Three years ago, the Providence, R.I.-based Alex and Ani started with 12 employees. Today, it has more than 1,100 employees, revenues of $240 million, and is being courted by investors as a potential IPO candidate.
One of the fastest growing mid-sized retailers in the US, the lifestyle brand's success can be attributed to one simple fact, Ryan Bonifacino, the company's vice president of digital strategy, said.
“The product is awesome. I can't take credit for that,” he told CMSWire in an interview at the Adobe Summit Digital Marketing Conference in Salt Lake City.
Digital Team Structure
The product being referred to — Alex and Ani's bread and butter — is bracelets that include personal charms, such as animals, sports or religious symbols. But as good as the product is, a digital strategy is still crucial. At Alex and Ani, building that strategy is the job of Bonifacino and his team of 20.
How important is digital? Bonifacino sees the digital chief today as the gateway executive to the CEO. “The digital head is the path to the CEO spot,” he said. “It’s data-driven decision making.”
Interestingly, Alex and Ani does not employ a CMO. The digital marketing unit is split between commerce and content. The commerce side includes digital marketing, online advertising, digital asset management and email marketing, among other duties.
On the other side there’s content marketing, including social media. Last year, Alex and Ani reaped the benefits of a Facebook campaign that Bonifacino said helped boost sales considerably.
According to a press release, Alex and Ani used eBay Enterprise solutions to help with Facebook ads, driving $1.6 million in sales between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. EBay Enterprise partnered with Kenshoo Social for Alex and Ani’s targeted social marketing campaign.
It uses Magento Enterprise Edition to aid its e-commerce efforts with paid search and paid social.
“We added modeling between search and social, and Kenshoo was the tool that was very important for us to do this,” Bonifacino said. In terms of volume, paid social surpassed paid search in the fourth quarter last year.
Alex and Ani’s digital team also uses Adobe products, such as the Site Catalyst analytics tool.
“We almost made Facebook’s earnings call,” Bonifacino said.
On Twitter, Alex and Ani has a “no Tweet goes unresponded” policy, in which a digital team member spearheads an automated process for proper response.
Building a Digital Brand
While Alex and Ani is big in its brick and mortar division with 40 stores, it also puts a lot of stock into its Web site.
“How do we make it aesthetically pleasing, the way our products are presented?” Bonifacino asked. “How do you change images with dynamic imaging capabilities?”
Early conversations at the company focused on building a digital presence that would excel in a multi-channel world.
“It’s all about the centralization of digital — not only the e-commerce activities and e-commerce P&L, but the digital support that we would provide to other sales channels,” he said.
For example, wholesale represents about 60 percent of the business. In centralizing digital channels, Alex and Ani started with one sales channel and built support for the others.
“How do you have a digital conversation with a buyer at Bloomingdale's?” he said. “How do you handle that in a nonconflicting manner?”
Digital, Bonifacino said, is “very central to our decision making, and it’s not just impacting e-commerce.”
Alex and Ani invested heavily in its Magento e-commerce platform, and doesn’t see itself replatforming. It’s too busy to take on such a large task, Bonifacino said.
Adobe spotlighted Alex and Ani as a company that has successfully utilized Adobe Experience Manager to augment the capabilities of the Magneto platform.
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