Founded in 1981, American Meadows is one of the most respected online retailers of wildflower seeds, perennial plants and flower bulbs in North America. Their goal is to be a trusted gardening partner for creative gardeners and their customers range from some of the most experienced horticulturists in the country to those who simply want to add a little color to their life, and everyone in between.
American Meadows has been using email marketing for many years to send a weekly newsletter with product specials, seasonal promotions, and gardening tips to a loyal audience. In 2008 email drove 21% of revenue. While they were pleased with their email newsletter, they started to notice a trend: a huge spike in sales the day the message went out, followed by a large valley of inactivity on the website in the subsequent days.
After the holiday season of 2008, they made the decision to dedicate more resources to grow their email marketing program further and solve the peak and valley issue.
American Meadows contacted their Email Marketing partner Bronto Software to discuss the new goals for 2009. Working with their Email Marketing Strategist, they quickly devised a game plan and started to get to work on the top priorities.
- Optimize weekly delivery
Before changing anything, the team decided that they needed to test the current newsletter to determine the optimal sending time. The newsletter had quite a history and readers expected it, so changing the day of send was not really an option. American Meadows agreed to test a few times close to their normal send time to optimize results.
- Update to Email template
American Meadows was also updating its website for 2009, and it was the perfect time to freshen the email template and incorporate email best practices. Their Email Marketing Strategist reviewed the performance of previous newsletters and based suggestions for improvement based on those results in addition to what had worked with other clients. Tips included adding a pre-header and navigation bar, using a good mix of images and text, having a straightforward call to action, and using shorter copy to drive traffic to the website.
- Create an email series
To solve the peak and valley challenge, American Meadows wanted to increase the frequency and send a second message each week. The Email Marketing Strategist suggested using this message as a follow up to the newsletter. Metrics from past messages showed evidence that some readers may have clicked, but not purchased. A follow up message based on click-thrus would be highly relevant and could serve as a reminder to the reader to buy.
New Segments Based on Time of Day
The testing of the original newsletter revealed two main groups – those that open on Friday, and those that open on Saturday. So American Meadows simply created two different lists and now sends the newsletter at the appropriate time to that list in order to optimize exposure to their message. The new template and website make the navigation and information easier to access, but most successful was the addition of the second message, sent 3 days after the newsletter.
New Series of Messages
Those that clicked on a link from the newsletter now receive a follow up message with a call-to-action based on the item they clicked on. So, if the newsletter featured Iris seeds, whoever clicked on the Iris link would get a follow up message promoting the Iris seeds. Those that did not click received a follow up message based on the most popular item from the newsletter.
"Our initial thought was that we wanted to be respectful of the existing customer buying patterns as well as customer's established perception of the American Meadows' brand", commented Noah Siebeck-Smith, Director of Online Marketing at American Meadows. "But after the first few messages, it was very clear that customers were responding positively to the segmentation and best practices. With Bronto's best practices and our email strategist's skill and knowledge guiding us through email segmentation, we were able to accomplish many of our goals for our email program in a fraction of the time that we expected them to take."
Overall, American Meadows has seen increased traffic to the website from email – up 47% from 2008. And they still see a spike from the newsletter, but now there is consistent revenue from the follow up message, and revenue from email is up 14% over 2008. Given the economic situation, and the fact that their email program is driving 24% of revenue, American Meadows is very pleased with the email marketing program investment and is actively working towards additional improvements.
When American Meadows and their Bronto Email Marketing Strategist created the plan, it included a lot more than the three tactics listed above. Below are a few of the additional strategies they are working on launching in the future:
- Re-engagement – A sizable portion of their list has not engaged in any of the past several messages. American Meadows has separated this group from the rest and plans a re-engagement campaign for late 2009.
- Audit the subscription process –To continue to optimize their email campaigns, they plan to revisit their subscription process and ensure that expectations are set correctly as well as make sure that they are taking advantage of automation to bring more value to the brand.
- Build profiles – The success with behavioral segmentation has motivated the team to build a more indepth profile of their subscribers for future campaigns.