In today’s marketplace, it’s imperative for small businesses to be able to compete head-to-head with enterprise brands. Despite having fewer resources and a fraction of the budget, consumers today expect the same level of personalized service and communication from small businesses as they do from massive retailers.
In order to do this, small businesses need to enlist the right marketing tools that drive high amounts of value without adding organizational bandwidth constraints or complexity.
Zachys Wine + Liquor has found a solution that does just that. Since 1944, the family-owned business has been offering one of the most complete and exclusive selections of fine wine and spirits to collectors and enthusiasts around the world. The company has several divisions and services, including auctions and storage for rare and aged wine, as well as a premium buying experience at its brick and mortar location in Scarsdale Village, New York.
Looking to expand its online business, Zachys enlisted Victor Castro as its Director of eCommerce. Within 2.5 years, Victor has grown the eCommerce division to represent 23% of the company’s revenue and has seen 53% growth in the last 2 years.
We sat down with Victor to find out how he transformed Zachys with a triggered email marketing program.
Tell me a little about your background.
I actually studied engineering in college and that’s where I began my career. After a few years in that field, I transitioned into product development and consulting work for eCommerce brands. That provided me with a lot of eCommerce and user experience expertise so then when I transitioned to eCommerce and marketing, it was pretty organic.
Before I joined Zachys, the Director of eCommerce position didn’t exist. There were a lot of things with their eCommerce business that weren’t necessarily up to best practice so I saw a lot of opportunity. The product is obviously interesting as well, so I was excited to join.
How big is your marketing team and how is it structured?
Our digital marketing department consists of five people, including myself. We have one designer who creates all our digital assets, including email templates, website user experience, banner ads, etc. Our social media manager takes care of all our social accounts, and some PR and events, such as in-store wine tasting and things like that. Our eCommerce project manager handles big initiatives like implementations of new systems, such as a new ESP. We also have an eCommerce coordinator who helps with day-to-day operations and content. Then there’s me, I oversee all the strategy, manage partners and budgets, and help my team roll out projects and manage priorities.
What was your email marketing program like prior to triggers? What kind of communications did you send?
Zachys really prides itself on service and having a strong relationship with our customers, so our email marketing has traditionally been very high touch with a smaller database of contacts. On average, we send 2-3 hyper-segmented emails a day, with 95% of those being product pitches and the rest are in-store tasting events.
Why did you decide to implement a triggered email program?
We use Silverpop as our ESP. When I joined Zachys, I knew I wanted to implement an email trigger program, but doing so through Silverpop was really complicated. It required a lot of planning, a complex IT integration and ongoing maintenance
I knew we were missing opportunities to recapture the traffic we had been working so hard to develop. There was no follow up. Originally, I just wanted to send a welcome email trigger to new customers to introduce the brand and explain what kind of information they could expect to receive. The second trigger I wanted to do was an abandoned cart, but that required way more integration in Silverpop. I ended up with a long list of priorities, lacking the means of executing against it.
How did you hear about Bluecore?
I actually heard about Bluecore from one of your existing customers, BCBG, at a conference. She was speaking about her program at an event and I thought it was really interesting. It all kind of snowballed from there.
How did you evaluate different triggered email solutions? What was most important to you during your evaluation?
The biggest consideration for me was speed to launch and ease of integration. It is a lot easier than most people would ever expect. Bluecore enabled us to launch multiple triggers with a single, comprehensive integration. That one-time setup launched every single trigger, even as we’ve added more since our initial launch. No one believes it’s just adding a pixel but it’s actually true! That was a big selling point.
There was also the flexibility. We’re unique in that our site isn’t necessarily up to best practices in how we store and capture data. Bluecore had the flexibility in how it received data that worked for us.
What triggered emails did you initially decide to implement?
Per the recommendation of Bluecore, we started the program with three email triggers: abandoned search, abandoned cart and abandoned product. We originally just wanted to do abandoned cart but the other two were easy to add in. In retrospect I’m really glad we did those additional two.
You recently added three more email triggers to your program. Can you tell me about those?
The in-stock trigger is somewhat unique to our business. Many times we buy product ahead of of its release and sell it upfront, like a pre-order. Some people will buy wine ahead of time because they know they’ll get to drink it eventually. Some people won’t buy wine ahead of time though, so we use this trigger to alert that audience when it’s available and ready to ship. I suppose most companies would use it as a “restock” trigger.
The new merchandise trigger has really supplemented the premium service and selection we pride ourselves on at Zachys. Traditionally we’ve offered personalized recommendations for our customers through our sales associates. Because this trigger also generates personalized recommendations, it essentially helps us replicate that premium experience online. Also typically before we buy a product, we have an idea of who we want to pitch it to, but we obviously can’t pitch every product we buy in a timely manner. Now when a new product hits the system, Bluecore finds the people to sell it to. It just complements our sales process perfectly.
The price decrease trigger is basically an “on sale” play. It alerts people about things they’ve looked at before, but didn’t buy and are now at a lower price. The approach is very personalized, with the name of the product in the subject line and typically people recognize the name. In the past, putting things on sale didn’t really do anything organically, but now it does and we don’t have to use a mass email to announce it.
How has your email trigger program changed the way you work?
To be honest, at first the organization was not convinced and hesitant, but now it’s building trust. We have shown great return so far, so we know it’s working. Actually because it’s working so well, we are considering cutting out a few of our other daily emails. The trigger emails are just so effective and efficient, we’re somewhat transitioning to a quality over quantity strategy. Calculating the exact direct return on investment of each mass email can be difficult, but with triggers you know when and how well that specific email works.
The email triggers have also added a ton of value to our prospecting efforts. In the past, if we prospected, customers would just get a generic email. Now getting someone on site gives them a much more relevant and personalized experience than it would otherwise, which is very powerful.
The really nice part is that because the Bluecore integration was a one-time setup for any trigger, we’ve been able to grow and scale our program without any additional work.
Have you A/B tested the design of any of your emails? If so, any key learnings?
We actually haven’t done this very well. The triggers worked so well out of the gate, we just worked on other things instead. Looking back, I wish we would have paid more attention and done more testing. Now we’re planning to do a full re-haul of all our triggers to fully optimize. Even small things, like changing the tone in the copy, can be so powerful. Currently our copy is pretty generic, so we’re bringing our brand voice out more.
How are you measuring success of your triggered email program?
We really focus on revenue per email, and volume sent to keep an eye on the health of the program. Our eCommerce business now accounts for 23% of our revenue and over the past 2.5 years we’ve seen 54% cumulative growth.
Any surprising or unexpected results?
Honestly that the performance is so positive! We knew the opportunity existed, but the performance was much higher than expected. It also highlighted other areas we could improve on. Now that the triggers kind of handle themselves, we can focus on some of those areas for improvement, such as driving more traffic to the site.
Do you have any plans to add more types of email triggers?
Yes! We’re going to add 3 more triggers. To somewhat counter the “price decrease” trigger, we’re going to add a “price increase” trigger that will let someone know when a product is about to go off-sale. We’re also adding a “brand affinity” trigger. Some people always buy from the same producer, so this new trigger will alert them if that producer comes out with a new product, even if its not the type of wine they normally buy. For example, if you always buy Pinot Noir from the same producer, this will let you know if they came out with a new champagne.
Finally, and funny enough, we actually never did the welcome series we originally planned! It doesn’t have as high of a return, but I think it’s an important touch point with our customers and should improve our mass email performance, so we’re going to launch that now.
What are your other marketing priorities for 2016?
Prospecting new customers is definitely the top priority. We have a strong retention program, so that will work even better when we have more fuel in the funnel. We’re also revamping our paid search program. That will be a heavy push this year.
Any final pieces of advice?
Always be looking to optimize the programs by doing more A/B testing. Leverage the ease of execution to try new things. Don’t get complacent just because it works well.
Something that I’ve realized recently is that not every trigger is the same and therefore we shouldn’t measure them all the same. They all reach the customer at different points in their buying process. What if the goal of one trigger is to create more traffic for a future trigger? There’s kind of an endless sea of possibilities if you get creative with it.
Thank you so much for your insight, Victor!