The Beauty of a Best-In-Class Email Program

As a consultant on the vendor side of the email marketing industry, I spend a considerable amount of time working with clients to create strategies for solving their email challenges. Whether those challenges are related to attribution, creative templates, acquisition, deliverability or any of the other numerous practices and processes the client is looking to optimise, they almost always impact the client where it hurts the most: revenue and return on investment.

More often than not, the solution for solving the client’s pain – barring any serious sender reputation issues – involves creating a strategy for relevancy. In other words: how to send the right message to the right subscriber at the right time. This includes demonstrating value through the email channel and sending messages that subscribers anticipate and appreciate. Sound like a big ask? It certainly can be, and that’s why it’s especially pleasing to see marketers getting it right. Sephora, the international cosmetics and beauty retailer, does just that with their email program.

Here are some of the best practices they have implemented:

  • Showing value with a loyalty program. Sephora offers subscribers access to their “Beauty Insider” program. The incentive to sign-up is to collect points through the purchase process and redeem them for perks, including free samples and a free birthday gift. Their best customers are considered “V.I.B.s” or “Very Important Beauty Insiders.” The email program helps to promote and support the rewards of being a Beauty Insider by using special creative to recognize V.I.B. email subscribers and offering access to exclusive online content, free gifts, invitations to special events and the ability to preview new products before they are launched.
  • Sending triggered messages. Sephora sends one of the best post-purchase triggered messages I’ve seen. Two weeks after I visited one of their New York City stores I received an email asking me to rate my purchases. It included images of the actual products I bought and a call-to-action to write a review or rank the product with a star rating. The customised landing page also allows subscribers to enter their comments and upload a photo or a video of themselves using the product. A form at the bottom of the page collects additional data points about the subscriber, including eye colour and skin tone.
  • Incorporating useful content. While Sephora’s email program is primarily promotional in nature, their messages still include a lot of useful and relevant content for subscribers. Emails often feature products that are grouped into relevant categories, like beauty problem areas (dry skin, bad hair days, etc.), or include content about new beauty trends, makeover advice or how-to videos for perfecting various looks or techniques. Even small snippets of content help to ensure the messages are relevant for subscribers who aren’t in market to make a purchase at that time, but are still looking for beauty advice and information. In addition, every message includes a link to their “Beauty Talk Community” page where subscribers can submit questions, get expert advice and share comments.
  • Collecting preferences and use them. Sephora has a detailed preference centre that collects information about everything from a subscriber’s skin type, eye colour, and hair colour and type, to beauty concerns and favourite types of perfume. This information is regularly used to target offers and content. To encourage subscribers to submit their preferences, a triggered message is sent asking for information and explaining why taking the time to enter it will benefit the subscriber’s experience with the brand.

As an email subscriber, I genuinely value the messages I receive from Sephora. I’ve even marked them as “important” in my Gmail Priority Inbox, an action many marketers are increasingly looking for their subscribers to take. As a consultant, I’m impressed with their strategic approach to email marketing. While I don’t know the exact amount of revenue that the email channel generates for Sephora, I would assume it’s pretty substantial. Their subscriber-centric and data-focused approach to email marketing clearly illustrates the value of implementing best-in-class practices, and I consider that to be a beautiful thing.

This article was originally featured on the DMA UK Email Marketing Blog

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