Cabela’s – Customer service carries over to Web

For some companies, personalized marketing just comes naturally. Cabela’s, a family-owned retailer of hunting and fishing gear, is already renowned for its personal service. At its handful of retail stores, customers line up around the block for a chance to get in and shop. Its catalog—the primary channel for the 40-year-old firm—is staffed by famously knowledgeable phone reps. This is a sales staff that can tell you the difference between dry fly and a nymph and talk turkey-hunting venues with a customer before closing the sale.

So it’s no surprise that the company is having significant success in its personalized e-marketing efforts. Essentially, it’s the service and customer attention Cabela’s has always maintained, in digital form.

It began last year, when Cabela’s redesigned and relaunched its Web site. Along with the new look and easier operations has come a slew of personalized marketing efforts. Take, for example, the time last year when the catalog discovered it had an overstock in hiking boots, sizes 14 and 15. The shoes were destined for the bargain bin, until the Internet department sent out a personalized email to registered customers with that shoe size. The text contained a hot link back to Cabela’s Web site with photographs and descriptions of the footwear. The response rate was nine times the average for email efforts, recalls Sam Sidner, Internet marketing manager. The boots sold, and at full price. The footwear department expressed new admiration for the Internet team, and a marketing program was born.

Email marketing is now a biweekly affair at Cabela’s. Many emails take a newsletter format and have seasonal themes, such as fall fly fishing and big game hunting. Specialty emails, such as the big boot special, remain a favorite tactic of the merchandising departments. Its most recent effort: a collection of shirts over-ordered in size XXXL. After the email targeting that shirt size went out last month, all but two of the SKUs sold out. And again, no need to discount.

Deloitte Consulting’s Mark Peacock says personalization efforts such as Cabela’s intrigue consumers because they offer relevant information without getting too personal. “There’s a line between showing you know your customer and being a little spooky,” he says. “This works for Cabela’s because the company is known for its personal service. It’s a good fit. It’s the kind of personalized approach that works even if you don’t take them up on their offer.”