J.Jill maintains a consistent ~100% inbox placement rate throughout three ESP migrations with Validity Everest.

The challenge:

Maintaining consistent email deliverability to drive sales, despite three email migrations in three years.

Email is a powerful tool for women’s clothing and accessory retailer J.Jill. Their email program supports the retail channel—and email is one of their top three channels for driving website revenue

But the J.Jill team has overcome significant hurdles to build and maintain this level of email success. The typical brand changes their email service provider (ESP) approximately once every three years. In the last three years alone, J.Jill encountered challenges that necessitated three ESP migrations.

“What can I say, we love warming our IPs!” joked Michael Cabral, Senior Manager of Email Operations and Strategy at J.Jill. As he explained, the company pursued the first migration to work with a new vendor that had a stronger account team. The second change happened after the newly chosen ESP sunsetted its solution, and the third change came after numerous bugs occurred within the new solution.

An ESP migration is one of the most significant risks an email program can face. If things went awry, J.Jill would be subject to:

  • Major email deliverability issues because J.Jill had no established sender reputation with their new ESP
  • Decreased employee productivity while navigating the ESP migration
  • Failure to recreate automated journeys (which generate some of the highest revenue per email)
  • Tarnished customer relationships if emails failed to deliver as intended

“If problems during the migration caused any lasting damage to our deliverability, we stood to lose up to millions of dollars in revenue,” said Cabral.

Throughout each of these pivotal transitions, J.Jill leaned on Validity for support.

The solution:

A clear migration plan supported by Validity Everest and BriteVerify.

J.Jill’s partnership with Validity began in 2015, when the company implemented Validity’s legacy email success platform Return Path. Since then, J.Jill has relied on Validity for full visibility of email performance and expert support—both needed to mature J.Jill’s email marketing program.

The J.Jill team knew moving from one ESP to another would require careful preparation and monitoring to keep their email performance consistent. Throughout this process, J.Jill relied on Validity Everest, the market-leading email deliverability platform.

Everest provided metrics and early warning signs that helped Cabral and his team maintain their email success throughout each migration, including data on inbox placement, blocklistings, bounce rates, subscriber complaints, and sender reputation

Supported by Validity, J.Jill developed a detailed project plan for each ESP migration, which included the following critical steps:

  • Auditing their existing program for customer journeys and infrastructure that needed to be recreated (like authentication protocols, bounce handling, etc.)
  • Segmenting their audience by level of engagement Performing list hygiene exercises to remove non-functional addresses
  • Preparing a warm-up plan for new platform/IP addresses
  • Pre-warming new IP addresses
  • “Priming the pump” by migrating their most engaged addresses first
  • Performing continuous monitoring throughout the migration to detect deliverability issues early

“Validity is our ‘security blanket’—our partnership meant we didn’t panic when we hit bumps,” Cabral said. “Any issues that cropped up were quickly resolved by Validity.”

J.Jill also values the support they received from Validity’s customer success team. “I see major benefit from having another set of expert eyes, who can often explain things better,” Cabral said. “One of my biggest challenges is helping our company avoid the temptation of chasing instant gratification—by sending more often to our complete list.”

“Sometimes it’s better to play the long game,” he added. “Having another voice to explain this—especially one that is external and credible, a trusted advisor—is extremely helpful.”

J.Jill enhanced the capabilities of the Everest platform with Validity BriteVerify—the industry’s longest standing contact verification solution. High-quality data is essential for a successful IP migration. Yet BriteVerify helped J.Jill maintain a clean list of marketable contacts even after their migrations were complete. For example, when planning a particular mandated mailing send, J.Jill eliminated a significant volume of contacts from their database that should not have been mailed to—protecting them from an inevitable reputation hit.

“Validity is our ‘security blanket’—our partnership meant we didn’t panic when we hit bumps. Any issues that cropped up were quickly resolved.”

Michael Cabral – Senior Manager of Email Operations and Strategy, J.Jill

The results:

A consistent 99.7% inbox placement rate and high revenue from the email channel.

J.Jill recently completed its third successful ESP migration.

Despite the potential pitfalls, the company maintained a strong 99.7 percent inbox placement rate throughout the process, which is consistent with their regular program performance. J.Jill only experienced one minor deliverability blip during Fourth of July weekend, which is a high-volume sending period. This caused their inbox placement rate to drop temporarily to 96.8 percent. The company used Everest to identify the issue quickly. They then pivoted from mailing to their less engaged audience segment to their more engaged segment to avoid reputation issues.

For senders preparing for an ESP migration, Cabral’s advice is to “leave no stone unturned.” As he explained, “You need to dissect your entire email program, from your current MarTech stack capabilities, IT support including API calls and site tagging, segmentation and contact strategy, marketing calendar and much more.

Migrations aside, the visibility provided by the Everest platform has proved critical for J.Jill to gain a deeper understanding of their email subscribers and adjust their marketing strategies accordingly—particularly when facing new curveballs like Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, which made go-to engagement metrics less reliable.

Despite the challenges that come when competing for customers’ attention in a crowded industry, J.Jill’s average revenue per email is more than double the industry average. The company’s email subscribers are its second-most engaged customers, lagging only behind cardholders.

“Thanks to our close partnership with Validity and their Everest platform, we have maintained a high inbox placement rate,” said Cabral. “With easy access to monitor our performance on a user-friendly tool, and a wonderful account team who are quick to answer any questions, we have peace of mind knowing our emails are being delivered.”

Women’s clothing and accessory retailer J.Jill started with just one specialty store in 1959. Today, the company spans more than 240 locations. J.Jill became a publicly traded company in 2017.