NatchBytes: How Bobo's Leverages an Omni-Channel Approach
Bobo’s started as a mother-daughter baking tradition in Boulder, CO in 2003 and is now a nationally recognized baked-good phenomenon. After tasting the first batch of delicious oat-filled goodness, they knew they had to share the love with the world. Today, every delicious treat is still made the old-fashioned way: using the same recipe, baked in small batches and in the same pans Founder Beryl Stafford used over 15 years ago. Every Bobo’s treat is gluten free, vegan, kosher, non-GMO certified, and 100% delicious.
We spoke with Bobo’s Brand Manager, Mike Mackay, about the “family recipe” for success and how he’s using e-commerce to drive sales and online growth for the company. Keep reading to learn about how Bobo’s prioritizes in its online strategy and keeps up with ever-changing digital trends.
Q: Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing online:
E-commerce currently accounts for about 15% of our business, and it’s growing rapidly. We have an omni-channel approach to our digital work - we’re using all the tools in the toolbox, so to speak. Everything we do online is in support of growing the brand. Whether it’s direct to consumer sales, storytelling or advertising, we’re focused on telling our brand story to new and existing customers.
Q: Where did you start selling your product first - online or brick and mortar? Why? Would you do it the same way today?
Beryl started selling handmade and hand-wrapped bars to cafes and grocery stores right here in Boulder, CO 15 years ago. The Brewer’s Market and Wild Oats were some of our first brick and mortar customers and - through a few changes - continue to be great customers today. It is only in recent years we have begun to sell online, but the growth of that channel has been explosive.
Q: What channel has had the biggest impact on your online growth in sales?
Amazon’s been very successful for us for a variety of reasons. We started selling online through Amazon first, before our website. We leveraged Amazon to build awareness and test what does/doesn’t works. There is an inherent energy behind the marketplace, and we’ve leveraged that as much as possible.
Q: Is Bobo’s on Vendor or Seller Central, and why?
We’re on both! The hybrid approach works for us. I’d recommend brands develop a list of pros and cons for each platform, and compare them to your company’s internal value chain. That could mean evaluating cash flow needs or reviewing fulfillment capabilities. There are certainly benefits and limitations to both platforms, but you can’t make the leap without understanding how they all work together and what you can do as a business. More and more brands are finding value in a hybrid strategy, including Bobo’s, but ultimately choosing VC/ SC has a lot to do with internal dynamics.
Q: You’re obviously doing a lot of advertising. Talk to us about your strategy.
We have a multi-pronged approach to online advertising. We’re sure to invest in both top (e.g., awareness and prospecting for non-brand related areas) and bottom-of-the-funnel (direct response and email marketing) advertising efforts. What we expect in terms of a return depends on where we’re focused in the funnel. Bottomline, while our bottom of the funnel tactics have a substantially higher rate of return, these engines aren’t as lucrative if we don’t invest in top of the funnel tactics.
Q: What online tools and software do use when it comes to managing your digital marketing business? What can’t you live without?
Analytics and tracking are crucial to the success of any online business. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, so tools like Google Analytics, Amazon’s reporting, Sprout Social, and a variety of other reporting tools for paid search and social have been paramount. From an activity-based standpoint, Shopify has been tremendous in allowing us to make instant and on-the-fly adjustments without the need for technical skills.
Q: Integrating digital and brick-and-mortar is a hot space. Have you used your digital marketing platforms and data to impact brick-and-mortar sales? If so, how?
We have used digital marketing to learn more about our audiences, their behaviors, their preferences, and so on. Scrubbing that information against scan-level data to prove or disprove hypothesis of key personas and target audiences has provided a lot of real value. It has enabled us to drill down on markets and regions to increase our message frequency from first to last touch, digital and analog, online to brick-and-mortar.
Q: The digital landscape is constantly changing for natural/organic products. What do you think is going to happen next?
Everything all at once. Joking, but not joking. There are so many directions to go, and trying to tie everything in the digital landscape together is the holy grail. Although I do believe the digital landscape is going to continue to grow at a crazy rate in the industry, the pendulum is going to swing back to experiences that truly differentiate the top tier brands from the rest. If you can’t integrate a physical and real experience through digital you’ll fall behind–– especially when it comes to something as sensory as food.
Q: What blogs/newsletters do you recommend to those looking to stay on top of digital trends?
Find a good entrepreneurial podcast and dive in on your commute to/from work. You never know what you’ll pick up on listening to bleeding edge founders.
Q: If you were advising a new natural products company on where to invest their time and energy for online sales and community growth, what would you tell them?
Focus on what’s currently working or what channel you’re most likely to realize the best return on. It’s important to keep an eye on the horizon, but you can’t do it all out the gate. Make sure you invest enough time and resources to make a few key things work first, keeping in mind the next steps, and slowly work out from the center after you’ve realized some wins. With so many nuanced channels, it’s easy to get FOMO. That said, if you can put on blinders for a while and make some headway, you’ll be able to transfer what you’ve learned along the way into the next area you decide to pursue. That knowledge transfer will set you up for more success in the future.