March 24, 2015
Case Study

Marketing Automation: Triggered emails lift clickthrough 525% for BCBGMaxAzria

SUMMARY: How can you build a relationship with your customers? Simply sending batch-and-blast marketing promotions won't cut it; you have to start a conversation based on your customer's behaviors and turn that first interaction into a second.

BCBGMaxAzria, a top clothing and accessories brand for women, implemented marketing automation to capture customer behavior on the site to send triggered emails to the right customers at the right time. See what triggers the brand integrated and how these targeted messages have achieved a 525% lift in CTR as well as a 220% increase in opens compared to the brand's non-triggered sends.
by Erin Hogg, Reporter

BCBGMaxAzria operates women's ready-to-wear and accessory retail boutiques in the U.S. and around the world.

Founded in 1989 by designer, chairman and CEO Max Azria, BCBGMaxAzria derives its name from the French phrase, "bon chic, bon genre," a Parisian slang meaning "good style, good attitude."

From casual, cocktail, work and wedding dresses, to clothing, including tops, jackets, pants, skirts, sportswear and swimwear, the designer also offers accessories, fragrances and home decor products.

The BCBGMaxAzria and BCBGMaxAzria Runway labels are sold in 700 freestanding boutiques and shop-in-shops at top department stores across the globe as well as online.


BCBGMaxAzria caters to three types of women fashion lovers: the connoisseur, the socialite and the visionary.

The connoisseur is a shopper with a classic and timeless sense of style, and this is the most popular shopper to BCBGMaxAzria.

Next comes the socialite, and this is a segment of shopper that focuses on being trendy and the must-have style at the time.

Finally there is the visionary, which are women who would think of themselves as trendsetters and originals, with an eclectic sense of style.

BCBGMaxAzria aims to target all three types of their customer base by offering a wide range of styles and choices. The main design group caters to these different customers through three distinct brands: BCBGeneration, BCBGMaxAzria and Herve Leger.


BCBGMaxAzria has been in business for more than 25 years. However, the company previously did not have any customer lifecycle marketing nor any triggered email campaigns in place.

"Our overall conversation with the customer was very brief. We didn't have any sort of reactivation campaign, win-back campaigns, purchase campaigns. We had one welcome email and then maybe they bought, or maybe they didn't, and we would just batch-and-blast marketing emails to them," explained Tommy Lamb, Manager of Ecommerce Marketing, BCBGMaxAxria Group.

Lamb explained the email marketing communications with customers were abrupt, short and generalized conversations, which was not working as well as the team wanted.

The marketing team had been working toward revamping its overall approach to email marketing, with a goal of increasing revenue, creating a more personalized connection with customers and improving day-to-day marketing tasks.

BCBGMaxAzria needed a powerful solution that would help optimize these processes and utilize customer data in order to create effective, customized email marketing campaigns.

A marketing automation solution would have to be cost effective, seamlessly transition into the fashion company’s current IT environment and be simple for team members to learn and use.

"We quickly realized we needed a cost-effective technology solution that would not only give us the custom functionality and flexibility we needed, but also an opportunity to increase overall revenue," Lamb explained.


While saving time and increasing revenue were factors in choosing a solution, other benefits, such as eliminating tedious tasks and accomplishing more in less steps, played a role.

BCBGMaxAzria discovered an automated marketing solution during a 2013 Indianapolis-based industry conference.

While Lamb said he initially received several skeptical responses about taking on another vendor solution, which could potentially add a layer of complexity to the busy staff’s daily responsibilities, he was able to pull his team members onboard.

The most compelling criteria for choosing the solution, Lamb said, was ease-of-use, performance and flexibility.

Step #1. Implement automation

When implementing a segmented email campaign, pressure on creative resources can prove to be an obstacle.

As Lamb explained, much of the demand on a creative team, including BCBG's, lies within them making triplicates of one send that will feature different products to move the needle on email engagement.

Tasked with many responsibilities other than email marketing, Lamb's goal was to take some of the pressure off Creative. He worked with the automation provider to create drafts and templates of emails in which the personalization elements would be pulled in automatically, leaving that task to technology — not the creative team.

At first, the team was wary of having less brand control, but upon seeing all of the iterations and segments a subscriber could be receiving, they realized it would be a heavy burden to manually create them.

The marketing and creative teams still had control of the layouts and fonts, and images of products would be pulled in automatically.

"I think they just relaxed a little bit knowing that it wasn't under their control and ultimately, when the numbers started coming in, they were quite grateful that it wasn't under their control," Lamb said.

The entire process of integrating marketing automation took about two weeks, and the BCBG teams worked during that time to set up campaigns and ready them for deployment.

A JavaScript snippet was also implemented on the site as part of the automation implementation to capture site behaviors for triggered sends.

Lamb and team worked with the automation provider to set up "recipes" for sending out triggered emails, aiming to reach customers with personalized messaging and appropriate timing.

They also collaborated with the technology provider for specific campaigns, for instance, during holidays when they wanted to add a dynamic promo code in some segments.

Set up templates

Lamb and the marketing team began creating drafts by analyzing the options and templates within the solution and wrote copy, which was then approved by BCBG's copywriters. Then, it was sent to the automation system, and the BCBG team had their email.

This works well for BCBG because its emails always have products in them with limited copy, so the system is constantly pulling images in automatically for that targeted segment.

Once the BCBG team and the automation provider plan out what the creative piece will be, which will be the main real estate of the email, it is dynamically generated with product and calls-to-action. All of BCBG's emails are optimized for mobile.

Step #2. Set up initial triggers

Lamb and the BCBG team began the automation initiative with four email triggers on the site:
  • Abandoned search

  • Abandon browse

  • Abandon cart

  • Post purchase

The abandoned search and browse, which the team refers to as window shopping, as well as the cart abandonment are top of the funnel triggers.

View the Creative Sample

Click here to see the full version of this creative sample

The post-purchase trigger can be viewed as a top of the funnel activity for retail as BCBG wants to engage with them to incite future purchases.

The team chose these to start with these four because they wanted to make sure that all the users they were acquiring and bringing into the system had some way of re-engaging with the brand.

This re-engagement is based on any bits of data they have given BCBG, any behaviors that can trigger a conversation.

View the Creative Sample

Click here to see the full version of this creative sample

The messaging for each of these triggers is based on what brand the customer is shopping from. The BCBGMaxAzria Group owns Herve Leger, BCBGeneration and BCBGMaxAzria, each focusing on a different customer.

Herve Leger offers more high-end exclusive products, so the email messaging aligns with an affluent audience.

BCBGeneration's brand message is cheeky and fun, catering to an audience relatable to a Forever21-type shopper. This could include a subject line such as: "Hey girl, don't miss out on your abandoned cart."

Finally, the core BCBGMaxAzria brand focuses its messaging leverages that Parisian influence, drawing in language that's more romantic.

Keeping the messaging consistent within the brands is key in the automation, showing subscribers exactly what products that they would be most interested in, as well as displayed in way that makes sense to that brand's demographic.

Step #3. Expand on triggers

Once those first four triggers were implemented and the team began to see some significant and positive results from the automation, Lamb set out to expand the program.

More iterations of abandoned cart emails as well as more post-purchase sends were implemented into the automation, and a "new arrivals" trigger was integrated.

"One thing we are really excited about is new products on the site. So those people will receive an email when there are new products that pop up on the site," Lamb said.

View the Creative Sample

Click here to see the full version of this creative sample

The new arrivals email is based on products that are recent additions to BCBG, as well as being focused on a customer who has engaged with the brand in the past.

An example of this could be that BCBG just added 50 new products, some of which are black cocktail dresses.

The automation system can determine who was on and looked at black cocktail dresses but did not purchase.

That customer will then receive an email with new arrivals that are black cocktail dresses or best sellers.

If a subscriber has not been looking at a specific product category, they would not receive a segmented content send.

Each customer is also part of the larger marketing email program, so they are receiving regular communications as well as triggered sends.

Also, Lamb is careful to not just show one type of product to a customer when they also have other interests.

"If this person shopped for a black dress, they don't just get emails about black dresses. They get emails featuring a couple black dresses, there are top sellers included, there are similar products, there are corresponding products. So, it's not just about the dress. It’s about the outfit, the wardrobe," Lamb said.

Step #4. Test messaging

To ensure that BCGB's emails are optimized in terms of messaging, Lamb and the team conduct A/B testing to ensure their automated sends are not just delivering a message at the right time but also delivering the best possible message.

The team performs testing on subject lines to see which one will be the most compelling.

Lamb noted that people early in a purchase process who received a "search abandon" or "browse abandon" triggered email did not like to see their first name in a subject line. This was different for those who received an "abandoned cart" or purchased something and received a trigger to entice them to come back.

"We don't want to be too forward with our marketing communications, and it would make sense that it should be catered to where they are in the funnel," Lamb said.

Around the holidays, the team performed testing on calls-to-action and finding the right level of aggressiveness in the messaging.

Through testing, the team also chose to remove pricing from the email copy, which was also removed from the normal un-triggered marketing sends as well, to better entice subscribers to click through and view the products on the website.

"Our triggers actually affected change on our marketing emails to improve that performance," Lamb said.

The team also tested a dynamic code promotion in which a certain discount was integrated into the top of the triggered email, changing over time.

Step #5. Align all teams involved

In setting up email drafts for triggers on the BCBG sites, Lamb worked closely with the automation provider to create and send email copy and approve drafts that would then be part of the marketing automation system.

Moving forward, the teams only meet if the automation providers have something new to bring to the table or if the BCBG team wants to try something new.

"If you know the company you are working with is reliable enough, you are also willing to take more risks as a company and try their new stuff without worrying that it is going to change your whole brand," Lamb explained.

Internally, the marketing teams at BCBG meet once a week to review email performance from the previous week. The group discusses what has been performing well and what email campaigns could use some tweaking, and plans future campaigns accordingly.


According to Lamb, the triggered email sends average a 525% increase in clickthrough rate when compared to the non-triggered sends. In addition, open rate has seen a lift of more than 220% when compared to the brand's non-triggered sends.

In the first quarter of implementation, the triggered emails represented 20% of all revenue generated via the entire email program.

From there, Lamb noted that triggered emails have a 20% to 40% revenue contribution every week. This has been key because, regardless of what marketing promotion emails are being sent out, triggered sends will at least contribute up to 40% in revenue each week.

"It really just comes down to the bottom line. I came from a company before BCBG where we would literally send out a second email in the same day if we weren't hitting our plan. That creates a lot of stress on the team and it's also not necessarily the best idea for the customer," Lamb explained.

In being able to have the triggered, automated sends running without much manual labor, Lamb and the marketing teams at BCBG have more time on their hands to tackle new projects.

One such initiative in 2015 will be to build custom landing pages for customers. When they click through an email, they will be taken to a page that looks like the BCBG brand, but it will ultimately be curated with products just for them.

Creative Samples

  1. Browse abandon and window shopping emails

  2. Cart abandon email

  3. New arrivals triggered send




Related Resources

Email Segmentation: Finish Line's automation initiative lifts email revenue 50%

Email Marketing: Behavior-triggered emails and corporate partnerships boost email list 2,400% in three months for nonprofit

Marketing Automation: Precor achieves 74% lift in new leads via segmented database overhaul

Email Marketing: Cart abandonment campaign sees a 400% revenue boost over previous campaign

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