June 28, 2012, 12:44 PM

E-mail marketing helps drive 40% growth at April Cornell

The retailer won back old customers and boosted conversion rates.

Lead Photo

When apparel and home products retailer April Cornell experienced e-mail list management problems that required shoppers to re-subscribe to receive its e-mail, about 35,000 consumers failed to reenter their information. To bring them back in the fold the retailer worked with a new e-mail services provider last year to blast a message asking those shoppers to re-subscribe. The message header read:  “Oops! We lost your e-mail.”

The campaign produced an open rate of 31%, a click-through rate of 55%, and a conversion rate of 3.2%, says Basil Stetson, the retailer’s chief operating officer.

The company, founded by designer April Cornell, earns about 35% of its revenue through its web site. With a revamped e-mail marketing program developed last year with e-mail services provider Bronto Software Inc., it has been able to win back former e-mail subscribers and increase its number of new customers while boosting conversion rates and sales, Stetson says.

“We are getting a 16-times return on our e-mail marketing spend,” not including staff time, he says. Burlington, VT-based April Cornell is privately owned and doesn’t release detailed financial figures.

April Cornell, which targets college-educated women from 35 to 60 with household incomes of $100,000 or more, has worked with Bronto in several ways to simplify its e-mail sign-up process, develop more effective e-mail welcome messages to new customers, improve deliverability into recipients’ inboxes, and design e-mail templates that better represent April Cornell’s brand. The retailer specializes in selling stylish and colorful apparel, table linens and home décor items with designs rooted in the Middle East, Asia and other places where Cornell has traveled.

It has also worked with Bronto to integrate the e-mail opt-in feature with its Bronto customer database, which supported the automated e-mailing of welcome messages as part of the sign-up confirmation e-mails. “That message alone has been driving sales since we started the automation in February,” Stetson says.

The retailer recently started testing an expanded welcome message that asks recipients to “Like” April Cornell on its Facebook page and to indicate their product preferences. In an unexpected bonus, April Cornell realized that e-mails requesting product preferences converted nearly 2% of recipients into buyers, “even without a mention of offers or products in the messaging,” Stetson says. “This tells us that the consumers we’re now engaging with are truly excited about brand and products.”

In another e-mail campaign sent this spring and designed to get information for more personalized offers, April Cornell asked recipients to update their product preferences, provide their birthday, and give their ZIP code or opt into a retail store list. “April Cornell marketed this campaign to 40,000 people and we got close to 2,000 new birthday subscribers,” Stetson says. In addition, the retailer increased by more than 30% the number of customers who now associate with a particular store location, providing new opportunities to provide them with local offers.

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