Most of us have heard of the fashion retailer Birdsnest, which means the company’s marketing strategy is seriously working. Not surprisingly, they’ve just won the 2017 ORIAS StarTrack Online Retail Marketing Award. We ask Marketing Manager, Penelope Carroll, about the company and marketing strategy.
Could you give us a little insight into the Birdsnest backstory?
Our ‘Big Bird’, Jane Cay, had been working as an e-business consultant with IBM in Sydney when she fell in love with a farmer and found herself making a tree change to regional Australia. Jane wan
ted to find a business that she could throw her passion into and it came in the form of country town retailing. To her surprise, Jane absolutely loved working on the shop floor serving women. The true light bulb moment was when she realised the notion of retail therapy was real – the power to make women feel a million dollars, just from a great styling and shopping experience.
Jane became obsessed with theories in styling for women’s body shapes and by the online opportunity that was proving itself in markets like the US and UK, and wanted to translate the magic that was happening in the little store in a country town to women all across Australia. Despite the fact that birdsnest.com.au launched right at the start of the financial crisis in 2008, the business doubled in size for three years and continues to grow at 10 to 20 per cent year on year. By 2011, birdsnest was in the top 40 most visited online apparel sites in Australia making the online traffic the equivalent to the entire population of our little town walking into the store every day.
Today, we employ a team of 140 ‘birds’ and we have recently invested in a bigger space for our ‘nest’ so we can continue to grow and thrive, all from our home here in Cooma, NSW.
Congratulations on your Best Online Retail Marketing ORIAS win! Could you outline some of your strategies?
Thank you! Our marketing strategy has always focused on the customer and her needs. Keeping our content relevant, personalised and interesting for our customer is always our goal, in fact our marketing team’s mission statement is to ‘save the world from impersonal communication.’
When the website was in it’s infancy we relied almost exclusively on word-of-mouth and organic search to send traffic to the site. Today our budget for marketing is a little bigger, but word-of-mouth is still one of our top marketing referrers. Creating unique solutions such as the Changeroom Upgrade allows us to offer our customers a fantastic shopping experience and definitely makes our job as marketers a lot easier.
In terms of marketing channels, we do invest more in online advertising than off-line advertising, it is a ‘fish where the fish are’ philosophy. Paid Search, affiliate marketing and email marketing are three key channels. Interestingly emails are still king for us and one of our most successful campaigns is our personal recommendations. If a customer has filled in her style profile on our website we are able to generate personal recommendations based on her body shape, personality, style preference and brands she loves.
We also invest a lot of time and resources into our Social Media channels. We have created a fun and safe place where our community can expect to find style inspiration, wardrobe support and our much-loved Outfit Of The Day. So, although Facebook and Instagram are key advertising channels, creating engaging content for our community is always our primary goal, and as a result much of the traffic from Social is organic.
You secured the ORIAS award for ‘Best Customer Service’ in 2013, 2015 and 2016. What makes Birdsnest stand out in this field?
An insight we gained from one of the judges after the ceremony was that they felt Birdsnest had been able to identify specific needs amongst our customers and come up with innovative solutions to meet those needs.
One of the challenges for online shoppers is that you can’t try things on before you make your purchase. There is always a risk that it won’t be quite right and you’ll have to send it back. We already had a great returns policy, but we wanted to make it even easier so we create the Changeroom Upgrade. For our customers, it’s as easy as selecting an optional upgrade to your bag at checkout, and for $9.95, they can order up to $1000 worth of styles to try before they buy. We also include a pre-paid returns bag to send back anything they don’t love, and styling cards to suit their customer style profile.
The Changeroom was developed after analysing customer feedback and identifying particular pain points when undertaking online shopping. Our target customer is a segment that hasn’t grown up with online shopping, and it in particular experiences barriers like finding the perfect fit, taking style risks, wanting advice from friends or family, and experiencing hassles with returns.
The birdsnest Changeroom is a practical and never before seen way to reduce these pain points by providing the ‘Ultimate Try On Session.’ This brings the traditional in-store experience to the homes of our customers.
The customer experience is central to everything we do. We have a bit of saying that we are in fact in the service industry; we just happen to sell frocks. The largest team in our troupe is the one dedicated to tissue-wrapping items and writing personal notes to every customer.
We really take the time to get to know our customers and connect with them and their needs on a personalised level. When you shop with us you become a ‘birdsnest girl, and being a ‘birdsnest girl’ means that you are part of a community of women who nurture you, and inspire you to find confidence in yourself through your wardrobe. This model has really worked for us, not only does it create a significant purpose for our team, it also creates brand loyalty – currently 80% of revenue comes directly from returning customers.
Can you think of a few marketing tips for eCommerce businesses?
- Take time to understand who your customer is and how you can meet their needs.
- Make it relevant. Personalising content to suit your audience is key.
- Differentiate yourself – highlighting your unique strengths and attributes as a brand can cut through and attract the customer who is most likely to build an affiliation with your brand.