The ultimate fashion email and marketing automation guide

Fashion brands use email marketing to bring their latest collection into the minds, hearts, and closets of their customers. That’s why email marketing and marketing automation are so important.

Fashion and apparel is an exciting industry. But don’t be mistaken, the competition is just one click away. So marketing has to be FABULOUS to even stand out. We want to build a relationship, but how?

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This guide will show you how to Master Fashion email marketing:

  • Walk through the success factors for selection of the right email marketing software
  • Customer Experience benchmark included
  • Show the process and checklist of selection of new software
  • Examples of real life campaigns, and details on what you need from your ESP (Email service provider) to make them a success.

This guide starts with campaigns not to miss in your marketing plan. Along with every example, you get details on what you need from your ESP to make them a success. 

Then we shift gears into strategy mode, with the outline for a successful email strategy. But first, let’s dive into Fashion Marketing and the Customer Experience benchmark.

Fashion marketing for brands with ambition
Fashion marketing benchmark, how do you stack up?
Anatomy of modern marketing campaigns

1. The 9 best email campaigns not to miss in your strategy
1. The perfect welcome email sequence
2. Pre-order fashion email marketing campaign
3. Newsletters and editorial content
4. Flash sales and End of Season sales promotion
5. Post-purchase and aftersales emails
6. Seasonal promotions and new product introductions
7. Special shopping days and events
8. Next level Cart Abandonment emails
9. Re-engagement & lost customer win back
2. The 8 Success-factors for your Fashion Marketing Strategy
1. Pick the right email marketing software
2. Automate campaigns throughout the whole shopper customer lifecycle
3. Actively grow your email list
4. Segment shopper profiles and cluster persona’s
5. Promote your products with dedicated sales mail
6. Plan your merchandise & marketing calendar
7. Automate Product recommendations
8. Make Retail, eCommerce, and Marketing platform work together
Conclusion: Fashion email marketing success

What is fashion marketing? A strategy for brands with ambition

Fashion marketing is inspiring customers to buy your fashion products. Brands use marketing to get their pieces in front of their target audience in an attractive way.

We need to stay in tune with our audience and build our brand. While keeping an eye on the business side of fashion: the retail math of sales and profits.

brand personality strategy

Ask a consumer “What is fashion marketing?” and most will answer: (luxury) fashion, haute-couture, and big brand retailers. Of course, the industry is much bigger. With niche audiences, lifestyle brands, sportswear.

And yes, Crocs are also a part of fashion and apparel.

Sales channels reach far beyond brick-and-mortar and eCommerce. Think about marketplaces, pop-up concepts, in-app purchases, social shopping, etc.

Fashion marketing is unique because of the fast pace and cyclic nature of the fashion industry. You can’t run the same campaigns for multiple years like in other industries, so fashion marketers need to keep up with the latest trends and find creative ways to advertise their newest products.

Fashion marketing benchmark, how do you stack up?

This year, brands go into full “delight-mode” to bring a delicious online Customer EXperience (CEX). Wouldn’t it be great to benchmark yourself to the competition, learn from the winners?

The yearly benchmark report from dotdigital, does exactly that. The scoreboard below shows how eCommerce and fashion brands score on email best practice, omnichannel adoption and user experience. Have a look at the scoreboard:

A 5 to 10 point improvement per year is a healthy ambition. Both for brands that are digital natives, or are now bricks and clicks. There are surely enough quick wins laying around.

Get the full benchmark together with our guide here.

A fashion marketing benchmark like this measures how well you are using all the options available – email experience, omnichannel experience and (overall) user experience.

Anatomy of modern marketing promotions

At its core, fashion marketing is tied to merchandising and product. With each promotion there are following dials to turn.

modern marketing framework

What you’ll find is that some advanced tactics are easier to implement than basics. These are the quick-wins and tech assisted opportunities, where you can quickly leap ahead.

Email and marketing automation plays a big role here, because it is

  • Fast, nimble, quick to deploy
  • Learn about individual preferences of your shoppers
  • Scalable and cheap 
  • Plays well together with other channels
  • Can be used in any part of season and customer lifecycle

The top 9 fashion emails not to miss in your strategy

The average 38:1 ROI of email marketing is hard to beat. The beauty of email is that it works across all stages of the customer lifecycle. We’ll run through amazing fashion and apparel email examples to include in your fashion marketing plan.

You want to carry a customer from first interest to its first purchase, second purchase, and beyond. Inspiring shopper loyalty keeps your average acquisition cost down.

1. The perfect welcome email sequence 

You probably already have a welcome email, but let’s be honest – for most brands, it’s more of a “welcome placeholder”. With a lot of opportunity for improvement in those crucial first 2 weeks. Time for a make-over!

Benchmarks show that 90% have a welcome mail, but only 29% of brands even try to gather data in their welcome program (let alone optimize their flow).

What does a perfect welcome email flow look like?
The perfect welcome email program takes the new subscriber through a 2-week email flow where the subscribers get a special set of mails. This is the first rule: Don’t jam everything into a single welcome email. Of course you can fine-tune the number of mails and optimum time period once you get it going.

An omnichannel welcome email workflow with discount code, 2 emails, SMS and push.

As the welcome campaign is completely automated, most of the work is done after a one-time setup. After that, it is mostly testing and fine-tuning to optimize it even more.

This is the first rule: Don’t jam everything into a single welcome email.

Your welcome program goals:
Your welcome program is the only chance to make a first (inbox) impression. It can become a huge driver for email marketing success with those 3 B’s of Best Beginnings: Brand, Base, and (dollar) Bills. 

1. Base: Ask, tease, and track readers so they share information about themselves and their preferences. This gives you extra insight to use and personalize your messages from the get-go. 

This can be anything from:
* Filling in their preferences,
* Adding items to their wishlist
* A giveaway, contest, survey or coupon that gathers more customer info.

2. Brand: Introduce your brand, give customers insight into who you are, what you stand for, and your products. It’s all about building a relationship, where they get to know you and what to expect. This will help readers better understand your business, get a first spark of your personality, and build an emotional connection.

3. Bills: Get a first conversion, or step towards that (viewing products, create a wish list, etc.).

Outstanding inspirational fashion welcome campaigns

Personalize your welcome design and content

A great example of a welcome campaign comes from this Jones Bootmaker case study. They trigger a campaign to stimulate in-store shoppers to go purchase online at 30 days post in-store signup.

The email has 2 segments for gender and a personalised hero image with customer’s name inside the shoe for added attention. This drives home the ‘Exclusive offer for you’ offer.

jones bootmaker econd purchase campaign

With personal recommendations and imagery an additional 1 in 60 customers bought online from just this email.

Add your own charm
The right mix of elements makes your welcome program shine. Your brand voice, personality, and marketing goals determine where you put your emphasis. Think about the mix of relationship, brand, or conversion you want to go for. 

Here is a fun first email to welcome you to the club by Tottenham Hotspur. It uses dynamic images to show a personalized shirt.

What you need from your email marketing software for a great welcome series:

  • Send out first email immediately after sign up (no delay)
  • Integration with pop-up / sign-up tools and database
  • Ability to work with coupon codes / or direct discounts in your cart
  • Email Automation with progressive profiling options
  • Dynamic blocks for product, category, and promotion images.

2. Pre-order fashion email marketing campaign 

You might remember the now-iconic 2004 campaign of H&M + Karl Lagerfelt. A unique collaboration and an exciting brand moment. People were lining up around the corner to get designer items for crazy prices.

How can we generate that same feeling of excitement for our own campaigns? Customers should be shouting: “I Need to have it!” or even “I Need to have it before anyone else!” It’s called Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). FOMO for an exclusive or great deal can be triggered in the minds of your customers. And it is not that hard.

Campaign success starts before the product is launched. Brands that understand the art of pre-order fashion campaigns know it’s an amazing email marketing tactic.

The biggest benefits of pre-order campaigns:

  • Secure guaranteed revenue
  • Produce smaller series with limited distribution
  • Reduce (paid) advertising costs, stimulate word of mouth
  • Sense product and category interest – even before the product launch
  • Upselling opportunities (either online, or with store pickups)
  • Create a sense of exclusivity (usually limit stock)

So how can a fashion and apparel brand do a pre-order campaign? It is actually not that complex. There is no need for much hype or big campaigns to pull it off.

Exclusive product drops
Take a look at the campaigns by Italian shoe retailer M.Gemi. This classic mail campaign embodies the perfected pre-sales exclusivity. The sales campaigns are previewed only for email subscribers. Their running “Made for Mondays” Drop campaign means they offer limited edition shoe styles every Monday 10 AM (not kidding).

And, just listen how great this sounds: “Pre-shop the drop” on the sunday before bigger sales of the year.

High demand items can come back in limited numbers. Or you’ll have time to build up anticipation and quickly sell out. Similar to McDonalds bringing back the Mac-rib (so sorry to bring up McDonald, but it has similar campaign features).

What you want from your email marketing software:

  • Precise send timing and campaign scheduling
  • Unique URL and link click tracking 
  • Building shopper profile and preferences with tagging
  • eCommerce shop integration to exclude those who already (pre)ordered
  • One of the best landing page builders (if your eCommerce software doesn’t have it)

3. Newsletters and editorial content 

Let’s clear up any confusion. Newsletters are NOT about news unless you choose them to be. Newsletter is just the name we give to the email we regularly send – no news required.

Newsletters build that all-important share-of-mind and reinforce your brand. The best newsletters have you coming back to open it – every time. There are plenty of opportunities to add editorial content for an engaging mix.

Editorial content is a powerful way to: 

  • Make your emails even more engaging 
  • Offer value even when your customer isn’t buying today
  • Step into the world of your customers
  • Connect to other topics and build out your brand

Newsletters are the ideal place for fashion brands to show off their new season styles. This email  is an example using new technology called AMP for email. It allows subscribers to  select and browse different categories all from within the email.

AMP for email example dotdigital dropdown
(Source: How to send interactive email )

A newsletter lets you create an experience around your brand and add value to people’s lives that goes beyond buying a piece of clothing.

An example of value based email comes from JoJo Maman Bebe. Because of Covid they had to turn their potty training course into a virtual event, excellently promoted in their emails. The campaign even won the Dotties award for ‘Best crisis-communication campaign’. Being there for customers when times are rough.

What content to use?
Adidas Gameplan A brings content into practice. High-performance gear – for the high performance lifestyle. Their topics are Mindset, Lifestyle, Ideas, Inspiration and Career. It is telling that the welcome email sends you a weekly success planner, now you know: Adidas and Gameplan A aren’t kidding.

adidas gameplan A content fashion email

Publishers are also an amazing source of content inspiration. Their whole business is about strong fashion and lifestyle content. Insidehook does this very well. They send a content-driven newsletter with a  commercial touch. Their topics are gear, style, home, news, and fun.

Name and Frame to add instant personality.
Insidehook labels their deal of the day “Kind of a big deal”. The product promotion at the bottom is called “Stuff we love”. By picking the right headlines, you can let your brand shine through.  Instantly it becomes less sales-ey and more appealing.

Add context to your items
Content without context is just noise. We love this example from Nancy King from years ago of their recurring travel guide series. It brings the excitement of travel and destinations into the brand. It could have been a flat product promotion, but is “framed” so your readers will see it much more as an experience. 

fashion newsletter example

Even a simple quote, tip or story added can make the difference. If you are already making great content for a blog, Youtube, or Insta – your newsletter can be the portal to it and drive additional visits.

What the best Fashion email tools have:

  • Advanced segmentation send to audiences based on interests and behavior
  • Automated tagging and link tracking – measure effectiveness and gain insights 
  • Responsive email templates and email editor – to speed up production
  • Dynamic content blocks to personalize the content to the subscriber

4. Flash sales and End of Season sales promotion

A flash sale is a short-term promotion.  It’s here and gone in a flash. Fashion flash sales last between 22 – 72 hours, but it can be as short as 3 hours!

Flash sales are great for a quick boost to your bottom line. That’s why they’re so popular with eCommerce stores. Just have a look at the most flashy, salesy, and profitable shopping day of the year: Black Friday.

At goggles4U, almost 40% of total revenue is attributed to email marketing. The end of the season is a natural time for Flash sales, with a bigger discount. But it doesn’t need to drain your margins, in this example, they are able to give big discounts – but only on part of their collections.

fashion email marketing goggles for you promotion

Fitness brand GymShark got 650,000 orders in the first 5hrs of their BlackOut Flash Sale in 2019. In the first hour sales topped $400,000!

The goal of a flash sale is to stimulate impulse shopping. In fashion, you will see they are used to clean up inventory, but the influx of revenue doesn’t hurt either.

How Urban Outfitters keeps the flash sales fresh

Creating an engaging promotion, without repeating yourself isn’t easy. Urban Outfitters does a great job. 

‘As Senior Digital Designer for Urban Outfitters Europe, me and my team are often challenged to deliver engaging promos that don’t feel too explicitly ‘Sale’. Used throughout the year over the course of a week, our ‘Deal of the Day’ marketing messages give a feeling of urgency – wait and you’ll miss it!

Although used to drive excess stock, the creative is still designed in a way that makes the product feel desirable, and is in keeping with our brand DNA.’
Rachel Bedford, Senior Digital Designer

Look at how UrbanOutfitters keeps the promotions design feeling consistent, while mixing up the type of promotion.

What I like especially is the community based “Molly’s deal of the day”. Include your customers or your employees. Get inspiration for your community email from these employee newsletter examples. It builds a connection, focuses on the Urban Outfitters community, and brings social proof into it. Great detail is the promo code: Molly. 

Flash sales are also for Luxury fashion

Flash sales are past the stage where they were a “dumb” tactic to unload the out-of-season “leftover” inventory. It is a fine art, and you’ll see there are products made just for flash promotions. Luxury fashion retailers are in on the game and offer flash sales while keeping their brand image intact. How? – by inserting exclusivity and anticipation.

Think members-only, “velvet rope” experiences. The short promo time – makes it extra effective. It is now… or never. Combo of price incentive, fear of missing out, and scarcity.

An effective flash sale promotion series has 2 to 4 emails.  Starting with a (pre)sales announcement, the start/launch email, a last day email, and a last call.

What the best fashion email tools have:

  • Advanced segmentation to select the right audience based on interests and behavior
  • Mobile responsive editor and templates so it looks great on every device
  • Automated resending to non-opens
  • Integration with eCommerce systems that can activate promotions based on time and stock level
  • Dynamic content blocks to personalize the content to the subscriber

5. Post-purchase and aftersales emails

Post-purchase emails are powerful for fashion and apparel brands. You just rounded off your purchase, now it is time to enjoy it. The combination of transactional, service, and marketing grabs attention with higher opens and clicks. It generates sensational results.

Use post-purchase emails to:

  • Recommend up- and cross-sell products
  • Provide tips on the product to add value and minimize returns
  • Ask for reviews and feedback

Here is an example from the shoe brand Grenson. There is no hard sell in there, they choose to give product tips and ask for feedback.

fashion apparel email marketing grenson case study
source: Grenson email case study

This post-purchase email example from Grenson shows exactly why post-purchase is so powerful. With an open rate of 70% of its after-sales email program, customers are clearly interested in tips on how to look after their new shoes.

Crafting an extended post purchase flow
Here we see an example from ThirdLove with a post purchase flow with 5 emails over 19 days. Obviously you need to have a bit of time to use the product before you can ask for the review.

fashion email marketing THIRDLOVE post purchase example

ThirdLove combines the post-purchase transactional emails with a fun on-brand style, prompt to browse more products, information to get the perfect fit and asking for a review.

What you notice directly is that transactional emails have a different color scheme than the following mails. They ask especially about the fit, which is one of their brand promises. The review creates User Generated Content to show alongside the products (and help other shoppers).
Full size version here at MailCharts.

And ThirdLove does something smart in the Review mail as well. Showing the stars for voting inside the mail, will increase response.

“We’ve purchased from over 1,000 brands and see there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to post-purchase campaigns. Post-purchase flows are brands’ opportunity for a deeper relationship with newly-earned customers. Take the time to focus on these sequences— use personalization, segmentation, or otherwise— it is a huge coup for growing customer value and earning advocates for life.” — Nataša Jovanoska, MailCharts

What you want from your marketing tools for automated post-purchase emails:

  • Enrich your full shopper profiles with purchase behavior
  • eCommerce product integration and ideally a product recommendation engine
  • Quick, timely email delivery on trigger – without delay
  • Program and plan follow up lifecycle emails

6. Seasonal promotions and new product introductions

In the apparel business, the timing of product, production, and marketing is critical. While basics have only one or two seasons a year. Fashion brands can have 4 – 6 selling seasons per year with five lines for each season. (Fast Fashion is of course a different story.) 

seasonal marketing planner fashion email marketing

Last year was a “tiny bit” different with the pandemic. Big and small brands needed to adjust for unsold seasonal products. The trend is to shift to products that can carry over into the next season in a “three-season strategy”. Less prints and more apparel and basics make that the inventory has a longer life and less chance of excess inventory.

Seasonal promotions and themes

seasonal email marketing fashion protest

A brand that nails the season is Protest sportswear. Their emails have a very clean look. Predefined email templates save them a lot of time and still manage to capture that “in the season” feeling. How do they do that? 

  • Show new seasonal items
  • Use amazing photography
  • Change colors backgrounds and email design to each season

The emails include recommended products based on individual preferences and some very cool animated imagery.

What you want from your email and automation marketing tools for seasonal emails:

  • Marketing calendar and promotional overview
  • Clear reporting and analytics on revenue
  • Simple way to turn your “design system” into communication
  • Weather-based triggers / dynamic content

7. Special shopping days and events

Shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are prime time for eCommerce email sales. Fashion brands can make a killing in just a few days. And it shows, email frequency goes up, and urgency stimulates time-limited offers. According to CNBC, Black Friday sales were up 22% hitting an all-time high of $9 Billion in sales in 2020.

Every online store you ever subscribed to will want a piece of the pie. So consumers get a lot of emails. Your challenge is to stand out in the inbox. The hype has turned Black Friday to become Black Friday week(s). The reverse is also happening – not every brand is hopping on that bandwagon.

Crafting a memorable black friday promotion

You want to give your campaigns a stunning design or original touch to make an impression, along with the limited-time-only discounts. Don’t be afraid to do something different. Here are two examples of brands that took an original point during Black Friday.

We love this Black Friday example by Everlane. It is just a minimalistic text-based email – like they do sometimes to switch up their normally inspirational, designed emails.

everlane black friday email fashion

Allbirds went the complete opposite of Blackfriday – adding 1eur to their prices and donating it to Mother nature. For Cyber Monday they promoted caring for yourself and a healthy lifestyle by sponsoring a sports event. 

allbirds black friday email campaign

Reactivate your lost subscribers during sales
Contrary to popular belief, the data shows that inactive customers are more likely to re-engage during Black Friday. They have a much higher likelihood to graduate to more valuable customer profiles. The rate at which an at-risk persona decays to inactive is reduced three-fold whilst the chance they become loyal increases.

RFM persona movement
An inteligent RFM analytics dashboard

With advanced analytics you can see the movement between active, inactive and other groups. A sankey diagram like above shows exactly what happens to your engagement groups over time.

Special shopping days signal the intent for consumers to shop both for themselves and others. So think about gifting as well, which goes double for days like Mothers day, Fathers day, Valentines, etc. 

What the best fashion email tools have:

  • A/B testing wizard that automatically sends the winning version
  • An ESP that can handle high volume sending (it is not just you, all their client’s total volume)
  • Coupon code generation, countdown timers, and other attention grabbers
  • Amazing deliverability to get emails in the inbox even in this high-frequency period
  • Shopper persona migration and analytics

8. Next level Cart Abandonment emails

You already know cart abandonment campaigns bring back a lot of revenue. A shocking 77% of online shopping carts are abandoned even before making a purchase. Fashion brands can expect to win back 6.4% of abandoned carts on average, just from abandoned cart email.

Shifting to a next level cart abandonment
Depending on your brand, you want to implement a two or three-stage abandoned cart program. These are even more effective in driving purchases. 

Implement the basics along with more advanced message filters based on:

abandonned cart email value image

Basket value (and product margins)
Cart contents
Product Category
Customer Purchase data
Coupon and discount usage

An abandoned cart mail can be service focussed too.

  • Show the products they were looking at, with a reminder that the items in their cart are  saved, so finishing the purchase is quick and easy.
  • Sum up delivery options, explain the value for money of the products
  • Recommend related items to the products in their basket to increase the value of their order 

7 quick Abandoned shopping cart tips:

  1. Send the first email directly, within an hour of being abandoned
  2. Make it into a two or three-part abandoned cart series
  3. Gather this great source of intent data, add it to the database, and include carted products to your normal email.
  4. Refine your content based on cart value, shopper history, and product type.
  5. Recommend related items next to or under the content,  to show more options or increase order value.
  6. Reemphasize brand credibility and include a testimonial or product reviews.
  7. Add some urgency for instance with a limited-time offer or discount.

What you need from your email marketing solution:

  • Advanced cart content filters on cart value and category
  • Integration with your eCommerce system for product images
  • Proper triggered email reporting
  • Site tracking and cart abandonment identification
  • A/B testing on cart campaigns

9. Re-engagement & lost customer win back

You will lose customers over time, it is a fact of life. With the right marketing campaign in place, you’ll be able to re-engage and win-back part of them before they become ‘lost’.

How to trigger the re-engagement and win back
This is where some sophistication comes in. Triggering solely on email engagement is not enough.  You want to make 100% sure that you are not sending a re-engagement email to a shopper that just bought a product! 

Instead, use email data in combination with the last purchase date or website visit to your ecommerce platform to trigger a customer winback or reengagement program.

What to put in these emails?
Well, every email is a re-engagement email. But for these you should do something else than normal. 

  • Include value-added content that inspires customers to re-engage 
  • Stimulate them with incentives like a money-off discount 
  • Capture customer feedback on why they lapsed, or
  • Simply say (almost) goodbye
fashion reactivation email wildandgorgeous

We really like Wild and Gorgeous’s ‘miss you’ email. It has a warm tone of voice and an inviting look and feel. The message isn’t only cute, customers get a promotional discount code to persuade them to have another look.

What you need from your email marketing solution:

  • Integration with website and shopping data
  • List health metrics reporting
  • Selection and segmentation on engagement levels
  • Automated A/B testing on automated campaigns

2. The 8 Success-factors for your Fashion Marketing Strategy

Building a mature email and automation program is a step by step process. But contrary to what you might expect, you can easily adopt very sophisticated tactics early on. As long as they are prioritized. 

1. Pick the right email marketing software

The first thing is to choose the right email marketing software for your fashion brand,  eCommerce and brick-and-mortar store.

On the surface, email software might look the same, but there are huge differences. Especially when comparing vendors, the differences quickly start to show.

The best email marketing tool allows you to do every campaign in your plan. So it depends on what you want to do with it!  You already saw what you need from your email marketing software with each type of campaign.
Let’s start with the must-haves every business needs and zoom into the features that make the best eCommerce email marketing service.

Here is a list of basics that you would need to look for in any email marketing and automation software.

  1. Easy drag-and-drop email editor to quickly create responsive email newsletters.
  2. Email templates you can re-use and customise to your brand.
  3. Detailed email statistics and reporting to analyse and improve your campaigns.
  4. Structured subscriber administration that allows you to manage your subscriber lists and database easily.
  5. Advanced segmentation and personalisation to send the right message to each subscriber.
  6. First-class deliverability. The infrastructure and expertise to ensure your emails reach the inbox.

It is not just about finding the best email marketing software, the ideal ESP should also have:

  1. References and other clients in the fashion and apparel industry.
  2. Industry knowledge and eCommerce email marketing best practices to share.
  3. Customer support and account management at the level you require.

Put together your Fashion email software selection checklist
Throughout the guide we’ve noted the requirements and things to look for along with campaigns. Be smart, look at what you will be doing and turn it in a checklist for you to use to inform your software selection!

checklist for fashion email vendor selection

Get all the info in the download

What about the details and specific features to look for in your software? Let’s go through them, and mix in some expert insights.

2. Automate campaigns throughout the whole shopper customer lifecycle. 

Naturally, you want to support your customers during their complete shopper journey. So you want to match your email to the stage of the individual. Fashion email automation does just that and increases the relevance of your campaigns.

lifecycle marketing model emailmonday

Customer lifecycle phaseDefinitionYour goalsCampaigns and tactics
AcquisitionFresh leads and potential customersDrive sign ups and traffic,
Gather data 
List growth campaigns, lead capture pop-ups, subscribe incentive
Window ShopperCustomers who are in touch,  but haven’t transactedBrand awareness,Drive first purchaseWelcome series
1st purchase program
Single PurchaseCustomers with one recent brand transaction.Drive repeat transactions and loyaltyUp and cross sell campaigns,
Loyalty program
Repeat purchaseCustomers with multiple recent transactions with the brandNurture and increase customer lifetime valueRepurchase program
Back in Stock
Loyal customerExisting customers who have not transacted in a while (On the verge of lapsing)Prevent churnRe-engagement program Renewal emailsBest customer and VIP program
Lost CustomerCustomers who haven’t transacted for a long timeWin-back/ ReactivateLost souls campaign
Win-back campaign
Resubscribe program

A welcome program, profile enrichment, re-engagement, and win-back campaigns are mainstays in email automation.

The most effective automations for Fashion brands throughout the customer journey are:

  • Cross and upsell campaigns
  • Abandoned cart emails and wishlists
  • Product re-purchase emails
  • Price drop emails
  • Back in stock emails

The best fashion email automation solution must include:

  • An email flow builder that makes it easy to create and manage campaigns on a canvas.
  • Product data integration that includes product data in the shopper journey mails.
  • Reporting and analytics on automated campaigns

3. Actively grow your email list 

Email is your direct and instant channel to communicate with your customers.  An engaged list makes your marketing campaigns have a bigger impact. So when it comes to your email list, the bigger the better. More subscribers means better results, without the extra work.

List growth is a must-have pillar in your email marketing plan.

7 Quick wins for list growth

It makes sense to start with the people who already love to hear from you, in places you are already in touch with them. Before moving to any paid list growth, focus on customers, fans and visitors first.

  1. Start with getting an opt-in from all new customers during checkout and registration.
  2. Convert fans from social channels: Facebook, Insta, Pinterest, TikTok – with contests, sneak peeks and exclusive downloads.
  3. Sign up at your brick and mortar stores, live events, through partners

Make maximum use of your website and eCommerce store:

  1. Offer multiple opt-in options on every webpage – footer, in content, blog and more.
  2. Use well-timed and targeted website overlays (pop-ups)
  3. Show an Exit intent pop-up
  4. Use contests and giveaways
effective overlays

Well placed overlays and smarter pop-ups show that there is a lot to win. Think about promotional prop-ups that match the currently browsed. A specific exit intent pop-up to reduce cart abandonment, and even a self learning (smart) pop-up. Have a look at these real life case study numbers fashion by Sleeknote. More inspiration in their article here.

2. Present an irresistible incentive
Consumers expect you to give them value over time. But it takes more effort than that to get them to sign up, so be sure to give them a convincing reason.

Research shows that most people sign up to receive promotions, but you have a full arsenal of incentives to choose from.  Incentives like free shipping, discounts, inspiration, fun, content, and community-based benefits.
Contests, giveaways and quizzes do very well on social media channels, especially if they have a viral component to it.

3. Optimize your sign up forms
The more visible your sign up is, the more people will sign up. So it needs to be an eye catcher. The design, form-fields, wording, and type of sign up all influence your conversion rates. Just a  different headline, visual or incentive can dramatically increase your sign up rates. Or use animation, social proof as key tactics to boost on-site newsletter signups. So it is worth it to A/B test those.

To choose the best fashion email marketing software, you are looking for:

  • Embeddable opt-in forms for your website or integrated with your eCommerce store
  • Show pop-ups, slide-in, and other types of Calls to Action
  • A/B split test forms, sign-ups, and incentives
  • Collect data following GDPR
  • Enrich the customer database with a 2 step registration and progressive profiling

4. Segment shopper profiles and cluster persona’s

If you want to improve your email marketing performance, segmentation is a great place to start. It means being very intentional about your email list and who you send any email campaign to. Offer content that the audience group is more interested in, and the results are more opens, clicks, and revenue per email.

For example, if you put a product category on sale, you can send promotional emails to people who have previously bought or have shown interest in that category. With strategically tailored audience segments in hand, decisive targeting becomes much easier. Here is a clear profile targeting example.  

personal ecommerce fashion apparel

Here is some more information on how ecommerce, data and profile targeting can work together like in the example.

Look for these audience slices to get started:

  • VIPs (based on previous order value and number of purchases)
  • New, first time, customers
  • Discount shoppers
  • Product and brand interests
  • Past purchase history
  • Sign up Source (in store vs. online vs social vs promotional campaigns)
  • Income, Gender, and Age-group

Customer profiles directly inform the product lines for your stores. But it’s important to understand that creating a segmented email marketing strategy doesn’t have to be based on just a few fixed segments or data types.

You can dynamically segment and communicate from any type of available data, giving you a lot more freedom.

Buyer personas and RFM segmentation

Buyer personas are a go-to marketing tool in content marketing and marketing automation, and adopted in fashion business. Other than segmentation, buyer personas are made to represent a general image of the brand’s client types. Fashion brands use buyer personas to deliver tailored offerings and messages.

Marketers rely on multiple personas. Use 2 to 3 to start. Fast-not-first-fashion brands like Zara and H&M cater to a lot of customers. Zara, for instance, uses an impressive 10 to 15 buyer personas. Marketers agree that customer personas and segmentation are critical. Marketing preferences, behavior, and profile-driven segmentations are most suitable. 

Keep a keen eye on discount shoppers.
You can tag discount shoppers in order to convert them to full-price (or higher margin) buyers. If you can predict the likelihood of a second purchase, this informs long-term decisions about discounting, lead generation and (sign up) incentives.  

5. Promote your products with dedicated sales mail

Everybody loves a good deal. Sales promotions are the bread and butter of most fashion brands and eCommerce shops. Whether you sell online or in brick and mortar stores, promotions stimulate sales and increase revenue. Promotional emails bring an offer to your customer’s attention.

Specific email promotions in fashion and apparel:

  • Catalogue emails, showing assortment or selected product category.
  • Flash sales and last-minute promotions because of stock levels and inventory.
  • Seasonal promotions, the complete series from product introduction to last chance.

What the best Fashion email tools have:

  • Advanced segmentation to select the right audience based on interests and behavior
  • Automated resending to non-opens
  • Dynamic content blocks to personalize the content to the subscriber

6. Plan your merchandise & marketing calendar

Smart marketers use their time wisely. The point of your marketing calendar is to get organized, save time and produce better (and more consistent) results during the year. We’ll do away with last-minute ad-hoc promo’s as much as possible.

A great promotion is well-timed, when prospective customers are looking for what you offer. In Fashion marketing, this is tied to the merchandising calendar. So with a blank canvas, start charting the selling cycle and seasons as the foundation. Layer on promotions and other activities from there.

If you have the same SKU’s as last year, re-purpose campaigns, but update the visual merchandising gives a boost to bottom-line.

There are different sub-categories of calendars, you can do one specific for content marketing, blogging, social, paid promotions, etc.

fashion marketing calendar

The marketing calendar visualizes your planning and deadlines to hit. Keep your team to stick to the plan and focus on your marketing output. It is good to have a global year outline and detail the planning further by month and quarter as it comes closer. So you can plan with enough time, and produce better work and results.

Many will use spreadsheets (Excel, Google Docs) or project management tools to keep their calendars going. Efficient use ties it into your Marketing Technology.

Holidays and special events
Also keep an eye out for yearly holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and events like back to school or start of the holidays. A good start is an Ecommerce Marketing Calendar. Don’t miss out on additional sales opportunities. It is smart to keep a yearly marketing calendar with all the key dates throughout the year to include in your email marketing and social media campaigns. 

What you need from your marketing software: 

  • Roles, collaboration, and feedback functionality for campaigns
  • Schedule triggered and regular campaigns
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Omnichannel campaign deployment
  • Task management and planning

7. Automate Product recommendations

Product recommendations are a must-have for any eCommerce business. These days marketing automation goes three steps beyond  “others also viewed”, “often bought together”, “popular in this category”.

The right product recommendation performs better than a general offer. This goes double for product recommendations in email marketing. So we want an email recommendation engine that can handle that for you.

Automated product recommendations are faster and better than the smartest marketer ever could on gut. And without any of the work. Product recommendations should result in the best matching product for that person at that time.

AI Product recommendations
Example of automated tagging in dotdigital for an outdoor winter jacket. 

Automated tagging and AI based recommendations
There is now AI functionality available that automatically generates tags within your marketing platform, it even scans and processes images. You can generate tags such as color, garment type, gender, and style very accurately. Merchants can enrich their product data, and target customers with the right product recommendations.

Analyzing product images and tagging means you have an additional level of segmentation. Filter product recommendations based on color or material, for example. You can use this data and recycle meta tags on your website pages to use in product and recommendation filters.

Zalando, for example, has their “Algorithmic Fashion Companion”. This is a digital outfit recommendation tool, based on machine learning and AI, providing customers with unlimited outfit suggestions. The tool makes it possible to automatically generate a ‘complete the look’ feature on product pages.

Crowdsourced and Personalised recommendations
On-site product recommendations are often limited to page-level logic (looking at this page, others also viewed). Mature product recommendation tools for your website and email newsletters are smarter than that. They can offer Crowdsourced and Personalised recommendations.

Below is a ranked list of products the AI suggests are a good fit for the customer. The affinity score reflects the order they will appear in the recommendation block and how confident the AI is that this is the right product for the customer.

ecommerce recommendation engine affinity score
Example of affiliate scoring for outdoor and ski products. 

The higher the affinity score, the better the product fit. It isn’t a guarantee that the customer will buy the product, but the higher the confidence, the more likely we’ll see a conversion. We know they’ll have a higher engagement rate, so more click throughs in emails, longer web sessions, and more page views.

Your email and best web personalisation software should offer:

  • “Out of the box” product recommendation block to include in your emails and newsletters.
  • Connect and integrate with your product catalogue and eCommerce software.
  • Trigger dedicated product recommendation emails, like automated email campaigns or to cross-sell recent purchases.
  • Include all types of data: behavior, location, products, and fall-back data to use if there is not enough data collected yet.

8. Make Retail, eCommerce, and Marketing platform work together

A modern customer experience means that your Marketing tools work together in an omnichannel way. Your customer can switch and pick up their journey uninterrupted in a different channel. While the marketer can use all the data gathered and coordinate campaigns from a central place. This means the MarTech stack needs to integrate the most important pieces.

Avoid custom integration if at all possible
A lot of integrations can be custom-made or via APIs. So everybody will say they can integrate with everything.

Still, it is way more practical to look for out-of-the-box integrations and possibly Managed onboarding. This makes for a quick and easy implementation.

The keys here are speed and cost. No need for extensive IT implementation or maintenance.

best ecommerce platforms
Most popular eCommerce platforms

Ask for other platform users that also have the same eCommerce platform integrated. That is as clear as it can get, you’ll know there is expertise.

Even with popular eCommerce platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify, Magento Commerce, BigCommerce, Prestashop, Opencart, etc, the depth of the integration can differ greatly!

What you want at least is:

  1. Collect behavioural website data – track visitors on your site and create rich segments and unique shopper profiles. Use the behaviour from the very first visit. Understanding more about each customer allows you to optimise their shopping experience each time.
  2. Triggered emails based on site events. To re-target based on interest and continue the dialogue once a shopper has left the site.
  3. Two way, near-time data synchronisation. Data needs to be up to date, it is a basic requirement many ESPs still struggle with.
  4. Personalisation and recommendations blocks shown on the eCommerce platform and landing pages.
  5. Product picker, which is an easy way to select products images, links etc directly from your catalogue and you don’t have to copy-paste everything.

Keep your list of wishes nearby during the selection
Each ESP sets up their features a bit differently. How they do it is something to evaluate in your selection. To make it clearer, ask for a demonstration of your main use-cases in your selection. We showed you the emails to include in your strategy (and what you need to get them done).

In the full report here they are there each per chapter, as an easy reminder of what to look for.

Conclusion: Fashion marketing success

Marketing for fashion and apparel is truly exciting.  There is so much potential to improve and build out brand, relationships and revenue. As fashion brands use email marketing and automation to connect with their customers. I hope we took you one step closer to Master Fashion email marketing.

We’d love you to download this guide for later reading and have a look at everything extra that is in there:

  • Additional Customer Experience Benchmark for fashion and ecommerce, 
  • Retail and Fashion marketing calendar and, 
  • Software requirements overview.

If you’ve enjoyed the guide be sure to reach out and tell us (or your colleagues)

About Jordie van Rijn

Jordie van Rijn is an independent email marketing consultant and analyst. He is the founder of Email Vendor Selection and specializes in smart email marketing, online marketing strategy, software selection, campaign management, optimisation and RFP / vendor selection. He tested, reviewed, and wrote about 100+ business software including email marketing services, CRMs, ecommerce platforms, and online course creators. Published in-depth email marketing guides for financial service, ecommerce, travel, restaurant, and fashion industries.
Named one of "50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch" by Entrepreneur magazine. Companies like Scania, KLM, Unilever, AEGON, CZ, FNV, NRC Media have asked me for advice.

About Lieke Verspaandonk

Lieke Verspaandonk is the Integrated Campaign Manager at Trengo, a smart customer engagement platform.
Based in Amsterdam, Lieke has over 5 years' international experience in ecommerce platforms, fashion marketing, and tech startups. She's skilled in marketing strategy, loyalty programs, campaign management, event planning, sustainability management, CSR, and project management.

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