You’ll know Debenhams as a cornerstone of the British high street, but you might not be aware that email is the cornerstone of their marketing strategy. It is their highest performing channel and in 2018 helped drive a significant part of online revenue.
We sat down with Rosie Price-Smith, Senior CRM Manager at Debenhams, to discuss how the marketing team used Taxi for Email to change how they work — making the production process smarter.
The email team were working hard, and often working late, to get the day-to-day done. They were producing around 5 emails a week, with an average lead time of 2 weeks per email, so there were at least 10 email campaigns being made at any one time. In addition, some of the emails were created by an agency, which caused time-zone conflicts.
With the involvement of lots of stakeholders, it often took as many as 100 email exchanges to create just one email campaign. With such tight processes, we were also unable to implement any last-minute changes or to react to the changing needs of the business. The team was capable, but had very little time to step back and improve their process or email execution - or even work on longer term strategy.
Because they were focused on getting campaigns done, the team were also often working on their own. This created a silo-d approach which could sometimes lead to an inconsistent experience for the customer.
Since we moved to Taxi, we’ve been able to create email campaigns that are a collaborative venture between the CRM and Design team. We have a couple of Email Design Systems (modular HTML templates) set up in Taxi, which have all the building blocks we need, as well as dynamic rules set up for our own customer data. Our marketers drag and drop modules to decide the overall layout, then they add the key products and categories that we know will drive customer interaction and conversion. Once we’re happy with the layout, our copywriting team goes into the tool to write the content to fit. It’s much more collaborative. The flexibility of the system means that we can make changes to layout and content as we go along, enabling us to be more reactive to the company’s needs.
The content has improved, because we’ve been able to put the job of writing straight into the hands of people who know about our products and - more importantly – are adept at mobile-first designs (the majority of our engagement is done through mobile devices, so we make sure our design reflects our customers’ viewing habits). It’s great that we were able to do this, whilst being able to keep our existing sending platform.
We now turn around emails much quicker. We still keep our 2 week lead time - so we can focus on campaigns and long-term strategy, something we weren’t able to do before – however, when needed we can also turn them around within the same day.
Usually a long turnaround time is great for email marketers. But in our case, it meant there was a risk of prices changing or products going out of stock. In the old world, this meant delays to campaigns and higher fees getting the agency to make updates. Now, if the price does ever change, the teams can make updates quickly and easily themselves.
“By being able to demonstrate the revenue we generate, we’ve made the email team the superstars of the marketing department!”
Rosie Price-Smith Senior CRM Manager at Debenhams
We now have a larger, stronger team which includes working closely with content editors and designers who are committed to our brand. As well as creating email campaigns ourselves, we also spend more time looking at our data strategy including things like personalisation, segmentation and dynamic content. The team is a lot happier, because they have much more control over their work and they see the results coming through.
Because email is now so much easier to make, we’ve been able to try out new ideas quickly. It’s enabled us to make incremental changes, that all add up to much better email over time.
A while ago we worked with the Taxi team to improve the analytics of our email campaigns. Now every link that our team adds to an email has analytics code added automatically, with the necessary campaign identifiers sent straight to our attribution team. It’s meant we’ve been much more able to prove the value of email to the rest of the business and show which campaigns are working, especially when we’re AB testing creative or targeting.
As an ecommerce and high street retailer, naturally one of our strongest KPIs is revenue. Over the last couple of years we’ve been able to increase the revenue generated from email significantly.
In addition, we’ve been able to make the money we do spend on email work much harder — primarily by making the team much more effective.
By being able to demonstrate the revenue we generate, we’ve made the email team the superstars of the marketing department!
There are some things we do for almost every campaign - content changes subtly depending on whether you are a member of Beauty Club, our loyalty scheme. Plus we often change content depending on your local store, and we also create versions of our email campaigns with Euro pricing, for Ireland.
Since using Taxi, we’ve been able to try out deeper levels of segmentation and personalised content.
Digital marketing is very important for us, and email remains our online workhorse. We’re continually trying new things and making changes, but if you’d like to see them then you should sign up for our emails!