Marketing an Online Specialty Retailer

Brand & omnichannel marketing that grew sales & market share during a category- & industry-wide downturn.

Marketing an Online Specialty Retailer

Almost everyone is a fan of something. Marketers are no exception. When I was offered the chance to handle marketing and communications for Right Stuf, Inc. – an online retailer and home video publisher of Japanese animation (anime) – I was intrigued. I was already a fan of the content.

However, what made me enthusiastic about the position were the opportunities to:

  • Participate in the development, marketing, and sales of the product in both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) functions; and
  • Apply what I was learning (at my then-current job) about niche marketing, online retailing, and effective multichannel marketing on an even larger scale.

Challenges & Outcomes

The North American anime and manga (comics) industry was hit hard by the U.S. recession of 2008, declines in the overall home video industry, and its own bubble bursting. Together, these factors led to the closures of online and brick-and-mortar retail competitors, increased competition from a certain online superstore, and several key specialty publishers and distributors exiting the market entirely.

Marketing and communications strategies I developed, managed, and executed drove significant annual gains (2008-2012) and increased market share for my employer – despite those challenges.

These successes also prompted my promotion from “marketing & PR manager” to “marketing & communications director” in February 2010.

An Omnichannel Strategy for Brand & Sales Marketing

I called it a “come-at-it-from-all-angles” approach, but over the last few years, marketing pundits started to refer to it as “omnichannel marketing.”

In short, I worked across departments to:

  • Create consistent, fan-focused messaging;
  • Deliver those messages and engage fans via a variety of tactics and media; and
  • Ensure all marketing, public relations, and sales promotions worked together.

Combined, these created value and a positive experience for current and prospective fans-turned-customers.

Work Areas & Accomplishments

Anticipating and amplifying store-specific trends and customer demand.

  • Accurately analyzing integrated sales, viewership, and anecdotal data; sales forecasting.
  • Collaborating with vendors to develop and execute short- and long-term publisher and product promotions, as well as cross-promotions.
  • Conducting and utilizing research to identify, inform, and measure the effectiveness of marketing projects. (Included original research, plus Google Analytics, sales data, and customer retention/acquisition research.)

Dramatically increasing the volume and value of earned editorial coverage, promotional alliances, and fan attention.

  • Establishing a distinctive, clear “voice” and consistent messaging across store-focused creative and editorial.
  • Expanding, diversifying, and measuring the effectiveness of strategic partnerships and advertising/paid media.
  • Restarting and supervising the expansion of library, anime clubs, and convention outreach.
  • Conducting ongoing media relations, social media, and grass-roots publicity.
  • Leading the development and distribution of: editorial and sales promotion content, advertising creative (print, digital), email newsletters and mailings, direct mail projects (and targeted lists), podcast segments, press releases, and printed and promotional items.

Establishing, managing, and supervising the company’s presence on social networks.

  • Focus on creating relevant content and engaging in genuine, ongoing conversations with fans.
  • Networks included: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest.

Consulting for other anime and manga companies (at employer’s behest).

  • Sharing marketing expertise regarding North American trends and sales potential for their prospective anime, manga, and live-action acquisitions.

“Online Shopping” icon by Creative Stall“Robot” icon by Aaron K. Kim, both via The Noun Project.