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August 02, 2017
Case Study

Email Marketing: How Monin boosted conversion rates by 20% with relevant email marketing automation

SUMMARY:

Gourmet flavored syrups brand Monin speaks to two distinct audiences — B2B buyers such as restaurants and cafes, and consumers who use the product in their homes. The email marketing team needed to collect data to segment these two groups and then form a strategy around how to most effectively engage with them.

Read about the segmented, relevant and successful campaigns they launched by utilizing data and segmentation for and within these two audiences.

by Courtney Eckerle, Senior Managing Editor, MarketingSherpa

THE CUSTOMER

Having recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, Monin is a privately owned company based in Bourges, France, about two hours outside of Paris.

“In 1993, our president brought the company over the pond and into the United States. So we, out of our Clearwater, Florida, office — manufacture, export, market and sell gourmet flavors for drinks and culinary,” said Stasha Johnston, Digital Marketing Director, Monin.

Whether you’re looking for a flavored sparkling water, premium syrup, concentrated flavor, iced coffee concentrate or chocolate sauce, Monin provides those products and more to customers.

“Most of our customers use those flavors in beverages or in a culinary application,” she said.

Despite the fact that Monin is heavily used and sold in drinks in restaurants around the country, “the general consumer actually has very low awareness,” she said. “[But] if you go to a coffee shop and you order a vanilla latte, Monin, in many cases, is the flavor that is in the beverage.”

Overall, Monin customers are unique in that they span both the B2C and B2B audience. Those consumers who may not know they’re Monin customers tend to be ages 25 to 34 and “have a high propensity to drink cocktails in a bar on Wednesdays,” said Johnston.

However, those in the business space — typically bars, restaurants, distributors and coffee shops — have a high awareness of Monin.

This means that Johnston and her team uses the digital space in different ways to speak with these two audiences and tries to be relevant with emails depending on the recipients’ awareness-level of the product.

“The Monin brand has a much higher awareness in the B2B space, so we use the digital space to speak more with our B2C customers and generate more awareness into that channel,” she said. “Our email campaigns have to find a way to relate to each type of person along each point in the journey.”

CHALLENGE

“Any way you look at marketing, from email to website to social, you have to change the way you think about advertising and talking with your consumer, how you build your list, how you keep your list clean and when and how you talk to these customers,” Johnston said.

As marketing has evolved quickly through the momentous growth of digital channels, “you either have to get on board or your brand suffers,” she said.

At Monin, the brand’s goals center around helping customers move through the decision journey, she said, because, “when we do it right, we see success on our site, and we also see longevity in the subscriptions of our email customers.”

The team, of course, has quantitative goals like revenue, opens and clicks, but they also outline a handful of qualitative goals around the content, site engagement and data hygiene.

“[These] help us as we talk with our customers and move them on that decision journey from awareness into — let's call it delight and loyalty.”

That also poses a challenge, she added, because the brand’s two branches of consumers differ so much in their awareness of the brand.

“We actually have to talk with each type of customer based on where they are in that consumer decision journey,” she said.

For example, someone who owns a small coffee shop would be very aware of and loyal to Monin and know how to use it.

“But then we have on the complete opposite end of the spectrum these customers on the decision journey who are maybe new. They saw an advertisement; they saw our product at a restaurant somewhere. Now they want to make that peach Bellini at home,” she said.

The brand’s goal is to attract these customers, but “they're all going to be attracted for different reasons and at different levels because of how well they know Monin, how comfortable they are with making a drink and how frequent they purchase flavors,” she said.

Johnston said that the team’s daily work is to focus on and determine how to best engage with each of these customers and determine where they are on the buyer journey.

“Our challenge is determining if this person needs a welcome message. Do they need a coupon code? Do they just want a recipe? Do they want to update their profile? Do they want to connect with us on social media?”

CAMPAIGN

The team has several different email types to play around with and several different consumer segments, Johnston said. The primary objective is to match up the email flow with each one of those segments.

“Who are you, what do you want to purchase from Monin, and then how can we best communicate with you based on what type of consumer you are? And so, as you can imagine, that gets really confusing and really layered,” she said.

In order to do that, Johnston and her “lean team” brought on an email marketing automation platform to help them streamline the process, making it seamless and relevant for customers while also efficient for her team.

“That’s a huge challenge, just making sure that we get our emails to the right people at the right time with the right message so that not only will we hopefully create a conversion, but we’ll be creating this customer for life — a loyalist — and also building brand equity,” she said.

Step #1. Gather information to hone in on customer segments   

“We understand that [our customers] don't want to be peppered with emails all day and all night about something that's not relevant to them,” Johnston said. “That's our job, from the digital side at Monin, to serve up the best content to our customers so that we're not wasting their time.”

To properly segment out customers for specific email content, the team does a lot of segmentation on the back end, using information asked of customers during the checkout process.

“We ask the customer when they check out through our cart, ‘Are you a business, or are you a home user?’ [and] recently we've added the question, ‘What are you most interested in? Are you interested in coffee? Are you interested in cocktails? Are you interested in mocktails?’” she said.

The team also asks subscribers this when they’re signing up for the newsletter, and emails are sent to those on the list whose user status is unknown.

It’s a perpetual cycle to identify and segment customers, to understand what they want to hear about Monin, she added.

“We're honing in on who our customers are and what they want to hear about from us, then we send emails based on that,” she said.

Step #2. Use data to focus content on specific segments

For example, when mapping out the marketing calendar for the upcoming year, the team looks at which email sends did best (with regards to revenue and engagement) and then looks at the group of customers with whom the email did best.

By understanding what emails were most popular with which groups, the team can plan how to segment out promotional email sends into the two different customer groups — B2B restaurant and café owners, and the B2C group.

“Then, when we have a case promotion, like a case of vanilla [syrup], we're not going to send that to our home users because they're never going to use a case of product. We're going to send it just to our businesses because they have higher usage rate, and they're going to go through it. It's a more relevant message for them,” she said.

On the more B2C end of the spectrum, she said, if the team is sending the “Vacation-in-a-glass” Mother’s Day promotion, it would go to the home users to make Mom a special drink on Mother’s Day.

This send, timed with Mother’s Day, drove nearly 40% of email revenue in one month, which was a 20% increase from the previous year.

The point of having all of this data, Johnston said, is to use it to identify opportunities. The team found such an opportunity when they realized that Monday’s were a traditionally sluggish sales day. They decided to launch a promotional campaign called “Monin Mondays” to see if that could be changed. The team would sporadically send out discount codes to subscribers throughout the year on Mondays.

 “Instead of just saying, ‘Oh, it's Monday,’ accepting it and moving on, we looked at our history,” she said. “What emails are people opening? What are they most interested in? Would this be an email that would just go to a certain segment? Are we seeing that it's only home users, or are we seeing that it's businesses?”

From there, the team mapped out a strategy to see if this campaign would work to increase sales on Mondays. Part of that strategy was to make it feel spontaneous by not sending the emails out at predictable intervals.

“Immersing our customers all the time with the promotional push, push, push messages wasn’t working,” she said. “Monin Mondays was good, but we couldn’t wear off the novelty by doing it every single Monday.”

By looking at the engagement data, the team saw that this was an easy and beneficial campaign, and it boosted sales by 400% the first time it was sent out and has “routinely” done around that same number since.

Step #3. Style email toward a specific segment 

Seasonality has been a focus of Monin email marketing for years, but with the recent effort toward segmentation, the team has had to pivot seasonal marketing to the two different segments.

B2B customers are going to receive emails about new flavors earlier than B2C customers, “because you’re a business, so you need to map out your plan for your menu or your limited time offers,” she said.

This means that businesses will receive emails about winter flavors that are coming out earlier, probably in Q2, so that they have more time to plan than a home user.

“You’re going to see different content on the business side as far as seasonality, and you're also going to see different pack sizes and different promotions around pack sizes,” she said. “We'll also send, once in a while, trend data. So, for example, we do a flavor forecast every year that says these are the flavors that are going to be trending for 2017, and that's more geared toward B2B.”

The B2C sends focus more on promotions like the Mother’s Day send or include extras like a gift with purchase.

“In the past, we've done a cocktail shaker or a cute coffee kettle or some sort of gift with purchase. Businesses do not want that, so those are going to go to our home users,” she said.

It has been an evolutionary process for the team to pinpoint who their customers are and what they want to hear.

“It takes time because we're not just going to arbitrarily make these decisions. We're basing our segmenting decisions on data. We need time to collect it, and we need time to sift through it,” she said.

Delineating between businesses and home users has been a big step, but most recently, the team has begun added a second layer of segmentation with the consumer group by asking them if they prefer coffee, cocktails or mocktails.

“What we're going to do there is we're going to start creating all of these emails maybe when we're launching a coffee flavor like butter pecan or tiramisu. We'll send an email launching those two flavors with coffee recipes to that coffee audience. But we'll also launch that flavor with cocktail recipes, like a dessert martini, to those people who are more interested in cocktails,” she said.

This way, she said, emails will be serving up the same product but giving customers more of what they’re interested in regarding recipes and drink trends.

“That just gives us a little bit more of an opportunity to build a relationship with the customers, because we're not sending them something that they may not be interested in,” she said.

RESULTS

“What we've learned at Monin is that big decisions we make and strategies we put in place need to be based on some sort of data,” Johnston said. “Decisions to segment and decisions on content to email are no longer arbitrary for us. It's based on what our customers want. It's based on the numbers.”

It’s important with testing to spend the time to understand what your customers are telling you and pivot toward relevancy based on that. Before testing, she said, it was blind guesswork.

“That’s just been really helpful. We can be more nimble with our emailing when we have a constant finger on the pulse of what our customers are doing with our emails,” she said. “[Data] gives you a lot of information so that you can build an arsenal to … build these emails that are going to be most compelling to your audience.”

Here are the results that Johnston and her team have seen from implementing relevancy through data and testing:

  • A 20% increase in conversion rates
  • A 20% increase in transactions driven by email
  • A 25% spike in monthly revenue following successful campaigns
  • A 10% increase in email-driven revenue

“It’s gathering all of the numbers to unlock the safe. And that's exactly what we were doing. We were saying, OK, this number, this number, this number, this number works and we would turn it, click — and then we'd boost sales,” she said.

Creative Samples

  1. Newsletter sign-up question
  2. Easiest Question of Your Day email
  3. Mother’s Day email

Sources

Monin

dotmailer – Monin’s email marketing vendor

Related Resources

Email Marketing: How Investopedia saw a 114% lift in pageviews by combining newsletters into one personalized send

Email Marketing: How Bloomingdale’s saw a 50% increase in revenue driven by triggered campaigns

Email Marketing 2016: Nine case studies that show how marketers challenged “best practices” in key driver email campaigns

Email Marketing: Automated abandonment campaigns drive up Golfsmith's conversion 67%


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