Making Personal Connections

Outdoor retail giant Bass Pro Shops has an ambitious marketing vision: to connect with the needs of individual outdoor enthusiasts. In an increasingly impersonal, multichannel environment, that vision requires powerful, agile technology – such as Comosoft LAGO.

Marketing professionals have never had it easy. Even when channels were “limited” to print and broadcasting, it took tremendous effort and creativity to create lasting and positive retail moments of truth for an individual product – not to mention an entire brand.

With the advent of Internet and mobile technologies, the job became a lot harder. Each new device has made it harder to connect meaningfully with an increasingly busy, distracted audience. And print itself has changed radically. The days of large, general interest catalogs are gone – replaced by highly-personalized retail pieces, of varying lengths and levels of complexity, each targeted to meet the needs of a very specific audience. If the marketing effort involves hundreds of thousands of individual SKUs, the level of difficulty goes to eleven.

One of the country’s major retailers, Missouri-headquartered Bass Pro Shops, has addressed this marketing challenge head-on. With 200 retail and marine center locations, plus a robust e-commerce presence, Bass Pro serves over 200 million customers annually. This includes many in-store programs and family-oriented events. It also offers a mix of specific-interest as well as larger “master catalogs” specific to freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, and hunting. With a growing role in outdoor conservation, the addition of museums, education centers, and a major resort, and the 2017 acquisition of Cabela’s, the company is not slowing down any time soon.

In the midst of this phenomenal growth, Bass Pro maintains an ambitious marketing vision, rooted in founder Johnny Morris’ connection with his fellow outdoorsmen. With every product line – from fishing and hunting gear to boating and camping to outdoor clothing – the company seeks to connect with individuals. “We try very hard to create a one-to-one dialog and presentation to our customers, no matter where they may live or shop,” says Joe Gies, Sr. Marketing Manager of Creative and Photography Services. “With our print catalogs, tabs, and inserts, we have increasingly transformed what was traditionally a mass-market channel into a one-to-one connection with our customers.”

Regions and Versioning

For a company that sells so many products, the process is anything but simple. Gies describes a typical example involving the full-color tabloid inserts delivered by mail or in newspapers. Digital editions are also uploaded to each store website. These are produced every two weeks and have driven significant sales volume nationwide. Their effectiveness is due in large part to their deliberately-customised regional and demographic appeal. While other retailers typically customise inserts by price, Bass Pro also customises each version according to actual customer interests. “You’ve got a fisherman in South Florida who’s fishing for large-mouth bass,” Gies says. “He’ll be using a specific type of plug or lure—like an orange-colored worm. But we don’t want to feature those types of lures to a fisherman in Wisconsin or Michigan who’s fishing for northern pike. To have authenticity in our presentation, we always feature products that are relevant to each geography – just as we hire people in our stores that have local knowledge and expertise.”

To execute on that ambitious strategy, Bass Pro uses Comosoft LAGO system to manage and automate the regional versioning of tabloid inserts. LAGO connects marketing line managers and graphic designers with a third-party Product Information Management or PIM system. Based on the company’s detailed knowledge of local fishing and other outdoor preferences, combined with selections by the merchant, the system makes region-specific products readily available for placement, while giving the designer leeway to create the best possible layout. Complex product information, including images, are imported into the layout. Images and product information (e.g., pricing and other SKU data) are automatically updated whenever the PIM system is modified.

The Bass Pro approach to regional versioning results in an extraordinary number of pages. The company produces many tabloid publications annually, each with multiple versions and inserts. (A typical, 40-page retail piece may version up to well over 400 pages.) As a result, the Bass Pro creative department must handle thousands of pages, each utilizing extensive PIM data, based on hourly imports from merchant systems. “Comosoft LAGO is basically our beast of burden that helps us manage all that complex versioning, and real-time change out, on a constant basis,” Gies notes. “All of our catalog and retail programs run on the backbone of LAGO.” The company’s use of the Comosoft system extends to its outside premedia service providers and printers, who use LAGO for page production, automation, and scripting that manages hi-res image handling for Bass Pro projects. The company also provides printers with the LAGOgenerated “pagination” laying out complete versioning for each market.

Gies praises LAGO’s ability to handle 3rd-party PIM data – as well as DAM and page layout automation – in real time. “Although we’re large, we’re also a very nimble company. We deal with changing market conditions. If we need to do a last-minute promotion, and include it in a tabloid insert, LAGO helps us do that.”

Portrait Bass Pro Shops

Bass Pro meets the needs of more than 200 million customers each year through online retailing and its 200 shops and education centres, which also host numerous programmes and family events. There is a mix of speciality and larger ‘main’ catalogues of freshwater and saltwater fishing tackle and hunting supplies. The company, which now includes museums, training centres and a larger resort, is also playing an increasingly important role in conservation. The acquisition of Cabela’s in 2017 is evidence that Bass Pro is far from having satiated its appetite for success.
In the face of this phenomenal growth, Bass Pro maintains its ambitious marketing vision, rooted in the intimate relationship that founder Johnny Morris fostered with his peers, fellow outdoor enthusiasts. With every product line – from fishing and hunting gear to boating and camping accessories and outdoor clothing – the company strives to cater to each customer personally. “We are very committed to having a personal dialogue with our customers and providing them with a personalised presentation, no matter where they live or shop,” explains Joe Gies, Senior Marketing Manager of Creative and Photography Services at Bass Pro. “With our print catalogues, brochures and inserts, we have transformed the traditional mass distribution channel into a personal relationship with our customers.”

Hamburg, 2018