As the pandemic spread across the globe, retail companies such as Party City were faced with many roadblocks as birthday parties, graduations and family get-togethers were being canceled left and right. For what might seem as a challenge to many, marketing professional Julie Roehm audaciously stepped in to combat the obstacles brought on by social distancing. As Party City’s Chief Marketing and Experience Officer, Roehm managed to grow sales by 80% with a focus on the customer first.
In December 2019, Julie Roehm was appointed Chief Experience Officer for Party City with the objective to deliver more to customers than just balloons and party favors. “When I started, the purview was very clear,” Roehm explains. “We wanted to…move Party City as a total enterprise and company from being just the provider of party goods to the provider of the entire party experience.” She set out to accomplish this mission only to find herself, along with her colleagues, thrown askew at the start of the global pandemic.
However, that didn’t shy Roehm away from taking on the challenge stepping in with an impressively accomplished background. Most notably, her achievements include ABRA Auto Body & Glass’s EBITDA growth by $100 million along with their Customer Satisfaction Index to its highest point, the incorporation of highly rated short-films for Ford Focus resulting in 50% sales and the increase of total revenue by 142% for Chrysler via partnerships with top music artists and Disney. Her diligent and deliverable work ethic allowed her to climb the ladder in her career having been promoted seven times from Marketing Manager to Director for Ford and Chrysler.
As disheartening as isolation was for many, Roehm was determined to bring light to customers in dark times. The plan was then to focus on the customer and their experience. In her words, Julie describes, “There is no better mission than this one. I get to come to work with a total focus of trying to make people joyful, and help them be joy for others.”
Julie Roehm first shifted the company’s media budget to digital platforms, such as Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok to enrich the customer’s journey. Content was next on the list as providing examples of safe party plans and storytelling elicited relatability to customers. “It’s the experience that they get online, shifting us from being a category seller online to really an experienced seller online,” she describes, noting the importance of an online presence.
Instagram opened the door for producing high-quality and engaging content in collaboration with influencers. “Our influencers are amazing. They come up with ideas, and we just jump on them as quickly as possible,” Roehm describes.
The company’s influencer partnership proved to be crucial during the pandemic as there was an increasing need for innovative ideas to host parties safely. As Party City introduced COVID safe party supplies such as party kits with free digital itineraries for drive by events, party favors for dropping off in guests’ driveways and e-invitations for online parties with free interactive games, the company was able to work in tandem with social media stars proving that joy can still be cherished in trying times.
Most notably was the raving trend on social media for Halloween candy in Easter eggs that the company observed and swiftly picked up collaborating with the influencers behind the idea. Not only was placing candy in Easter eggs a germ-free way for kids to trick or treat, but influencers also demonstrated through posts that placing lights in these Easter eggs can also serve as an accessory to decor.
Additionally, Pinterest proved to be a huge hit in Party City’s marketing strategy with more than 250,000 followers and 10 million views per month allowing Roehm’s team to observe shopping trends. By posting inspirational content of party decor ideas, buyers can easily access products to purchase with Pinterest’s tagging feature and the “Shop” tab creating a smoother shopping experience.
Finally, Roehm’s experienced in auto provided Party City an opportunity to connect and partner with Hertz introducing same-day delivery in addition to curbside pickup. Hertz employees who were on the brink of unemployment were able to step in and deliver party goods and supplies to Party City’s customers. This collaborative effort answered the call to the customer’s need for easier access to supplies.
Overall “doubling down on customer first” was the key to Roehm’s success in optimizing customer experience. “That was our commitment,” she adds, implying that through the trying times of the pandemic it was important to empathize with customers. She continues, “It just reinforced that we were on the right track with what our promise is.”