Les MIlls undergoes digital marketing transformation

In response to growing customer demand, Les Mills International has embarked on an ambitious new business-to-consumer strategy, involving a total digital marketing transformation.

If you're a regular participant in gym group exercise sessions, chances are you'll be familiar with Les Mills International. The New Zealand-based fitness specialist has been creating choreographed fitness programs since 1968 which are currently used in more than 17,500 gyms around the world.

For the past 48 years the company has grown by focusing on a business-to-business distribution model. Fitness program licences are sold to gyms which, in turn, offer workouts to their members. Product brands include BODYPUMP, BODYBALANCE and BODYATTACK.

Bradley Moore, Chief Digital Officer at Les Mills International, says this organic growth had been supported by a traditional array of marketing initiatives. "The company undertook a range of above-the-line marketing such as magazine advertising, as well as activities such as in-gym promotions and seminars for instructors," he says.

A new direction
In mid 2015, in response to growing customer demand, the company embarked on a new business-to-consumer strategy. As well as continuing to license workouts to gyms, they are now also offering a new consumer solution: an innovative video streaming service called LES MILLS on Demand.

"We knew that this new direction would require a rethink of our marketing strategies and processes," says Moore. "We understood that we would need to alter many of the existing processes that had been in use for years, and we had to be more innovative and flexible. You could say we were embarking on a digital marketing transformation."

The Les Mills International marketing team was keen to create a range of campaigns tailored to different markets and customer groups. It wanted to be able to measure response rates and quickly adjust campaigns as required.

"It became clear to us that, to be successful a digital data driven approach would be the way to go," says Moore. "We wanted to put in place the tools and techniques required to allow us to take advantage of digital channels to reach customers in markets around the world."

Digital marketing platform
To support its new digital strategy, Les Mills International partnered with Oracle Marketing Cloud. This provided the marketing team with access to a portfolio of tools to underpin its activities in an integrated approach to marketing and advertising technology. 

Oracle Eloqua allows Les Mills to create powerful automated personalised experiences for all its customers. The company creates journeys for its different types of audiences, including clubs, instructors and consumers. It also provides support for on-boarding, nurturing, cross selling, and even abandoned carts for the new consumer offering. 

Integrated to its marketing automation is the Oracle DMP Bluekai data management platform which will allow Les Mills International to combine its data with Bluekai DMP third-party data to run audience analytics and understand more about its customers and prospects.

Les Mills International will then be able to create look-alike models based on its most valuable customer profiles and activate them through paid search, display and social campaigns for more efficient bidding and improved ad messaging. 

The company’s goal is to make the most of its advertising spend to help support its growth into the consumer market globally but also deliver the right marketing message to the right customer segments at the right time.

Finally, Les Mills is also adopting the testing and personalisation technology, Oracle Maxymiser. By integrating this last piece of the puzzle into its marketing ecosystem Les Mills International is closing the marketing technology loop. 

“Our website content will be tested and personalised against the different types of audiences built within Oracle DMP Bluekai touched on the advertising ecosystem or nurtured by Oracle Eloqua.  Digital marketing is not a set-and-forget operation," says Moore. "You have to be constantly adjusting your tactics and refining materials. It is really a journey and not a destination."

A granular approach
With the digital platform landscape now in place, Les Mills International is able to take a much more granular approach to its marketing campaigns. Customer response can be tracked across all channels and materials fine-tuned to ensure maximum conversion.
"We essentially have three audiences - club owners, instructors and consumers - and we are now able to speak to each of these audiences in a customised way." 

Moore suggests that other marketers keen to embark on a similar digital transformation journey should remember that it is not simply a matter of investing in new marketing software.

"It can be easy to get carried away with the technology and think it will be the answer to all your challenges," he says.  "But I would advise other marketing professionals to remember that people are their most valuable resource."

Moore says the key is to invest around 10 percent of the available marketing budget on tools and platforms and reserve the remaining 90 percent to invest in the people who can take advantage of them. Having a partner who has the same vision and emphasis on training and customer success was a key selection criteria. 

"There's no benefit in having the best platform available if you don't also have the skilled and experienced people to take advantage of it. Technology is an enabler but it doesn't remove the need for strategic thinking and creativity when designing campaigns."

Finally, Moore says that when it comes to undertaking a successful digital transformation strategy, it's important for everyone in an organisation to be a part of it.

"You need to communicate exactly what it is that you are trying to achieve and ensure that everyone is on board," he says. "If you do that, you are far more likely to succeed and the business will reap the benefits that such a transformation can deliver."

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