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Snacking Ducks Spawn Business for Outdoor Retailer

Posted by Ian McCue, Commerce Content Manager

Since its founding nearly 75 years ago, Mack’s Prairie Wings has evolved from a local general store to a national brand.

Location played a major role in that evolution. Mack’s Prairie Wings is located in the small town of Stuttgart, Ark., along the Mississippi Flyway, a route that birds take when migrating south from Canada. Stuttgart is also known as the rice and duck capital of the world, as the soil is ideal for rice farming. It makes a perfect spot for ducks flying south to stop for a snack. Those circumstances make the town a destination for duck hunting, attracting visitors from around the country.

Mack’s Prairie Wings recognized the demand and started selling waterfowl hunting gear and accessories through a mail-order catalog in the early ‘90s that eventually reached 2 million people. Later, when ecommerce exploded, the company started selling online with the help of an ecommerce platform. Over time, ecommerce became an increasingly important source of business for Mack’s, as it has for most retailers, and it needed a way to increase online sales.

The company faced a unique challenge in that a majority of its revenue comes during the migration season of October, November and December. It adds 50-75 temporary employees for that three-month stretch when thousands of visitors descend on Stuttgart.

“If you’ve been to a mall on Black Friday, that’s how we are for 60 days of the year in our store,” COO Eric Chin said. “So things are crazy, and we’re doing everything that we can to get people what they need and to get them in and out of the store.”

Fueling Future Growth through Email

While location has fueled much of Mack’s early growth, the company is looking towards email to continue its expansion online. In 2017, Mack’s implemented the Bronto Marketing Platform so it could better enage with its shoppers and, soon after, went live with NetSuite for financials, ecommerce and inventory management.

However, during the business’ high season, staff lacked the time to brainstorm and create email campaigns to engage new shoppers and customers. Mack’s needed help from someone who knew how to build effective email campaigns and could do so without the staff’s assistance, which made Bronto Managed Services a perfect fit. The managed services team mapped out and executed the email marketing strategy, taking care of copywriting, graphic design, analytics and reporting. Mack’s could outsource this work for three months every year while also learning from the team’s deep industry knowledge.

With Bronto in place, the retailer launched several email marketing campaigns that immediately drove online sales. Most successful was a cart abandonment campaign that sent shoppers a reminder if they put items in their shopping cart but failed to check out. This has become a key source of conversions year-round, not just during peak season.

Another was a welcome series for any new customers who signed up for the newsletter or an account. After registering, the person would get a promo code to incentivize them to purchase something.

A third campaign targeted customers who had not bought from Mack’s in at least 10 months. It sent them a promo code, and if they did not open that email, it sent other discount offers. If the customers left all three emails unopened, the system moved them to the inactive list.

In just eight months, Mack’s email list grew 20 percent after shrinking 10 percent annually in previous years. That alleviated Chin’s reservations about a third party handling emails.

“One of the things that I personally was really worried about going into managed services is you’re handing this piece of your business off to people that don’t know your business. We’re a very niche market,” he said.

“But they did their homework. They went back and looked at our history, did some research and my fears were put to rest very soon. There were a few tweaks on images or verbiage, things like that, but these guys have been doing it for thousands of customers and they know what grabs attention. It worked out great and we didn’t miss a beat.”

In January of this year, Mack’s resumed control of its email marketing campaigns. With an understanding of best practices – thanks to training from the Bronto team – and a robust email platform, the business continues to see positive results.

It’s quite the transformation for a company that opened its doors as a mom-and-pop store on Main Street in 1944. Mack’s Prairie Wings shows that retailers of any size can leverage technology to better engage with today’s customers. Something as simple as sending the right emails at the right time can help a business capitalize on the opportunities presented by online shopping and grow the bottom line.

See the results of an in-depth survey on how consumer shopping preferences have changed in today’s omnichannel environment.