Pet Valu is the leading specialty pet retailer in North America with over 700 stores throughout Canada and the United States. The goals of the marketing department included supporting stores in meeting 5% YoY growth targets, and maintaining the retailer’s position upmarket of its big box competitors.
Working directly with our in-house design team, we functioned as an agency ecosystem within the company on both marketing strategy and creative production.
Digital Screen Program
Despite having well-designed print signage and POP, there was a significant gap in the communications funnel. With some discovery, we found that our in-store Pet Experts were spending on average 78 seconds interacting with customers, and in addition to discussing products at point-of-sale, there was little time to convey promotional information.
With this in mind, we sought to develop a solution that would not clutter the stores with more print material. It became clear that digital promotion was the answer, and I took the lead on developing a digital screen program for stores. With the December holiday season looming, I was tasked with rolling out the program to a minimum of 80 stores with less than 4 weeks of lead time.
First, I engaged an external a video production team to follow a production formula to create a 3-minute loop of video clips around pre-selected product. Next, to reduce the learning curve for store staff I organized for the shipment of hardware to be pre-programmed with the first round of materials. I then developed easy-to-follow training materials on how to set up the hardware and provided educational process documents to our head office Helpline staff to assist with tackling any technical issues related to the program.
Although the initial plan was to create a cloud-powered content dissemination program, concerns about rollout in remote stores and franchisee acceptance indicated a need for proof-of-concept before upgrading to a cloud solution. For the temporary solution, content was delivered to a cloud server with new content bundle notifications arriving via email, and importance was placed on ensuring store staff, even those who did not consider themselves tech-savvy, understood how to update the materials regularly to support month start and end dates, flyer drop dates, and special events.
The program rolled out flawlessly and was praised by operations and store staff alike for a smooth implementation. The following quarter, the program had been extended to include Paulmac’s and Bosley’s branded stores as well as U.S. stores with their own customized materials. Within 1 year, there was a 90% uptake across all stores, and the program had earned a 96% satisfaction rating with store management, with many even stores even opting to use multiple screens.
As the assistant editor of Companion Magazine, I helped manage content fora quarterly print run of over 500,000 copies Pet Valu, Paulmac’s, Bosley’s, and Pet Valu U.S.
I conceived several of our feature pieceswith a goal of providing knowledge and builting brand trust, including product reviews by real pet owners, calling out the knowledge of our in-store Pet Experts with product reviews & recommendations throughout the magazine, and “Ask a Pet Expert” columns.
I assisted editing, content production, coordinating design and print, and managing contributor pieces. In addition, Spring and Fall editions always included a fashion section for our private label and vendor apparel lines.
Not forgetting our focus on the whole family, we also included a Kidz Zone section, to encourage little ones to participate.
Though magazine circulation and readership was high and growing, it was evident that single use content was a massive missed opportunity for sustained value creation. Digitzing our content across multiple channels would both increase the shelf life of content and organically boost SEO.
First, I facilitated the syndication of column content with blog on the newly redesigned Pet Valu website, as well as leveraging topical content in e-newsletters.
I then lead the digitization of Companion Magazine, selecting ÜberFlip for its reasonable pricing as well as its wealth of content interaction tools. Video content was embedded directly into pages, thereby also leveraging the content produced for the in-store Digital Screen program.
Page linking made for easy navigation from the front cover as well as the table of contents directly to desired content. Hyperlinking allowed for linking to informational pages, or outside pages such as the example below where users were taken directly to iTunes for app downloads.
When Pet Experts were armed with print collateral, it helped facilitate educational discussions with customers as well as give them something tangible to take home before returning to stores to make an informed purchase.
My personal favourite was a series of Small Animal brochures. These pieces featured information about feeding, habitat, and general care, as well calling out quick facts on the cover of each brochure.
Charitable Giving Program
Pets are amazing companions, best friends, and even our personal heroes. But with so many loving pets in need of forever homes, my team and I sought to make Pet Appreciation Week into a month-long affair to raise awareness as well as funds and product donations for adoption agencies and shelters across North America, coupled with in-store adoption events.
Stores spread the word at a grassroots level by distributing print pieces to customers and partnering with local retailers.
In stores, donations were recognized with brightly coloured PAWs on which donors wrote their names (and their pets’) for display at POS and on the storefront. It created a sense of pride with customers to be part of something impactful, as well as a great sense of accomplishment for storeowners & managers
At the close of the program, posters and digital pieces announced the success of the event, as well as a piece in the following issue of Companion Magazine.
Charitable Giving Program – Process Optimization
Beyond the visible components, the majority of my efforts were spent in managing donation efforts on the back end. As stores collected donations to charities of their choice, I worked alongside the Director of Finance to manage the distribution of funds and ensure payee and payor data was accurately input.
We searched for methods by which to automate tasks and increase efficiency each year we ran the program, as well as increasing throughput by optimizing data collection from stores, analyzing data for quality assurance prior to providing information to the finance department, and running payment distribution in small, regular batches to go out to pet charities.
In the 3rd year of this successful program, it was expanded to a year-round operation where April’s Pet Appreciation Month and October’s Thanks-for-Giving events were the crown jewels of our Pet Food Bank program. This required a significant process overhaul and redistribution of tasks to improve efficiency between marketing, merchandising, and finance.
In just 3 years, our charitable giving program grew from <$.5M to >$1.1M across all our North American stores, and total time-to-payment was reduced from over 2 months to under 3 weeks.