GaelSong had a successful November. The multichannel Celtic gifts and apparel seller finished the month with its sales up 14.2%, with just a 3% lift in catalog circulation. And that sales boost came on top of a 15.1% sales lift in November 2010.
Tom Steele, GaelSong’s vice president and general manager, attributes the results to three factors:
1. Success with its line extension into apparel last fall.
2. The strength of more than 100 new and unique items in the November GaelSong catalog, across the Celtic jewelry, home and apparel categories.
3. The expansion of social media efforts creating deeper relationships with GaelSong customers interacting with the brand: November Facebook-generated visits were up 91% (to 2.1% of all gaelsong.com traffic), while dollars from Facebook visitors were up 74% (to 1.8% of sales).
Steele took time out of the busy holiday season to answer a few questions about GaelSong’s November success, and how social media, email marketing and a presence in marketplaces helped out:
Q: Regarding the new and unique items, how did you determine merchandising? Was it scientific based on analytics? Was there a common sense of these being natural product extensions? Was there customer feedback involved?
A: The direction for new items, especially the continued and expanding line extension into apparel, is based both on classic analytics and customer feedback, while the selection of the specific items themselves goes to the brand caretaking of our founder and merchant, Colleen Connell.
Colleen has always had a wonderful eye for what GaelSong customers will want (a gifted merchant); the difference the past two years has been the introduction of analytics-based category goals, along with customer feedback in three forms. The analytics-based data centered around RFM modeling and the value of an apparel customer (those who bought apparel and also other categories) vs. non-apparel customers, with apparel customers delivering frequency and AOS averages 20% to 40% higher than non-apparel customers.
This data was combined with the customer feedback in three forms: Passive feedback from lifestyle and affinity overlays with cooperative databases; In-market feedback from customers via click-stream analyses on the GaelSong website; Direct or interactive feedback from customer surveys initiated on Facebook, which revealed nice demand for apparel offerings from GaelSong.
Q: When did you launch your Facebook page, and how has it evolved as a communications/sales channel? And are you considering a Facebook store?
A: Our current Facebook page went live in April 2010. The page is evolving mostly as they way it started: as a deeper way for us to connect with customers and present GaelSong as a thought leader in the Celtic heritage, Wicca and Goddess spaces. So we mostly now focus on ways encounter and engage Facebook fans with content that they themselves help to generate, vs. pushing product.
But that’s not that we don’t want to be there when Facebook becomes a shopping destination. For example, our second annual Samhain (Halloween) catalog cover story contest in October generated some 300 entries and nearly a thousand new “likes” to our page while also generating an engagement rate of over 4% – people sharing some element of the GaelSong page on their own Facebook pages.
We are finding that this type of approach to Facebook—content and engagement heavy—has been worthwhile for us and our customers vs. doing the “donate-a-dollar-per-friend” model that so many retailers fall back on (rushing to buy lots of likes that will someday be monetized.).
As for a store, we will launch one in January on Facebook, with caution, with the strategy initially of previewing new products for our Facebook friends while enabling a sale. We want to keep Facebook as a medium of exchange for ideas and engagement first, with the option to browse and purchase products as part of that experience vs. looking to Facebook to reduce the costs of circulation or keyword buys, etc.
Q: What other channels are you selling in?
A: We are on Amazon and will be launching a presence on key aggregators in January. The old-school shopping bots like Deal Time, Shopizilla, Nextag, etc. continue to evolve from discount flea markets focused on who can move consumer electronics to early adaptors the cheapest into general shopping platforms attracting a broad audience. We will experiment with these in January. For clearance merchandise, we will be opening an e-Bay store.
Q: Anything else you can attribute the sales growth to – like paid and natural search, or a change in email marketing strategies?
A: A change to our promo calendar and email contact calendar comes into play with the 14.2% growth in November. For the calendar, we expanded our Black Friday three-day sale last year by an extra day and also reinforced the Cyber Monday portion of the sale with an additional email to our base. We were up 30% for the four-day period and up 42% on Cyber Monday itself. We also added two additional emails into the November calendar prior to the Thanksgiving weekend promotions. Our paid search efforts were aggressive and successful in bringing new visitors to the stie—but paid search sales themselves were flat.