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Party City Uses AI-Enhanced Emails to Drive 4% In-Store Sales Increase

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AI and brand language optimization are playing increasingly important roles in ecommerce, but Party City has leveraged these tools to boost its brick-and-mortar foot traffic and sales.

Party City began using AI-powered copywriting platform Phrasee to increase the engagement and open rates of its customer email campaigns earlier in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic had created a greater need to connect with customers online, particularly since more than 80% of Party City’s sales come from in-store shoppers. The retailer sought to leverage the AI platform to boost those sales by optimizing email subject lines. Party City’s adoption of AI translated into a 4% increase in in-store sales.

“Since optimizing its brand language with Phrasee, Party City has seen a significant impact on the performance of its marketing campaigns thanks to AI-generated messages,” said Alisa Stewart, Senior Director of Acquisition, CRM and Loyalty at Party City in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The combination of deep learning and machine learning within Phrasee’s AI platform was a good fit for Party City and our goal to enhance customer engagement.”

Party City worked with Phrasee to use brand language optimization tailored to the retailer’s existing brand equity. Email subject line phrases such as “Got a birthday coming up?” and “This day only comes once a year” were used in the subject lines of mass emails to customers.

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Party City started out by testing Phrasee on a single email per week, then two, then four and eventually all of its emails. The end result was 300,000 more open emails per campaign.

Tracking email ROI to in-store sales was trickier but vital, since so many Party City customers shop in-store. To find out, Party City used A/B testing, sending a Phrasee-optimized email to one group and a human-written email to another. Then, Party City tracked the in-store purchases for both groups using their email addresses as an identifier at checkout.

The campaign also served as an example of how Party City could potentially mirror the performance of its ecommerce channel in its physical stores.

“We always look holistically at our footprint and test new ideas to see if technology or new initiatives have an impact across all our consumer channels,” said Stewart. “Trusting the data is critical for us as a team and that’s what drives our behavior and planning cycles. Our stores remain critical to our bottom line and we try not to operate in silos but to think about the big picture at all times.

“I know many retailers use email and tech like Phrasee for online sales only, but we’re thrilled to see the impact of AI on footfall and will continue to follow the data to explore AI to its full potential,” Stewart added.

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