Ask an Expert: MacKenzie-Childs’ CMO Speaks Customer Loyalty

by Sean Ogino |

Ask an Expert: MacKenzie-Childs’ CMO Speaks Customer Loyalty

mackenzie-childs marketing

Welcome to our new segment, Ask an Expert! With this series, Annex Cloud interviews some prominent figures in ecommerce and retail to gain insight on industry trends. This week, we interviewed Larry Shaw, Chief Marketing Officer of MacKenzie-Childs. Since 1983, MacKenzie-Childs has designed home decor and artisan furnishings in their quaint farmhouse in Aurora, NY. Every teapot is hand-painted and each clay cookie jar is carefully molded. We worked with Larry on building their trulyMC customer loyalty program, and this is what he had to say:

What is the single greatest inspiration behind the trulyMC loyalty program?

Every year we have a live barn sale where over 25,000 of our most devoted customers visit our farm in Aurora. These people have so much passion for what we do so we wanted to take that experience and apply it on a grander scale. By implementing trulyMC, we were able to begin building and shaping that community.

Larry has over 25 years of retail experience and has implemented many creative initiatives since joining the MacKenzie-Childs team as CMO in 2016. Their branding is built on the quality and craftsmanship of the pieces they sell. They built a powerful marketing strategy behind their products with three retail stores, an ecommerce site, and a strong social media presence. However, adding a tiered customer loyalty program has been a total game changer for them.

What effect has loyalty had on your customer retention efforts?

After only eight months of implementing our omni-channel loyalty program with referral marketing, we’re already seeing a 9-10% increase in our customer retention rate. To see those numbers so quickly has been remarkable for us.

In addition to the increase in retention rate, they also saw major increases in average order value, new content subscribers, and purchase frequency. So much so that we decided to co-author the MacKenzie-Childs Loyalty Case Study with them, which dives into how we built the program and why we saw so much success.

mackenzie-childs trulymc loyalty programHow do you think Annex Cloud has helped you reach your goals?

Annex Cloud has been willing to customize their platform and processes to accommodate our specific program needs. It being a tiered customer loyalty program, we knew it would require some customized features. But instead of seeing it as a negative, Annex Cloud saw it as good challenge.

To dive more into how we helped MacKenzie-Childs build more loyalty with their customers, check out our case study! Annex Cloud’s unified platform with customer loyalty, user-generated content, and referral marketing functionality allows brands to customize their programs to their unique specifications. To learn how Annex Cloud can help you with your customer loyalty needs, contact us for a free consultation!


The “Makeup” of Sephora’s Marketing Strategy

Sephora's Marketing Strategy

It’s no mystery that Sephora has seen major wins in the beauty industry. Since 1969, this cosmetics brand has sold millions of units in retail stores worldwide and continues to thrive today. But what is it about Sephora’s marketing strategy that sets them apart from similar companies like Ulta and Glossier? What is it about them that other brands just can’t keep up with? The short answer is loyalty. More specifically,  how they use personalized loyalty to build a community of beauty advocates.

Unique Customer Loyalty Structure

What differentiates Sephora’s marketing strategy is its approach to rewards. Though they do have a points-for-purchase model, there is so much more that goes into it. For example, in their rewards bazaar, they have new incentives every Tuesday and Thursday and customers can browse a massive gallery of available products. And their unique collection offers limited edition and exclusive product releases solely for its rewards members. With more perks like free makeovers and complimentary birthday samples, it’s easy to see why so many beauty enthusiasts rave about Sephora.

Sephora's Marketing StrategyTo get a better understanding of why people are so loyal to the brand, I asked long-time customer and beauty enthusiast Erin Duff her thoughts on Sephora. “I’ve been a Sephora member for over 11 years and it’s because they have such high quality products from so many different brands. I love that you have the option to spend a few rewards points for a sample of something or save up and get big like a custom makeover.”

User Generated Content

Sephora has set the standard as far as what cosmetic brands should be doing with their user generated content. Take the Insider Beauty Community, for example. It consists of forums surrounding beauty tips, live chats with influencers, and stunning photo galleries. But what I think they do really well in UGC is visual commerce. With many gated channels like Makeup is Life and Best Hair Ever, users are able to post and see pictures to help them guide their purchase decisions. All of this has helped grow Sephora grow and sustain a massive presence with over 15 million subscribers on their website and social media.

Omni-Channel Loyalty

Whether it’s online sales, in-store, or at events, Sephora uses creative ways to retain its customers among all channels. They do a great job of advertising their loyalty program to their network and it’s evident by their impressive online sales and growing list of retail locations. Their unique spin on omni-channel is the work they do with live events. They are constantly advertising beauty classes, makeover events, and of course their epic annual conference Sephoria.

Sephora's Marketing StrategySephoria is a one-of-a-kind live forum where influencers, patrons, and celebrities all collaborate and discuss what’s happening in beauty. Their events and creative marketing strategies help reach a more engaged community and turn Sephora’s avid followers into brand advocates. “By fostering personal connections and generating brand love over the years, it’s only natural that we leverage their input and further strengthen our program beyond just perks and discounts,” says Deborah Yeh, senior vice president of marketing and brand at Sephora.

Sephora’s network is continuing to grow and there’s a reason for that. They have implemented many of the right marketing and loyalty strategies to not only grow their customer base, but to retain it as well. Annex Cloud believes that the right combination of customer loyalty, user-generated content, and omni-channel strategies are the keys to retention. We work with many similar beauty and fashion brands and use loyalty to help them nurture and build real relationships with their customers. If you have any questions about marketing or loyalty, contact us or schedule a consultation today!

Case Study: How to Build a Successful B2B Loyalty Program

B2B Loyalty Case Study

B2B Loyalty Overview:

It is very true that there is no one-size-fits-all loyalty program. Especially not in the business-to-business industry. The B2B space is such a specific market with a narrower audience, so it must be treated as such. That means audience segmentation and personalized incentives are that much more important. This study will review how Annex Cloud helped two industry-leading companies build out their B2B loyalty programs and what impact it had on those brands.

Goals of B2B Loyalty:

Though the strategies may differ, there are several common goals of a B2B loyalty programs. These businesses both needed to increase customer spend and increase customer lifetime value. This can be challenging in B2B because the market is not only competitive but niche as well. They wanted to build brand advocacy and basically create a community of ambassadors. They also needed to reduce discounts on items. We live in an economy so deeply entrenched by discounting that retailers and B2B companies alike have the challenge of migrating away from it as to maximize product return.

Our Solution:

Every loyalty solution has its challenges but B2B requires another level of personalization. Both of these companies opted for Annex Cloud not only because we have a unified marketing platform with customer loyalty, user-generated content, and referral marketing capability, but also because we work with businesses to create a custom implementation strategy.

Annex Cloud also helps companies nurture their relationships with existing customers through personalized incentives, which in turn increases customer spend and average customer lifetime value. These incentives inspire customers to become brand advocates where they’re more likely to take actions like referring a friend or reviewing an item. It’s about following the customer journey from beginning to end and building a true community around their B2B brand.

B2B Rewards:

The key to rewarding in the business-to-business space is allowing your customers to sample your products risk-free. If you offer an impressive product catalog with a great loyalty offering, they are more likely to purchase. It’s a low risk scenario if built surrounding high-margin products. This B2B model implemented by Annex Cloud has proven to help support sales and drive revenue.

Consumer Electronics

Client A: Consumer Electronics


Our client, a leading consumer electronics company, built a very successful model around selling office electronics like computers, monitors, copiers, and printers to small businesses around the world. They wanted to implement a B2B loyalty program that would sign up more users and build a community of brand advocates.

They had so many questions about best practices for strategy and segmentation. How do we best incentivize with the B2B model? How do we grow our customer base while creating meaningful relationships with our existing customer base? They chose Annex Cloud for its experience in creating very personalized incentives specific to the B2B industry.


Soon after launch, we saw major wins for the program. By designing a solution specific to our client’s B2B sales goals, we positioned them as a leader in SMB loyalty. Since initiating this campaign, we have already signed up over 100,000 businesses for the program. We also saw a 7% increase in repeat purchase rate and a 9% increase in customer lifetime value. However, probably the largest takeaway from the program has been building a community of 10,000 brand advocates. By building a custom solution with Annex Cloud and by leveraging their user-generated content, our client is seeing a huge increase in partnering businesses and overall brand awareness.

b2b loyalty

Client B: Physician Loyalty


Our other client is a large specialty healthcare company with an array of products like over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals. Their primary objective was to build a loyalty program targeting physicians, which of course brought a lot of challenges. How do we keep a physician’s attention when there’s so much competition in healthcare? How do we reduce discounting and still keep them engaged? Luckily, Annex Cloud specializes in using long-term incentives to keep attention and to help reduce discounting.


By implementing a tiered program where discounts depend on the physicians’ spend, we have been able to see major benchmarks in performance. We have now signed up 70% of our client’s current customer base since the launch of the campaign. We also saw a 6% increase in customer spend and an 8% increase in customer lifetime value. But what we’re most impressed by is the 25% decrease in discounting. For a healthcare company of that scale, to reduce discounts by a quarter is a huge plus. By working with Annex Cloud to award returning customers and by personalizing incentives, our client was able to surpass its goals in customer acquisition and discounts.

To learn more about how Annex Cloud can help your business grow, contact us or schedule a demo today.

Olympus Camera’s Visual Commerce Software Story

Visual Commerce Software

Maybe photographer Chase Jarvis is right when he says that the best camera is the one that’s with you. Smartphones, more or less, have come close to Jarvis’s proposition. But their incredible growth has put a freeze on the photo equipment manufacturers’ ambitions. According to Canon’s Q1 2016 financial statement, sales of Canon’s compact cameras have dipped 22% and Canon expects them to keep dropping. Of course, there is no quick fix to the recent performance of the photo equipment industry, as it’s way too difficult to stop the avalanche of smartphones and make people actually buy real cameras. But visual commerce software for photo equipment manufacturers can at least offer a hope of reaching out to maximum people and make camera’s functions more desirable in the eyes of potential customers.

The argument that creates a strong case for visual commerce for photo equipment manufacturers is that visual commerce software is all about showcasing images, whether they are user generated or company generated, in an appealing manner. You can curate images taken by your cameras and display them on your visual commerce board to show the quality of the pictures. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. When they see the actual photographs, there remains very little that creates doubt in the customers’ minds about the quality of the camera. That’s why shoppers who view video are 1.81 times more likely to purchase than non-viewers. It signifies that brand building, brand communication, and conversion can be through the roof.

It then explains why GoPro is been doing it so religiously. It is asking its customers to share the photos taken by GoPro cameras with a specific hashtag. Unsurprisingly, the quality of the photos and their extreme setting helped these graphics get shared like wildfire.

gopro instagram

The next argument for visual commerce software is that images and videos can guarantee steady and bankable customer engagement. It partly has to do with our brain setup and partly with the overcrowded space of visual platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest. The findings of scientific studies show that 90% of all data processed by the brain is visual, which makes 65% of people visual learners. It means that the brand message or any other communication registers more quickly and clearly through visual formats. This ease of comprehension makes them more engaged with images and videos. It’s not without any reason that content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.

Moreover, user generated content is a pivotal component of visual commerce framework. As images are the tangible outputs of photo generating equipment, it’s almost natural for camera manufacturers to ask their customers to share images- just like GoPro. Besides, visual content is more than 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. In short, visual commerce for photo equipment manufacturers can generate customer engagement as well as virality. We have seen that with Olympus; our esteemed client.

Read on below for more about visual commerce software for photo equipment manufacturers…

The Real Example:

Olympus Camera wanted to revamp its advocacy efforts and we suggested it our Visual Commerce platform. The platform was customized in such a way that Olympus’s shoppers could easily browse and contribute to dynamic photo collections. We also enabled a search by lens or camera mode functionalityl to enhance the navigation ease. It was not just a gallery display…it became a community where contributors could interact with other Olympus photographers. As I have said, the engagement was the most palpable result.

  • Olympus’s interactive user gallery published over 12,000 photos from more than 3,000 photographers since its launch.
  • Photo uploads have increased a whopping 2000% per month since the launch of this new interactive gallery.

Olympus integrated their visual commerce software with a Annex Cloud loyalty program as well. Users can earn loyalty points for contributing their photos in addition to purchasing and taking actions like referring friends, subscribing to their newsletter, and more.

olympus gallery banner

But apart from massive engagement and conversion increases, which is apparent, what makes visual commerce software even more desirable is its analytics. The bird’s eye view approach of the dashboard keeps camera manufacturer aware of the smallest of the smallest movement of the program or campaign. The visual commerce dashboard highlights which of the manufacturer’s advocates are driving the most revenue through their photos, which photos are generating maximum traffic, and what is the overall conversion rate.

Download Olympus’s case study to learn even more about how they’ve increased engagement, conversion, and retention with our loyalty and visual commerce software!

How to Increase Your Refer a Friend Solution Revenue by Over 500%

refer a friend solution

A Refer a Friend solution, the digitalized form of traditional word-of-mouth, is more than handy when it comes to spreading the product awareness among potential customers. But it may fall short when the goal is to achieve more than that–just like what Vivobarefoot, a British footwear manufacturer, had in its mind.

Vivobarefoot presented a complex set of goals in front of us. Their team wanted to maximize its customer base in different countries. Additionally, they wanted to accentuate loyalty and advocacy among existing customers. And finally, they didn’t want different software vendors for different solutions and different countries.

It was apparent to us from the moment we heard all these goals that a Refer a Friend solution alone isn’t the key to crack the code of such a multi-layered wishlist. A Refer a Friend solution fosters growth in a customer base and does a good job of rewarding longtime customers for their advocacy. However, those aims were only part of Vivobarefoot’s goals.  Also, they didn’t want to have multiple vendors and softwares. The need was to have a comprehensive and unified platform where multiple solutions for multiple goals could exist simultaneously.

Keeping in mind the goals and the need to have a single platform, we decided to implement multiple solutions from Annex Cloud in two phases. In the first phase, we implemented Refer a Friend solution, Share and Save, and Social Login solution. 

Vivobarefoot's Dutch Refer a Friend solution

In the second phase, we implemented Ratings and Reviews and Customer Loyalty for the realization of the second goal, which was to boost the loyalty and advocacy. Learn more about the logic and strategy behind the two-phase implementation in our case study!


  • From May to June 2016, Vivobarefoot increased its Refer a Friend solution revenue across all its sites by 556%.
  • Referred friends had a 32.1% conversion rate, an almost tenfold increase from the site’s average conversion rate of 3%.
  • Share and Save gathered over 11,000 new email addresses in six months.
  • Orders placed through Social Login grew by 563% over the past year.

While there’s even more information in the case study, one important tactic for increasing the revenue of their Refer a Friend solution was in its promotion. Simply placing a CTA on their homepage and promoting the program on social media was at least partly responsible for this success.

Of course, the solutions that we provided were powerful enough. But the real game changer was the way we used them. So, what value proposition we did place on Share and Save? How did we incentivize a Refer a Friend solution? And what did Vivobarefoot had to say about this stupendous success? To know the answers, going through this case study is a must. Know how we did it!

A Visual Commerce ROI Story: 123% in 5 Months

visual commerce roi

We know that it’s worthwhile to engage with customers on social and to promote your brand with user generated content. Given the dominance of visual social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, implementing Visual Commerce makes tons of sense for many brands. But at the end of the day, what’s the Visual Commerce ROI?

Visual Commerce ROI: Melissa & Doug

Melissa & Doug, a popular toy brand, has always sparked joy among their customers. Shoppers have been vocal in expressing their love and happiness for their products, including on platforms like Instagram. For them, it was a no brainer to leverage that customer advocacy on their site in the form of Visual Commerce.

The solution was designed to help Melissa & Doug in three ways. First, it allowed the toy manufacturer to pull customer photos from social networks like Instagram. Second, it enabled users to directly upload images to Melissa & Doug’s site- a definite engagement booster. Third, this integrated solution of the toy manufacturer and Visual Commerce platform was able to curate the images shared by the users into flexible and shoppable displays. If users wanted to see different types of themes and collections, they just had to sort all the images by a simple hashtag. The images became instantly shoppable, as users just had to click on the specific customer photo to buy the product associated with that particular photo.

visual commerce roi

While there are many more details in the case study, here are the hard numbers about their Visual Commerce ROI:

  • In five months, Melissa & Doug collected well over 2,000 high-quality customer photos for use on their site and in other marketing materials
  • There was an 89% conversion rate among Visual Commerce users
  • In the five months since the launch of the solution, Melissa & Doug’s Visual Commerce ROI has been 123%

It’s then not at all surprising to see that Em Weingarten, Marketing Director of Melissa & Doug, said the following:

Working with Annex Cloud has been a big success and a pleasure. Their Visual Commerce implementation was quick and easy. Annex Cloud’s Customer Success Team worked directly with our system integrator to ensure that our launch was seamless. The dashboards are really easy to use and we are seeing an impressive conversion rate.”

More on Visual Commerce ROI

Of course, Melissa & Doug’s story is one of many. Here are some other visual commerce statistics:

  • A makeup brand is seeing 21.74% conversion among its Visual Commerce users
  • An athletic apparel company sees $10 of revenue per photo added
  • Visual Commerce raises conversion rates by 5-7% on average
  • Visual Commerce increases CTR by 10-15%
  • Site visitors referred by shoppable Instagram spend 30% more time on-site

Fill out the form below to learn even more about Visual Commerce ROI and Melissa & Doug’s success story!

Engage More Shoppers with In-Mail and Offline Reviews

offline reviews

We all know that user generated content (UGC) like ratings and reviews, questions and answers, and visual commerce boosts conversion by offering trustworthy points of view from your own customers on various social sharing platforms. Consumers trust UGC 12x more than they trust information from businesses, and visitors who interact with UGC are 105% more likely to buy. Given its importance, how can you make submissions as easy as possible, and make sure that you’re asking as many customers as possible to contribute? There are numerous review platforms but solutions like in-mail and offline reviews stand out and can help immensely.

What are In-Mail Reviews?

In-mail reviews refer to the practice of embedding review forms within emails, so shoppers don’t have to visit a separate page in order to write a review. With traditional online product reviews, users will receive a solicitation email with a link to the product display page of the item in question. Shoppers have to click the link, log in, and then submit a review. Many of them don’t have the patience to do this! In-mail reviews consolidate the review process into one step, drastically improving review submission rates. Check out our example below from Kal Tire, Canada’s largest independent tire dealer. kal tire review in email offline reviews Not content to just improve review volume and quality this way, Kal Tire used our in-mail reviews to solicit contributions from in-store customers. This brings us to the world of offline reviews!

How Do Offline Reviews Work?

Offline reviews invite your brick-and-mortar customers to share their opinions. It’s a win-win, since many of the industries that find review content to be extremely important also have a high percentage of in-store purchases. When you have even minimal data–just names, email addresses, and purchases–on your in-store customers, you can make offline reviews a reality. For Kal Tire, we’re taking data from 250 different stores, feeding it into our Ratings and Reviews platform, and then sending out in-mail reviews. Shoppers have been happy to contribute, and this high-quality content is already paying off!

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