AMF's Four-Fold Increase in Customer Engagement

AMF Bowling Centers used multichannel marketing, testing, and analytics to quadruple is subscriber based in only 13months.

Gutter ball or strike? The tension a bowler feels when he releases the ball is like the anticipation a marketer feels when awaiting the results of a campaign. For AMF Bowling Centers, harnessing multichannel marketing not only helped alleviate any uncertainty with its campaign delivery, it also helped the company score big with its marketing efforts.

AMF began its marketing efforts starting with the classic broad-based mass-media outlets, such as television, radio, and newspaper. But over the past few years the company has evolved its strategy into a multichannel initiative that includes email and mobile, and relies on testing make more fact-based marketing decisions.

At the core of its marketing efforts is eClub, a loyalty program AMF launched four years ago. Members receive coupons for special offers as a way to encourage play and drive business. "We serve primarily [value-conscious] customers. Offers bring people in more often by making things more affordable," says Merrell Wreden, vice president of marketing for AMF Bowling Centers. "If we can bring them in with a good bowling offer, we have an opportunity to sell them food and beverage, in which we do a large amount of our total business."

The company started building its email database by soliciting eClub membership through direct mail pieces and in-store promotions. By June 2010 AMF had amassed 500,000 subscribers. But that was just the beginning.

According to Wreden, the economic environment drove the decision to launch a significant push to grow the eClub subscriber base further. "Ours is a promotional business, and when we saw the economy going south, we knew that we had to be more aggressive in getting in front of our consumers," Wreden says.

Additionally, AMF needed better insight into which campaigns were most successful. So the company implemented RevTrax promotion platform in June 2010 to help improve its campaign analytics and across numerous digital channels-including email, paid search, display, and social media-by tracking digital coupons from impression to redemption. AMF also uses the promotion platform to help optimize overall campaign performance and increase AMF's eClub membership. Concurrently, AMF encouraged its bowling center staff to promote eClub membership, and launched programs such as search engine marketing, affiliate advertising, and appended direct mail drops. As a result of these comprehensive efforts, AMF increased its email database to 2.1 million subscribers in a 13-month period.

Customers who sign up for the eClub mailing list receive coupons via email that they can either print or open on their mobile device and bring in to their local bowling center to redeem. A recent incentive "Summer Unplugged," offered free bowling for children age 16 and under. Families register their children to receive coupons for two free games per day that they could use at participating centers "from open to 8pm, seven days a week," Wreden says, adding that such programs help to bring in business during times when it's typically slow. "We're a very seasonal business with underutilized capacity in the summer in many markets, particularly during the day."

AMF is also delivering special mobile-only offers. Customers can text in a specific code to receive AMF mobile alerts; new registrants receive a free game for that day. Although AMF primarily uses its eClub emails and direct mailers to target families with children, customers who are ages13 to34 account for 70 percent of AMF's expanding mobile database.

AMF can now analyze the results of these campaigns using the promotional platform. The company tracks which coupons are viewed, printed, and redeemed; it can also determine the source of the coupon (e.g., email, banner ad) by monitoring clicks and using unique barcodes. Additionally, AMF can monitor what effect certain keywords have on in-store redemption. AMF can make enhancements to its campaigns and optimize its bidding strategy to reflect in-store ROI, as well as invest more in keywords that increase transactions. As a result of these changes, AMF is improving its marketing and business performance.

AMF is able to determine more than just campaign effectiveness through the promotional platform. For example, the company tested customers' response to increasing the costs of the games. It ran a digital coupon promotion that increased the base price from 99 cents per game to $1.49. With a 50 percent price hike, AMF only saw a 15 percent drop in redemption, indicating an overall successful increase in revenue.

Buoyed by this success, AMF's eClub subscriber goal for June 2012 is three million. Additionally, the company plans to use analytics and segmentation to reactivate its about 500,000 inactive email subscribers by providing more targeted offers aimed at enticing them to click, redeem, and play.