Bass Pro E-mail Conversions Skyrocket with Reviews, Browse-Based Offers

Dec 21, 2006 4:22 AM  By

(Magilla Marketing) Bass Pro Shops has boosted its conversion-to-sale rates dramatically by including customer product reviews in its outbound e-mail and by sending messages based on Website visitors’ browsing behavior, according to David Seifert, director of operations, direct marketing for the cataloger/retailer of outdoor gear.

The key to Bass Pro’s customer-ratings-generated conversion boost is that the company has been heavily promoting the reviews, Seifert says. For example, BassPro.com is currently promoting its customers’ top-rated gifts with a tab on the center of its home page.

“The conversions go up pretty significantly when you promote it,” says Seifert. “If you just have customer ratings and reviews on the site, it’s definitely a plus, but the conversion-rate increase is not significant. But when you promote it, the conversion rate increase is significant. It is probably one of the highest-converting promotions that we run.”

Bass Pro customer-review promotions convert 59% more than the average site visit, according to Seifert.The company began integrating customer ratings and reviews into its online marketing last January, using outsourcer Bazaarvoice.

“People will believe other customers much more than they will a retailer,” says Seifert. “The retailer is always suspect. It doesn’t matter which retailer it is or how much loyalty they have.”

Seifert says that before Bass Pro implemented customer reviews, executives were worried that bad reviews might suppress sales on some items or that some vendors might get an overabundance of bad ratings.

“But when you look at the research, that’s not true,” he says. “It’s not that you don’t get bad reviews, but the number of bad reviews for us is in the 7%-8% range. And a lot of those bad reviews are where people picked the wrong item for what they wanted to do.” Moreover, some bad customer ratings have helped Bass Pro spot product flaws and relay the information to vendors, Seifert adds.

Bass Pro has a house e-mail file of more than 1 million e-mail addresses, according to Seifert. People who sign up for Bass Pro’ newsletter are asked to tick off boxes corresponding with their interests. Subscribers can tick off any or all of the three main categories–”all hunting,” “all fishing,” and “other”–and any of the subheadings, such as “fishing (freshwater),” “fishing (saltwater),” “turkey hunting,” and “small game.”

Seifert says that during the holidays, Bass Pro sends two e-mails to subscribers a week, and one a week the rest of the year. Some of the e-mails are generic, and some are based on subscriber-specified interests. “It’s normally a combination of maybe four or five items and a couple articles that have to do with outdoor activities that are appropriate for the time of year,” he says.

The company is also experiencing success using clickstream data, he adds. Using Web analytics data from Coremetrics, custom e-mail capabilities from e-mail service provider CheetahMail, and some internal rules, Bass Pro has achieved conversion rates that are “simply ridiculous” by sending e-mail based on site visitors’ browsing behavior, Seifert says.

“After you sign up for e-mail from us, if you browse a certain number of items within a subcategory of merchandise or if you abandon an item in a shopping cart, within a couple of days you’ll receive an e-mail from us that has merchandise selected based on your browse activity,” he explains.

Bass Pro is careful to send these e-mails only to customers who are seriously shopping, Seifert says. “If you look at one item in a subcategory, we’re not going to send you an e-mail trying to sell you something. But if you look at three big-cast reels that were approximately in the same price range, then we’re going to try and sell you a big-cast reel in the same price category.”

Seifert adds that most of Bass Pro’s behavior-based e-mails succeed without offering discounts. “We’re not giving them special pricing, we’re just hitting them with exactly the right merchandise that they were looking at that they for some reason decided not to buy,” he says. “In most cases, we’re getting a sale at regular price.”