While Gary’s Wine & Marketplace got its start as a small wine shop in New Jersey, its digital capabilities tell a different story. Founded in Madison, N.J., in 1987, Gary’s has since expanded to four stores in New Jersey and one in California, offering about 3,000 wines and wine accessories through its stores and e-commerce site.
The retailer positions itself as a personal wine adviser to consumers, and it recently sought to leverage the full benefits of search and social marketing in attracting new customers and meet shifting behavior.
We chatted with Mike Fisch, Gary’s Wine and Marketplace director of innovation, on how it was able to grow its Facebook ad revenue by nearly five times through a partnership with retail performance marketing company Sidecar.
RIS: What were the drivers or pain points that prompted you to partner with Sidecar, and what were the goals?
Fisch: Sidecar is our performance marketing partner, supporting our product ads across Google, Bing and Facebook. As a wine retailer, we face a few key challenges that Sidecar lets us overcome. For instance, seasonality impacts our business quite a bit. Rosè picks up in the summer, while premium wines and champagnes pick up during holidays. Our ad campaigns must flex in terms of budget as the seasons shift.
Another challenge is purchase intent. Some consumers know exactly the bottle they want, while others browse. From a digital advertising perspective, we need to align changing purchase intent to products to ad spend, to drive return. Finally, there’s scale. We have to be able to promote a catalog of 3,000 products to reach the widest audience possible.
We started partnering with Sidecar to tap into the full value of search marketing and paid social. Our objective was to gain adaptability. We wanted a partner with the retail marketing expertise and resources to guide us and help us meet our performance marketing goals across all the channels that are part of our customers’ changing journey.
RIS: How have business processes changed as a result of this project?
Fisch: Sidecar’s team collaborates with us on strategy and manages our campaigns. So tactical ad management is off our plate, and digital marketing is now a much more robust function for our business. Having Sidecar as a partner lets us extend our strategic resources and gain back time to focus on business growth without being bogged down in the weeds of ad campaign management.
Another key part of the relationship is Sidecar’s in-house technology and tools that they built to throw the right levers at the right time. Much of the technology is based on machine learning and natural language processing to understand trends around product performance and consumer search behavior. That’s crucial data we had no way of understanding or taking action on before. When trends and performance change, so do campaigns and bids to best position us to continuously meet our return on ad spend (ROAS) goal.
RIS: Which business functions have most benefited from the implementation?
Fisch: Digital marketing. Before Sidecar, our small marketing team had enough bandwidth to support a few simple Google and Bing Shopping campaigns. We were getting overwhelmed by the number of marketing channels out there, and the complexities involved in managing them.
We have a personalized relationship with Sidecar’s team — and in fact, our work together earned a finalist nod in the 2020 Digiday Technology Awards. Sidecar understands our business needs. We enjoy our meetings with them. They make it easy to digest reports and highlight where we should be looking to test new approaches and refine our strategies.
RIS: What have been the benefits, and how are you measuring success?
Fisch: The top benefit we’re getting from Sidecar is that they can optimize all the marketing channels that matter to us, while taking almost none of our time. With Sidecar, we have consistently met or exceeded our Google and Facebook ROAS goals since our relationship began two years ago.
We’ve also seen measurable revenue growth. Twelve months into the engagement, our Google Shopping revenue was up by 54% year over year. By January 2020, Sidecar had a full calendar year under its belt managing our Facebook ads. Q1 2020 Facebook ad revenue was up 133% year over year.
There’s also the factor of visibility. We’ve achieved a competitive impression share in paid search, ranking among the top three wine advertisers nearly every month since partnering with Sidecar.
RIS: Has anything surprised you about the results?
Fisch: We knew that Sidecar is embedded in the retail industry. But I think we were pleasantly surprised by just how well Sidecar understands the retail landscape, our business, where we’re at in our growth, and how to align with us to move to the next level.
For instance, when Google or Facebook rolls out a new feature, we rest assured that Sidecar is on top of it and will let us know how we can best make use of that feature. Getting those recommendations when we don't ask for them is impressive.
RIS: Has it helped you manage or navigate the unprecedented consumer demand shifts during the pandemic?
Fisch: The COVID-19 pandemic has spiked the demand for buying wine online. But it’s also created an environment where we have to increasingly jockey for visibility. Having Sidecar in place has been an advantage for us. Adaptability has been such a key factor for meeting consumer needs over the past several months, and Sidecar has adaptability in spades.
Sidecar helps us prioritize spend and remain efficient with our budget. For instance, at the outset of the pandemic, they quickly incorporated ads for curbside pickup, targeted by ZIP code, to additionally drive performance and meet consumer needs via Facebook. As a result, on Facebook alone, our ad revenue in Q2 was up nearly 5X year over year.
RIS: What best practices can you offer to other retailers looking to expand their search and e-commerce capabilities?
Fisch: Retail is a unique industry — and every retail business has their own goals, business profile, audience behaviors, and marketing needs. My advice is to be committed to finding the partner who specializes in retail, understands your business, and can align with you on how you’re growing your business. The value of mutual fit can’t be underscored enough.