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Building a Digital Presence From The Ground Up

How Northern Commerce helped Williams Food Equipment create a new digital experience—and expand their reach across Canada.

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Though Lindsay Arnold went to college for graphic design, she quickly realized the results of the designs intrigued her more than the designs themselves. And so the clouds parted, and a light shone the way to a more strategy-rich atmosphere: digital marketing. It took just that 1 impasse to find the right path, which would lead to her current role as an email guru.

“I love that it’s totally a choose-your-own-adventure kind of environment,” Lindsay says of her role at London, Ontario-based agency, Northern Commerce. Prior to Northern, Lindsay was at a small digital marketing agency that shared an office with a web development company. The 2 ended up merging to form Northern, which now has offices in both London and Toronto to accommodate their team of nearly 60 people.

Northern is responsible for building new e-commerce sites from scratch and marketing them, and with this growth, there was a lot of freedom to form new roles that hadn’t existed before.


“At the time, I was in more of a general digital marketing role, but I noticed that no one was really owning the email space, so I basically just claimed it as my own,” Lindsay says. “And it was welcomed with open arms. I was allowed to test new strategies, and expand on how we approach email. We weren’t really using any marketing automation at the time, so I headed that entire development.”

That expertise came in handy when an Ontario-based food equipment e-commerce company approached Northern for some help expanding its reach throughout Canada.

Putting on construction hats

One thing Lindsay has noticed about e-commerce endeavors is that email strategies can tend to be a little hurried—which is understandable, given how little time small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) actually have to devote to their marketing.

“We find that many SMBs usually have a list, but they know nothing about the subscribers, and they’re just doing a Hail Mary system where they blast everybody,” she says. “So what we want to do is move them to a more data-backed approach where we’re following up with people based on the actions they are doing—whether it be e-commerce or not. We’re taking user interests into account and basically just collecting and leveraging data to make it a better customer experience.”


And so when Williams Food Equipment approached the agency 3 years ago to tackle their goals of driving traffic to the store as well as generating attention across Canada, Lindsay and her team knew they had to build a digital experience from the ground up. And that meant starting from scratch with a new site—and a new way to nurture customers through email.

Reaching for the tool box

“The way all of it started is we built a Magento website for them. In doing that, we learned a lot about the company,” she says. The fresh start also included launching a national brand awareness concept for them to let consumers know who they are.

“They want to sell professional-level food equipment and make it accessible and affordable to all Canadians,” Lindsay says. “So our main goal was to basically take that in-person, customer service element and apply it to a huge e-commerce channel.”


Because this was prior to Mailchimp’s integrations, such as Mailchimp for Magento, Northern’s developers had to come up with an efficient resolution that didn’t hemorrhage precious resources.

“We built those custom solutions to pull the data over, but custom builds can quickly use up resources,” Lindsay says. “It was a matter of finding a lean solution but also the most effective one.”

Now, Mailchimp seamlessly integrates with Magento, so agencies like Northern can use customer data to personalize a brand’s marketing, sell more stuff, and grow their business.

Drawing up blueprints

Williams Food Equipment’s email marketing strategy also needed some demolition. “They had an email list, but a lot of it was pretty stale and unengaged, and overall it’s not the kind of thing we want to import into a Mailchimp account,” Lindsay says. “So we helped them go through that, clean it up, and then come up with a way to really nurture people and let them know about their products and service offerings.”

Northern helped Williams increase their list size by a whopping 74%, bringing the total up to around 35,000 subscribers. And to increase conversions and engagement rates, Lindsay and her team built out email automations, which send the right info at the right time so that customers are aware of sales and new product launches. That included a welcome workflow, abandoned cart, and one-off emails that follow up with certain customers after they’ve bought a high-value product showing them how to use it.


“I compared our automated engagement against manual email engagement. Open rates increased 161% and click through rates increased 400%,” Lindsay says.

But that’s not all: In terms of email growth, year over year Northern has seen a 90% increase. That culminated in a 108% growth during the off-season and 102% during the holiday season.

3 Ways to Construct Your Online Marketing Strategy

Revamping your online game plan can seem daunting, but with the right approach, it doesn’t have to be. Here Northern’s Lindsay Arnold shares 3 tips about how to build your digital presence:

Leverage consistent messaging.

Whether you’re using email, ads, social media, or a combination of each, make sure you’re sharing a consistent message across all relevant touchpoints. For example, if you’re offering a discount across your Facebook remarketing ads—and through an email campaign—include messaging on your landing page that includes similar messaging.

Your customers will enjoy a more seamless experience and you’ll be building recognition and trust for your brand: a win-win.

Test different channels.

Regularly seek out and test new ways of connecting with your customers online. If your brand is new to the digital space, you can have a lot of fun and success trying new strategies to see what works. This can include big changes like new types of email automations or new ad formats, or even targeted A/B tests on email campaigns.

Make sure to track your performance to see which of the channels perform best for your brand. This will help you build a strategy for continuous growth.

Think of your customers before yourself.

When planning any marketing content, think about who your customers are, and what they may need from you (rather than what you need from you). You’ll get more value from helping them solve problems than you will from just pushing products on them. Make sure to tackle problems at all stages of the customer journey, and make the content accessible wherever your customers are online.

Just like in person, customer experience online is everything—the more value you provide to a user, the more likely they are to provide value to you.

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