Would You Like a Gargoyle With That Garden Gnome?

Cathy Traugot

Cathy Traugot

How do you increase sales when your product line includes everything from whimsical garden gnomes to dragon-themed toilet paper holders? With a savvy email strategy that focuses on segmentation and triggered messages to personalize the experience and find those cross-marketing opportunities that exist when lovers of faux Egyptian thrones find out about your benches shaped like cows.

I recently spoke with Nancy Bullock, vice president of marketing and ecommerce for Design Toscano, about her tactics. Her strategy can work for many commerce marketers – not just those who market unicorn-themed garden accessories and seven-foot tall Brontosaurus statues.

Use Your Welcome Series to Introduce Your Entire Product Line

A customer might find your company by searching for something specific, but you may actually carry more products that will interest them. Make sure they know about all of the categories you have to offer. When customers subscribe or make a purchase, Bullock takes the opportunity to tell them about other products and offers the option to suggest what they’re interested in (via a manage preferences form). Then, the final message of the welcome series usually includes an offer. For Bullock, the key success is the open rate for both the first and second messages – the ones that don’t include any kind of incentive. Many commerce marketers think a welcome series has to include a discount right up front, but Bullock sees strong open, click-through and conversion rates for the series compared with standard emails.

Use Email to Promote Your Other Channels

For many commerce marketers, email has nearly replaced catalogs, but Design Toscano still has a lot of success through the direct mail channel. So Bullock builds a segmented catalog list for speciality areas (like Gothic) and then emails subscribers with targeted notifications. For example, “Your Gothic catalog is on its way.” “We’re trying to tie our print messaging into our digital messaging. We are testing a catalog of Gothic and Medieval products that we’ve never done before. It’s kind of timely with everyone’s piqued interest in ‘Game of Thrones,’ but it’s been a strong category for us for a while. We’re trying to brand and position it with our customers,’’ explains Bullock.

View Your List Differently Near the Holidays

As a consumer, I really like what Bullock is doing with holiday marketing. We’ve all got favorite sites that we like to buy from around the holidays, but we’re tempted to unsubscribe when they blast us year-round with irrelevant messaging. Bullock segments the list for customers who buy a lot of holiday accessories. “Let’s look at people who bought in the fourth quarter of last year and message to them differently,” she said. “If you only bought ornaments from us, maybe we send you an email and tell you that we have 200 Christmas ornaments that are very unique.”

Study Your Data to Inform Your Emails

Animal statuary is showcased in many sections of the website, but it wasn’t until Bullock figured out how to aggregate all of the animal-related products that she saw the sales trend in this area. “We weren’t aware just how strong the animal category was.’’ She immediately put that to use by featuring more animals in emails.

“I spend quite a bit of time reading our customer reviews because it gives me a lot of ideas. Customers will often write, ‘This is my third gnome. He’s so cute and it’s a different kind.’” You guessed it! Bullock now has a garden gnome segment.

Always Look for Ways to Improve

Bullock always wants to take her game up a notch and looks for inspiration on how to be more effective. Bronto’s webinar on post-purchase messaging gave her “some strong ideas on creative changes [they] can make to the welcome series, in addition to other types of automatic emails.”

“We also want to marry segmenting on the customer side with the behavior of the customer. And that’s what I really think is important, in addition to just flat out A/B split testing,” Design Toscano uses Kibo as its commerce platform and that includes a connector to the Bronto platform, which allows Bullock to automatically sort customers by categories, such as discount used or amount spent, and then easily import that information into Bronto for further segmentation.

“We’re also exploring cross-category campaigns and testing how the time of day we send impacts purchases.”

One of the most interesting aspects of my conversation with Bullock is that she does all this work – A/B testing, using data, creating segments and triggered messages – with a team of three (plus an intern).

Back at the beginning of this post, between the references to Egyptian thrones and dinosaurs, I said I thought these strategies would work for lots of different commerce marketers. What do you think?


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