This month’s blog interview is with Fred Swain, a longtime Silverpop customer at Tafford Uniforms, a leading provider of scrubs and nursing uniforms. Fred has been with Tafford for almost five years, and in his role as marketing manager he’s responsible for overseeing Tafford’s direct marketing efforts, which includes its catalog, email and loyalty program.
Scrubs come in all shapes, sizes and, coincidentally, preferences, so Tafford’s marketing has to appeal to each customer’s tastes. Fred has spent the past four years optimizing his program according to those customer preferences and behavior.
1) Tafford has a pretty cool welcome program. Can you tell us more about it? Did you start small and build upon it?
[caption id="attachment_3917" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Fred Swain, marketing manager, Tafford Uniforms"]
Our welcome program is a work in progress and has been since we began it about four years ago. Currently it consists of a maximum of four emails. An auto responder thanking recipients for signing up goes to all subscribers, but after that the communications you receive vary based on your purchase history. Other emails in the welcome program are a coupon reminder (we incent sign-ups on site with a coupon, and the second email just reminds subscribers of their discount), an informational message highlighting what we’re told are the best things about Tafford, and an “update your preferences” mailing.
2) You gather information about your subscribers through a preference center. What types of info do you collect? And how do you use it in your email campaigns?
We’ve really just started to scratch the surface. Four years ago I had all kinds of grand plans to do this and that and a little more of this and then we found that our product mix was so limited the slices and dices we wanted were too small to make any real difference, so we moved away from using the data.
[caption id="attachment_3918" align="alignright" width="264" caption="Tafford's "thank you" emails have been strong performers."]
In 2011 our product mix began to change; we’re now carrying less of our own product and more of other branded merchandise. So we’ve begun to see a shift in our customers. With this shift, we realized the importance of the preference center to get the right messages to the right people. We’re now collecting brand preference, gender (previously we were overwhelmingly female), uniform policy information, birthday and ZIP code.
For instance, if we have a sale on a particular brand, we can do one broadcast email to all subscribers, but subsequent broadcast emails don’t hold up. So, we then use the customer’s brand preference to tailor subsequent email messages.
3) What’s been the most successful email campaign for Tafford?
Wow, that’s a tough one, A few years ago when gas spiked a “Free Shipping” campaign kicked butt, but now free shipping is much more prevalent, especially from us. Our most consistent campaign has been the tried-and-true “Thank You” campaigns to recent customers, which we run a few times each year.
[caption id="attachment_3919" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Tafford has seen success with creative use of "free shipping" offers."]
4) A big part of your success has been through testing, testing, testing. What have been some key takeaways of your efforts?
“Free shipping” wins every time. We’ve tested this over and over again. For a while we were doing free shipping with no threshold on almost all campaigns. Over time, we morphed to a low threshold. We tested our low threshold against a higher threshold (just about our average order value) and the lower threshold won hands down.
Showing the discount on the product rather than in the cart is huge! Don’t make your customer do math. I don’t think they like it.
5) What’s your approach to inactive subscribers?
The simple answer is that we try to not let them become inactive. For those who do lapse into the realm of inactivity, we worked with Loren McDonald of Silverpop to create and refine a program to re-engage with them. We studied our subscriber habits and found that the majority of open/click activity happens in the first 120 days.
Once subscribers get beyond that point they’re hard to reactivate, so we tweaked a few things prior to day 120, and after day 120 inactives get major changes in messaging. Cadence goes from three to five messages per week to one message per week with different send times. Also, the offers are different: a coupon, outside-the-norm subject lines, a survey about our email program (which we hope will provide continuous learning for us), a big discount offer and a sweepstakes for free product.
We found through testing this program that with much less send volume to a group of inactives (400 percent less!) we were able to keep about the same revenue (14 percent less) as if they had received five emails each week. Hopefully as the program continues it will lead to a better understanding of what our subscribers want and truly re-engage them with the Tafford email program. (Read more on marketing to inactives.)
For those of you coming to Silverpop Amplify on May 17-18, check out Fred’s presentation with fellow client SmartPak called “Rethinking Inactives: Reduce First, Then Reactivate.” Thanks Fred!