For a long time, for many fashion and beauty brands, selling more product meant sending more emails with big promotions. But as a strong brand identity becomes increasingly important and companies establish a better grasp on how to connect with their customer, email marketing strategies are changing for the better, providing more value to shoppers and driving more revenue for brands.
Huckberry, a San Francisco-based men’s brand specializing in adventure-ready apparel, has been fine-tuning its email strategy. According to co-founder Richard Greiner and head of brand partnerships and product marketing Ben O’Meara, the emails are now the company’s bread and butter. They’re sent to more than a million recipients and drive sales in the seven figures every month.
Outside of the site, the brand uses Facebook and Instagram ads, and the occasional giveaway to build its email list. The content-heavy blasts, which are sent three times a week, see an open rate of 25 to 30 percent, and 20 to 25 percent of those who open click through. They’re produced by a core team of a designer, a copywriter and a buyer/merchandiser, though as O’Meara tells it, it’s really all hands on deck.
Each email reads like a mini magazine, featuring regular sections like “Now Playing” (a Spotify playlist that’s constantly updated) and “Diversions” (links to articles relevant to the audience). The latest, sent yesterday and dedicated to Memorial Day weekend prep, had 11 sections total, including a guide to camping essentials and a link to a post on the brand’s Journal blog on the season’s best hybrid shorts.
Greiner and O’Meara broke down their email strategy and insight on its success to date:
Address the customer the way you’d want to be spoken to
For Huckberry, that includes being upfront about what entering an email address means. “We say, ‘You’re going to get three emails from us every week. But, don’t worry: We won’t flood your inbox,’” said O’Meara.
And, said Greiner, it’s important for customers to know there are “real people behind [an] email, using the products and deciding whether to bring them to Huckberry.” Educating the customer on the history of brands and why products are exciting to the buyers is key.
Lead with content
“Based on what we’re saying, what we’re selling, how much is in there, we’re sending out more [in emails] in a week than many retailers do in a month,” said O’Meara.
He said it’s about being respectful of people’s time: If they’re going to through the step of opening the email, you should have something to say. What’s more, regularly offering up strong content will ensure emails get opened by more people. “Even if they don’t want to buy something, people will open because you’re giving them value,” he said.
Cater to the customer
Huckberry’s emails are sent at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The rationale, in a nutshell: Nobody wants to read an email first thing on a Monday, people appreciate inspiration for the weekend on Thursdays and Sunday afternoons are a good time to relax and scroll. O’Meara and Greiner do look at data, however. For example, they know their customer currently likes, and therefore clicks on, hero images focused on an activity and paired with a product. As a result, they’re rolling out more heroes fitting the bill.
Making adjustments to better serve customers is important, said Greiner. In doing so, he said, the Huckberry office typically feels like a newsroom the day before an email goes out, with changes being made based on the weather in key markets, a sudden influx of customer questions or a spike in a product’s sales.
Use the channel to your advantage
Across channels, Huckberry plays to its strengths: “great storytelling, great imagery, a strong editorial perspective.” But it uses a quarterly print catalog to set the tone for each season, Instagram to communicate the vibe of the company and emails to tell “big stories,” meaning big campaigns, big brands and big products. The editorial calendar is planned out months in advance to ensure photoshoots are planned and main ideas are messaged in a timely manner.
Moving forward, the brand plans to include more personalization in its regular emails. The most recent step in that direction is an email sent to those that have perused a certain category on the site. Rather than a “Like something you see?” message, for instance, the shopper receives an email introduction to the category’s buyer along with a roundup of current styles that expert loves and why.
What other brands are saying
Ali Weiss, svp of marketing, Glossier:
“We approach email marketing from two angles: One is analytics, such as click-through rate and conversion, and the other is engagement. We always put the customer experience at the forefront, asking ourselves: What kind of communication would the reader actually enjoy? What would brighten their day? When we sit down to talk about our upcoming emails, it’s fun to take a minute and think about that surprise and delight opportunity in someone’s inbox. And it does work!”
Maggie Winter, co-founder and CEO, AYR:
“Short, conversational subject lines work best. The less transactional and bland, the better. We like subject lines that you’d actually see in your inbox: “Running late,” “Out of office,” “Drinks?” This might not work for many brands, but we’ve always taken the approach of writing to our customers like we write to our friends. It’s very informal and fun.
We always try to include expertise, emotion, and humor in our emails. It’s the magic that makes us us. We know our audience is busy, and we don’t want to waste her time. We try to let her know why a product is special or how it creates value for her, and we try to make her smile. It’s a way of keeping in constant contact with our girl – it’s less about getting a transaction and more about creating a nice moment in her day.
Email is the most important sales channel our company has. It generates more gross revenue than our Soho store or all of our wholesale accounts combined. AYR launched as a digitally native brand, so the site is our flagship. Email has always been key to keeping in contact, communicating our story, and driving traffic to the site.”
Related reads on Glossy
How Tumi is using AI in marketing campaigns, online and in store
“We sent 40 million fewer emails in 2017 and made more money from them.”
The future of AI in fashion
“On the other side of a bad digital message is a piece of software and a 22-year-old dragging and dropping, basically guessing which customer set gets what.”
The evolution of retail personalization, in five charts
“For brands trying to meet sales goals, pushing products over email is low-risk. Sticking to what they know can mean missing out on long-term gains that come with customizing content for shoppers.”
This week, I was joined by Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of Parachute, a direct-to-consumer brand specializing in bedding and bath linens for the home. She discussed what she learned during the fundraising process, why the DTC model makes sense for the home market and why brick-and-mortar stores are essential to her growth plan.