Cover Story: Finding the Perfect Balance
The key, according to Marshall, is having a top-notch management team "all committed to our mission and vision. We spend a lot of time and effort focusing on our brand, making sure it's consistent across channels and that we put our best foot forward so hopefully customers will give us a chance."
Gaiam's integrated approach appears to be working, observes Mark Kirschner, chief marketing officer for Gaiam's online marketing solutions provider LinkShare. "Gaiam aligns its promotions and creative across channels and reaps the benefit of doing so," he says, adding that Gaiam is very much on top of today's consumers' multichannel shopping habits.
Passive E-Mail Program
One means of tying it together is through e-mail marketing, although Marshall says the company is more passive than most, preferring to protect its customer file's privacy. "We're pretty conservative in that we don't blast people five days a week like other companies," he says, noting that the most Gaiam transmits is one to two e-mails a week; renting out its e-list is out of the question. As for the content of the e-mails, the company sticks to a mix of three methods:
- merchandise promotions with percentage-off prices; and
- offer-based messages, such as this percentage-off one: "10 percent off any order of $100 or more."
"At Gaiam and in my previous life, I never found acquisition e-mail list rental to work," Marshall says. "We've never found it to be profitable."
Whither the Catalog?
Gaiam's heavy focus on the online channel doesn't mean its catalog has gone away. Even though Gaiam has steadily cut back on catalog volume over the past five years, both for economic and environmental reasons, Marshall says the catalog still "ultimately drives sales and builds the brand."
Yet, according to Marshall, the catalog "tends to be more of a shopping experience," while the Web site is more of a buying experience. "Nobody pages through a Web site like they do a catalog."