by Courtney Eckerle
, Manager of Editorial Content
Lee Ann Pughe, Digital Marketing Specialist, Email and Affiliates, Vega, has been at the Canadian health and nutrition company for five years and started the email program, which has evolved heavily over her time at the company.
"Over the last couple of years, it's really been heavily focusing on recipes and sports content," Pughe said.
Vega has a large recipe center on its website, which has been professionally shot, and it accounts for a large portion of the traffic currently being driven to the website, she added.
"This is our content strategy, and we do recipe development here in the kitchen. We actually have a big kitchen here; we have a chef in the office. It's all vegan food. We make recipes, and we shoot them in the kitchen here, and then, we use them in our content," she said.
Education is the primary goal for Vega's email program, she added, not products. That is why when the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation was passed, she saw it as an opportunity — however challenging — to provide this content only to people who wanted to receive it.
Her focus this year, she added, is to bring personalized educational information to customers and to turn those customers into subscribers and maintain those relationships through the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation regulations.
The challenge was to show subscribers the value in confirming for CASL by not focusing on products, but instead on the community, while supporting the Vega system. Most of the email communications focus on content and are not sales-focused, Pughe said.
"We sell in brick-and-mortar, too, so we're always trying to discover new ways of how we can connect online and offline together," Pughe said.
To maintain a positive and inspirational community, the marketing team launched the "Fuel Your Better" campaign, which ran alongside the CASL transition and focused on consumer pain points and personalizing sends to that end.
With CASL's enactment on July 1, 2014, the Vega marketing team needed to ensure they had express consent to continue sending to this list, or risk being in violation of the law.
Directly approaching CASL's permission deadline, the team also created the "Vega Love" contest, which designed engaging offers to entice subscribers to confirm.
Step #1. Engage subscribers with personalized content
A first step to connect the brick-and-mortar with the online world was taking a successful element from one and implementing it in the other.
The "Fuel Your Better" campaign was focused on educating customers on sports nutrition. The idea came from Vega pop-up shops in stores across the United States and Canada.
Vega representatives in store can easily answer questions customers might have and specifically pick out products to solve pain points, such as energy or endurance. The "Fuel Your Better" campaign was built to take over this role online with a product selector tool paired with an email campaign.
"If they're interested in just reading about the product, they can put together kind of a nutrition plan for themselves and what products would be good for them," Pughe said.
Customers can either print off that plan immediately or be entered onto the Vega Sport email list to receive the personalized nutrition plan, she added.
"Fuel Your Better" is a three-part series built up around eight fitness pain points:
- Muscle burn
- Hitting a wall
- Muscle soreness
- Body composition
Once customers choose one of these options and enter in the responder email series, they are segmented into content based off of the pain point they have selected. The first
emails focus on motivation and only contain content. The third
has a redirect functionality that can put customers into the next responder series without having to go back to the website.
That email reads, "Do you have any other challenges you'd like to address? Click on one of the buttons below and we'll send you two tips," referring to the next pain point topic selected.
"I wanted it to kind of be a continuous flow, so they could keep receiving these things as long as they wanted to," she said.
Also, if a customer opts-in to this series, they are informed that they are also being opted into not just receiving the series from "Fuel Your Better" but also the general newsletter.
Step #2. Use compelling offers to confirm subscribers for CASL
Preparations to comply with the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation had to be implemented alongside these efforts. This presented a challenge, especially at first when "everybody had interpreted this law differently," Pughe said.
Pughe added that she attempted to decipher it herself and ended up utilizing a lawyer to be absolutely sure Vega would be completely compliant.
Alongside this concern, Pughe said in her five years at Vega, she has gone through six different email service providers. The first of those had a double opt-in process that, at the time, proved to be too much friction.
"We weren't getting people confirming. They'd sign up, but then they wouldn't be confirmed because they had the double opt-in process," she said. "That was when I kind of just freaked right out right there. And I didn't want to lose the whole list."
However, Pughe said she soon realized that "it's more common these days for people to expect a confirmation email."
Naturally, after that experience, Pughe had her concerns about implementing a confirmation campaign again for CASL.
"I had to go back to everybody and figure out a way to engage them, to get them super interested to want to open that email and say, 'OK, I still want to hear from you,'" she said.
To make a compelling opt-in offer, Pughe and her team put together a month-long campaign called the "Vega Love Contest
The contest was designed to "show lots of love to our subscribers and thank them for being subscribers of ours for so long. We gave away a trip to Whistler for a spa getaway weekend, a two-year supply of Vega and a Vitamix blender," Pughe said. "The response was crazy; it was awesome."
Because Whistler is close to Vancouver, British Columbia, where Vega is located, the winner of the contest will also be making a visit to the Vega offices for the Valentine's Day trip.
The contest sends also offered a promo code that confirmed subscribers could use for 30% off, "which is one of the biggest discounts we've ever done on our e-store," Pughe said. "That's why [we] called it the Vega Love contest because it was like 'We love you, don't go.'"
"People like to be appreciated, we know that," Pughe said about the team's approach for confirming for CASL. Transparency was another asset, she added.
"We didn't just hide behind a contest with CASL. People were aware when they signed up for that contest, they were doing it to confirm their email address. It wasn't like, 'Sign up and win.' It was 'Confirm your email address, and you have a chance to win,'" she said.
Prepare stakeholders for the worse possible outcome
In preparation for CASL, Pughe approached her Vice President with research and case studies from list cleansing campaigns.
"I brought it back to my VP, and I said, 'Breathe deeply. I have proof of what might happen.' And it didn't happen. But I prepared them for the worst," she said.
She came away from that meeting with the directive to "under-promise and over-deliver."
"The VPs are focused on the number, the size of the list. And I keep bringing them back going, yes, but you can have a big, fat list … [but] if they're not engaged, you may as well not be paying to email these people," she said.
Step #3. Make CASL confirmation as simple as possible
Pughe needed to capture the consent date the same time that subscribers reconfirmed on the page, but she didn't want them to have to deal with an auto-responder.
"I attached an API call to the 'Submit' button. The check box that's implemented — you can see these check boxes all over our site. With CASL, you're not supposed to have those pre-checked … They can't be subscribed unless they check the check box now," she said.
Essentially, when a subscriber presses 'Submit,' the value of the check box is captured as consent, and the date and time stamp are captured from the server and put into the current ESP's database, Pughe explained.
The campaign was only a month long, but the confirmation pages are still current, she added.
While the people who haven't confirmed aren't being emailed and are inactive on the list, "if they come back and they want to confirm, then they can re-subscribe," she said, adding, "it's almost like I pushed the snooze button."
Vega didn't just meet the expectations for how many subscribers would re-confirm. "We exceeded it," Pughe said.
Vega was able to weather CASL and retain 80% of the original list. The company's sales conversion rate increased by 15% as well. Pughe largely attributed that result to a spike from the CASL campaign.
The company recently doubled its marketing team, and the plans for the email program have grown along with it due to the content efforts of the "Fuel Your Better" campaign and how the team approached CASL.
"I'm just able to nurture it more. It's been my baby for almost five years, so it's nice to be able to take it to the next level. That's where I get excited," she said.
The first email in the "Feel Your Better" Campaign doubled Vega's average, with a 66% open rate. It also saw a significantly higher clickthrough rate at 35%.
The second email saw a open rate of 55% and a clickthrough rate of 28%.
"You're paying too much, and you're bringing your stats down ... if you have a bunch of people in there that are sleeping, then you can't really see ... it skews that," Pughe concluded. "So in my opinion, why not just get them out [of] there?"
- Fuel Your Better first email
- Fuel Your Better second email
- Fuel Your Better third email
- Vega Love CASL email
Related ResourcesMarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015
— Las Vegas, Feb. 23-26, 2015Email Deliverability: 9 lessons about Canadian Anti-Spam LegislationEmail Deliverability: Only 39% of marketers maintain an opt-in only subscriber listEmail Marketing: CNET win-back campaign sees 8% subscriber re-engagement Email List Hygiene: Why the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development deleted 47% of its house listEmail List Reactivation Incentives: Gift cards vs. whitepaper vs. nothing