What this Aussie retailer is doing to better re-engage customers

CostumeBox co-founder talks through the marketing automation, segmentation, content and remarketing efforts helping to retain and sustain customer loyalty

How much more can a brand be to its customers? That was the question Australian costume and party accessories retailer, CostumeBox, was asking internally as it set out to revamp its marketing strategy and re-engagement efforts.

CostumeBox was launched in 2007 with a range of 400 costumes. Today, the business offers more than 20,000 products, from fancy-dress attire to accessories, audiovisual equipment and party décor.

The decision to invest in new digital marketing, ecommerce and loyalty capability was taken in advance of the pandemic. But adoption and utilisation of all three accelerated as the business navigated the unchartered waters of state lockdowns, consumer sentiment and a dearth of physical events. As CostumeBox co-founder, Nikki Yeaman, explained, while turnover was down significantly during the worst of the pandemic, the business had enough support and dollars coming in to keep building its offering.  

“We looked hard at what else are we other than selling stuff to people, what more can we be to our customers,” she told CMO. “It wasn’t a matter of pivoting and quickly selling other goods, it was more about how we can be more to customers in the event celebration space.”

This saw CostumeBox launch a new website as well as debut the ‘Party List’, a directory for party services featuring 850 businesses already. “We don’t sell these services but have 7 million Australian customers going to or planning a party every year coming to our website, which is valuable traffic to these other service providers,” Yeaman said.

On top of this, the retailer has been upping the ante on how it segments and customises email marketing and communications.

“We’re not the same as a fashion business: You don’t just pick your size or style of skirt and we send information based on those choices,” Yeaman said. “You could be going to a 1920s themed party yourself one day, then next time sourcing costumes for your kid’s book week. It’s very tricky to decide what we will send to you next time.

“As a result, we are more event-based. And if you got a costume for book week last year, there is a fairly good chance your kids will be doing book week again next year. So it's about quickly and automatically building lists to remarket to those people.”

This is where the company’s investment into Dotdigital’s marketing automation platform comes in.  

“We were on a bigger platform previously, which was more expensive and had all this functionality we weren’t using. While Dotdigital does have a lot of functionality too, what is great is the team helps us use it – they roll up their sleeves, help us to set-up automation, ways of trying segmentation,” Yeaman commented. “We have gained more value as a result. We just didn’t have time to segment and manually create new emails for every customer segment.”

Engagement efforts

CostumeBox’s overarching ambition has been how to add more value through automation and segmentation in order to re-engage customers and retain loyalty. This has seen direct marketing efforts focus on post-purchase journeys, loyalty and remarketing.

A favourite example for Yeaman is a dynamic content widget at the top of every email that feeds in data from CostumeBox’s rewards system. Through the loyalty program, customers accrue points that can be used to take 5 per cent off a future purchase, free postage or other rewards. The widget sits on the top of emails and shows the customer their points tally, with marketing communications underneath. If a customer doesn’t have points, they can clickthrough and get started.

Credit: Costume Box

CostumeBox migrated its loyalty program out of Magento, its former commerce platform, to Smile in 2020 when it switched to Shopify using MindArc.

“One of the most important things in the pandemic is keeping customers close and rewarding them for staying close so next time they have a party or an event to buy for, give them a reason to come back to us,” Yeaman said.  

Another big learning from the segmentation work to date is that “a dead audience is not necessarily dead”, Yeaman continued. For example, with its 2021 Halloween remarketing campaign, CostumeBox emailed a segment of customers who hadn’t clicked on an email in 18 months in order to re-engage. Halloween is the retailer’s biggest event of the year.

“I had been nervous about deleting those emails, because I know, and especially given the pandemic, that people hadn’t necessarily had a reason to purchase from us. Plus there is a percentage of people who might only go to a costume-themed event every couple of years,” Yeaman said.

The first leg of the program involved excluding unengaged/inactive contacts from standard sends to avoid redundancy. Next, customers who engaged with the brand or made a purchase were taken out of the re-engagement program and targeted with regular marketing communications. For those who engaged but did not purchase, a reminder was sent to promote urgency and redeem a unique special discount, enticing them to buy.

Off the back of this, 11 per cent of inactive customers came back to life and repurchased during or after the program. Overall engagement increased by 28 per cent compared to the same period in 2020, and the Halloween campaign represented 4.2 per cent of total email revenue. CostumeBox also saw a 38 per cent increase in engagement from the reminder campaign, which was sent to contacts who opened the first email but did not purchase.

“It was definitely a success, and we will probably do that every year for major events,” Yeaman said.

The brand has also implemented abandon cart functionality to expand the reach of default Shopify abandon checkout emails, as well as an extended welcome program. Additionally, it’s introduced product recommendations using the ‘Best Seller’ block for standard seasonal campaigns.

To date, CostumeBox’s automation revenue across campaigns stands at 28 per cent.

In complement, utilising analytics, sales history, AdWord campaigns insights and good old-fashioned experience, CostumeBox has a clear understanding of its core customer sweet spot. Yeaman noted 75 per cent of all customers are female between 25-50 years of age, buying costumes for themselves, partner and kids and organising the parties.

“We have a good sense of customer demographics and geography, who is buying where, why, what lead times are and more. That inform all the decisions we take,” she said.

Next cabs off the rank

Alongside the automation and segmentation capabilities, CostumeBox’s content team look has been ramping up efforts around producing blogs, featuring everything from tales of baking cakes to videos around how to use make-up to achieve that 1980s look. Yeaman is also contributing to what’s now been dubbed the ‘Party Aunty’ blog.

“We’re then using that content through all our other channels including Instagram and Pinterest. The emphasis is on genuine how-tos and expert content. We do have guest bloggers too and are fostering relationships with makeup artists and avid costumers who create beautiful content. But those relationships take a while to build organically.

“And we are the experts: We have been around for 15 years, we know what people want and what questions they’re asking.  We are trying to be authentic, authoritative and helpful. So if someone buys a 1980s costume, for example, we have an email ready to go out, with content such as related cocktail recipes, a video on how to do your 1980s make-up, and linking to our 1980s playlist on our Spotify account, and subjects to get excited about. It’s not a big sales technique, it’s what we know about the theme.”  

Having secured a liquor licence, CostumeBox is now looking at extending its product categories with themed cocktail packs aimed at party hosts.

“For example, a pirate party cocktail pack could then be supported by video instructions on how to make cocktails as well as a recipe and images,” Yeaman said. “That will be an integral part of the post-purchase journey.”

Another innovation to come out of the pandemic and Shopify migration has been reselling app, Encore. This marketplace provides customers with a way to resell costumes using their CostumeBox account. Yeaman said the team has integrated a widget for the marketplace into its website so customers see the value they can receive for reselling purchased products at a later date.

“We’re making that more a part of the purchase journey. Including that on email footers has worked well,” she said. “We’re also aiming to be more strategic about how to entice people on Encore, and we’re work on creating videos on how you can resell on the platform.”  

Yeaman also spied an opportunity to target customers prior to book week and Halloween who purchased products last year by identifying what they purchased and promoting the resell value. At the same time, the team is working on 2022 Easter campaigns.  

Through all of this, Yeaman said she’s increasingly recognised how important ongoing brand investment is to the business.

“It’s about what we give to customers to remember our brand when they are ready to purchase for their next event,” she added.

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