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2 Wins and a Fail: Real Email Marketing Experiences and Lessons from Tinuiti

There’s a lot to be learned from the past and the experience of others—building off their successes and learning from their mistakes. In this 2 Wins and a Fail blog series, we’re inviting clients, partners, friends and thought leaders to share their email marketing stories; both good and bad.


In this edition, we’re speaking with the CRM + Email experts from Tinuiti, an award-winning marketing agency that partners with brands to deliver strategy, management, and results across their entire digital business.

Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team works with brands of all sizes to scale their email marketing programs and drive results. Their ecommerce clients cover a diverse mix of industries and come with varying levels of sophistication in their email marketing programs, meaning there’s few things in the email marketing industry the Tinuiti team of email strategists haven’t encountered. But even the experts aren’t perfect. Two of these examples generated positive results for Tinuiti’s partners, while one didn’t go exactly as planned.

Win #1: Live Content: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Abby Siciliano, Senior Strategist

A common pain point for brands trying to scale their email marketing programs can be summed up in one word: bandwidth. So when Headline Shirts was looking for new and innovative ways to bring content to subscribers at scale, Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team instantly thought of live content.

“Coupling the goals and live content together, we created exactly what the email program needed.”

The cheeky t-shirt brand wanted to create content to show off their designs and keep up with their new release production schedule. So, Senior Strategist Abby Siciliano set out to find the right tool to support this enhancement with the following goals:

  1. Create evergreen content that required minimal maintenance from send to send.
  2. Engage subscribers with new and exciting content focused on their unique product designs.
  3. Drive revenue!

CRM & Email Senior Strategist, Abby Siciliano summarized the project: “Coupling the goals and live content together, we created exactly what the email program needed.” 

Email Anatomy Breakdown:

The new arrivals live content email is made up of 3 parts:

  1. A static header and footer section that outlines every campaign for strong and recognizable branding.
  2. An easy-to-update hero image boasting the NEW ARRIVALS message.
  3. Dynamic content that pulls in images from the brand’s new arrivals category on their website.

Leveraging the Live Scrape functionality from Liveclicker, Tinuiti was able to pull in the top new arrivals directly from headlineshirts.net with ease. Now, Headline Shirts has evergreen, reusable content that updates upon open – eliminating the need for additional bandwidth to update before every send. With some simple seasonal tweaks, they’re able to keep this content fresh and engaging while driving strong revenue.

Since launching, this campaign was consistently a top 3 revenue-driver for the program month after month.

Key takeaways:

  • • Highlight the uniqueness of your brand – Headline Shirts had new releases often and they wanted to provide additional touchpoints focused on showing breadth of product selection.
  • • Work smarter, not harder and focus on evergreen or reusable content to preserve bandwidth for net-new ideas.
  • • Start with the problem and think to technology for a solution.
Win #2: A Little VIP Treatment Goes A Long Way

Stacy Strom, Senior Strategist

In the day and age of tech-savvy shoppers, customers have more options than ever and are shopping around more frequently. While Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team is no stranger to a variety of customer retention methods, they’ve had to get creative for clients that don’t have the funds and resources to pull off the most ideal of strategies – a loyalty program.

Loyalty programs provide a tried and true method of retaining customers and growing brand affinity, even when competitors may be lower priced or more convenient. These programs fulfill the need for customers to feel like they are being rewarded for spending hard-earned dollars with a company. Unfortunately, these programs can come with a steep price tag for businesses, both monetarily speaking and when considering the resources required to maintain the technical integrations involved.  

“Two retail clients in particular saw an incremental $10K in revenue for the month from VIP targeted campaigns.”

Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team devised a plan to test the loyalty waters with several clients through clever segmentation and creative approaches that didn’t come with any additional cost. 

“Through the use of VIP treatment in email marketing campaigns, we were able to prove the value of a loyalty program for our clients,” says Stacy Strom, Senior Strategist and lead for a variety of clients at Tinuiti. “We’ve tested this concept in a variety of ways for several clients and all have produced incremental revenue and growth in LTV for customers. Recently, two retail clients in particular saw an incremental $10K in revenue for the month from VIP targeted campaigns.”

VIPs can be defined in a number of ways: frequency of purchases, frequency of engagement with marketing campaigns, acquisition source, total spend, etc. and should be based off of your business’s goals and benchmarks for performance. For retail clients, Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team has seen great success with basing VIP segmentation on a combination of purchase history and engagement frequency. With Tinuiti’s approach to this concept, you can provide almost all the perks of a typical loyalty program without the point liability that could impact profit margins. 

So how do you show your VIPs red-carpet treatment without paying for a loyalty platform? With careful timing of promotions, VIP early access to sales, and VIP sale extensions. These give customers that are frequently engaged a sense of exclusivity and special treatment. This is executed through simple versioning of email creative; from headlines changes to call out “just for you” to subject line updates that use “exclusive access” to entice opens to elevated creative that uses richer color palettes such as gold and black.  

Overall, this approach has led to great success across a variety of clients. With the most successful of these, Tinuiti’s CRM &+ Email team has even launched versioned triggered campaigns based on VIP segmentation for successful programs such as Post Purchase, Browse Abandon, and Cart Abandon. These programs have seen not only strong revenue performance, but also an average lift of 20% in engagement rates compared to those without VIP treatment. 

Key Takeaways:

  • • A dedicated platform isn’t required to execute a VIP strategy.
  • • Review your customer data and growth goals to determine the ideal qualifications for VIP status with your brand.
  • • Use VIP rewards as a carrot to entice additional purchases to unlock rewards.
  • • Get creative with your approach! Not all VIP offers have to be exceptional: simple changes to the language used with this audience or timing of access to promos can be just as influential.
The Fail: Email Drives Traffic That Can’t Convert

Mandi Moshay, Associate Director

While Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team strives to operate as an extension of their clients’ internal teams, the nature of the client-agency partnership doesn’t always lend itself to the immediate exchange of information. Such was the case when one of the agency’s long-time partners, an online lingerie retailer, had an issue with their website that was causing the submission of orders to time out.

“In client service there’s no time to dwell on what might’ve been, so our team quickly pivoted toward potential paths forward to recoup lost revenue and rebuild trust with the impacted customers.”

By the time the issue was identified and the client was able to notify their Tinuiti team, that morning’s email had already deployed. The message, highlighting the release of a new seasonal collection, began driving traffic to a site that could not process orders, diminishing the anticipated return on the email campaign and upsetting potential customers.

“It’s a frustrating experience,” said Mandi Moshay, Associate Director and lead strategist on the account. “Once you deploy an email campaign, it’s out there and there’s no taking it back. But in client service there’s no time to dwell on what might’ve been, so our team quickly pivoted toward potential paths forward to recoup lost revenue and rebuild trust with the impacted customers.”

The Tinuiti team immediately knew an apology email was in order. “Any time the purchase process is interrupted – whether due to a broken link or site error – we strongly consider an apology email, both to let the customer know how sorry we are for the negative site experience, and to motivate them to come back and complete their purchase once the issue has been resolved.” Mandi and team began strategizing with the client on the best approach to take once the order submission issue was resolved. 

After agreeing on an incentive of 20% off for impacted customers, the Tinuiti creative team set to work to quickly turn a banner that could be added to the top of that morning’s email creative, conveying the apology and the promotion. To control margin, the Tinuiti team recommended only mailing to contacts who had clicked through the original email and were potentially exposed to the checkout error. Finally, an eye-catching subject line and preheader were drafted to grab the attention of affected subscribers and get them back in the mood to shop.

Fortunately, this fail turned into a win after the apology email was deployed and generated a 66% open rate (compared to a program average of ~15%), and drove nearly 4x times the revenue/delivered of the brand’s standard product launch campaigns. The total revenue between the original message and the apology exceeded product launch averages by 65%!

Key Takeaways:

  • • Mistakes happen. Develop a standard operating procedure for apology emails so it’s clear when they’re warranted and you can quickly begin strategizing the message.
  • • Utilize segmentation to communicate mistakes only to impacted customers. 
  • • Sending an “oops” message to subscribers who opened the morning message after the checkout issue was resolved could’ve resulted in confusion. 
  • • Providing the entire audience with a 20% incentive would have dragged down the revenue and AOV for the campaign, when the newness of the product was incentive enough for many customers to shop.