Personalized Email Is Ideal for Commerce-Centric Conversation

Personalization is all about creating tailored experiences for individual consumers. But because customers traverse channels while researching and buying, for personalization to be truly successful marketers must view it as an omnichannel experience—not a siloed one. This means creating a cohesive experience across all touchpoints.

Multi-brand apparel licensing company La Jolla Group reinforced this lesson when it brought email into its personalization plan.

La Jolla Group had been using Reflektion’s predictive analytics platform to create more personalized experiences (such as product recommendations and visual search) for its e-commerce site since fall 2013. In January 2014 the company also started using the technology for its mobile site. After seeing success, La Jolla Group decided to bring email into the personalization mix and test Reflektion’s Right Time Messaging solution.

“It’s kind of the ultimate marketing strategy, right? The ability to put the right product in front of the right customer at the right time—personalization is the epitome of that now,” says Daniel Neukomm, CEO of La Jolla Group—the parent company of action sports apparel brands Metal Mulisha and O’Neill. 

More than 90% of La Jolla Group’s business is wholesale; the multi-brand apparel licensing organization started focusing on direct-to-consumer in mid 2013—making email marketing a relatively new priority. So, the company started small. Before implementing Reflektion’s automated email solution, La Jolla Group took a primarily batch-and-blast approach and only segmented its customers based on gender. However, the company would have to deliver a more relevant experience if it hoped to resonate with consumers, particularly those within its 16- to 24-year-old target audience.

Although email often gets a bad rap for not attracting this age group, Neukomm says the channel can still play a significant role in terms of driving commerce-centric conversation.

“For a long time people thought that email was going to get phased out by social messaging, text, and other dominant channels,” he says. “But the reality is [that] our consumer is a media snacker. They’re not committed to any one channel. They consume content through so many different mediums—a lot of which they don’t really want commerce-type communications through….  I don’t know that a consumer—other than having the ability to shop a picture—wants to be sold something on Instagram; Facebook notoriously failed at trying to provide a shopping environment. It’s just wrong place, wrong time. Email is a place where consumers expect to talk about commerce.”

Neukomm is focusing on using email personalization in two ways: commerce and content. For instance, La Jolla Group is experimenting with including a product recommendation engine inside of its emails. By fueling Reflektion’s predictive modeling learning algorithm with aggregated consumer data (such as onsite behavior, transactional information, search, and device), as well as with data acquired through cookies, La Jolla Group is able to send customers suggested products based on their implied preferences. The company can even update this content after an email is sent. Additionally, if a customer abandons an item in his cart, La Jolla Group could send that customer a reminder email featuring related merchandise that he might also like. Finally, Kurt Heinemann, CMO of Reflektion, says that La Jolla Group can tailor its images and messages based on factors like gender or lifestyle. 

Although La Jolla Group is still in the testing phase of its email program, Neukomm says that he intends to fully deploy it across all of La Jolla Group’s brands within the next few weeks. In fact, Heinemann says that La Jolla Group sent its first public email featuring personalized content for O’Neill last week. However, even during this testing phase, the company is already seeing initial results.

“From what we’ve deployed through that product recommendation engine within email, we do see that there are disproportionate click-throughs and conversions,” Neukomm says. “Before we roll it out entirely, we want to optimize that. We do know that it’s working. I just can’t speak to it at scale.”

Of course, there’s still work to be done. The biggest challenge with the technology, according to Neukomm, has been determining exactly how the company wants to deploy it. He also says that he wants to enhance the content featured in the emails.

“As accurately as we may be recommending products to [customers], we don’t want to arbitrarily bombard them with just that,” he explains. “We want to solve the more qualitative side of the equation and make sure that we’re providing that customer with an all-around experience.”

And while increased open-rates, click-through rates, and conversions are all objectives for the email program’s deployment, Neukomm says that he’s just happy making personalized email part of the overall omnichannel experience.

“Whether or not they actually buy [a product] online is almost secondary,” he says. “If I’m showing a relevant product, to a relevant consumer, in a relevant context, I’m just as happy…if they also get that and they just have that in the back of their head.”

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