How Cross Channel is Crossing Over

Dec 01, 2012 10:30 AM  By

The 27th MCM Awards, announced on Sept. 20 at NEMOA directXchange in Mystic, CT, honored B2C and B2B merchants for their ability to drive direct-to-customer sales through more than a single sales channel.

L.L. Bean took its cross-channel entries a step further by adding a strong public relations effort and a partnership with the Boston Red Sox to sell its Boat and Tote bags. It took to television to promote its “free shipping always” initiative. And it took to the streets with a giant Bootmobile to promote its 100th anniversary.

And while a merchant the size of Gold Award winner Filson doesn’t have the marketing resources of an L.L. Bean, it was able to get a similar bang for its buck because its cross-channel strategy was similar to L.L. Bean’s: to deliver a clear, engaging message across a variety of channels to drive sales.

But it wasn’t just L.L. Bean and Filson that exemplified the growth and sophistication of cross-channel marketing. Here are a few examples of how cross-channel marketing has grown in breadth and sophistication, and how B2B and B2C merchants are using those channels to sell products.

Social Media: Facebook and Twitter were used in several campaigns to engage in conversation rather than to push a sale. And while Pinterest wasn’t on any entrant’s radar in 2011, both B2B and B2C merchants embraced the visual channel.

Email marketing: While merchants once looked at email as a blast-everyone-and-see-what-sticks tactic, several 2012 MCM Awards entries discussed how their clickthrough and open rates rose as a result of smarter segmenting.

Channel synergy: Several entries included three or more channels. But instead of using each channel for the sake of using new channels, they were used together to deliver one unified branding message.

Game plan: Channels were not used for experimenting. Game plans were carved in stone, some lofty goals were set, and entrants stuck with the plan and knocked it out of the park.

Teamwork: Marketing organizations aren’t as siloed as they have been in the past, and that has led to more sophisticated campaigns.

Here’s a look at what MCM Awards entrants were able to accomplish as cross-channel marketers, and the lessons you can learn from their success.

Engage the customer
This year’s entries confirmed that being a thriving retailer means successfully integrating your product and your brand into the lives of your audience.

In its Boat and Tote entry, L.L. Bean, which sponsored the rain delays at Boston’s Fenway Park, took the infield tarp that was to be replaced for the 2012 season and up-cycled it into highly sought after, limited edition Boat and Tote bags. Instead of promoting the campaign solely through its catalog and website, L.L. Bean reached out to its customers through email, llbean.com, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other traditional media outlets.

But what made L.L. Bean stand out? It followed the trending marketing movement of creating complete customer engagement by promoting a product alongside another much loved brand—in this case, New England’s Boston Red Sox. The campaign was extremely successful: According to L.L. Bean, it only took five minutes to completely sell out of the totes.

EA SPORTS wanted to increase sales and visibility by partnering with another well-known brand, ESPN and its “Sportsnation” show. EA SPORTS and ESPN allowed fans of the video game to vote for the athlete to be featured on the cover of the game. The campaign, which ran for seven weeks, culminated with a live broadcast in New York’s Times Square to reveal the winning player.

The vote brought attention to the game months before its August launch and drove early purchase of the game before it was available in stores. Most important, the EA SPORTS campaign was driven by customer engagement and allowed fans of the sports franchise to feel as if they had a say in the product.

When the marketing was done, the result was a 26% year-over-year increase in pre-orders of EA SPORTS Madden NFL13, and a 62% y-o-y increase in pre-orders during the “cover vote” period.

Get social
Outdoor apparel retailer and Gold MCM Award winner Filson submitted a cross-channel campaign that included email, public relations, its print catalog and its own customer support team. The product also got some airtime as part of a Travel Channel “Made in America” segment.

Filson created a custom Facebook tab to promote its Limited Edition Scarlet Cruiser jacket and clicked through to filson.com for direct orders. It also created a series of ads in support of the campaign and general brand messaging.

Not only did Filson sell out of the limited edition run of 897 units in 11 weeks, it also gained over 4,000 new Facebook fans, 4,972 ad clicks and 3,404 custom interactive tab views.

But cross-channel marketing is not just for the B2Cs. In fact, Baudville proved that even B2B companies can make a marketing splash when jumping into the social media pool.

According to its entry, Baudville wanted to increase its customer engagement by positioning itself as a reliable resource for year-end gifts, in addition to its other products. Baudville also wanted to secure potential customers who are shopping differently during the holiday season.

Part of its strategy was to use Facebook to reach the masses. According to the entry, the merchant’s Facebook page featured a collection of holiday gifts on the main page and highlighted holiday ideas on another tab.

But one thing that stuck out in the entry was that Baudville didn’t want to use its Facebook page just to gain likes, but also to strengthen its existing relationships with customers. By doing so, Baudville said, referral traffic to its website from Facebook tripled over 2010, and there was a 3% rise in sales year-over-year for the holiday season.

B2B identification card and accessory creator IDville also took to its Facebook page to promote its new brand and distribute a coupon code with an offer of 20% off qualifying website orders. The retailer said its presence on Facebook reinforced other campaign elements, such as email, catalog and web.

Set goals
Black Box, along with so many entrants this year, shows that marketers are no longer taking a leap of faith when it comes to product promotion. At Black Box, it was all about creating a detailed strategy and seeing it through. According to its entry, the company wanted to:
· Generate new sales and pipeline opportunities for the AV/digital signage line, with the goal of $500,000 in sales
· Create a sustainable lead-generation campaign, with the goal of 1,500 downloads
· Identify 100 new channel partner prospects, with the goal of signing 25 new partners

These goals show how serious and dedicated the Black Box team was, and how determined to make sure the company would have a successful campaign, which started in 2012. The results over the first two months were excellent. Subsequently, sales account activity tripled, resulting in July 2012 being Black Box’s strongest month ever for AV/digital signage sales. Sustainable lead generation is capturing between 25 and 50 new names per week. In addition, Black Box achieved its goal of signing 25 new channel partners.

This year’s judges didn’t like Black Box just because it set goals; they also found that it developed inventive uses of cross-channel marketing, including emails, trade shows, electronic and print catalogs, email and various social media outlets and blogs.

Fairytale Brownies set a lofty goal of generating $6.6 million in revenue by selling gifts between Sept. 1 and Dec. 21, 2011. In order to make sure the goal was met, the dessert retailer focused on making its website and email campaigns customer friendly.

Fairytale Brownies mailed a total of 1.5 million catalogs in 22 versions to customers, gift recipients and prospects between Sept. 13 and Dec. 13, 2011. Revenue from catalog sales exceeded plan and increased 12.2% over 2010.

The merchant also tweaked its brownie.com website to show category headers with beauty shots of the product on each page, along with a description describing the offerings in the category. And it also sent 45 different email campaigns between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011 to B2B and B2C buyers. The source codes for those emails accounted for over $600,000 in revenue.

Total revenue and average order value were up 11% over the prior year, and Fairytale Brownies met its revenue goal.

MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT DECEMBER/JANUARY 2013