How this marketer is building a digital future for Bowens

Family owned building supplies business sees ecommerce becomea hefty contributor off the back of its digital marketing smarts

When Chrystal Dias joined 128-year-old family-owned building supplies business, Bowens, as a digital marketing specialist, she joined an organisation with no ecommerce presence and a digital marketing team of just three.

Two years later Dias has risen to the role of digital marketing manager, the team numbers 13, and Bowens is now selling over 45,000 products online.

It's a remarkable transition, facilitated by the vision of Bowen's chief investment officer and director, Andy Bowen, and brought to life through the hard work of Dias and her team.

"When I came on board I was building, so there was minimal marketing presence, and digital was non-existent," Dias tells CMO.

For Dias, the time since joining has seen her using a range of digital channels to drive awareness of the business, brand, stores and ecommerce site, which has also been updated to provide a seamless service for trade professionals. Bringing a traditionally offline customer segment into an online environment has required significant investment in digital channels for acquisition, with Google Shopping and Meta the top performers.

"Fifty-two per cent of our sessions on our website are the result of paid activity, which is phenomenal, so we know that we need to keep up the paid channels," Dias says. "But specifically with Google Shopping and Meta, we always focus on a return-on-ad-spend [ROAS] of a minimum of 5. We have always maintained that, which is really reassuring."

For Dias, achieving this consistent outcome has been the result of constantly adjusting channels to deliver the best performance.

Credit: Chrystal Dias

"I'm looking at performance numbers every morning and seeing if one channel is performing or not," she says. That is how we have really optimised to that return on ad spend and kept that growing."

Whereas some marketers have reported difficulties in acquiring audiences on social, Dias says the greater challenges have come from targeting. "The people are there," she says. "The more niche we get with our targeting, the better we are hitting the right customer."

Dias’ team is also constantly testing different targeting pools to ensure it is reaching the full spread of potential customers.

"We have a very small bucket of mass targeting to really understand the outliers that might be very important and that we don’t want to miss," she says. "We are predominantly a B2B business, but we do have that aspect of B2C, and it is important not to neglect them."

Over the past 12 months, Bowens has expanded its strategy with the creation of a Spotify Audio Clip and the launch of a channel on YouTube.

"YouTube has been a great success," Dias says. "We have launched a new TVC highlighting young builders on site and really focusing on helping Australians build better. That is our slogan and tagline; supporting the trade and the next generation."

Dias says these new channels are providing Bowens with an opportunity to tap into the humour within the business.

"We have been quite a sophisticated, conservative brand for quite some time, and that is definitely changing," she says.

Importantly for Dias and her team, their work has begun to gain recognition externally, with Bowens picking up and award for Integrated Brand Campaign of the Year at REA Group’s customers awards, the AREAs.

"To humbly accept an award against the likes of Jeep and ANZ, where they have huge marketing budgets and bigger market teams, was a really special moment for me and the team earlier this year," Dias says.

The company has also been listed in the Australian Financial Review's Fast 100 list, as well as being shortlisted for Inside Retail’s 2022 Retailer Awards.

"The brand sentiment at the moment is growing vastly, and at a rapid rate, and it is things like the awards and other metrics that solidify that we are headed in the right direction and doing some great things as a business," Dias says.

2023 ambitions

As for 2023, Bowens will broaden its channel strategy, as Dias is keen to test out Netflix' advertising offering once inventory becomes available.

The company has also launched a loyalty program, Bowens Benefits. Unlike competitors this program is primarily based around discounts rather than points. However, as the focus of the program shifts from acquisition to engagement, Dias says Bowens is negotiating with other brands to offer more value.

"What we are doing at the moment is working with our analysts to understand who is overindexing on which categories on our website and what they are interested in," Dias says. "We can see sport is quite a big category, so what can we do in that space?"

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