Chewy CMO Mark Eamer on how to be a digital-only retailer with a human touch

Hint: Hire a “Wow Team."
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Retail Brew

· 4 min read

Mark Eamer has been the CMO of Chewy for a little over a year—or, if you’re a labradoodle, about seven years. Before that, he was at Amazon for two stints totaling more than 17 years (labradoodle: ~119 years), starting on the financial and product side. With an undergraduate degree in engineering and an MBA, he moved into marketing roles “very much from a data-driven standpoint” rather than “a Don Draper standpoint,” he told us.

We spoke to Eamer recently at a virtual Retail Brew Checkout event. Watch the entire conversation with Eamer here. But now: Sit! Stay! Read this excerpt.

Can you talk about Chewy’s popular Autoship program?

Chewy, not surprisingly, is really driven by consumables: dog food, cat food, kitty litter, that kind of thing. And when you place an order, you can say, “I want to put this on Autoship,” which means “I want to repeat it at a certain frequency.” And because of that, we also give a 5% discount to our customers.

We saw a need, we built it very quickly, we launched it, and customers were quick to adopt it. So a little over 70% of our revenue now comes from customers who have Autoship, to give you an idea of how important Autoship is in the ecosystem of Chewy.

Someone whose dog I look after showed me a handwritten birthday card her dog got from Chewy.

In the early days, we had a CS rep who was chatting with a pet parent, and just felt like, “Hey, we need to do more than wish them Happy Birthday on the phone.”

And so when the call ended, they had the idea of, “Let’s write a card and send the card.” And the customer was so over the moon, we thought, “Well, why not try to do this programmatically? Why not try to bring that joy to all of our customers whenever we can?” And so we actually funded a team out of our customer service group—we call it The Wow Team.

And not only do we do birthday cards, which we love, but we’ll do holiday cards [and] in the sad event of a pet’s passing that we find out about, we will send flowers to the family and a card.

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In a world that has become so transactional and so driven by sort of the day-to-day frenetic pace that we all live in, it’s nice to just be able to get something from a company like Chewy.

Is this Wow Team a major investment? Can you give any sense of the volume of work they do that this isn’t just an intern in a broom closet?

I’ll leave it at, we have millions of touch points a year that we have with customers with these wow factors, and so it definitely is not a couple interns.

Can we back up and talk a little bit about strategies to get customers on your website before they’re customers?

A lot of e-commerce companies start, you know—it’s pretty easy to get to your first thousand, first 100,000 customers. It’s when you start to get to a million and then you’re trying to get to 10 million, and Chewy is a little over 20 million active customers today. So that gets harder and harder.

And so, where Chewy started is lower-funnel—things like Google search ads, Google product listing ads, affiliate programs, and those are all based on a last-click attribution and you can quickly build your customer base that way.

A couple things happen over time: the price always will get higher and higher as more people pile in. As that marketplace matures, it gets more and more expensive, and so [you] have to look for different ways to grow and differentiate.

And so one of the journeys we’ve had at Chewy over the last year plus is really moving our marketing muscle up into the mid-funnel, so more into social. And upper funnel, so television and connected television.

And it’s really helping cement the brand with customers, in a way, for them to be able to relate to Chewy and then ultimately come directly to Chewy, versus saying, “I’m just gonna go to Google and see if I can find a dog crate.” We want to make sure we’re planting the seed with customers early on to say, “Hey, I want to be able to go to Chewy directly because I saw this great emotive television ad.”
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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