybe we put an ad on someone’s social timeline. Now it’s all joined up; so, people who open emails less frequently are more likely to receive an SMS than those who open our emails daily. There are points where we want to talk to people on their Facebook timelines, but we might not do that to those who are super-engaged on email. It all depends on what type of message it is. If it’s our replenishment program, we’ll try to hit them on email and their social timeline, as they work well together.

What are your plans for the future?

Good question. We’re a very fast-growing company. We’re a great company to work for, but fast-growing doesn’t come without its challenges. The marketing team needs to grow with the company. The key focus is to incorporate all the strides we made in our CRM into our front end as well. The real issue we have right now is that we have all these personalized, targeted and tailored messages for customers, but then when they land on the site it’s basically a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about how we can get that level of insight and one-to-one personalization on the front end as well. We’re also on the look our for any other channels out there that can help us with our ambitious growth targets.

What value does Hitting the Mark bring to marketers?

For Bulk Powders, it’s really useful. When you’re ingrained in the business day in day out, it’s hard to take a step back and look at the outside world, to see at what others are doing – how their handling their email, their CRM, their customers. So, to have a report that looks at 100 brands in depth – at what they’re doing really well and what they could improve on – is a great reference for benchmarking. We can get some real tips and ideas and we generally use Hitting the Mark as a knowledge-sharing resource.

For us, it adds a great deal of value. Some of the things we’ve done in the last 12 months or so have come from us looking at the report and thinking ‘oh, well that’s an interesting angle. Perhaps we should try that’. We look forward to it coming out every year.

 

Think you’ve got what it takes to emulate Bulk Powders? Last year the brand came 34th. But after adopting some winning tactics, team Bulk trailblazed up to first place in 2018. Congratulations to them again!

Download the report here for the smartest tactics in email and marketing automation. Benchmark yourself against the competition, adopt better practices, and master customer experience.

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