What this food gifting business has had to do to modernise marketing

Hickory Farms CMO shares the digital marketing skills and technology investments helping to deliver 30 per cent or more revenue improvements to sales in the off-season


Building to tailored communications

The next stage has been shifting from a wholly batch-and-blast email approach to tailored communications based on customer segment as well as activity. For instance, the company historically thought about itself as a holiday company and would send a similar series of emails primarily during the holiday season year after year.

“As you might expect, we were seeing quickly eroding email stats – we had been on our third year of rapidly declining performance,” Ransford said. “This had to happen in two parts: One was content; the other was deliverability, as we weren’t managing that at all. We were paying the price for that.”  

While some trigger-based email was also in place, such as for abandoned cart or on-boarding, this consisted of one standard email.

“Putting the journeys in place within Marketing Cloud is delivering better performance from a revenue perspective, than from just the regular newsletter cadence that goes out,” Ransford said.  

“We’re still on this journey. The team from LionCG helped us with initial customer journeys, which were the basic ones you’d expect. Those are still the core of what we are running, but those alone are driving a tonne of value. It’s not micro-targeted, but we have multiple stages to each journey.

“In a basic welcome series, if someone doesn’t respond to the first one, you’re coming back with different type of content, a different touch, at a different point in time. That’s also integrated with Ad Studio, so we can integrate those journeys with Facebook as well. That is driving a lot of additional response and success.”  

Hickory Farms has also started to customise and specialise. “We have one base welcome journey that branches depending on customer responses to that; now we’re looking to say we could have multiple journeys depending on how someone came to us, such as website opt-in versus a Facebook lead ad,” Ransford added. “If someone is more interested in business gifting, we could then give them different content.”

Priorisation and ROI wins

Like most marketers, the to-do list at Hickory Farms is much longer than the resources at hand. Having one marketing and ecommerce platform and one partner across the group has at least helped improve efficiency and removed integration issues, Ransford said.

To help ensure teams are working towards aligned goals, Ransford said the key metrics for success around commerce are the trade-offs between driving conversion, traffic and AOV. On the marketing front, Hickory Farms has seen consistent growth in direct response overall, a lot of which can be tied back to email. A core metric here is last-touch attribution for revenue.

“That grew significantly year-over-year, up about $500,000, which is a big percentage increase,” Ransford said. “In terms of sources of traffic to the website, email went from number four to our number two source in the first season.

“This year in our off-season, email is performing off the charts. Last year we were still on the upward hill on deliverability; right now we’re in Father’s Day selling season, and we’ve been seeing 2x revenue from email on last-touch basis in this last two-week period. We’re about 30 per cent up for first half of the year versus last year and email is the biggest delta of that. This is combined with conversion on the website, which has also improved. A lot of that has to do with site speed.”

A key commerce priority is to lift the mobile experience for Hickory Farm customers, a move that should also help it expand out from an older demographic skew, Ransford said. Another focus is on streamlining customer experiences digitally to remove any friction points.

“Things like easy access to stored address, easy to use multi-cart shipment – those are things we’ve had to make some customisations on the Commerce Cloud base. We’re continuing to work and evolve those,” she said. “We’ve seen good success with some of those, along with messages around shipping restrictions.

“I love that the things you do to create a wonderful customer experience and ease the journey tend to be the same things that drive conversion.”

- Nadia Cameron travelled to Salesforce Connections in Chicago as a guest of Salesforce.

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