Complex email automation flows for turns out to be a fine piece of workmanship

Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) is an organisation of the Flemish government for all entrepreneurs in Flanders. Their goal is to stimulate and support innovation and entrepreneurship in Flanders. Together with Duke & Grace, they launched the campaign (literally: the internet, your business too) in 2018 to strengthen the online presence of every retailer. Two years later, they wanted to make retailers even more digital savvy and breathed new life into the campaign. We gave the e-scan a fresh update and linked it to an impressive email automation system. Top-notch online marketing, that got rewarded with a nomination for EEPA 2020!

As more and more consumers are buying online, it becomes increasingly important to have an online presence - even for the baker around the corner. To guide retailers towards an online presence, VLAIO called in Duke & Grace to develop the website as well as a dynamic e-scan, where retailers can take a comprehensive test to determine how well they are doing online. And with 576 completed scans over a period of two years, one could conclude this campaign. But VLAIO felt in their bones that they could get more out of it and commissioned Duke & Grace to take it to the next level. That’s how we pulled out all the stops.


Improving the e-scan

In the original version, our developers built a dynamic multi-step test with a complex scoring system behind it. The fact that not all questions were always asked, and therefore answered, made the scoring system quite complex. Once finished, the retailers received a PDF report with an overall score as well as a score for each category (website, email marketing, social media and e-commerce). They could always continue to complete the e-scan where they left it or edit their current result without having to start all over again. In the current version, retailers not only receive a PDF report, but also a neatly arranged dashboard that shows their scores.

Simple on the outside, complex on the inside

We also linked an email automation system to the test results. So, based on the score, retailers now automatically receive a set of follow-up emails with customised tips and tricks for each category. One week after the welcome email (with the PDF report), retailers receive useful tips and tricks on the first component: website. When all mailings on website are sent, we send emails on email marketing, social media and - last but not least - e-commerce. In that way, they can improve their score on a weekly basis and VLAIO can reassess the digital maturity of the organization.

So much for the easy part. Things got more challenging when people changed tracks, as their digital score improved along the way. In those cases, the email automation system needs to move them to a different automated journey and adapt the messaging. With each email, the system automatically checks whether the user’s score still corresponds to his or her automated journey or not and whether someone has already received the email or not. The ultimate goal of this complex email automation system is that all retailers always receive emails relevant to their knowledge level.

Such complex email automation only works if the emails themselves are crystal clear to the user. The copy has to make it clear why the user has received the email and, of course, it has to encourage the retailer to effectively act on the tips and tricks. Because the order of the emails is not the same for every user and not all users receive all emails, writing out each email would take up a lot of time. Instead, we created separate 'snippets' that can be mixed and matched for each email, based on the user’s track. The structure of each email always consists of an introduction, a tip with video and introductory text, more tips with links to the website, relevant training courses for the future and an invitation to retake the test.


Promoting the e-scan

Of course, we first needed to make retailers aware of the e-scan, so they could determine how well they are doing online. Next, we wanted them to complete the e-scan, so they could receive the useful tips and tricks through emails. To get the most out of those awareness and performance objectives, we used a moderate budget to advertise on Facebook, YouTube and Google Ads.

  • On Facebook, we used multiple campaigns to trigger e-scan completions. First, we used Facebook’s targeting options to reach a general target audience of retailers. Next, we checked how that audience behaved on the website: Did they complete the test? If n ot, did they start the test? Based on that information, we created remarketing audiences on the one hand to reach people who started the test but didn’t complete it and lookalike audiences on the other hand to reach new audiences who are very similar to those who completed the test.
  • YouTube’s purpose was solely to generate awareness around the website by triggering organic interest.
  • Google Ads was used to promote the practical tips and tricks. We wanted to give an answer to people looking for help to improve their online presence.

Finalist for EEPA 2020

Our efforts were rewarded: the campaign was nominated for the European Enterprise Promotion Awards of 2020 in the category of Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills. And rightly so!

“In Google Analytics, I see an obvious increase in website visitors since spring 2018, the starting point of our pleasant collaboration. The customized content strategy clearly increased traffic to the campaign website.”

Davy Postelmans

Researcher & Expert Retail Trade at VLAIO

With this campaign, VLAIO took their first steps in marketing automation and is now fully ready to make retailers enthusiastic about their online presence.