CMO interview: How Youfoodz's marketing chief is doubling down on growth

Recently appointed chief marketing officer shares the brand strategy and CRM plan to help double the size of the ready-made meals business

Growth through stronger customer retention is firmly in the sights of Youfoodz CMO, Simon Jarvis, and he’s doubling down on his CRM and data strategy to achieve it.

The marketing chief took up his role at the Australian ready-made meals producer in March, with a remit to help the business double in size. Youfoodz is a Queensland-based company operating two divisions: A direct-to-consumer home delivery business, and a wholesale arm distributing meals and snacks to 3500 retailers nationally including Coles, Woolworths, IGA and petrol and convenience outlets such as BP and 7-Eleven.   

Jarvis also grew up in Brisbane and spent 10 years in the agency space before making the switch the client-side marketer. His resume includes IPG agency in London, Lowe, working in account services on brands such as Stella Artois, England Rugby, Saab, Vauxhall and Innocent Smoothies, as well as BMF, working with brands like Dairy Farmers and Dare iced coffee.

Jarvis then spent six months at Telstra in the marketing team before a number of years in education and training services marketing, resulting in the role of GM of marketing for Australis College for three years. A brief stint for Ladbrokes led him to move to TAB New Zealand as head of strategic marketing, where he oversaw brand transformation, building an integrated marketing department and lifting customer insight and data capability. In just under three years, the team won 13 national marketing awards after delivering a 48 per cent year-on-year increase in new customers a 20 per cent uplift in retention, significant revenue growth. Jarvis himself was also made 2018 Marketer of the Year in NZ.

Having most recently spent 10 months in New York as VP of marketing for theScore, a sports betting app, to launch the brand in the New Jersey market, Jarvis said he was keen to come back to Australia. And it’s been an interesting and challenging first five months to tackle in the height of a pandemic.

“The whole prepared and ready-made meals space is a challenging and exciting category to be in, especially given this moment in time,” Jarvis told CMO. Competitors stretch from meal kit players like Marley Spoon and HelloFresh, to traditional heavyweight, Lite N Easy, and a cast of disruptive digital brands like My Muscle Chef and Freshly.

“Demand has really increased and spiked during COVID-19. What I love about Youfoodz is that it was very much first to market for ready-made meals and we are the true leader for fresh product, which helps us to be highly differentiated to other traditional competitors. I thrive on challenge and operating outside my comfort zone. We have great new pipeline where we’re trying new dishes every week and we’re innovating rapidly.”

The overarching business ambition is to double in size and as CMO, Jarvis knows it’s his role to help drive new customer acquisition, retain existing customers more effectively efficiently and maximise returns on marketing investment.

The positioning Youfoodz has to pursue this ambition is healthy eating made easy. “We fundamentally believe all Aussie deserve access to affordable, fresh ready-made meals and we’re trying to make it as easy as possible to purchase our products,” Jarvis said.  

Customer insights

Youfoodz’s traditional audience profile skews to 70 per cent female, 25 years of age and over who are single or live with a partner. “Because our product is about convenience, time saving and healthy meals made easy, it tends to appeal to sinks and dinks and people commuting to work with less time to cook and prepare meals,” he commented.  

Read more: How Youfoodz delivered marketing campaign ROI of nearly 2200 per cent

Where the big growth opportunity lies, according to Jarvis, is main grocery buyers that are time poor. He cited 4.9 million of Australia’s 14.8 million main grocery buyers fit this category. To win them over means maturing the brand, while maintaining its integrity and sense of energy and dynamism, he said.

“We want to stay true to our core brand identity but appeal more to mainstream Australia,” he said.  A recent step forward in this vein was an integrated sponsorship with TV program, Farmer Wants a Wife, which sees Natalie Gruzlewski as the face of the Youfoodz brand.

“The emphasis there is paddock to plate, and the fact we are supporting local growers and producers,” Jarvis said.  

Data and insight are another key element in finding growth. According to Jarvis, Youfoodz has a sophisticated understanding of customers in play through weekly and monthly surveys of existing plus new customers around core drivers for choosing its offering, product and experiences preferences and more.

“We have more reviews than anyone else, we have been voted best food delivery service on Product review for three years and our scores sit up at 4.5 out of 5,” Jarvis said. “And it’s about having a commitment to customer experience end-to-end – from the first order and inbox experience to first call with customer service team and through the journey. We have a huge amount of data on existing customers to help us there.”

But while the business has a strong track record acquiring new customers, the thing it needs to get better at is retention. That’s the number one focus area for the next 12 months, and Jarvis is building out CRM capacity to do it, appointing two new hires to help. Among their tasks are building out the new customer on-boarding journey, re-activation and abandon cart series, and other forms of retention programs.

“The main goal is driving order frequency and average order value up. That can be achieved by effective and creative CRM communications across email and SMS push,” Jarvis said.

“We want to get more customers who try our product to place order number two and repeat ordering. Like most businesses, we see attrition rates after the first order. We want to increase the number we retain.”  

COVID-19 impact

At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen Youfoodz working to build trust and credibility with its customers. 

One initiative Jarvis pointed to early on was supporting local produce supplier, V One, by selling fresh fruit and vegetable boxes at the height of the national lockdown. This helped an important supplier retain its workforce, and also allowed Youfoodz to quickly respond to changing customer circumstances. The company also kicked off a campaign matching donations dollar-to-dollar for Lifeline in July as it released its winter range.

“We also changed the tonality of some of our advertising through COVID,” Jarvis said. “We have quite a dynamic, energetic tone of voice and there’s a lot of movement. We realised that in times of crisis or when there is a lot of negative news, customers gravitate to the brands they love and trust.  

“There was a big need for us to show our customers we were behind them. So we did our ‘We got you’ campaign, which was all around launching the fruit and veg boxes. It’s been very successful, and we’re still acquiring new customers.”  

Youfoodz’s home delivery also experienced the ‘COVID honeymoon’ period and boon from the COVID lockdown. On the flip side, wholesale sales via convenience stores dipped as more people worked from home and cities emptied.

“One part of our business is good health but the other side is not as much. So we’re trying to navigate, learn and pivot,” Jarvis said.

Yet even as more competitors crop up to service the market, Jarvis said Youfoodz is in a strong position given its scale, efficiencies and distribution network. He flagged next-day delivery after ordering at 5pm in Brisbane, and normally in Melbourne, and 48-hour delivery in Sydney as USPs.

As a business, Youfoodz is moving to more of a BAU set-up, yet fluctuations in weekly site traffic off the back of Melbourne’s ongoing COVID-19 lockdown and the continued crisis make it harder to navigate, Jarvis said.

“We operate on a weekly cadence and have weekly goals for home delivery and wholesale, such as how many orders we are getting, average order value of the customers and net revenue targets. We almost sprint to these targets every week, so we need to aim for more consistency over time,” he said.  

As to more sustainable consumer trends, he cited market shifts towards purchasing online as one Youfoodz is watching with interest.

Meanwhile, Jarvis and the team are working through the brand strategy and asking the question: Where do we take an Australian successful brand that’s a market leader over the next 3-5 years?

“It will be a more mature YouFoodz that comes out of that process. And we’ll emphasise that integrity around health and vitality,” Jarvis said. “We see that opportunity around the time poor main grocery buyer and being a little more mainstream while still behaving like a challenger.

“That’s the fine line – to be a market leader that’s grown up with a challenger mindset.”  

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