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How Sport Chek’s Big Bet on Facebook Paid Off

sportchek

via Facebook for Business

For years, the paper circular was a reliable way for customers to learn about weekly store sales. And for no company was the circular more vital than Canadian Tire Corporation and its subsidiary, Sport Chek. The Canadian Tire circular — which goes to every house in Canada every Saturday morning — is the most-read piece of paper in all of Canada.

In recent years, though, the team at Canadian Tire began questioning the merits of its circular. “We learned that only 17% of people that received the circular actually read it,” says Duncan Fulton, Chief Marketing Officer at FGL Sports and SVP at Canadian Tire.

Looking for alternatives to its most trusted marketing tool, the team at Sport Chek decided to try something unprecedented in Canadian Tire’s 92-year history: start shifting investments from the circular into digital. After 18 months of testing with digital platforms, Sport Chek’s paper circulars were pulled out of market for two weeks to experiment with digital advertising, mainly through Facebook.

For a company that “lives and dies” on planning the circular, this was a high-stakes experiment. And it paid off. By advertising through Facebook over the two-week span, Sport Chek saw a 12% lift in national in-store sales and a 23% lift of in-store sales of items specifically promoted on Facebook.

We spoke with Duncan recently about what he and his colleagues at Sport Chek learned from their work with Facebook, and how they’re approaching marketing now.

Tell us a little about Sport Chek and the connection with Canadian Tire.

So, Canadian Tire is not a tire company. We have 1,700 retail locations. We do more than a million transactions a day.

We started off 92 years ago as a little tire company and then grew and grew and grew. Today we have the number-one market share in more than 25 categories, from kitchen, to homewares, to tools, to Christmas, to automotive, to outdoor patio and barbecue sets.

Sport Chek, one of Canada Tire’s subsidiaries, is Canada’s largest sporting goods company.

What drove you to completely pull the print circular during this test run?

We did a ton of research and discovered only 17% of Sport Chek’s customers actually read the circular that goes out every week. Yet we were putting half 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.

And at the end of a 14-day period, national in-store sales went up 12% year over year. And of the items that we promoted online on Facebook, national in-store sales lift of those items was 23%. It blew our minds.

How did it feel to pull the print circular after so many years and it being such a major part of your business?

There were hold-your-breath moments. A 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.

What other benefits did you see from this test?

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 a real-time feedback that everyone from the folks at headquarters to the merchants in the stores could learn from.

What do you think the future holds for the circular?

It’s a matter of time and fact that Sport Chek will eventually transfer all of its print circulars to digital.

It will be insane one day to think back at cutting down millions of trees to put out 11 million circulars every Saturday morning without any ability to change for weather patterns, without any ability to change categories, without any ability to help inventory management. It one day will be insane to think of how much paper you push, and all the limitations of that.

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How Sport Chek’s Big Bet on Facebook Paid Off

sportchek

via Facebook for Business

For years, the paper circular was a reliable way for customers to learn about weekly store sales. And for no company was the circular more vital than Canadian Tire Corporation and its subsidiary, Sport Chek. The Canadian Tire circular — which goes to every house in Canada every Saturday morning — is the most-read piece of paper in all of Canada.

In recent years, though, the team at Canadian Tire began questioning the merits of its circular. “We learned that only 17% of people that received the circular actually read it,” says Duncan Fulton, Chief Marketing Officer at FGL Sports and SVP at Canadian Tire.

Looking for alternatives to its most trusted marketing tool, the team at Sport Chek decided to try something unprecedented in Canadian Tire’s 92-year history: start shifting investments from the circular into digital. After 18 months of testing with digital platforms, Sport Chek’s paper circulars were pulled out of market for two weeks to experiment with digital advertising, mainly through Facebook.

For a company that “lives and dies” on planning the circular, this was a high-stakes experiment. And it paid off. By advertising through Facebook over the two-week span, Sport Chek saw a 12% lift in national in-store sales and a 23% lift of in-store sales of items specifically promoted on Facebook.

We spoke with Duncan recently about what he and his colleagues at Sport Chek learned from their work with Facebook, and how they’re approaching marketing now.

Tell us a little about Sport Chek and the connection with Canadian Tire.

So, Canadian Tire is not a tire company. We have 1,700 retail locations. We do more than a million transactions a day.

We started off 92 years ago as a little tire company and then grew and grew and grew. Today we have the number-one market share in more than 25 categories, from kitchen, to homewares, to tools, to Christmas, to automotive, to outdoor patio and barbecue sets.

Sport Chek, one of Canada Tire’s subsidiaries, is Canada’s largest sporting goods company.

What drove you to completely pull the print circular during this test run?

We did a ton of research and discovered only 17% of Sport Chek’s customers actually read the circular that goes out every week. Yet we were putting half 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.

And at the end of a 14-day period, national in-store sales went up 12% year over year. And of the items that we promoted online on Facebook, national in-store sales lift of those items was 23%. It blew our minds.

How did it feel to pull the print circular after so many years and it being such a major part of your business?

There were hold-your-breath moments. A 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.

What other benefits did you see from this test?

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 a real-time feedback that everyone from the folks at headquarters to the merchants in the stores could learn from.

What do you think the future holds for the circular?

It’s a matter of time and fact that Sport Chek will eventually transfer all of its print circulars to digital.

It will be insane one day to think back at cutting down millions of trees to put out 11 million circulars every Saturday morning without any ability to change for weather patterns, without any ability to change categories, without any ability to help inventory management. It one day will be insane to think of how much paper you push, and all the limitations of that.

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