The email blast has been a marketing staple since the advent of digital mail. The practice has fallen from grace in recent years among some marketers as personalization and relevance assert their dominance as the primary drivers of consumer engagement in marketing messaging. Country Outfitter is one brand that saw the opportunities that come with personalization in email marketing—but not before doing some blasting of its own.
“We had grown from about 25,000 subscribers to upwards of 8 million in just a few months,” explains Ben Roberts VP of marketing operations at Acumen Brands, the parent company of the country fashion brand. “During this time we were almost completely focused on sending batch-and-blast emails. We didn’t really have any insight into the individual users.”
A great majority of marketers have faced similar email challenges. Unfortunately, many marketers still struggle with concepts such as personalization and relevance in email messaging—often opting to continue blasting for cost efficiency and relatively quick initial conversions. “There’s a major struggle that happens with email in terms of driving value,” explains Cassie Lancellotti Young, VP of client optimization and analytics at Sailthru, a personalized marketing communications provider. “There’s a fine line between near-term conversions and cultivating long-term, sustainable customer value.”
Country Outfitter thought along similar lines and, to better serve its millions of subscribers and cultivate relationships over the long term, it chose to invest in dynamic, personalized email marketing.
Batch-and-Blast is a relatively cheap way to quickly push as much email as possible. While the practice certainly has its place at Country Outfitter, it leaves little room for personalization.
“For many e-commerce retail businesses there’s a fundamental rule that promotion moves product. If you send people emails they will buy stuff. When [Country Outfitter] initially approached us, they very much had this batch-and-blast mentality,” Sailthru’s Young says. “We chose Sailthru because we felt like it had the real focus on the individual that we were looking for. We felt we could build customer profiles and figure out how to market to each individual as opposed to hundreds of different segments of users,” Acumen’s Roberts adds.
With this goal in mind, Country Outfitter worked with Sailthru to help realize the fashion brand’s personalized, dynamic email strategy. However, simply following through and delivering deeply personalized emails is a tall task for any company. “A lot of [the challenge] is in the complexity and the resources needed to get these emails up,” explains Mark Smith, senior manager of email marketing at Acumen.
Using Sailthru’s technology, Country Outfitter adopted what it calls the Behavioral Approach. “We basically split our messaging into two sides,” Roberts says. “We still send batch-and-blast emails on a discovery basis, but when you do certain actions on the site or look at certain things we start to market to you on a one-to-one basis. That’s the Behavioral Approach.”
Country Outfitter’s Behavioral Approach focuses on driving customer lifetime value and the long-term engagement of each individual customer by monitoring customer profiles and usage statistics. Using this data in conjunction with Sailthru’s technology, Country Outfitter sends users emails that dynamically alter themselves based on a particular user’s explicit or implicit interests.
On the back end, Sailthru places a first-party cookie on Country Outfitter’s website that tracks tags about all of the products that people browse on the site. “Those tags are a blend of the general and specific,” Young explains. “[The tags] can start as broad topics like shoes or boots, but then go down to the brand, color, or style level. From there we build an interest graph for every end user.”
Sailthru uses data from these interests graphs to build what it calls 360-degree user profiles. Using these profiles, Country Outfitter deploys messages about relevant, targeted products to users in real time.
Country Outfitter saw immediate engagement and revenue lift after adopting the Behavioral Approach. Today, the brand consistently sees more than 50% of its revenue driven by the Behavioral Approach to emails, peaking at up to 66%. Additionally, the personalized emails revamp increased purchase conversions by 20%.
Active users, a metric Country Outfitter finds increasingly important, lifted as well. “We’ve seen huge increases in active users because the engagement levels are so high,” Smith says. “We’ve become better at what we can show [users]. We have better offers now, better content; we’re just better across the board.