Threadless is all about options. The Chicago-based online retailer opened in 2000 to sell t-shirts emblazoned with funny, weird, and beautiful art by independent designers and illustrators. And over the years, it’s expanded to offer a wide range of products. (Want that Loch Ness imposter on a t-shirt, baby onesie, and iPhone case? You got it.)
Threadless introduces new designs every week, solicits submissions and votes from community members, and even runs a special members-only t-shirt club. They’ve got a lot going on, so their email newsletter—which goes out to more than a million subscribers every week—has to do some heavy lifting.
“It’s a fine balance for us, as we’re not only selling shirts but our community is also designing them,” says Threadless marketing director Lance Sells. “Most emails we’re balancing sales messaging, blog content, and creative challenges. We do a pretty good job with it, but we’re always trying to improve. The goal is to make sure there’s something in the email that’s relevant or interesting to all of our subscribers.”
Beginning in 2014, Threadless A/B tested every single campaign they sent for a year and a half: subject lines, from names, send times, the works. This summer, when we launched MailChimp Pro, Lance jumped at the chance to learn even more using the new Multivariate Testing features.
“Now that we can test content with Pro, a whole lot of things have opened up in a big way,” he says.
Since upgrading, they’ve been able to get even more granular, testing the placement and length of content modules, the number and size of images, and the effectiveness of underlined links versus linked buttons. Sometimes, the results are inconclusive (for instance, their subscribers didn’t strongly respond to one type of link over another), which gives their email designers room to play with visuals without worrying about negatively impacting engagement.
Other times, test results are more nuanced.
“The tests with promotion-based subject lines versus non-promotion subject lines have resulted in the most learning,” Lance says. “In our tests, a bigger percentage of people open the non-promotion subject lines—which you would suspect. But there’s something interesting once you look at clicks. Far more people click the promotion-based subject lines. That’s resulted in creating 2 segments: people that care about promotions, and people that might not.”
Saving time, planning for the future
Lance is digging deeper and deeper into Threadless’ email marketing strategy. And with Pro’s Comparative Reports, he’s able to do more than ever in less time than ever.
“I used to make [reports] in Excel,” he says. “I’m saving hours a week. Now I can take a snapshot and share it with the team.” (What’s he doing with all that spare time? “Training capoeira!”)
We’re a little biased, of course, but we’ve used Pro for some of our own email marketing, and we love its power, too. If you’re a quickly-growing MailChimp user with a list of 50,000 or more, why not see if it’s right for you?