Like so many fledgling businesses, Gwynnie Bee started in an apartment. The idea for the subscription clothing service, which rents and sells plus-size fashion for women, sprang from CEO Christine Hunsicker’s own childhood.
When Christine was young, her family couldn’t afford to travel from their small town to the nearest retail store miles away, and so her seamstress aunt made her and her cousin’s clothing, which they’d swap and consign to get new fabrics. Wanting to bring that feeling of a closet Narnia to consumers tired of limited brick-and-mortar options, Christine, who had already successfully led two tech startups, created Gwynnie Bee to fill a gap in the underserved plus-size market.
In the early days, Christine’s Manhattan home doubled as an office and a warehouse, but the company has since grown to offices in New York, California, India—and a 150,000-square-foot facility in Ohio.
Though the cramped days of yore are over, the company’s emphasis on numbers isn’t. “We use data to inform all decisions all the time,” says Courtney Andrews, senior marketing manager. “We’re data-obsessed.”
Automation for the people
Though their daily emails allowed them to connect to potential customers, it was time-intensive to create an entire campaign every day. A/B testing gave Gwynnie Bee valuable insights, but by the time they found a winning combination, the campaign had already flown the nest. They realized that to nurture longer-term relationships with prospects, Gwynnie Bee needed editorial content like styling tips and fashion lookbooks, which made potential customers more likely to join the service.
And so Gwynnie Bee moved to MailChimp’s automation workflows to deploy emails based on behavioral characteristics. The team continuously tests and segments users based on how far along they are in their timeline since signing up, such as a campaign that went out to members who had recently nixed their membership. Using data to show all the styles and features they’d missed since opting out, Gwynnie Bee saw an uptick in users coming back.
Flock to unlock
Gwynnie Bee has also incorporated a strategy that brands typically use on Twitter. “Flock to unlock” is a way to entice users to retweet something a certain number of times to “unlock” new content. So if you’re a musician, for example, and fans retweet something 5,000 times, you might reveal the cover art for your new album.
To translate that into email, Gwynnie Bee challenged a certain number of users to join, and if they did, they’d unlock a special prize on top of it. It was one of their most successful campaigns to date.
Being mindful of the fold
When arranging stories in a newspaper, editors put the most important stories above the fold so that they pop on a newsstand. These days reading a story on your phone requires just a quick scroll of your finger, but designers still keep the “fold” in mind when designing newsletters and other email content.
More than half the site’s visitors were accessing Gwynnie Bee from mobile devices. Keeping that in mind, the company changed its imagery, button placement, and where each campaign’s content goes on iOS or Android devices—all while keeping an eye on their engagement, which lifted 20%. “We really understood that it has to be mobile-first,” says Courtney. And so Gwynnie Bee created an app for users, too.
It’s good to be notified that more clothes have been added to the shared closet. But because renting clothes means something has a lesser likelihood of sitting in your closet as a staple of your wardrobe, members tend to opt for bolder patterns. They see Gwynnie Bee as a style authority, Courtney says, but maybe aren’t sure how to wear the clothes.
That’s where the editorial team comes in. The GB Flash is a newsletter that doubles as a digital stylist, giving tips and tricks, like how to layer for the winter, or what to wear for your next office party. They feature their favorite plus-size bloggers, staffers, and members that have inspired them, and they do photo shoots multiple times a week in their New York office. “You don’t get to see plus-size fashion as often in fashion magazines and such, so it’s really our job to showcase that in the best light,” Courtney says.
And if that means taking the perfect #OOTD (outfit of the day), they can show you how to do that, too.
But at the heart of the fun and accessibility is still data. Bloggers come in and do first-fit reviews so that customers know how that outfit might look with their own particular measurements—a different kind of testing and optimization, but a form of it nonetheless. “We are a fashion company,” she says. ”But we are a tech company that happens to do fashion.”