Success in Customer Acquisition

A large regional discount retailer was faced with a challenge, they needed to grow the profit margin generated by each store without adding square footage or opening additional locations. Since they are a discount retailer it was difficult to lower prices to increase sales, conversely raising prices across the board would reduce their competitiveness in the market space. Ideally, more stores or physical expansion of current stores would have solved the problem but the funding wasn’t available. 

In addition, they were looking to build an accurate customer database which was something that they were unable to do due to the current limitation of their point-of-purchase system. They were tied to an antiquated IT system that wasn’t scheduled for replacement for a few years. They wanted to get a jump start on building a customer database and leveraging it to build customer loyalty and increase the average cart value per visit. In order to do this, they would need to create a system where they could see who their customers were and understand the product categories that they were interested in. They realized that targeting was key to growing profits and sales but needed a system to be able to capture the data.

Sunny Direct was tasked with building a marketing campaign and a simple system for capturing customer data and delivering it to the client. With the known limitations within their POS system we decided to start with simple system that would be easy for their in-store team members to manage. The idea was to create a direct mail program with promotional cards inside. These cards had barcodes that were matched to the address on the mailer. Since they could not scan these barcodes at the register we build a system where the cards were collected at the store level and sent back to us using preconfigured shipping cartons. While this may seem fairly rudimentary it was very quick and easy to implement across hundreds of locations and did not create any additional costs. Once the cards arrived back at our facility they were scanned in and uploaded to a database to track the response rate, ROI, and customer information. This was the beginning of their customer database. We were now able to capture information about who their customers were and the types of offers that they were interested in, all this was data that was unable to be captured by their current IT infrastructure. Once we gathered this data we analyzed customer trends and began highlighting higher margin items that were of interest to the

The new program resulted in a win-win situation for both the store and their customers. They saw increased foot traffic and cart value due to more relevant and personalized offers being delivered to their customers. They were also able generate significant additional revenue per store which alleviated the pressure to increase the square footage of individual locations. A clean and accurate customer database was created which was used to better understand who their customers are. This database was leveraged for subsequent campaigns and also used as a template for new acquisition programs. The solution was simple, effective, and scalable across all of their current locations. It provided a sustainable, long term strategy for growth that did not place unnecessary stress on their marketing budget.

Fortune 500 Distribution and Fulfillment Success

A fortune 500 company with hundreds of locations across North America was looking to consolidate the distribution and fulfillment of their in-store business and promotional materials. They needed a system that was secure, easy to deploy and integrated with their current corporate network. With thousands of team members using the system, they needed the software to be simple, efficient, and flexible. As their business grows the requirements are evolving, the solution needed to be scalable to keep pace with their expansion without driving unnecessary costs.

Sunny Direct deployed our online ordering and web-to-print system to facilitate quick and efficient ordering for their team. We developed custom functionality that fit the specific needs of their organization. Identity management and security policies were implemented to enable user management and administration. The system was integrated directly with our distribution facility to allow for reduced fulfillment timelines. This integration was build to reduce operational overhead and inefficiencies. Our team is there to answer questions and assist with any ordering or shipping issues. We pride ourselves on being an extension of our customer’s organization.

The online ordering system combined with the distribution and fulfillment program was able to create significant monthly cost reductions. The Sunny Direct customer support team was able to assist customers and decrease the amount of time that was spent on the support process. Average fulfillment times decreased allowing for a reduced need for the locations to stock large amounts of materials. The integrated approach created enhanced reporting and forecasting capabilities. This allowed for better purchasing and inventory decisions, resulting in additional cost savings.

Newspaper Insert Success Use Case

A leading national advertising agency was faced with rising costs and elongated timelines due to production and distribution challenges for one of their clients insert programs. They were working overtime to engage customers in the highly competitive fast food industry. Due to commodity price fluctuations they needed to significantly shorten the timeline for their client, to create a larger window for pricing decisions. They were facing pressure to get production approval quickly due to the increase in versioning requested by the client. At the current timelines it was difficult to match the pricing and promotional decisions of their competition.

Sunny Direct implemented our analytics and production models to redesign the manufacturing and logistics of the program. We were able to leverage our national network to create strong regional production centers that reduced shipping and production costs. Our purchasing volumes allowed us to provide paper at a significant cost savings while increasing the consistency of the inserts. Our quality control team worked to monitor production outputs and ensure brand consistency across the entirety of the program. By implementing a new production and logistics plan we were able to shorten production timelines by days creating a larger window for pricing and promotional decisions.

The changes created four additional days for pricing and promotional decisions. The new timelines relieved pressure on the agency and their client. Cost reductions were in excess of a million dollars annually. These cost reductions allowed for expansion of the program and an increase in the amount of versioning. This increased versioning was very helpful in being able to target their customers more effectively. With Sunny Direct’s quality control team in place they were able to focus on the design and strategy of the program knowing they could rely on the inserts arriving on-time according to their specs.

Digital Marketing Full Service Use Case

When a leading national provider of sporting goods and equipment was looking to boost traffic to stores and increase customer engagement around new stores they realized they were facing a challenge. It was difficult to build and track the results from the new store opening campaigns that were currently being run. Were these campaigns responsible for bringing people into the stores? Were they successful at creating a lasting relationships and bringing in repeat business?   

The goal was to create an acquisition program that could track both in-store and online activity and create a unified brand experience across all channels. The program would also allow for ROI to be tracked on a program and individual channel basis. This would allow for increased targeting and refining of subsequent campaigns. Basically, the ideal solution would be an omnichannel program that would provide increased visibility into customer preferences and engagement that could provide valuable data for future store grand openings.

Sunny Direct designed and launched a highly personalized and targeted program utilizing both digital and physical media. As an full service provider Sunny Direct was a single source for the planning, creative and production of the program. Direct Mail was used to drive store traffic using targeted promotions which when redeemed at the store level or online enabled easy tracking of ROI. The digital component was focused on driving customers to specialized store landing pages and engaging the customers with personalized offers and messaging. This highlighted the benefits of the rewards program and encouraged customers to share feedback on the new stores and their interests. This digital interaction was linked to in-store activity to create insight into individual customer preferences and interests.

The client was able to create a significant increase in the amount of store traffic and sales during the new store opening period. They were able to develop a database of customers and prospects in the geographical area of the store. Customer preferences were analysed to provide new insight into the specific challenges and opportunities that existed at the store level. There was an increase in rewards program registration and the increased trackability led to reduced timelines for follow-up promotional offers.

5 Summer Marketing Tips for 2017

Summer is right around the corner and whether your retail business speeds up around the summer holiday schedule, or slows to vacation lull—now is a great time to prepare for the heat, and maybe even a little productivity along the way.

Here are 5 great tips to get your marketing team summer ready for 2017.


Get an Intern

Small marketing teams can always use an extra hand for curating content, editing blogs, and researching competitor positioning—why not take advantage of the summer months by helping a college student or recent graduate. In my experience, it also helps for future hires as well. I’ve hired many of my interns in the past and built a great relationship with my local university. Guess who gets the best new hires and alumni recommendations now?


Host Some Events

I know what you are thinking, events are expensive—but the truth is they don’t have to be. If you can’t afford that rooftop at Wrigley this season, go smaller—piggyback off other events already happening in your city—like neighborhood events that are looking for sponsors or small table hosts. Depending on your business, you can go big, by staying small.


Make a Plan

Summer hosts the year’s most gregarious holidays—from Memorial Day to Fourth of the July and Labor Day—your customers are sociable and ready to spend money. Now is the time to prepare a plan for attracting new customers, and building brand loyalty. Be specific about strategies for your most active customers, add a loyalty program that can drive engagement and spending. Most importantly don’t forget to make it fun.


Don’t forget Black Friday

We all hate to skip over summer by already thinking about the upcoming holiday season. If you are in retail, you’d be remiss if you aren’t gathering your team early and preparing for a big retail holiday season. Have you looked at your shopping cart abandonment rates? Shopify reports that 67% of carts are left full. Do you have your marketing strategies ready for black Friday? You better!


Data Quality

There never is a perfect time to stop your marketing train and clean house.  But why not choose those warm summer months? Your office is healthy and happy; the team has a tan—but the data is still dirty.  Someone needs to step in.  Problems with your data impact reporting, dashboards, and analytics. Don’t make decisions on your next campaign based on bad information.  

Four years ago, Forbes wrote an insightful article detailing three important steps Marketing and Sales groups needed to successfully take in order to evolve in a Big Data world. And while the steps they outline aren’t necessarily outdated, they fall short today.

They were wise to point out that data is growing at 40% per year — a rate almost impossible to comprehend, much less successfully evolve alongside. And for marketing and sales managers — who often seem to be positioned far from the data itself — it can seem difficult to gain meaningful and applicable insights into customer behavior.

But not all data is created equal, and a campaign crafted from less-than-perfect analytics is likely to miss the mark. So what exactly should you be looking for?

Reading Marketing Analytics

Back in 2005, and before many of us knew better, I was setting up my own manual spreadsheets in order to outline the funnels, goals, and targeted KPIs I’d been pulling from Google Analytics. And what I couldn’t track through my automated resources, I pulled manually, because I believed in the power of data. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was missing a crucial step.

Data Quality Before Analytics

I had assumed that each of the lists I was pulling from contained their own truth, and that the collection of data from as many sources as possible would get me closer and closer to assembling a complete — and, again, truthful — picture. While I was performing basic excel maintenance, I failed to employ data quality measures, thus missing great opportunities. But that was 2006, and we were all marketing to a vastly different consumer. Today, the game has changed.

The Retail Consumer Expects Data Quality

You’re correct in thinking that today’s retail customer expects segmentation, a personal customer experience, and omnichannel. But each of those can only be delivered with reliable, clean data. Without that, what exactly are you delivering, and to whom? Yet this is often something that marketers assume their IT departments are doing for them, which is rarely the case. Without reliable and clean data, you can’t trust your analytics, and this can lead to choosing the wrong customers, crafting the wrong campaign, and, ultimately, losing money.

Millennials and Marketing

Just today my colleague told me about a direct mail piece his wife received in the mail. The piece was an expensive, highly tailored item from an online-only organic food delivery company new to the market. The piece was high-end and beautiful.  I could tell instantly what they were trying to accomplish. 

First, they are appealing to a young, healthy audience. Despite their technological immersion, millennials love the tangible and hate being marketed to — 68% reportedly react more positively to physical advertising than digital, and 84% don’t trust traditional marketing tactics. They are skeptical of impersonal ads.

For that reason, this piece was going to do well. It was highly visual and I wasn’t surprised to find the personalized URL inside, leading the recipient to a highly customized cross-media experience. In short, it was exactly what a 29-year-old professional would expect. The coupon code inside also offered $50.00 off her first month of their loyalty program — another favorite amongst millennials, as 77% of them participate in loyalty programs of some kind. If this worked, as I expected it might, the company would make money while also increasing their average lifetime value of the customer (CLV), the golden metric in retail.

There was just one problem.

They sent the piece to the wrong name. It turns out my colleagues’ wife and her cousin share the same name. Officially, the name they share is actually her maiden name, which explains how the company probably got it wrong. But the company should still have known better, for a plethora of reasons — one of which being that my colleague had changed her name after getting married a year earlier.

Nevertheless, her cousin, who is a young physician about three cities over, would not receive this direct mail piece. The company, which had done everything else exceptionally, missed on data quality, thereby missing on these four important customer personalization steps:

  • Brand loyalty and trust: My colleague’s wife now believes this new brand isn’t the real deal. Even with a high-priced marketing campaign, confusing her name leaves the brand looking amateur and untrustworthy. What else will they mess up…her order perhaps?
  • Segmentation: The two women are both millennials, but that is where the similarities end. Remember the code leads to an online personal shopping experience, all targeted to a different person. This is a big mistake.
  • Dirty Analytics: Remember, the original target of the direct mail piece never received it, or any marketing at all. Making matters worse, the company will never be aware of this fact. All data will also suggest that this person DID receive it, and did not react to the piece, which creates a false representation of her behavior. Dirty data equals bad results, and more importantly, wrong analytics.  
  • Waste: 76% of retailers believe their data is affected by inaccurate or incomplete data, just like my story detailed here — imagine the cost involved. But don’t forget to factor in the missed opportunity of never marketing to your target customer in the first place. 

Trends in Data Quality

Adapting your culture to one that is focused on data quality means understanding the changing landscape. A few tips:

  1. Marketing and IT Alignment

You may have read that CIOs will eventually report to CMOs as budgets keep pace with customer demands. While marketing expenses will increase in step with the customer experience, they likely won’t outpace spending in IT, as they constantly need to scale, run, and maintain different solutions. CMOs don’t want this burden, especially as they struggle to keep up with and forecast customer behavior.

This alignment is still crucial, however, because IT controls the data that marketing needs daily. Waiting weeks and months for consumer data, especially as it relates to behavior, is dead money. The reverse is also true; I once sat in a leadership council focused around IT, and their wish for the future wasn’t a bigger budget or more resources — it was 15 minutes of executive time. They wanted to know how we (the marketers and executives) wanted to parse the data. What were we going to do with the data? What did we want to see?

We live in an age where the business user is smarter and more sophisticated than ever, but don’t assume that this intimidates your IT department. Bring them into the room and share. The more they know about your goals, plans, and KPIs, the faster you get the data. Real-time data tends to exist in the eye of the beholder.

  1. How Good is Your Data Quality?

As marketers, we all believe in data-driven decisions, but we often end up blindly following our data sources right down the drain. The online food company discussed above certainly isn’t the only company getting it wrong. Casting the widest net isn’t just costing you money — it is also costing you retail customers. When 78% of consumers demand personal ads and 75% of consumers admit most retailers “miss the mark” with personalization, something is amiss.

Internally, good data quality starts by setting standards, establishing baselines, and routinely setting automatic accuracy checks for any issues that will inevitably occur (remember, two people with the same name do exist). These checks and balances, often called business rules, is what will save your marketing plans down the road. Here are some great guidelines set forth by one of my favorite companies, Dun and Bradstreet:

  • Completeness: What data is missing or unusable?
  • Conformity: What data is stored in a non-standard format?
  • Consistency: What data values give conflicting information?
  • Accuracy: What data is incorrect or out of date?
  • Duplicates: What data records or attributes are repeated?
  • Integrity: What data is missing or not referenced?

It is crucial to remember that while most companies are doing this manually, they really shouldn’t be. Automation is the only way to ensure your multiple data sources — like demographic information, internal customer information, marketing behavior information, sales lead data, social media data, and a whole lot more — all feeds your data quality systems accurately and in a timely fashion.

It might often feel nearly impossible to hit a constantly moving target, but by cleaning your data, finding your customer, and delivering that customer the right message at the right time, your business can move to the forefront of the marketplace. It just starts with knowing what to look for.