Facebook Ads Instead Of Print Circulars? It Worked For Canadian Tire’s Sport Chek

By David Cohen 

SportChek650What happened when the sporting goods subsidiary of a tire company in Canada scrapped its traditional weekly circular for two weeks in favor of advertising on Facebook? Duncan Fulton, chief marketing officer of FGL Sports and senior vice president at Canadian Tire, described Sport Chek’s positive experiences in a post on the Facebook for Business page.

According to Fulton, despite the fact that the weekly circular from Canadian Tire, which included information on Sport Chek sales, makes it way to virtually every house in the country, every week, only 17 percent of people who received it were actually reading it, prompting the experiment.

Did it work? Fulton said Sport Chek’s national in-store sales were up 12 percent year-over-year during the two-week period, and in-store sales of items specifically promoted on Facebook were up 23 percent.

He added:

We did a ton of research and discovered that only 17 percent of Sport Chek’s customers actually read the circular that goes out every week, yet we were putting one-half of our marketing budget into circulars. We’d already worked with Facebook and seen positive results. After 18 months of testing and learning with Facebook — with very positive results — we wanted to see what would happen if we pulled everything out of market for two weeks and focused only on digital.

There were hold-your-breath moments. One day after we launched the experiment, a massive snowstorm hit all of central and eastern Canada, and nobody was shopping. I mean, people were under two feet of snow. And the president of our company said, “That’s not a great start to your 14-day test period.” Sales in Atlantic Canada and Quebec were down considerably. It was horrific.

Now, if you’re using a print circular at a time like this, you’re done, right? You’ve got no flexibility. But we had the digital flyer. So on day two of the test, we pulled all the money out of snowy eastern Canada and we pushed it out west. Within two days, we were driving a 44 percent sales lift in the western provinces. Three days after that, we took our foot off the gas out west and pushed all the money back east, which had dug out and was ready to shop again.

We started getting feedback on offers we had never got before. So one day we would put out what we would call a BOGO shoe offer — spend $250, get $250. That’s a great value. And the next day we would say, “Buy a $700 bike and get a $20 rebate on a helmet.” And people who’d seen the shoe offer would flood Facebook saying that the helmet offer was the stupidest offer they’d ever seen.

We’d run that $20 rebate offer in the print circular for years, but there was no feedback mechanism. Facebook gave us real-time feedback that everyone from the folks at headquarters to the merchants in the stores could learn from.

Readers: Do you still rely on paper circulars?