Austin Canoe & Kayak

Austin Canoe & Kayak Introduces Promotional Emails and Increases Revenue
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Introduction / Challenge

Austin Canoe & Kayak (ACK) believes their success is the result of "unwavering customer service and a dedication to and love of outdoor exploration." This customer-centric approach has made ACK a trusted brand and go-to source for paddlesports enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. As ACK has evolved and grown, email has become an important driver of revenue.

ACK is a premier paddlesports retailer and also features a broad assortment of camping, hiking, climbing, rafting and snorkeling equipment as well as related gear and accessories. Since purchasing the company in 2005, owners (and brothers) Peter and Steve Messana along with Chris Hackerd, have greatly expanded the inventory selection and store locations. ACK currently offers more than 240 models of canoes and kayaks plus over 2,500 accessories on their website and in their 3 store locations.


Austin Canoe & Kayak's email program followed a content-driven, newsletter format prior to coming on board with Bronto. Email communications served to share knowledge about the sport and related events more than driving revenue. Subscribers received a monthly newsletter that occasionally contained a coupon. Products were tucked away in a narrow sidebar. Targeted promotional offers and alignment of marketing communications with the buying lifecycle of their consumers were not being done.

The ACK team knew that they had to focus on shifting their messaging strategy. Roland Jimenez, Director of Marketing for ACK says, "We originally used email as way to communicate with customers about events, new products and education. After partnering with Bronto, we started thinking about how we could also drive more revenue through email. We want to always provide relevant, useful information to our subscribers. Striking the balance between educational content, news, and events along with promotional information is key."


ACK utilized a Bronto Marketing Strategist to develop a promotional approach that would start to drive revenue, while also upholding their reputation as the trusted source for paddlesports news and education. The first step was to develop a more promotionally-oriented communication plan. The monthly newsletter would continue to be sent, but a new "Special Offers" email was added to the mix. Promotions such as coupons, a 15%-20% off an entire product category or free shipping offers with a purchase were developed for these "Special Offers" emails.

Promotional "Special Offers" Template

The "Special Offers" template was developed focusing on several key areas:

  • Featured Promotion: The template contains a featured promotion located above-the-fold and typically redeemed using a coupon code. A variety of offers were created that could be used over the months offering a variety of ways customers can shop.
  • Maximizing Content Areas: Pre-header text was expanded to encourage opens. Social sharing & liking options were added to the top banner to encourage spreading the word. The above-the-fold area was composed to show the primary offer as well as a portion of the featured products. New navigation elements were introduced to drive engagement and maximize click opportunity. The image-to-text balance ensured the message could be interpreted even if images were not displayed. A secondary footer was introduced to the bottom navigation to promote various non-promotional engagement opportunities.
  • Product Features: The new template features multiple products and shows a product photo, name, original price, sale price, brief description, and calls-to-action linking to more information or buying.
  • Interaction: Several sections of the email are not directly promotional, but serve to encourage subscribers who are not currently interested in making a purchase to interact with the brand. Whether it is through the “Kayak Launch Points” mobile app, engaging users to join their social media community, updating their preferences or contacting customer service, these features help to maintain the balance between knowledge sharing and promotional messaging.

Additional Programs

In addition to introducing the "Special Offers" email, ACK launched two other email programs focused on driving revenue. First, they began sending automatically triggered birthday emails containing a 20% off coupon. Second, the existing welcome email was expanded into a 3 part welcome series including a 20% off coupon, preference management, and engaging features such as product videos, how-tos, newsletter archive and a kayak launch point finder.

Results / Outcome

The introduction of the "Special Offers" email program has resulted in a significant revenue lift for ACK. Since the program was launched, "Special Offers" has grown to represent a substantial percentage of total revenue in the primary email channel. The "Special Offers" average order value (AOV) is consistently higher than the standard newsletter format AOV. Resulting Revenue Per Email Sent (RPES) in the “Special Offers” program has been strong enough for ACK to continue evolving and expanding the format.

The other two promotional email programs have also been highly successful. Birthday emails have a 71% open rate with a 25% conversion rate. And the welcome series receives on average 61% opens and a 7.6% conversion rate.

After the success of the "Special Offers" email program, ACK has started to focus on list growth and expanding their segmentation strategy to further drive relevant communications and continue the conversation with their customers.