How Online Retailer Everlane Uses Email and Mobile to Bridge the Online and Offline Worlds

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Like other online fashion retailers, Everlane uses technology to eliminate the middleman, selling lower-priced products directly to consumers. Unlike much of the competition, however, Everlane also practices what it calls radical transparency, which manifests as complete openness about costs, pricing and ethical manufacturing practices. When shoppers buy Everlane’s clothing, they’re also buying into its socially conscious brand.

Founded in 2010, the San Francisco-based company now has 70 employees and a growing consumer following. We recently sat down with Aaron Ginn, who manages the company’s product development and user experience, to talk about Everlane’s customers and how the company engages and retains them.

Sailthru: What do you see as the most significant challenge facing retail marketers?

Ginn: Getting online and offline to work together. The offline experience allows retailers to build their brand through face-to-face interactions and to get product to customers faster, which is very, very powerful. The challenge is how to reap these benefits and still get the cost savings of online retail.

We’re trying to bridge that gap by making online better than offline, but we see the value of offline engagement. We still do a lot of physical events to promote in-person interactions and build the brand. We hold open studios in New York and San Francisco where customers can try on clothes, talk to Everlaners and see our recently launched items.

Another way we bridge the gap is with one-hour delivery in New York and San Francisco for customers who order through our app.

Sailthru: How do you see consumers evolving through your experience at Everlane?

Ginn: Consumers are definitely moving towards mobile and talking to brands. They want to engage with brands wherever they go using the same tools they use to engage with their friends.

We also see a movement, predominantly outside of the United States, of using text messaging to engage with brands. If you go the Instagram profile of a European brand, for example, you’ll probably find a phone number. Consumers just click on that phone number and start texting and transacting with the brand.

Everlane is also heavily investing in mobile. We launched our first mobile app last year and integrated our one-hour delivery service with the app. We think desktop is still going to be an important platform primarily because U.S. consumers are habituated to using desktops.  

Sailthru: How do you use personalization to better engage customers?

Ginn: We use personalization for all of our core customer communications. An example is our assistive commerce test, in which stylists sent out notes to some of our top customers that said, “Hey, we have this new backpack, and it’s going to go great with the last four or five things that you bought.”

Sailthru: What role does email play in in customer retention?

Ginn: Email is incredibly important for retention.

Email has been a consistently performing channel for the last 15 or 20 years because there’s nothing in between you and your customer. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram insert a middle layer in between you and the consumer, and they’re always going to control that interaction in some way.

With email, you have a core connection with your customer that no one can take away except the customer. Any communication tool with a personal identifier that offers communication directly to the customer is very effective for engaging customers and keeping them engaged.

Sailthru: What is your strategy for customer retention?

Ginn: The first and primary way we re-engage people is through new product launches. We focus on items that are coming up, that customers are most excited about, and then we build a brand experience around those items for the desktop, our mobile app, or our mobile website that connects to our email campaigns.

Our second method for retaining customers is through our customer service experience. Our goal is to be available to our customers as fast as possible and to engage them and provide the answers that they need when they need them.

Sailthru: Do you think that marketers need to look at email differently today?

Ginn: Marketers need to constantly rethink and reimagine email engagement. There are some interesting tools that are coming out for email, such as interactive emails and being able to buy a product through email. Google has a tool to send data signals from the static email back into your API or your service. Those types of things are going to create a sort of semi-Renaissance for email, because it is still the most commonly used communication tool and it generates a lot of revenue.