Journelle’s Sexy Approach to Email Marketing

Leave it to a luxury lingerie retailer to make direct marketing more alluring to customers—and more profitable to the company. But strip away the enticing marketing content, and you’ll find a decidedly unsexy, and extremely practical, tool at the foundation of New York-based Journelle’s marketing success: integrated data.

The company implemented CRM, inventory management, and order-processing technology NetSuite in large part to build “a customer database that gives us a single version of the truth about our customers, regardless of which channel they shop,” says Claire Chambers, founder and CEO of Journelle, which operates four physical stores in New York, as well as a national e-commerce business.

The technology gives Chambers and her marketing staff a clear vision of what customers need, when they’re most likely to need those items (which include roughly 20,000 SKUs across all Journelle locations), and what events (e.g., anniversaries, holidays) are likely to trigger a purchase. And then they use that information in their email communications with customers.

“Email is one of our most valuable marketing tools,” Chambers says. “More than 30 percent of our e-commerce sales originate with some sort of email marketing touch.”

An alternative to leopard pleather

A former management consultant, Chambers started the company by opening her first store in Manhattan’s Union Square in 2007. Inspired by the archaic French word journellement (“daily”), the retailer presents a curated selection of lingerie and loungewear, as well as expert service, to customers who share a belief in “wearing lovely lingerie every single day,” Chambers says. She conceived Journelle as an alternative to what she cites as old-fashioned (that is, “dowdy”) lingerie boutiques and national chains that pedal less luxurious items (e.g., leopard pleather).

The success of the first store enabled Chambers to open three more shops and to expand Journelle’s e-commerce reach. Roughly 70% of online customers live in the Northeast, although Chambers reports that Journelle is currently enjoying significant growth in other areas, notably California.

Journelle’s straightforward marketing strategy centers on two basic objectives: acquire new customers and retain existing ones. Doing the latter proved challenging as the customer base rapidly expanded in the company’s first four years of existence. NetSuite’s technology helps Journelle’s marketing team with customer retention by helping them engage in what NetSuite GM of Global Retail Branden Jenkins describes as “clienteling.” The approach, Jenkins explains, “blends the digital and physical worlds to provide customers with personalized shopping experiences.”

50% more opens

To succeed, clienteling needs data. At the point of purchase Journelle collects purchasing data (SKU, brand, price, date of purchase) and, sometimes in follow-up emails, more personal data (sizes, birthdate, anniversary, ZIP Code) directly from customers.

Chambers’ review of this data shortly after Journelle first implemented NetSuite presented a more detailed picture of lingerie buyers. “We knew this is a business where customers demonstrate strong loyalty,” Chambers says. “But there is a slow ramp-up for a new customer to enter our store. She’s not going to walk in and buy lingerie every day. It’s a need-based purchase. As much as we’d like to think it’s entirely about fashion—Hey, red is in this season, so I need a red bra—it really is a needs-based purchase.”

The data also showed Chambers that this need typically arises every six to eight months. Journelle acts on this insight by running cuts of existing customers whose most recent purchase is nearing the six-month mark and sends email messages with content and items that are relevant to their individual preferences. A value-shopper may get an email message featuring 50 bras for less than $50. A luxury segment customer may receive an email with the latest items from her preferred brand, along with an update on the brand designer.

“We use date-of-purchase, brand, sizing, and other data to make sure that we’re sending relevant emails,” Chambers says. “We want to make sure we’re not spamming [customers] with information that holds little interest.”

Chambers reports that open rates jump by 50% when Journelle sends customized emails based on purchase history, preferences, sizing information, and related data. That customization breeds greater intimacy and loyalty among customers who rely on Journelle for their most intimate purchases. 

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