Luxury Lingerie Maker Cosabella Drives Sales with Email, Social Media

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With Valentine’s Day upon us, what better time for looking at how a lingerie company does its digital marketing?

Second-generation family-run Cosabella is a small business that behaves a lot like a larger multinational. Cosabella’s digital marketing and advertising matches a common Street Fight research theme of email and social media effectiveness, but shows a high degree of sophistication in its cross-channel integration and use of customer data. However, Cosabella currently doesn’t focus closely on online-to-offline attribution, or on support for its retailers.

With design headquartered in Miami, manufacturing in Italy, and a flagship store in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, the manufacturer of luxury lingerie generates about 15% of its sales from its online store, and does the bulk of its business wholesale through department stores and boutiques. It also runs a handful of stores within stores in Europe and South Korea.

I sat down with Cosabella CEO Guido Campello and marketing director Courtney Connell recently, mostly to talk about the company’s success with digital marketing platform Emarsys. Cosabella’s headline story is increasing the sales driven by its email newsletter by 60%, after replacing its agency with Emarsys’ dashboard and services, and doing the work in-house with a small staff comprising Connell and a few recent college grads. Connell says she’ll eventually hire some more staff, though not the magnitude of the 15 dedicated personnel of the former agency.

The Emarsys tools enable more automated newsletter content generation with personalized recommendations based on site behavior and Cosabella’s own CRM data. It also produces data to feed the digital display advertising, social media, and search marketing Cosabella manages via another marketing platform from Adgorithms.

Emarsys isn’t cheap; Connell says its pricing is comparable to that of Oracle’s Bronto marketing automation, and there’s an upfront fee that might be daunting to smaller businesses. But Cosabella’s adoption of these automated tools and services, including its site personalization from Sentient Technologies, is less costly than what it was spending with agencies.

Cosabella has about 50,000 newsletter subscribers — 30% of whom are men — 47,000 likes on Facebook, and 40,000 Instagram followers. It used to treat Facebook and other social media primarily as a space to run the same ads it showed web-wide, but is increasingly using them as a source of user-generated content for its email promotions. Cosabella also cultivates fashion influencer bloggers, and reposts or mails their images. The company says Facebook has recently tripled to 30% the value of sales it attributes to digital paid media, on par with search and display. Connell is a big fan of user content: she says one image brought in $10,000 of revenue last month.

Cosabella doesn’t do much in the way of traditional media spending. What print advertising it does is usually through a co-op program from a department store. It does do product placement where it works with actresses and models. Previously it used an agency for that, but has taken those efforts in-house.

Compared with Street Fight survey analysis of both small and large local marketers, Cosabella exhibits characteristics of each. Like local merchants, it finds digital more effective than traditional media, but like national-to-local marketers, most of its digital efforts are centered on its own e-commerce site. But unlike smaller businesses, Cosabella is using social media beyond brand awareness, leveraging it for content marketing through other channels and actual sales generation. Email remains its most effective sales driver, but by integrating data from its various digital channels, Cosabella drove its Christmas promotional campaign for the first time without having to rely on discounts.

Each of its main technology suppliers — Emarsys, Adgorithms, and Sentient — brands itself as an AI company. Does that make Cosabella an AI marketer? Perhaps. But while Cosabella is using services and data from companies that do plenty of pattern-matching and machine learning, it’s still manually making a lot of its own decisions on content, merchandising, and spending. Likely, that’s the way it should be.

David Card is Street Fight’s director of research.