July 15, 2014
Case Study

Email Marketing: Jewelry retailer integrates product recommendations into email campaigns to lift opens 9%

SUMMARY: "You're really risking an unsubscribe every time you send out an email," said Heirlume Founder and CEO Elaine Russell. "So you need to make that email as differentiated as possible."

To survive its subscribers' cluttered inboxes, fine jewelry retailer Heirlume integrated a feature into its email programs that was already present on its ecommerce website: product recommendations.

Read on to learn how Heirlume's personalization helped it stand out like a diamond in the rough.
by Allison Banko, Reporter


The husband of Heirlume Founder Elaine Russell hates when she shares the story of how her jewelry company came to be — but she tells it anyway.

Russell watched her husband struggle over the years every time a holiday came around. It's not that he bought bad gifts, she said, but he asked for too much guidance.

"Tell me what you want, and I'll buy it for you," he'd tell her.

"That's not the point," Russell would reply. "If I knew exactly what I wanted for you to buy me, I would just go and buy it myself."

Russell pushed for her husband to surprise her with gifts, but he hated it because he didn't know what to buy or where to go. But this wasn't a pain exclusively experienced by her husband. Russell was finding herself helping her friends' husbands buy gifts for their wives during the holidays. She saw a big need, specifically when it came to men hunting for women's jewelry.

That's when Russell created Heirlume, an a affordable fine jewelry ecommerce site with a focus on curating unique jewelry and helping gift buyers find the perfect gift for their significant others.

"We really do target gift buyers and specifically men looking to buy for the women in their lives," Russell explained. "From a merchandising standpoint, we partner with independent artisan jewelry designers from across the country to create unique collections that you really would not find anywhere else."

A gem in segmenting the target audience

In the beginning, Russell explained, the team viewed Heirlume as a site that was targeting men, so its marketing efforts approached all of its prospects from a male perspective. However, Heirlume soon realized that women were visiting the ecommerce site to shop for jewelry themselves.

"As we started seeing more women shopping, we decided to really change that around and bifurcate our whole email list into males and females and really target those emails," Russell explained.

To determine the gender of a user, Heilrume used an algorithm based on the user's email address on file. As a result of differentiating between genders, Heirlume stopped sending so many emails to males, decreasing the company's unsubscribe rates.

The company then began to send more designer-based product emails to women while sending men occasion-based emails containing helpful tips, such as how to determine your wife's ring size.

Heirlume captures email addresses when users create an Heirlume account on the website.

While shopping on the site, visitors can fill out a survey and answer seven questions to get nine product recommendations. However, to view these recommendations, the user must create an account.

"The questions are visual, lifestyle-based questions," Russell explained. "Out of the nine recommendations, they can pick their favorites."

However, while Heirlume's website boasted personalization, its email program did not.

"Our entire value proposition around Heirlume is around personalization — it's around helping gift buyers find the perfect gift for the women in their life," Russell explained. "We built all of this technology on our site to help curate and recommend the right piece for them, but we weren't doing anything in our email to show that and to really show the personalization that we have to offer, because our technology really lived on our website."


The jewelry company's email campaigns typically run during holidays such as Valentine's Day when email boxes are flooding with messages. It was becoming more important than ever for Heirlume to find a way to stick out in a crowded inbox.

The team decided to embark on an effort to integrate product recommendations into emails in order to personalize its email campaigns while relaying recommendations through a channel other than the ecommerce site.

"That value proposition of personalization and recommendation could come through not only on the website, but also through email," Russell said.

Step #1. Create a new email template

The first step for Heirlume to transform its email campaign capabilities was to build a new email template.

"We are a little particular about our email campaigns and our email templates," Russell said. "Visuals and creative sort of things are pretty important to us just because we are in the luxury space."

The team took an existing template and inserted four modules that would house subscribers' recommended products.

Step #2. Base content on user behavior

The email content's product recommendations are not based on the questions answered on the website survey but rather from user behavior.

"They are based on what they are clicking in the email and what they go on to purchase, or put in their cart, or any other behavioral type things on the site," Russell explained. "So they are not currently related to our algorithm around the gifting questions or the lifestyle questions."

As a subscriber interacts with the emails, their recommendations grow and become more tailored for them, she added.

Step #3. Develop segmented email content

Because Heirlume's email marketing is gender-specific, the team must ensure its messages are tailored to each gender. This includes small tweaks in messaging and images.

For example, for one product recommendation campaign, the team developed the following emails:

Email for female recipients

The subject line for the female email stated: What Jewelry Colors Flatter You?
Hi [name],

We know buying the right piece of jewelry to compliment your unique features is hard enough, but flying blind without any idea of what would look best is even more daunting.

Starting with an innate idea of what suits you will help you navigate jewelry counters or Heirlume's growing collection with ease. So we've compiled some color tips (that literally stare you in the face everyday) [click to continue…]

The bottom of the email contains the images of product recommendations, under the title, "What your closet can say about your jewelry color style."

Email for male recipients

The subject line for the male email read: Do you know what color jewelry to buy her?
Hi [name],

We know buying the right piece of jewelry for a woman is hard enough, but flying blind without any idea of what would look best on her is even more daunting.

Starting with an innate idea of what suits her will help you navigate jewelry counters or Heirlume's growing collection with ease. So we've compiled some color tips (that literally stare you in the face everyday) [click to continue…]

The bottom of the email contains images of product recommendations under the title, "Don't wait too long to tackle 'personalized' holiday shopping … yes, customized pieces take longer to make!"


After integrating product recommendations into its email campaigns, Heirlume averaged a 9% increase in open rates and a 3% lift in CTR.

"Personalization is very helpful in marketing, especially these days when you're email box gets cluttered very quickly," Russell said. "So being as personal as possible and trying to bring as much value directly to your customer is what we strive to do."

Creative Samples

  1. Example of an email for females

  2. Example of an email for males



SimpleRelevance — Heirlume's email marketing vendor

Related Resources

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015

Segmentation: How a small office supply ecommerce site boosted revenue 25% by sending more emails

Email Marketing Segmentation: Clothing brand uses social behavioral data to drive a 141% increase in revenue

B2B Email Marketing: Behavior-based closeout campaign produces 808% ROI

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