Helen Bateman, Owner of and Chief Designer for the Helen Bateman shoe store in Edinburgh, Scotland would never consider selling her shoes online or via email, "I'm obsessed with fit. There are a lot of places you can buy shoes on the web, but it's a risky business."
She strongly believes that shoe sales require face-to-face interaction or at least a phone call to discuss fit.
On the other hand, Bateman yearned for the speed of the Internet to get the word out about new products. "We're lucky if we have three days to prepare marketing," she explains. "The collection changes all the time in the store and we just don't have a lot of lead-time to photograph our samples and get them out for promotional purposes."
Also, as a store that shoe-loving tourists from all over the world visit, Bateman was frustrated to lose touch with customers and the future sales potential they represented when they returned home to the US, Australia or elsewhere.
What is a small, definitely brick-and-mortar retailer to do?CAMPAIGN
Like many small business owners, Bateman did not have much extra time to create a fancy email campaign. So she got a local interactive marketing firm, Talented, to create an easy-to-use template for her.
The creative was based on the idea of sending an electronic "postcard." Something with high visual impact that would be quick and easy both for the creator and reader. (Link to two samples below.)
Each virtual postcard has Bateman's signature lavender background, plus her shop logo, address and phone number prominently at the very top. At the left side she types in a quick 2-3 paragraph note in the same kind of breezy telegraphic style you'd expect from a real postcard. On the right she pops in a digital snapshot of whichever shoes she happens to be featuring.
The postcards are signed "Helen." Then each features four simple links at the bottom:
- write to us
- register here
- tell your friends
Nothing more. Clean and simple.
Subject lines are often slightly flirty, just as Bateman's shoes are. One reads "Hello Sailor."
In order to gather email addresses to send the cards to, Bateman had actual cards printed up that her store clerks slip into every customer's bags. The cards include a photo of her latest collection, a map to the store, contact info, and a request to join her list. Her shop clerks also recruit customers to the email list when they chat with them in the store and on the phone.
As we mentioned above, Bateman does not expect to get sales directly from the postcards. Although she has a Web site, it is not ecommerce enabled, nor does she plan for it to be.
Instead the goal is to drive potential customers back to the store itself, or to the phone if they are far from Edinburgh. Bateman explains, "My customers want to have a dialogue, at least a conversation over the phone. We're in the advice business and our customers depend on some sort of interaction."
In order to service these phone calls properly, Bateman's set up a customer database that includes customers' purchase histories for quick reference.
"The next time they see something on the site and they call from Devon or Australia, we refer to their last sale, they tell us what they like, we sort out the size. Then we take their money over the phone and send them the shoes."
Bateman has sent 17 of these virtual postcards in the past eight months.
Bateman says, "After we send out a postcard, we'll typically send out 10 or 15 pairs of shoes in the next couple of days. That's a significant increase in our sales figures."
This is an even more impressive statistic when you consider that when she started sending the cards, Bateman only had permission to send email to 180 customers. In the past year that list has grown to almost 1,000 names, and Bateman attributes the majority of the growth to each postcard's "tell a friend" link!
Of the two sample cards we link to (see below), the "Hello Sailor" campaign from March 26, 2002 raised sales of the featured shoes by 700%, 50% of which were phone orders from buyers outside Edinburgh.
After Bateman sent out the sales announcement card on July 29 2002, (which went out under the subject line "Sale Shoes £35 and under") she tripled her previous week's turnover. She notes, "50% of those sales came from new stock not even on display. Local customers came in asking for items they had could've only seen online, which we were only to happy to sell them, and online regulars started shopping for boots."
Bateman's email campaigns have also paid unexpected dividends in terms of building back-and-forth close customer relations.
When her shop recently won a customer service award in the UK trade magazine Drapers Record, customers sent over 200 emails, and even brought in champagne and flowers. "It was absolutely amazing, phenomenal, it was like the shoe Oscars."
Link to samples of two Bateman postcards (definitely check this out if you like shoes!):
Link to Bateman's interactive agency Talented:
Link to Bateman's site: