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For Ann Inc., holiday 2012 featured five key takeaways on the marketing side, which in turn provided insights on top 2013 trends for digital marketers.
According to Carly Rosenberg, vice president, e-commerce marketing for Ann Taylor and Loft, they include: “E-mail can be reinvented; paid search can be smarter; display tackles the full funnel; flash sales really did work, and multichannel inventory rocks.”
While social media is important for Ann Taylor, Rosenberg purposely didn’t want to talk about social, such as advertising on Facebook and Twitter, given that that’s not yet driving sales. “When social is driving sales, I’ll be up here talking about that for us,” she said.
“E-mail is not sexy, but continues to be the main driver of sales. E-mail drove well over a third of our site traffic during holiday,” she said.
One case study was an e-mail that had “OMG!” in the subject line, with just “This is huge” in small letters in a hot-pink box within the e-mail. When one clicked through, the user saw an ad for 50 percent off everything, online only.
“The results were extraordinary. I’ve never seen any e-mail do this well in my 13 years in digital marketing. By far the highest open rate, clicks and revenues per circulation. It was a great kickoff to our Cyber Monday,” she said.
In the second e-mail case study, the company launched a campaign for Ann Taylor called “7 Days of Gifting” in which a flash-sale component helped to drive sales where a different category was promoted each day. Flash sales generated 10 percent of sales during holiday for both Loft and Ann Taylor.
Rosenberg explained the e-mails were successful due to three main elements. Curiosity was established by not mentioning in the subject line what the promotion was, which piqued the user’s interest via the element of surprise and delight. Second was a sense of urgency in launching different daily promotions. Third was collaboration among different teams, such as creative and merchandising, where they put together promotions that inspired the user to shop.
Smarter paid searches “generated 15 percent of site traffic and revenue for holiday, Rosenberg said. Mobile ads continue to outperform desktop campaigns, she added. It also uses a concept called remarketing in search, in which its site is loaded with Google pixels so that a visitor who has been to an Ann Taylor site before gets display ads that get them back onto the retailer’s site. That tool has increased its return on ad spend sevenfold.
The main game changer during holiday was the specialty retailer’s multichannel inventory strategy, which “led to a huge increase in conversion,” she said.
Rosenberg explained that when an e-commerce order comes though the site, fulfillment can now be done from more than 700 Ann Taylor and Loft stores. “Multichannel fulfillment helps stores clear trapped inventory,” Rosenberg said, emphasizing that the impact on marketing was huge due to the major increase in the conversion resulting from access to more inventory.
As for 2013 trends for digital marketers, Rosenberg cited international as a huge development. She said “big data” allows for more-personalized communications that now are possible as retailers are getting better at understanding their customers. Mobile is another huge trend, as smartphone and tablet use continues to grow. And finally, omnichannel figures to become more important as consumers want a “seamless customer experience, whether shopping in the store, online or mobile.”