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How BrandAlley Scales its Email Marketing and Customer Acquisition with AI

Michael Becker
Michael Becker

BrandAlley UK, the #1 (private) e-commerce fashion, home, beauty, and lifestyle brand in the UK, needed a way to leverage all of the data it was collecting about customers, and sell more products to existing and new customers.

BrandAlley owns no retail stores. It’s a pure-play e-tailer (online-only business) — so it must get every aspect of its digital marketing approach right.

Rob Feldmann, Founder and CEO of BrandAlley leads the brand’s strategic direction, and notes an interesting phenomenon occurring in today’s brick-and-mortar stores:

“People walk into a store intending and expecting to find, say, a black dress at full price, but when they see an “on sale” section, it’s human nature to gravitate toward it and search it. Too often, when people don’t find what they’d initially been looking for in the sale section, they leave. This is one reason many brands went online.”

In conjunction with Emarsys, BrandAlley  leverages AI marketing to scale its customer engagement strategy — primarily using frequently sent, highly personalized emails to delight customers, and CRM ads to get new ones.

Watch Rob Feldman, BrandAlley CEO, and Alex Simion, BrandAlley Marketing Director tell their story at Emarsys Revolution:


Using Data to Inform Marketing

Most digital marketing teams are asking all the same questions — all surrounding who customers are, what they want, and how to adjust their strategy based on that information. In other words, they need data to make better decisions.

Most digital marketing teams are asking the same questions. Source: BrandAlley

BrandAlley’s team asked the same questions, but had two things going for it — (a) a high-performing marketing automation solution, and (b) a very engaged customer base — in part due to the fact that it’s a “closed website” (you need to be a member to login and use its services).

Because it caters exclusively to “known” users, BrandAlley knows what actions every member takes on its website. If customers don’t check out, for instance, BrandAlley knows where they stopped.

They know which brands customers were looking at, and the general customer journey people took. BrandAlley is essentially able to tell partner brands where they should be focusing with their products going forward.

The company had a lot of data about its customers, and needed to translate that data into more personal (and more effective) interactions.

All About the Customer

BrandAlley has an active, engaged member community. The brand sends 35 million emails per month to its customer base, and gets up to 2.5 million unique visitors per month on its website.

The average shopping cart value for a single transaction is £115 ($161) and typically consists of 2-3 (2.4 on average) items. 80% of transactions are placed on a mobile device or tablet.

Additionally, the company averages 300 new customers per day (the single-day record was 600)!

BrandAlley skews toward affluent, mostly female members.

That’s all due to its ability to turn anonymous audiences into known customers, and use that data to draw actionable insights.

A self-proclaimed customer-centric company, BrandAlley was challenged to leverage customer data to draw actionable insights based on the massive amounts of data it had. It started using machine learning to help sort through large amounts of data, draw insights, and execute personalized marketing. It personalized its marketing following these steps:

  1. Create unified profiles to understand who customers are
  2. Use AI-driven predictive intelligence to create tailored messages for each
  3. Create and load personalized content
  4. Automate the delivery of those messages
  5. Analyze results for further optimization

Since implementing each of these steps, BrandAlley has seen great results. Let’s dig deeper into how, exactly, they execute.

BrandAlley’s Marketing Approach

Alexandra Simion heads up marketing at BrandAlley. Her team of five handles everything — they use no agencies or outside strategic help.

Overall, BrandAlley comes out with 5-7 new sales per day, mostly in collaboration with partner brands such as Mulberry and Coach for handbags, Hugo Boss and Gant for men, and L.K. Bennett for women.

BrandAlley’s marketing strategy relies almost exclusively on email.

Email at the center

BrandAlley boasts a VERY low opt-out rate, a direct result of its transparency during the signup process.

It’s philosophy around subscriptions is simple: make it clear! The brand clearly communicates that members will, by default, receive two emails per day, plus any abandon cart or triggered emails.

Bonus Tip: Keep registration forms as brief and frictionless as possible. For instance, Simion and her team do not seek the age of members at initial registration. Instead, they have an automated program that goes out every couple weeks in conjunction with their “birthday program” where incentives are sent to individuals on their birthday.

Within a preference center, it offers separate email options if customers don’t want two per day — they can switch between daily or weekly emails. There are no surprises about the amount of emails that they’ll get.

The brand is currently combining predictive intelligence and dynamic content to create personalized emails — complete with 1:1 incentives.

Machine learning and AI powers these incentive recommendations in emails. Incentive Recommendations helps analyze campaign lists to identify which customers are more likely to purchase when offered an incentive, then it assigns the most efficient incentive to each individual.

Some customers who shop a LOT with a brand or visit its website daily, for example, may require a low (or no) incentive since they clearly already shop a lot as a loyal customer.

It found that emails using dynamic content converted up to 16% higher than standard, manually curated email campaigns.

As a result of using AI within its email campaigns, it saw a:

  • +26% increase in revenue
  • +27% increase in clicks
  • +16% increase in conversions

“We used to be stuck in Monday meetings trying to decide what content to put in emails,” Simion said. “This [use of predictive intelligence] has simplified that process and literally given us more time for any other stuff [creative work].”

Email Tip: BrandAlley’s e-newsletter contains a collection of that week’s best-performing sales, as well as upcoming sales near the bottom. They’re looking to adopt Open Time Content, soon though, where Simion and co. will rely on AI to automate accurate, time-sensitive displaying of certain content within emails.

Driving traffic with CRM Ads

Of course, the brand needs to drive qualified, new (anonymous) traffic (prospective customers) to its platform.

It executes these acquisition campaigns primarily using CRM ads.

Within the Emarsys platform, BrandAlley collects and stores data about customers, and uses the Affinity Dashboard to organize the data for action — then executes CRM ads across today’s most popular social channels to target new audiences.

How BrandAlley Uses CRM Ads: The brand starts by creating micro-segments in the Affinity Dashboard, drops that segment into CRM Ads, creates a lookalike audience target group, then syncs that newly identified audience to relevant social platforms, and delivers content via highly targeted campaigns — all based on owned first-party customer data.

BrandAlley uses CRM ads to identify lookalike audiences, then targets them with personalized content across Instagram, Facebook. YouTube, and Google. Source: BrandAlley

As a result of using CRM ads, BrandAlley saw a:

  • +230% increase in Facebook registrations
  • +8x increase in customer reach
  • -50% decrease in cost per acquisition (CPA)

It’s been using CRM ads for 18 months, and won’t stop anytime soon — as these are the core of its entire acquisition strategy.

Case Study Examples

Pretty Green Sale Campaign

In conjunction with Pretty Green, Liam Gallagher’s (the lead singer of Oasis) brand, BrandAlley targeted new customers.

It ended up massively over indexing in certain areas, and even prompted Pretty Green to open physical stores in new areas it hadn’t previously been active.

Pandora Expanding its Realm

Pandora is the largest and most well known jewelry brand in the UK. But with the help of BrandAlley, the Danish brand was about to sell new products in new areas where they didn’t normally do much business.

Final Thoughts

BrandAlley experienced 40% order growth in 2017, and expects similar results in 2018.

Feldmann attributes this growth to a combination of:

  • Traditional retail tactics of quality product and dynamic pricing
  • Savvy digital marketing practices, resulting in increased customer engagement, retention, and repeat purchases

In total, in working with Emarsys to power its personalized marketing strategy and execution, BrandAlley saw a:

  • +40% increase in orders
  • +40% increase in active customers
  • +61% increase in new customers

They successfully scaled their marketing on behalf of partner brands, and they’re moving to a reliance on AI marketing to power their entire marketing (email) and acquisition (CRM ads) approach.

 ► Watch Feldmann and Simion’s full-length, 30-minute Revolution presentation, here.

 ►  Learn more about how Emarsys helped BrandAlley achieve a personalized marketing approach in this client success story.

Emarsys Revolution Las Vegas 18