Lenovo Group Ltd.’s email strategy went from arduous to lucrative after implementing a new tool.
As a multibillion dollar global retailer that sells electronics to both businesses and consumers, it has several customer segments who have access to different prices for the same product depending on their tier. For example, a public consumer audience receives difference prices than its affinity group and affinity gold groups, which are businesses that receive special discounts for their products, or Lenovo employees who also receive different discounts.
Marketing to these different groups via email was a tedious process, with each email campaign taking 12 hours to develop for its eight different customer segments for the U.S. and Canada, says Ashley Morse, email marketing automation lead, North America ecommerce for Lenovo, No. 27 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000.
Lenovo had a process in which two employees were responsible for putting together the email campaigns, which was one long graphic created in Photoshop. The campaign typically featured a main image of a product advertising a price. The retailer create the imagery and the entire design for the campaign in Adobe Photoshop. However, because the price was different for each audience, the retailer had to create eight different images. Then, if something changed, such as a product going out of stock, Lenovo would have to create and upload a new campaign image, Morse says.
Issues outside of the marketing department’s control, such as inventory running out or price adjustments, result in frequent changes to Lenovo’s email content, Morse says. For example, Lenovo always wants to have the best price available for its products on its own direct-to-consumer site, so if one of its vendors is advertising a lower price, it wants to ensure that its product is that price or lower, Morse says.
Often, these changes would happen after the campaign was set to launch, and the email would deploy with outdated information.
“We would send out campaigns, and something would not be available in one of the countries or in one of the [customer segments] or there was a pricing change; there was nothing we could do about it,” Morse says.
To help minimize the potential for error, the retailer advertised few products—maybe only three or four offers—in its email campaigns, Morse says.
Lenovo moves to Movable Ink
To improve this arduous process, Lenovo in April 2015 began using digital marketing vendor Movable Ink, which works with its email service provider Marketo.
Movable Ink allows Lenovo to design its email campaigns in various content blocks, such as one SKU being a block and another SKU on another block, so it can assemble campaigns using the different content blocks, instead of everything being created in one long image in Photoshop. If a change needs to be made, Lenovo can make it in Movable Ink without having to redesign an image or re-upload anything. Plus, the email content will automatically update if the shopper has not yet opened the email.
Movable Ink also has other tools that accelerate the campaign-creating process, such as a duplication mode, so Lenovo can quickly replicate similar campaigns for all of its customer segments. Or reuse a content block to add into future campaigns, as the content is more modular now and not in one long image.
Lenovo’s emails sales increase from the new tool
After Lenovo began using Movable Ink, it quickly realized a time savings. Campaigns now only takes six hours compared with 12 hours. That’s allowed Lenovo to have more of a strategic plan with its marketing emails, as it’s able to plan it a few weeks in advance, compared with a mad dash a few days before, she says.
Despite those gains, the retailer initially only created about 5-10% of its campaigns through Movable Ink, because it was still learning the software and transitioning its processes, she says.
As Lenovo continued to dial up how much it used Movable Ink, the results were more apparent. Morse estimates that the large majority of its email campaigns are now powered via Movable Ink.
In its fiscal year 2016 ended April, Lenovo’s North American ecommerce revenue through email increased 20%, which is higher than the typical 15% growth it had in previous year for email marketing revenue. 2017 yielded similar results and, for its most recent fiscal year, from April 2018 to April 2019, revenue from email increased 25%, Morse says.
Because email is generating more revenue for Lenovo, it can justify spending the resources to expand the team, and Lenovo now has seven email marketing employees, up from two, she says. Now that the retailer is more confident that its email campaigns will be more accurate, it includes 10 to 15 promoted products, up from three to four.
Compared with all of Lenovo’s marketing channels, email is the most cost-effective way to drive traffic to its site and create awareness on the hundreds of products it offers, she says.
The tool has generated other positive results, such as its email recipients no longer complain about misleading prices. Its email list size also is 250% larger now than it was in 2015, which Morse attributes partly to all of the changes it has been able to make because of time saved using Movable Ink.
Overall, email generated about 15-20% of Lenovo’s North American ecommerce revenue.
“If email were missing, ecommerce would not hit its goals,” Morse says.