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How Schwan's is Using Email and Mobile to Drive Customer Engagement

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Responsys Interact 2012 about how our customers are re-writing the rules of marketing.

schwans erica.jpgSchwan's Home Service, America's largest home food delivery service of high quality frozen foods, has been working with Responsys to evolve its digital marketing from basic transactional emails to an integrated cross-channel program. I spoke with Erica Webb-Belzer, Director of Marketing Communications, about how her team at Schwan's is using targeted emails and mobile SMS messaging to build customer loyalty and engagement. 

Q: You've had some very impressive results in tying increased revenue to email campaigns - what in your opinion has been the most successful campaign or strategy?

A:  Our digital marketing success is in large part due to the automation that we've put in place with Interact Program. It has allowed us to be more sophisticated in targeting customers and driving sales. The Responsys software has enabled us to strategically automate and target communications about shopping cart abandonment, customer preferences, delivery reminders and special offers.  Having email campaigns automated and integrated has enabled my small team to produce some great results. 

Q: How has your digital marketing strategy evolved, have you seen a major shift in spend from offline to online?

A: Schwan's Home Service is a 60 year old company, but it's only been in the last several years that digital marketing has become a greater focus. With a dedicated team now in place, we're shifting our marketing strategy from acquisition to retention and moving customers from offline to online channels.  In 2009, our email program was minimal - we were only running two campaigns and the emails were very text heavy.  We've since created HTML emails that are branded, established a preference center and launched SMS alerts. And there's a lot more in store for 2012!

Q: Consumers are increasingly using smartphones and tablets and I would imagine Schwan's customers are no different.  How is mobile part of your digital marketing strategy?

A: On the mobile side, we've been very successful in using SMS to alert our customers 30 minutes prior to the Route Sales Representative stopping by with their frozen food delivery. Schwan's Home Service has approximately 6,000 drivers across the US who are delivering frozen food, so it's been great for our customers and drivers to know when a delivery is coming and ensure that the recipient will be home or allow them time to prepare their order for next time. The other feature we're putting in place this month is the ability for customers to text their email address to our SMS short code. This gives customers another avenue in which to opt-in to our email communications and provides them with early access to our special offers and discounts.  In turn, it helps us drive more customers to our online channels. This is all executed with Interact Program, allowing us to coordinate the opt-in and subsequent SMS messaging alongside our email campaigns.

We're also working with Responsys Strategic and Creative Services to ensure that our emails are mobile and tablet friendly. And we're using Return Path to do a lot of testing so that we can be sure our emails look good on mobile devices and in all ISP's. 

Q: How are you using offline marketing to drive online engagement and retention?

A: We are integrating our website, Schwans.com, into all printed materials and really focusing on driving customers to enriched content like recipes, videos and preparation instructions. For example, our summer promotion will focus on ribs and other great grilling meats, so there will be call outs throughout our Ordering Guide and Everyday Cravings Catalogs encouraging readers to visit Schwans.com  for grilling tips. Many of our offers and promotions also drive people to our social media sites including Twitter and Facebook.  In the future, we will promote our SMS short code in more places, getting more customers opted-in and engaged on mobile.  Finally, training of our Route Sales Representatives to encourage online engagement is critical to the success of our business as well.

Q: One of the themes at Interact this year is about how marketers are 're-writing the rules' and continuing to innovate - is there anything or anyone in the industry who you think is particularly innovative?

A: The airline industry, from an alerts and SMS messaging standpoint, is always innovating. I admire what Southwest Airlines has done with its 'Click N Save' program, getting consumers at the right time to opt-in their email address, using their mobile phone.  We have such a unique business model, so we don't have many direct competitors, but I do tend to watch General Mills since they are another Minneapolis-based food retailer. I love what they've done with the Betty Crocker email creative.  Also, I'm watching the mobile and tablet industry closely, as we expect our customers to increasingly use these devices and who knows - maybe one day they will entirely replace the PC!   We are also watching the use of Instagram.  Photo sharing is becoming increasingly popular and brands like Red Bull and Pepsi are making great inroads with this app.

Q: What are you looking forward to at Interact this year?  

A: I'm excited to learn from and share ideas with like-minded people who understand the industry.  We're in such a unique niche of an industry so it will be wonderful to have all these experts together in one place! I have several senior colleagues coming to Interact with me, so I'm looking forward to them experiencing the energy and excitement around email, SMS and digital marketing. What they take away from a high level will help us propel our program to the next level in the coming years.

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