A Chat With Bob Land, Vice President of Consumer Engagement, Dorel Juvenile
Bob Land chats with us about the incredible growth he’s achieved as vice president of consumer engagement for Dorel Juvenile, a global leader in high-quality, safe and fashionable juvenile products from brands such as Cosco, Safety 1st, Maxi-Cosi, among others.
Holly Vander Wall: Can you tell us the story behind your title?
Bob Land: The traditional CMO role encompasses brand and channel marketing, but it doesn’t include consumer care. Our CEO, Paul Powers, and I, however, felt that my role should interact with all of our consumer touchpoints, from e-commerce sales to digital and consumer care. I credit this first decision for driving us into our “victory lap” year. After four-plus years of transformation, our sales are up and our teams are winning awards like Walmart’s Omnichannel Vendor of the Year, ICMI Best Social Support, Stevie Awards, etc.
HVW: You joined Dorel Juvenile nearly five years ago and were quickly promoted to vice president of consumer engagement. Now, Dorel Juvenile’s Amazon.com sales are up 75 percent year-over-year. How were you able to boost online sales so dramatically?
BL: Actually, our 75 percent bump came between my second and third year. Over the last four-plus years, our Amazon sales have increased over five times. I credit much of this success to our CEO’s vision and our pragmatic approach to growth. We knew we wanted to grow with Amazon, but instead of just opening an account to start selling, we took a hard look at the Amazon Scorecard KPIs and decided to focus on operations. This wasn’t the most appealing path, but it was definitely the best investment in our future. Part of our work involved organizing all our SKU info into a central PIM, for which we contracted a solutions vendor, which was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
HVW: Dorel Juvenile has about 25 brands in its portfolio. To what extent do you customize the e-commerce marketing strategy for each brand?
BL: Our strategy changes for each brand based on whether the products are OPP, MPP or HPP items. For HPP/Premium, for instance, we’re dealing with MAP items, so we don’t need to be concerned with price compression (i.e., when Amazon matches Walmart’s price, sending unit volumes skyrocketing but driving down margins). However, we do need software to enforce MAP. For OPP, there isn’t enough margin for us to promote heavily online, so these items are becoming a store-only play — quite the opposite of the trend!
HVW: With a massive global presence and products available in more than 100 countries, how do you maintain a cohesive omnichannel experience for customers?
BL: Maintaining an omnichannel experience for customers globally only extends to the core brand promise. Everything else gets localized for each country, and sometimes even for each region. For instance, Maxi-Cosi enjoys a 60 percent-plus market share across Europe, so online features tend to be of the “jump the shark” variety. Customization, 3-D visualization, etc., simply communicate Max-Cosi's status as a market leader. In the U.S., Maxi-Cosi has only been around for a few years, so the experience is less “sizzle” and more “steak,” which means we focus on areas like amazing, tell-your-friends customer service.
HVW: You’ve spoken to the importance of creating programs that connect with consumers on an emotional level. What are the most effective technologies you’ve found for supporting this relational marketing strategy?
BL: We work with some amazing technology vendors, but I feel that the best is yet to come. Recently, drip marketing has pushed beyond email and into multichannel modes. Next-gen vendors like Acquia can now map your entire customer journey pre- and post-sale to the right type of action. That could mean anything from sending a text to make sure the out-of-box experience is as great as it should be to firing off an order to ensure that a technician is on their way to do an in-home setup.
Tech like Button can also tie popular apps together for brands that may not need their own app and only want to be a small part of another app. The best example I’ve seen is making a restaurant reservation on OpenTable and having a button pop up from Uber saying, “Do you want to get a ride to dinner?” This is an amazingly seamless user experience.
HVW: What does Dorel Juvenile do to stay on the cutting edge of tools and technologies?
BL: Our teams attend large shows such as Shoptalk for e-commerce and ICMI for consumer care, but I prefer the VIP-only, invite-only groups of fewer than 100 attendees where I can speak relatively freely with my peers. Groups like Execs in the Know and CommerceNext are perfect examples.
HVW: How do you take learnings from one of your divisions and apply them to others?
BL: We’re physically located in the Baby Gear group, which is one division out of three (the other two being a Furniture group and a Sports group). The Furniture group was first to dive down the e-commerce path, and our group has iterated with it. Operationally we’re separate, but when one starts seeing success with a new vendor, we all join in.
HVW: Before coming to Dorel Juvenile, you spent one year completely rebuilding a 200,000 affiliate cost-per-click ad network for Chitika, whose ads competed head-to-head with Google AdSense. How did this high-pressure experience of transforming teams, technology and workflow influence your strategy for digital culture transformation at Dorel Juvenile?
BL: Working on a product that competes with Google’s core offering was like staring down a charging bull, so it was a great rush when we started winning conversion rate A/B tests on Yahoo owned-and-operated properties like Yahoo Finance. We built our own programmatic ad platform, real-time bidding platform and mobile ad platform, so we were quite prolific. Coming to Dorel, I hired eight of my former colleagues to fill key roles. In my opinion, core transformation teams are teachers as much as they’re doers.
HVW: What do you see as the key ingredient to successful digital transformation?
BL: Achieving adoption into the culture is the ultimate goal. Transforming a company is 100 times more difficult than forming a team from scratch. Many times, this is because existing employees may have worked at the company for 20-plus years, and they have a certain social contract with the company — I promise to do X if you pay me X. When they’re asked to learn new software, let’s say, some are excited because they’ve been waiting for such a change, but others feel like they’re being asked to jump out of a lifeboat.
Identifying what people have signed up to do is critical to understanding where to push and when to pump the brakes. One of our newer projects is probably my favorite: We’ve been building on a learning management system using Lesson.ly so that employees can learn at their own pace, hit goals, and make progress rather than feel left behind.
HVW: What attracted you to Dorel Juvenile as the next step in your career?
BL: I believe that Dorel is just one of many “sleeping giants,” or midsized manufacturers, that truly holds the keys to success in an Amazon-dominated online world. If you manufacture your own product instead of contract manufacturing with others, you have a distinct competitive advantage. You can pass to consumers the margins that you would have spent with outdated marketing spends such as retailer co-op dollars. When Amazon launches another private-label brand in your category, you can actually bid to be the manufacturer.
That’s why investments in operational efficiencies are so critical. You have to be the best and continually reduce expenses and hone processes to compete in an e-commerce world where operating costs (e.g., driving traffic, buying ads, creating content, etc.) continually go up.
HVW: How does a company like Dorel Juvenile attain and maintain its status as the world’s leading company within a specific sector (e.g., juvenile products)?
BL: It all starts with rock-solid products. Ours literally save lives (car seats), so everyone here is incredibly motivated to deliver the best. We think about it as if our own children were riding in those seats, and for many of us, they are.
Holly Vander Wall is director of marketing at Avenue Code, an enterprise IT consulting firm.
Holly Vander Wall is director of marketing at Avenue Code, an enterprise IT consulting firm. A retail and e-commerce enthusiast, she enjoys keeping up with the rapidly changing retail landscape and is a regular contributor at Avenue Code Snippets. In her free time, Holly enjoys traveling, reading and writing.