You’ve Got Mail: D&D Engages Customers With Digital Marketing


Vendor Viewpoint with Michele Salerno, Director of Marketing, Assistant Vice President, Celerant Technology Corp.

Apparel: Customers have come to expect companies to learn their likes and behaviors and to customize their communications to those preferences. How is this expectation for personalization affecting the way apparel businesses market to consumers?

Salerno: Customers today can spot computer-generated content from a mile away. Businesses are no longer successful when creating generic campaigns for their entire contact list — it actually increases opt-outs and the potential for complaints about spamming. The marketing landscape has evolved into a more personalized, timely and trusted form of advertising. Apparel retailers need to send the right message at the right time in order keep the customer interested and going to their stores. It should be well organized, succinct, and, most importantly, segmented toward your target market. Segmenting your email list is key because when customers receive personalized emails that pertain specifically to them, they are likely to explore further, leading to a click and possibly leading to a sale on your website.

Let’s say a male customer purchases running shoes from your website. A week later, you decide to follow-up with an email featuring running shirts, running shorts and a lightweight sweatshirt. This email shows that not only do you know your customer’s preferences, but you know what he purchased and when. Alternatively, you might choose to send an email a week later thanking the customer for his purchase and encouraging him to write an online review of the product by linking him directly to the proper product page. This also demonstrates that you know your customer. On the other hand, if you send an email featuring women’s basketball shorts or a bikini, then you’re not likely to get much of a response. Apparel retailers need to send messages that are relevant to the customer. Sending the wrong message at the wrong time can cause opt-outs, in which case you lose the customer entirely.

Apparel: Wherever they go, today’s consumers are virtually always accompanied by their smartphones. What possibilities does this open up for apparel businesses to use shopper location as a tool to enhance the effectiveness of their marketing strategies?

Salerno: Today, one of the keys to marketing is ensuring everything you create as a retailer is mobile friendly, so that when you produce any digital advertisement, it can easily be seen, read and understood by the audience you want to reach. Mobile has become an integral part of all marketing campaigns, as mobile allows retailers to reach any customer at any time. Imagine that you can send an automated email with a promotional code to your customer on her smartphone. She then saves the promo code to her smart wallet. When she is nearby, you can automatically send out a reminder alert to her phone to encourage her stop by your store and redeem the coupon before it expires, at which time she can easily complete her purchase by simply tapping her phone on your payment device. The retail market is moving in this direction. The savviest of retailers, equipped with the innovative technology to make this scenario possible, will have the competitive edge.

Apparel: What best practices are leading apparel businesses following when it comes to using their email marketing campaigns to drive consumers into physical stores?

Salerno: In a recent marketing series, we discussed three best practices every retailer can follow to have a successful email campaign.

Create an active and relevant email list. First on that list was creating a well-rounded contact list, which can make all the difference. A solid contact list will make segmentation easier, which will in turn help you to understand the messages you need to create for your emails. It also allows you to know exactly who you are reaching and why.

Integrate with CRM & sales data. The second best practice is sending the right message at the right time through integration with both your sales data and your CRM from all of your channels. Email marketing is about being authentic to your brand and not sending computer-generated emails to customers. Keep your messages relevant based on customers’ prior purchases and preferences. The timing of the message is what is going to make all the difference — finding the sweet spot that is not too early, but not too late, is key, and can be determined by performance tracking and continued analysis.

Build automated & personalized email workflows. Take advantage of marketing automation tools, which allow you to create workflows that can be simple or complex, and will run automatically based on specific triggers. Whether you want to encourage online reviews, recover abandoned shopping carts, or try to reengage your customers, automated tools combined with CRM and sales data produce the best results. With this method, we have seen clients increase open rates from 6 percent to 38 percent on abandoned cart workflows.

Online review workflows not only increase consumer confidence in your products, but also improve SEO for your overall site. Automated emails based on prior purchases can help with cross-selling, up-selling and of course building customer loyalty by simply saying “thank you.” You can increase that loyalty by sending out automated birthday or anniversary incentives, or “we miss you” emails if they have not made a purchase in a while. Automated reminder emails to encourage customers to return to redeem their gift cards are also productive, because customers who do this will typically spend more than the amount on their gift cards.

The possibilities are endless. Retailers can get very creative with the types of emails they send, but the key is to have all of these emails triggered automatically based on your customers’ behaviors. Once these workflows are set up initially, there is little to no effort needed and you can evaluate and experiment.

Whether you are driving customers to your physical stores or to your website, email marketing is by far the most effective and cost-efficient method of reaching your customers. When retailers send personalized emails, they can deliver 6x-higher transaction rates compared to blind emails. Making personal connections through email marketing campaigns encourages customers to keep coming back and cultivates long-term relationships by mimicking the in-store experience through digital.

D&D Texas Outfitters outfits your Texas lifestyle — whether or not you happen to live in Texas. Founded in 1972, D&D has been locally owned and family operated for more than four decades. It began as a retailer of farm and ranch supplies, including saddle and tack. Its store in Seguin, Texas, draws customers from all over central and southern Texas and northern Mexico.

During the past decade, under the leadership of the Ferrell family, D&D greatly expanded the farm and ranch supply business, adding animal feed and other materials. It also expanded out of that niche to add a farm trailer division as well as a division that sells apparel and accessories with a Texas flavor. A second store specializing in apparel opened in New Braunfels, Texas, and the e-commerce side of the business grew rapidly as well. Despite the wide variety of products, there is a strong crossover among all segments, due to the “Texas lifestyle” theme.

In 2014, D&D made a strategic decision to use the Celerant retail platform. The multichannel platform handles all aspects of the retail business, and D&D relies on it for point-of-sale, inventory management, e-commerce, and more recently, digital marketing. Craig Walton, the company’s e-commerce manager, explains that a business like D&D, which is large enough to require technically sophisticated systems but not large enough to have its own IT department, can benefit greatly by using an integrated solution that functions “smoothly and holistically.” He adds, “Celerant is filling a hole for a lot of mid-sized companies.”

When Walton joined the company two years ago, his first task was to improve the e-commerce site, which covers apparel, hats, footwear, saddles and tack. He and his team implemented industry best practices for navigation and user experience, made the site mobile friendly, and added a PayPal option. An international shipping option is about to go live. “We’ve come a long, long way,” Walton says.

In January 2017, Celerant introduced an email marketing automation solution, and Walton jumped at the chance to use it to improve e-commerce even further. Previously, D&D had sent email blasts to its entire list, using the “spray and pray” approach that too often alienates customers. The new solution made it easy to send emails based on customers’ histories and interests.

Working with the solutions provider, Walton began to define and test a variety of email scenarios — and quickly learned that customer behavior could be quirkier than he had anticipated. One of the first and most important scenarios was to email customers who had abandoned their shopping carts, reminding them to complete their transactions. Perfecting the workflow required defining abandonment in a realistic way to make sure the targeted behavior reflected a customer actually having abandoned the cart.

After testing, the cart abandonment workflow was implemented, and the results have been very encouraging. The open rate for the emails is 37 percent (compared with the 8 percent typical for “blast” emails), and the clickthrough rate is 14 percent. And, as Walton points out, “Even if they don’t convert at that point, it’s a good reminder that we’d like them to come back and purchase from us.”

Another workflow sends an email 14 days after a purchase — long enough for the customer to have received and evaluated the product —asking the customer to review it; clicking on the link in the email takes the customer directly to the review page for that product. This workflow has succeeded in increasing the number of reviews. To improve the response rate further, Walton is considering enabling customers to enter their reviews in the email itself without having to click through to a review page.

Even a moderate response rate for review emails can be helpful, according to Walton. First, customer reviews provide valuable information (whether positive or negative) for other customers considering purchasing the same product, and second, reviews are noted in search results, which encourages more searchers to click through. Because clickthrough rates are themselves a factor in search engine rankings, the final result is better search-engine ranking for D&D products.

Other successful workflows include a thank-you email with a coupon for the next visit and a welcome email for new customers. Walton has more ambitious plans for the future, including targeted promotions sent to customers based on their transaction histories. The integration of the email marketing solution with the customer relationship management database makes the possibilities for this sort of granular promotion almost infinite. Segmentation can be done on the fly, without having to go through a separate step of adding categories to the list. “Having a living, breathing, dynamic list is very important,” Walton says.

The effort to improve search engine rankings has now gone beyond soliciting customer reviews. This spring, Walton started a major search engine optimization (SEO) project, working with Celerant consultants. After conducting an SEO audit, they began fixing basic problems identified in the audit, such as ensuring that all the data and images on the e-commerce site were being captured and indexed correctly. After only a few weeks, the project started to show results in terms of increased traffic and other metrics; the next stage will involve keyword research, social media and other more complex changes. Although SEO doesn’t require specialized software, it requires extensive tweaking of the e-commerce site, so working with Celerant, which is responsible for maintaining the site, is an efficient approach.

The SEO project focuses on organic search, but eventually Walton will expand to include more paid search (sponsored ads) on the web and in social media — a strategy D&D has not yet used to any great extent. Walton sees the digital marketing and search engine optimization programs as parts of a larger whole. He explains, “SEO has a huge impact in earning new customers; then I can continue through email or remarketing and communicate with them at a personal and relevant level.”

Walton emphasizes that D&D’s overall digital marketing strategy is “more of a distance race than a sprint.” Results don’t happen overnight but accumulate over the months. By the fall, he says, the site will be fully “indexed, crawled and relevant.” He’s looking forward to a great fourth quarter for D&D Texas Outfitters. n

Masha Zager is a New York-based Apparel contributing writer specializing in business and retail technology.

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