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Digital Marketing Tactics to Increase Consumer Engagement and Loyalty

Lauren Carnell

Lauren Carnell

VP of Digital Marketing and Customer Loyalty at Varsity Spirit

Lauren Carnell, Varsity Spirit

With a B2B2C business model, introducing interactive digital marketing tactics can greatly enhance the customer experience and buyer journey.

Quartz Network Executive Correspondent Britt Erler sat down with Lauren Carnell, VP of Digital Marketing and Customer Loyalty at Varsity Spirit to discuss ways to develop digital marketing strategies that offer positive impacts for internal and external partners.

Lauren shares insight into:

  • Strengthening the customer relationship with enhanced digital offerings
  • Adapting messaging to appeal to a B2B2C model
  • Increasing customer loyalty

Quartz Network: Can you give some background about yourself and your role at Varsity Spirit?

Lauren Carnell: I started my professional career in a more of a retail role dating way back when I was at Macy’s and then LVMH. I then moved from New York City to Memphis to work at AutoZone. Most recently I’m at Varsity Spirit. Varsity Spirit is all things cheer and dance. And we have a very unique business model that we love to discuss with all the people all the time.

Quartz Network: How do you build a digital marketing strategy that helps alleviate any friction or effort between the sales rep and the customer?

Lauren Carnell: It’s really about providing the entire message across the board. We have B2B2C relationships. We sell to businesses, which are schools and gyms. But we also advertise and market to the consumer, which is the athlete, and then the parent gets to pay for everything.

We have got three different end communicators. So the message, while cohesive, needs to be a little bit different depending on who we’re talking to. To create that frictionless communication, it needs to be the same strong message from the top down. That message says, “We are varsity. We are strong. We are going to make it through. We’re going to be transparent with you, and we’re going to give you all the opportunity to provide the feedback to us so that we can react to what you need and want from us, regardless of if you’re a coach a parent or an athlete.”

Quartz Network: How do you measure customer loyalty?

Lauren Carnell: We created what we call our Varsity Spirit Coaches Council. We meet with large and small teams that includes very diverse, heavy users of Varsity and less engaged customers. We wanted to bring everyone in and talk to them about anything from interviewing to surveys. We’re doing many things to ask for the feedback. We use an app called Band to build communication there. We’ve really created an open line of communication where customers can talk to each other, they can talk to us, and they can post within the small group.

We’ve learned so much. We’ve learned that schools need spirit now more than ever. So maybe the cheer team can’t cheer for the football team, because football is not happening, and some things that you do in cheer are high touch. We might not want to do that right now, but that doesn’t mean that the school can’t still have spirit. It means that they’re looking to us to create these pep groups, these people that say, “We’ve got to keep going, we’ve got to stay strong, and we’ve got to keep all of the energy in the schools because students need to learn, and they need to enjoy themselves when they go to school.”

Quartz Network: How do you allow for a digital experience for the customer world while still keeping that customer and sales rep relationship fully engaged?

Lauren Carnell: A couple years ago, we created our Digital Catalog. It’s a customizable catalog where customers can go in and pick their team colors. The entire 250-page catalog turns into their school colors, so they can see what uniforms and what warmups look like in their school colors. They pick primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. Depending on how they pick those colors, the catalog renders the items in those colors, and they can play around with new colorways and change the items. So that’s our really big digital touch point for our Varsity Spirit business unit.

In no way shape or form does that take the place of a sales rep. The rep knows the trends. They know the sizes of the products. They know what the school down the street is doing. Most times, rival schools do not want to have the same uniforms and they don’t want to wear the same warmups, just shy of spying on each other. They don’t know that, but the reps help them to say, “You’re going to want to pick something different,” or “Your team tends to have the classic look, why don’t you lean towards these styles.” The reps really have all of the intel. They know about the fabrics, the colorways and what goes on.

So our customers have not only come to rely on the reps, some of them are honestly best friends with our reps. When we play around with, “Hey, what if we provided more digital tools,” the pushback is, “Fine, do whatever would help us, just don’t take away our reps. We need our reps, we want our reps.”

It’s creating that cohesiveness. A lot of times, the customers do the pre-work, they go into the catalogs, they pick all the looks that they love, and then on that catalog, they can submit it to the rep. The rep gets it in their fitting room, and then takes it to the console and says, I see you picked all of these items. Let’s talk about this. What’s your budget? What look are you going for? Then, they whittle it down, and then they end up making a purchase from there. So imagine if you had that on your everyday wardrobe. How amazing.

Quartz Network: With your B2B2C business model, how do you digitally align your B2B and B2C initiatives?

Lauren Carnell: We really focus on the channels of communication there. Many of our customers are on email because they’re professionals. The new generation of athletes does not email, so it’s easy for us to weed that out. We send email communication to customers that like to hear from us in that way. But when we’re speaking to our athletes, it’s through social media or through SMS.

There’s different channels that work directly for different customers. YouTube is huge for the younger generation. So we have all of the same things that we’re selling, and we all have the same brand messaging and brand voice, but we tweak it with the audience via the channel and the flavor of the way that we put it up.

So you can really attract the athlete on the channels where they are and show them all the things that we’re doing. They go back and tell their coach, “Hey, we love these shoes. This is what we saw. This video was amazing.” The coach comes back and says, “Send me an email about all the products.” It all works cohesively and the message it’s just slightly changed depending on who we’re talking to.

We’ve got cheer and dance, and we’ve just added performing arts, so the bands and all things spirit. Then, we have apparel and we have camp and competition with all of these intermixing, different businesses and groups of focus. Then we have the parent, the athlete, and the coach.

So we needed to figure out the best way for our camps and competitions to be communicated to the coach to say, “Here was your team, here’s what they did last year, what would they like to do this year?” or “Here’s a suggestion, how about we send you an email that says, you have three teams?” So a coach can be junior varsity, varsity, and youth. We send one email that has information about all three teams. We have one button for each team that says click here to register, again, for the same exact competition or same exact camp that you attended last year. We call it one click registration.

It sounds simple, it looks simple to the receiver of the message, but it’s extremely complicated to pull all of that data together and put it into one email. That’s what we’ve been working on, and over the last year we’ve been able to really create that that one communication to the coach about all of their teams, and allow them to have that one click registration so that they don’t have to search down, look into records, figure out what they went to last year, and register for it again.

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