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Hudson's Bay new gift card program captures corporate market

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Retailers typically court the consumer, but Hudson's Bay Co., which has more than 580 locations across Canada, wanted to capture a bigger slice of the corporate market as well. So the company, which sells a variety of merchandise—including clothing, home goods and jewelry—introduced a gift card and incentive program targeted at corporations. The cards, said Dawn Carpenter, manager of Hudson's Bay's Corporate Gift Card and Incentive Program, can be co-branded so businesses can give them to their own customers or employees.

Hudson's Bay had a single salesperson making cold calls to businesses, but had no official b-to-b marketing program in place. The company didn't have a list of prospects, so its first goal was to gather leads and create a lead generation program. Carpenter and her team created a landing page to be used for lead generation. There, prospects would find contests, white papers and a sign-up for a new b-to-b targeted newsletter.

"We wanted to use the electronic channel to groom them towards an eventual sale," she said.

Once the landing page was readied, the campaign, which was presented in two waves—in October 2006 and again in April—took off with a direct mail piece. It was sent to about 2,200 potential customers from approximately 30 different sources, including current merchandise vendor partners, trade show attendees and purchased lists.

The mailer featured a customized gift card, much like the one companies would buy for employee or customer use, complete with a pin number. It was personalized to reflect each recipient's name and company. The copy urged the recipient to visit the new landing page and enter the pin number into an online form.

When recipients visited the Web site, they saw a Flash video presentation that featured Carpenter and a photo of the card with the person's name and company name. Visitors also heard a personalized greeting, which Carpenter recorded using the most popular 150 first names taken from the list of prospects. Since multiple people shared first names, this covered almost all the recipients. Those people with unusual names or names that did not make the top 150 list received a more generic welcome message.

When visitors filled out the accompanying form, they were entered into a contest to win a $1,000 gift card.

The personalized audio and video were extremely powerful, said Mike Allen, a partner at Strategic Direct Marketing Group, Hudson's Bay's Calgary, Alberta-based interactive agency.

"We had a large percentage of people coming back to the site [and] entering their pin number over and over again—presumably to see their personalized video and possibly show colleagues," he said.

Since Hudson's Bay was trying to expand beyond its own lists, it ran banner and print ads in trade magazines at the same time that the direct mailer was sent. The messaging on each ad was contest-specific. People were invited to a similar landing page to view a nonpersonalized video, read about the gift cards and enter the $1,000 gift card contest.

As a result of the campaign, the company's list grew quickly, topping the 990-name mark. Today, that number has grown to more than 1,900.

Once Hudson's Bay had its list in place it created an e-mail newsletter, which it uses today to sell the gift cards as well as branded merchandise and apparel. The newsletter goes out monthly with a mixture of internal news and feature stories, case studies, white papers and results from research studies and polls.

Overall, the campaign was successful, Carpenter said, because of multiple personalization and use of various advertising media.

"What we wanted to do was feature some of the capabilities that the prospect may not have been aware of," she said. "We wanted to let them see the benefits of personalization on their own and engage them a little more."

According to Carpenter, the e-newsletter has a 30% to 45% open rate monthly and 5% to 9% click-through rate because those 1,900 on Hudson's Bay's list essentially qualified themselves.

"Those people took the time to come to the site and sign up," she said.

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