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September 13, 2017
Case Study

Email Marketing: How a men’s shirt company’s focus on quality led to segmentation and personalization

SUMMARY:

Three weeks before men’s shirt company Twillory even officially launched, the team had thousands of email addresses on their list from a social media giveaway. What they didn’t realize at the time was that half of those names were dead weight.

Read how Twillory was able to double engagement rates after segmenting out unengaged names and then balancing out win-back campaigns.

by Courtney Eckerle, Senior Managing Editor, MarketingSherpa

 

THE CUSTOMER

Since Twillory began over three years ago, the founders of this men’s shirt company have focused on quality.

“We knew that we had to earn our way into people's closets, and we founded Twillory with three basic principles — value, innovation and experience. Those are the three things that really affect everything that we do,” said Eli Blumstein, Co-founder and Creative Director, Twillory.

At the outset, he and his team thought, as a younger ecommerce brand, their customers would be mostly millennials. While that may have been true in the beginning, he said, currently the core demographic is men aged 24 to 40.

CHALLENGE

The shirts, Blumstein said, are “absolutely magnificent. Every single touch point is beautiful. The details of the shirt, from the collar stays, which keep the collar in place, everything is immaculate. It's something that when people get it, they realize the value and experience is way beyond anything that they've had.”

Twillory is constantly reinventing the shirt, he added, to continually add unique details like mother-of-pearl buttons and detailed stitching based on customer needs and feedback.

Because of that quality and innovation in the product, he and his team wanted to ensure they had an ecommerce experience to match.

“We view a customer who enters our website as walking into the doors of our store. Every single touch point and interaction they're going to have with our brand is going to be like concierge service,” he said.

While the team was focused on building that customer experience, they knew that the email program was going to be a critical part of it. The easy part was building it up — the more difficult part was culling over half the names from the send list because they weren’t engaging.

CAMPAIGN

Twillory launched and grew their email marketing using a social media giveaway but later realized that many of those were unengaged and holding them back.

After switching to a new email service provider, they discovered that by focusing on the engaged portion of their list, they could provide better and more personalized email.

Step #1. Build email list using social media

To begin building an audience and driving excitement around Twillory, the team set up a giveaway on social media that would be used to collect email addresses before the company even officially launched.

“When we started our business, we wanted to do our best to build hype, and in the digital age, especially four years ago, ecommerce brands were just really starting to become popular … and people were getting used to shopping online,” Blumstein said.

The giveaway, which began two months prior to the launch, was focused around one of the few male accessories — a high-quality collar stay that helps to keep shirt collars stiff and in place.

People entered the giveaway by liking or following the company on social media and would then give their email address to be sent the free collar stay. 

“I think we ordered somewhere close to 10,000 collar stays,” Blumstein said. “They were gone in about two days. They went so fast, and this was weeks before we even launched.”

Because of that giveaway, Twillory built up a nice email list, as well as some brand buzz, before the company had even officially launched.

“There's no question about it, the core of our first customers came from that giveaway, and it was a great way to launch; we loved it so much. We repeated it again a year, and then a year and a half, after we launched the business,” he said.

It helped them get off the ground in an affordable and innovative way, he added, and the thousands of email addresses were great to start off with — but maybe not to grow with.

“As the brand grew, however, the question arose that maybe all of those names were actually holding the email program back,” he said.

Step #2. Find the right email service provider

Initially, Blumstein and his team chose an email service provider that was easy to batch-and-blast but lacked customer service and personalization aspects, which they eventually realized they needed.

“When we launched, we didn't have that much time to really focus on email. We signed up with one of the basic companies,” he said.

Product emails were sent one to three times a week, and open and clickthrough rates held steady for the industry average, which the team initially didn’t see anything wrong with. As the business continued to grow, however, they realized they weren’t maximizing email’s potential. They had to become more data-driven.

“After we built our email list, we had a hard time really fine-tuning it. [Our original vendors] weren't very helpful. So we knew we had to find another solution, and we started looking around,” he said. “One of the key differences was the fact that there were real people behind it who you could talk to. I have personal numbers from the employees there, and they've been extremely helpful.”

The vendor’s initial assessment, however, was a difficult pill to swallow for Blumstein — to cleanse the email list and remove unengaged names. The team was scared to take the advice and initially held off since it was right before the brand’s busy holiday season, and the whole holiday campaign was run through the former ESP.

After the holidays, Blumstein assessed the suggestion to cleanse the email list of unengaged users and knew that “we could be doing a better job with our emails.”

Step #3. Build an engaged email list

“What they did was they helped us really — this is an exercise that took a few months, but they hand-held us and helped us create different segments based on purchasers in the past year, two years, three years, not only purchase, [but] people who are engaged in our email the past year, two years, three years,” Blumstein said.

The team created three different tiered lists based on engagement levels. Less than half of the entire original list made it onto tier one, but the people who were on it were readily engaging.

Blumstein said that it is better to have something small but effective rather than something bigger — which makes you feel good when you see the numbers — but ultimately, not good for the business.

“Trust me, it was so painful … but sometimes it's healthy to just really focus on what works.”

The vendor also helped the team set up a win-back campaign to help bring some of the people from the lower tiers into the main send group.

“It took literally a year, but we built … an incredibly engaged email list. It's not as big as it was, and it's not that big at all, but it's incredible,” he said.

Another benefit of the email list cleanse was that it helped Twillory’s sender reputation over time. The unsubscribe rate decreased and open rates increased.

“[With Gmail] if there are too many emails that are being unopened or rejected, or whatever the case may be, then less emails actually make it to people's inboxes, or they go to junk mail,” he said.

By building up that healthy email list, the brand was building up a better sender reputation as well.

“More and more people start actually getting and opening your emails. We saw it. We see the numbers now,” he said.

While the brand is experiencing success emailing to the engaged list, Blumstein hasn’t given up on the rest of the list.

“I know there’s still some juice we can squeeze out of it,” he said.

The team is currently testing different segments to see if there are ways to re-engage names that didn’t make the engaged segment list.

 “We’re careful to keep that balance and make sure to keep up that good name and reputation that we’ve built within the email ecosystem,” he said.

Step #4. Focused on email personalization tactics

Once Blumstein and his team began focusing on an engaging their list, it made sense to begin using some personalization tactics.

For instance, the team decided to do a moving-sale promotion when the company moved into a larger warehouse. The first moving-promo send was getting a lot of engagement with the first-tier sends — a 48.5% open rate and an 8% clickthrough rate. So he decided it could be a useful tool to potentially interest the unengaged segment. 

“I decided this might be an opportunity to dip back in to that list of people who didn't even reach the tier three list as we called it,” he said. “These are people who have stopped [engaging] already for a year.”

After discussing it with the full team, the brand took a strategy of moving beyond a catchy subject line and a graphic in the email send, and come from a completely different place.

This time, it was a simple email, and it didn’t come from the brand. It came directly from Blumstein.

“Instead of a massive graphic with motion or catchy taglines, it was going to be very, very simple text-based email without any pictures in it,” he said.

The send was a “really open and honest” email and achieved a 33% open rate and 11% clickthrough rate with a group of people who had not engaged in over 270 days.

“We got great engagement from those emails, and we’ve added [those names] to our master email list right now. Now for the new season, we have a much greater list that we built over the summer,” he said.

RESULTS

“Your email marketing is a living organism. It's alive. It's not something that you can ever just leave it and be like, ‘OK. I'm good to go, and now it's going to run by itself,’” Blumstein said. “It's something that requires constant analyzation, re-analyzation and tweaking because an email address is the most valuable thing a company has.”

By nurturing their email list, even though they removed over half of original subscribers from regular sends, the team has doubled their average email open rate to 40%, with an average clickthrough rate that tops off at 10%.

“It’s been an incredible exercise and it's been eye-opening … We had certain projections, and we actually doubled everything we planned on doing over the summer,” he said.

Some brands, he added, “are maybe too obsessed with pushing their own product or maybe pushing deals. It's really important to understand the balance of what your brand is and what your customers want to hear and what they want to see from you.”

Creative Samples

  1. Twillory product email
  2. Collar stay
  3. Engaged users promo email
  4. Unengaged users promo email

Sources

Twillory

Klaviyo – Twillory’s email service provider

Related Resources

Email Marketing: How MVMT Watches increased holiday revenue gains 262% with optimized content

Email Marketing 2016: Nine case studies that show how marketers challenged “best practices” in key driver email campaigns

Email Marketing: Why you should run a win-back campaign (and how CNET engaged 26% of inactives)

Email Marketing: Cleansing your list of inactive users

Download the free Quick Guide to Email Marketing


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