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Nov 21, 2005
How To

Brooks Brothers Email Test Results -- Letterhead Style Wins

SUMMARY: Venerable apparel retailer Brooks Brothers has been running a bucket load of email tests for the past 18 months, and we've got the results (and creative samples) for you on:

How to gain more opt-ins
HTML vs text-only vs Letterhead-style email formats
Subject lines Also, strangely dissimilar ecommerce versus print catalog conversion rates for men's ties.

Who knew?
Although Brooks Brothers' customers are mature and tend to enjoy shopping at retail outlets more than online, the company has seen a general shift from phone orders to Internet orders in the last year.

"It's later than other companies," says Jennifer Clark, Ecommerce Marketing Manager. "But you have to remember that we're an older demographic." For the past 18 months Clark and the Web team have been running intensive email and Web tests. Here are some of their discoveries:

Gaining email opt-ins - what works

Clark's team has added email opt-ins at a variety of touch points throughout the site, rather than relying on just one.

Predictably, most shoppers sign up for emails during the check-out process (although registration is not required to complete the purchase).

However, the second largest source of email sign-ups is directly from the home page, and the third is when a visitor registers for the site (more on site registration below).

There's also an opt-in button on the store locater that allows visitors to sign up for emails featuring in-store event news. Clark says that 5%-10% of visitors who use the locater sign up for emails at that point.

Five lessons learned from email campaign tests

Clark's team sends emails about once a week, with two a week common during the holidays. Average open rates are 25%.

o Lesson A. Segment offers

Clark has learned, not surprisingly, that the more segmented the list and email offer, the better the response. If she is promoting an offer on men's suits and women's accessories, the campaign works best if men see the suit offer first; emails to women focus on the accessories offer first. In fact, when the women's offer was brought forward for the women's list, it outperformed the men's suits offer by 30%.

o Lesson B. "Branded text" can outpull HTML and text-only

For "last chance" dated messages, Clark discovered, like many eretailers, that text-only emails have an urgency that gets a better response rate than glossy HTML.

But in the last month, her team ran a new test: a "branded text" email format. It's in HTML but looks like a text-only note that has been put on Brooks Brothers company letterhead with a bit of simplified site navigation. Response rates rose by 7%.

o Lesson C. Subject line wording

Open rates are more successful in campaigns that have words like "private" and "exclusive" in them.

o Lesson D. Imagery mimics catalog

When a catalog hits homes on a Monday, the image in a Wednesday email is the same as the cover of the catalog and the image on the home page. The next week, the image on the email might be from the back cover of the catalog, followed by the image from the two-to three-page spread.

o Lesson E. Forward to a friend

The "forward to a friend" button generally lives on the bottom navigation bar in emails, but recently Clark tested bringing that up to the body of the email for a "friends and family" promotion. "We saw tremendous results."

Converting more clicks to buyers

Naturally the current print catalog's front and back cover hero shots are generally what sells best online. But sometimes online sales trends are unpredictable:

-- 76% of non-iron shirts are sold online (versus the catalog)

-- Ties sell far better in the catalog than online

"We're spending more time and energy around developing editorial content around the ties to see if we can move the needle there," Clark says. Upcoming tie content will include a page on the benefits of the technology that is used to make a new stain-resistant tie.

Clark has also tested free shipping offers to improve overall conversions. "Variously, it's been $150 and $175. Now it's $200; we didn't see any erosion in [conversion], and the average order did go up."

Recognizing that many conversions happen offline, the team put a lot of energy into making the store locater as easy as possible to find and use from every page on the site. Visitors can search for stores by zip, address or state, or by retail, factory outlet or airport locations.

"It's always within the top 10 clicks off our home page," says Clark.

Converting more shoppers into registered users

The site offers shoppers the incentive of a $10 discount on an order of $50 or more to register.

Registered visitors are greeted by their name when they return to the site. They can also use the address book feature, save shipping and billing information and view order history. An express checkout whereby the site remembers the shopper's card info is optional for registrants.

To help more users over the registration hump, the process requires as little information as possible: first name, last name, email, billing information and shipping information. If the shipping address is the same as that for billing, a user can click a button that says "same as billing" and the rest of the form is automatically filled in.

Tests scheduled for 2006

Clark's team is testing combinations of catalog mailings, postcard mailings and emails to find the magic number. "This is being made a lot easier because we're just finalizing the bits and pieces of our database project, pulling it all together," she says.

Now, she'll be able to segment not only by recency, frequency and monetary amount, but by product categories, product affinities and retail trade areas.

"Say we want to increase tie sales, so we find people who have bought ties in the store and on the phone but not online, so then we'll send them more targeted information," she explains. "We'll also be able to look at a retail customer who uses a credit card, and we'll know that, yes, we mailed that person a catalog and we can see that [next week] they went to the store."

Useful links related to this story

Creative samples from Brooks Brothers' email tests: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/brooksbros/study.html

CheetahMail - Brooks Brothers' email service provider http://www.cheetahmail.com

Experian - vendor powering Brooks Brothers' new marketing database http://www.experian.com

Brooks Brothers http://www.brooksbrothers.com

See Also:

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