by Courtney Eckerle
, Managing Editor
“Zachys Wine & Liquor is a third generation family-owned wine merchant. What’s unique about the business, according to Victor Castro, Director of eCommerce, Zachys Wine & Liquor, is that they are one of a few wine merchants that have a comprehensive offering at an auction price.
“We have this full lifecycle wine offering to wine collectors and wine enthusiasts,” he said, adding that the company has been serving these customers for over 70 years.
Zachys has essentially three major business divisions, according to Castro. It has a retail store presence, one location in Scarsdale, New York. There is also an online retail website, one feature of which is an auction group.
“The Zachys Auction Group has a location in New York and a location in Hong Kong. We do about 12 live sales a year,” he said.
“Lives sales” are onsite auction events that last one to two days in either New York or Hong Kong, and customers attend both in person and online.
The final division is storage, where Zachys offers state-of-the-art wine storage for collectors and enthusiasts.
Castro joined Zachys in 2013, when the website was a secondary thought to the in-store retail business.
Basically, he said, “The website … automatically loaded any products that were entered into our inventory, and they sort of just went up for sale. Nobody was really managing, or never mind even marketing, the site.”
In terms of email marketing, he added, there was a lot of content being put out, but it wasn’t really managed.
“[My] position was basically brand-new to the company. They never really had anybody in charge. And so when it was presented to me, and I was looking at the opportunity, it was clear that there were a lot of different pieces that could be improved,” he said.
It was clear Zachys had a lot of potential, he said, with “a very robust set of low-hanging fruit across all different channels — with probably email being one of the most important one, in terms of our site and an ability to execute quickly.”
The first task, he said, was to revamp the email program to support the three different channels across one database.
“We did a migration from a very basic eye contact database to a more enterprise level … implementation,” he said.
Once they had migrated the marketing program to the enterprise-level platform, and were starting to improve in terms of deliverability and database maintenance, “it was very clear that we needed to find a way to do a couple of things,” he said.
The first goal, he said, was to improve the retention program.
“We had a little success with bringing customers in the first time with our email, but the conversion rate wasn't what I wanted it to be,” he said, further explaining that there was — and still is, to a lesser degree — a long lifecycle process.
The customer timeline from first visit to purchase was around 90-plus days.
“We thought that that was more a function of us not necessarily doing a great job of keeping track and keeping in communication with our customers,” he said.
Castro and his team thought that trigger programs based on customer behavior “would be the next big thing that we could do to optimize that communication channel and increase our brand recognition … to be top of mind for customers looking to purchase wine.”
Step #1. Recognize challenges in implementing trigger program
Immediately, Castro said, he and his team were hit with “the reality of, at that time, that complexity of implementing such a program within an enterprise system.”
Both the setup and the integration proved to be fairly complex, he continued, especially once they began integrating data into the platform.
“In order for the program to be successful, we felt that we had to have a fairly tight integration of data in terms of customer on-site behavior, their browsing behavior, the product deals and things like that being transferred to the email platform so that the triggers could be relevant when they went out,” he said.
Implementing the trigger programs proved to be more difficult than Castro and his team first believed, and they were struggling when he happened to speak to a fellow speaker at an industry conference.
“We discussed some of my challenges and frustrations with my existing platform. And she's like, ‘I just went through the same thing,’” he said.
That led Castro and his team to switch platforms, realizing that their main priority was ease of integration.
“Integration for me was a key piece, not only because it has to be easy from the email side, but we actually don't have development resources in-house. So anything that required connections to APIs or coding and passing data up to a third party was basically going to be a show-stopper,” he said.
The other priority was being able to execute it quickly, he added.
At that time, we basically had reached our optimum regular blast email performance,” he said. “We were out of improvements to make on that end, or we felt that way. And so we really needed to find a way to do triggers.”
Based on conversations he had at that industry conference, he found a partner who could provide the flexibility to integrate with data and customer behavior. One area that was still an issue, however, was speed.
“What was key was that our site is not really up to standards, unfortunately. And so one of our shortcomings was actually that if you were to go to my site right now and you go to a product page, the page is not really SEO friendly,” he said.
He gave the examples that the URL is actually just the product SKU ID, and the product page doesn’t feature any more information about the wine beyond its name, price and some tasting notes.
“All the key items, all the key attributes, of the actual wine were not on the product page. And wine, actually, has a lot of very important attributes that really drive how and what we sell to customers: the country, the region, the vintage, the grape type, the size, its score from critics, and things like that,” he said.
Step #2. Gain a full view of the customer through data
What was helpful, he said, is that “we were able to leverage our existing product feed that we already sent to other partners for paid search and PLAs and thing like that, we were able to actually do basically a two-part integration.”
While collecting customer behavior onsite, they were also able to have the detailed product data feed in order to merge the two data sources “to get a full view, not just of the customer behavior, but also being able to understand what that behavior meant in terms of wine,” he said.
This meant understanding beyond just if a customer likes Malbecs, but putting other elements into type of wine like regions, price point and critics score.
Being able to use those details as one of the drivers for the content within the email, in terms of recommending products, was key.
It was possible because the vendor was able to utilize the product feed that already existed, which eased the burden on Castro and his team.
Step #3. Compose email series’ templates
After all of the integration was completed, Castro and his team took a week to internally put together creative and templates for the emails.
At that point, they began with three basic triggers:
- Cart abandonment
- Product abandonment
- Search abandonment
“We started with the cart abandonment, which was one of our main priorities. And then the [vendor] said that they could do the product abandonment and the search abandonment, basically at the same time without a lot of effort,” Castro said.
This fed into his team’s desire for ease of implementation, because they were able to use essentially the same template.
“We just changed some of the copy in the template, different subject lines, different headers,” he said.
Each series started out with two emails as “a compromise,” he said.
“Without having any data to figure out what was the right number, we went with two. Our strategy was, let's try to do two things,” he said.
Click to see a larger, printable version of the chart
The first of those two objectives, he added, was to try to reach out to the customer while Zachys was still on their mind, so the first email goes out within an hour of the triggering action.
From there, based on customer behavior, the second email is sent out 23 hours after the action. The thought being that, if “they have time to shop at this specific day part today, they will have probably the same time to shop the next day,” Castro said.
“That was our plan. We started with that with a two email program, no promotional offers, just a simple reminder of what items you had in your cart and any other items that may be interesting to you based on your choices,” he said.
Step #4. Focus on key aspects
The subject line and headline were the key items, according to Castro.
Especially with the product abandonment, being able to use the product name on the subject line was “a big personalized tease because customers seem to have a really high open rate in that one because it recognized what they had been looking at not long ago,” he said.
In the cart abandonment program, the two emails were fairly similar in design and message, he added.
“The first one was, ‘Hey, don't leave your items behind. Come back and shop.’ And the second one was a little more about knowing that we still have your items, and we're ready to go when you're ready to go,” he said.
Currently, he said, the teams are discussing making changes to that program, and adding a third email to further capitalize on customers who need a little more time.
“We have great performance on that program. I want to say it's about a 30% conversion on it between the two emails. And we think that with a third email we can probably capture another 10% or so if we execute it properly,” he said.
Since 2013, Zachys has grown its ecommerce 53%, and it represents 23% of the company's revenue. Castro attributes those results to all the updates that have been made -- most majorly in the email program.
“One of our main takeaways was the recognition that timing and messaging matter as much as product and relevancy in our industry as it pertains to email,” he said.
After realizing that there was a large performance gap between the blast emails, “which we considered to perform well above industry average,” and the triggered emails, there was no choice but to strive for growth.
By launching the trigger campaigns, Castro and his team saw these results: Abandoned cart emails
Browse abandonment emails
- 65% Open rate
- 14% Clickthrough rate
- A $16 RPE (Revenue Per Email)
Search abandonment emails
- 64% Open rate
- 10% Clickthrough rate
- A $6 RPE
- 57% Open rate
- 10% CTR
- $5 RPE
“Based on this experience, there is a lot of room for growth, and we are launching three more triggers, and we hope to have a total of 12 triggered campaigns by the end of 2016,” Castro said.
Creative SampleZachys cart abandonment email
SourcesZachys Wine & LiquorBluecore
— Zachy’s vendor
Related ResourcesEmail Marketing: Ecommerce company expands email program and increases revenue 384%Email Segmentation: Finish Line's automation initiative lifts email revenue 50%Marketing Automation: 25% more engagement, 0% unsubscribe in 4-email series