The ubiquitous and always-on nature of the Internet, social media and mobile tools has made it easier for smaller retailers to grow and thrive. Threadless, an independent T-shirt design and distribution eTailer, effectively builds relationships with customers and designers by participating in conversations via social networks.
The eTailer is active on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, and has seamless integration and sharing capabilities between social sites and item pages on its e-Commerce site. Moreover, the merchant has a thriving community on the site consisting of designers submitting designs for new merchandise.
Threadless optimizes business decision-making, inventory planning and cross-channel marketing efforts by tapping into services from RJMetrics, a data mining and analysis solution provider that helps organizations integrate all customer data in a centralized location. To further support promotions and other customer engagement initiatives, the Threadless marketing team tracks all social interactions through Google Analytics and ties them to back-end data stored in the RJMetrics platform, ensuring campaign efficacy, according to Cam Balzer, CMO of Threadless.
As an independent retailer, “it is key to have that consolidated customer view, which helps us understand our shoppers better over time — and being able to track results tied to each customer was one of the most immediate benefits of implementation,” Balzer told Retail TouchPoints. “It really helps us see, channel by channel, what our strengths and weaknesses are in terms of customer acquisition, what products customers are buying through which channels, and what marketing links they’re clicking. Overall, we get a bigger picture of how our customers are engaging with us across channels.”
To date, Threadless has more than 2 million members worldwide submitting product designs for consideration. Once designs are chosen, they are printed and released weekly on new T-shirt releases, and also are considered for other products such as iPod cases and backpacks. Through the RJMetrics platform, Threadless’ marketing team gathers data from site submissions — as well as social interactions, shares, comments and purchase information — to obtain actionable insights into the value and loyalty of each customer. The team no longer relies on IT to receive this data, improving efficiencies and time management across the organization.
“Our data needs were extended across our whole business, from inventory and supply chain management all the way to marketing,” Balzer said. He noted that since implementation, Threadless has been able to increase its paid advertising efforts, retention and overall customer lifetime value.
“We now have visibility into how customers are performing over time, as well as the value they bring and when their behaviors shift,” Balzer reported. “We get to see what factors make an impact, and shift marketing and advertising investments over time.”
Prior to the companies’ partnership, Threadless struggled to optimize marketing spend and consolidate relevant data for business users, Balzer reported. Though the company used the Google Analytics web platform for insight, and still does, its ability to pull rich data and understand the customer was constrained.
“As an Internet start-up, we’ve always had a lot of data, but it was hard for us to grab it and analyze it effectively,” Balzer said. “The data was very rich, due to the number of design submissions, as well as customer purchase information and history, and there was no easy way for the Threadless team to access it all. Our goal was seamless visibility to data to make better business decisions and help understand our customers and community in a more proactive way, and manage everything much more actively.”
Tying Social Interactions To Customer Acquisition And Retention
Threadless launched in 2000, after its co-founders, Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart, sought to create an outlet for artists and designers to share their work. Within a decade, the brand grew significantly, creating loyal communities across social networks and consistent shoppers on its online storefront.
According to Jake Stein, Co-founder of RJMetrics, the platform allows Threadless to gain insights into the following key metrics:
· Customer lifetime value;
· Cost per customer acquisition; and
· Shopper retention/churn.
By accessing and analyzing this information, retailers can segment customer information by channel, as well as specific purchase behaviors, demographics and psychographics, creating a 360-degree view of each shopper.
“A lot of our customers are focusing on shopper acquisition, but it’s hard to optimize that data collection and get in-depth insights into the lifetime value of each shopper,” Stein said. “Building data-driven lists allows brands to follow up with different kinds of customers in different ways based on their behaviors, rather than sending mass messages.”
Because the solution allows Threadless to pull information from multiple data sources, the retailer has optimized marketing spend across channels and has been able to build more relevant and consistent one-to-one conversations with shoppers, according to Stein.
“Shoppers may be interacting via social media, a mobile app or an e-Commerce site,” Stein said. “Retailers need to be able to track all data from wherever it’s being generated and consolidate information across channels. If you’re missing some part of that customer conversation or transaction, you could be making poor decisions due to misleading or incomplete data.”