How This Industrial Supplies Retailer Used Marketing Automation to Track Customers

When Covid first hit, essential business services and products company Bunzl knew its need to elevate email marketing with up-to-date personalized messaging had suddenly become urgent.

Delivering goods in the disrupted world of Covid lockdowns was difficult for most businesses. But Bunzl’s wide range encompassing cleaning, hygiene, healthcare, hospitality, food processing, packaging, as well as industrial and security goods and services was highly relevant for Covid and therefore more under pressure than most.

With an inventory of 20,000 key units online and 20,000 other items, including custom products, as well as customers and warehouses across A/NZ, Bunzl presents itself as a one-stop-shop for essential business. The company had been using the Lite version of ActiveCampaign’s email automation since 2014 before Bunzl marketing and e-commerce manager Fiona Corsie joined the company. As Covid forced the massive shift to remote living and working in different fields at different times, she realized that upgrading to the next level of one-to-one marketing automation would be critical on more than one front.

“As a B2B, we work on a long sales cycle and are aware of typical customer orders and delays. But because of the environment we suddenly found ourselves in, with states going in and out of lockdowns, everything changed,” Corsie said. “One day you’ll ask yourself, ‘Do we have too many face masks?’. In two days we would be asking, “Do we have enough face masks?”.

Reacting to lockdown news and trying to anticipate orders meant Bunzl needed to be aware of changing public health news, likely customer inventory, latest orders and likely impending needs.

“We also had to communicate so quickly. If I wrote a press release in the afternoon and it was approved that evening for distribution the next morning, then that was old news,” Corsie said. “We needed to become immediate, with a sense of urgency about customer service.”

Corsie knew that a marketing automation platform based on good CRM and segmentation tools to integrate with Bunzl’s enterprise resource manager (ERP) would get the most out of its customer data. Bunzl’s ERP has already segmented customers, including down to vertical shades such as healthcare, senior care, self-employed, and government.

Focus on email marketing

The relevance of email was increasingly important not only externally to speed up supplies, orders and deliveries, but also because so few people were doing business in person. The lack of face-to-face meetings also meant CRM data on customer journeys was more important to sales reps.

“Everyone’s inboxes were suddenly so full. To reduce volume and fatigue, you had to serve exactly the right content for a customer,” Corsie said.

Bunzl already had good email open rates. Corsie and his marketing team of 14 are thrilled that since the integration, segmenting all customer data has increased open rates by 10%.

“We know the customer is interested in what they get from us,” she said. “Connecting online with the customer the right way is everything these days and we’ve done 10 years of digital transformation in two months – the whole world has done it.”

The existing relationship with ActiveCampaign worked in its favor. Still, it wasn’t a done deal that Bunzl would continue with the martech provider, and Corsie compressed scope and research based on the urgency of the transition. An all-singing, all-dancing platform was considered, but was found to take up to five times longer to operate.

“At a time when IT was already taking care of the transition to working from home, we had no capacity for a major six-month project,” Corsie said. Another more intermediate platform was studied but still considered too complex to implement.

Bunzl’s conversations with other ActiveCampaign customers ticked most of the boxes. “They said very strongly that the level of support was excellent. You need great support and that was getting more and more important as we got further and further apart,” Corsie said.

During the implementation and first uses of the integrated system, Bunzl relied on ActiveCampaign’s local support team.

“We would have a response within the hour,” Corsie said. “Once, when we couldn’t get an answer, we were put directly in touch with the American guru on the subject and they arranged a video conference and went through it. We needed reasonable, non-heavy IT support. Then we were up and running, part of this Covid-accelerated global digital transformation.

This was an implementation where the surprises were good in terms of support, training and scalability. “I was surprised by how easy it was – I didn’t know it was so scalable and it really appealed to me,” Corsie said. “The ease of it has been refreshing because you’re so often told, ‘Oh no, it’s all easy and it plugs in, but it usually isn’t.

Different aspects of the transformation took place in parallel, including development on the ERP hub to enable customer identification and segmentation. The integration between ERP and CRM took two of Bunzl’s IT specialists about six weeks. Bunzl was able to ramp up quickly as its client list and credibility with its email provider was ongoing. Data cleansing took several months to ensure that outdated information was not transferred into ActiveCampaign’s CRM.

Once they knew the size of the database, Corsie also decided the best value was to move to an annual fee based on the number of contacts in the database. ActiveCampaign’s enterprise level came with top-notch training and support.

Granular view

Corsie said the intelligence currently on offer has seen Bunzl communications take a significant leap forward. Particularly useful is the way segmentation shows which emails are getting a response and which links a customer has followed to the website.

“We can get more accurate messaging, getting that funnel view of the customer and what they’re interested in,” Corsie said. “This truly targeted and personalized approach allows you to work your way through the funnel. You direct people to specific product information, get it at an important point in their decision-making, and can influence them on a product. Because we are B2B, we work closely with our sales team who see the emails so that we can then resume the conversation with the customer.

A key insight was how customers interact with Bunzl and how to open an email. “It’s about responding to customer behavior rather than just doing push communication. These are all valuable learnings,” Corsie continued.

Bunzl got an extensive reporting feature and a system that integrates with Google Analytics for website activity reporting. Bunzl also uses SurveyMonkey, one of more than 870 apps that connect to ActiveCampaign through Zapier. Others connected include web chat tools, content management, Shopify, Nudgify messaging, Countdown Mall, and e-commerce apps including Yondo and Limespot.

“We’re moving into automations and starting to use plug-in apps. Each app brings another level of functionality. A lot of it is about getting a better view of the customer and their behavior, which again allows us to respond with what they need,” Corsie said.

The next taxi in the ranking is another B2B website for SME sales.

“If you ask me again a year from now what I’m doing with ActiveCampaign, that again will be a different conversation because ActiveCampaign gives scalability and latitude for future plans,” she added.

Don’t miss the wealth of information and content provided by CMO A/NZ and sign up here for our weekly CMO Digest newsletters and information services.

You can also follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, join the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia’s Linkedin business page