Email marketing

How a “heartbeat” of daily emails powers Annmarie Skin Care’s growth

Mae Rice, January 12th 2023

As 2022 wound down and Black Friday approached, Annmarie Skin Care’s marketing team had one core focus for the biggest shopping weekend of the year: growing average order value (AOV).

It’s not that they didn’t care about growing top-line revenue. They did. But if the clean beauty company did it by acquiring droves of new customers through paid social—who all made small, one-time purchases, like travel-size shampoo—that could be a net loss.

“Our focus has been retaining our existing customers,” says Gabe Kovacs, Annmarie Skin Care’s VP of marketing.

In today’s ecommerce environment, it’s only worth acquiring customers if they’ll stick around—or place a big order.

For Black Friday, the team focused on the latter, offering big discounts that incentivized big purchases. If customers spent $200 or more, they saved 25%—but if they spent $400 or more, they could save 40%.

Easy enough—the more they spent, the more they saved. The marketing team promoted this layered offer via multiple channels:

  • Paid social
  • Influencer marketing
  • On-site pop-ups
  • Email

It worked. AOV hit $150, whereas it typically hovers around $100.

An aggressive email strategy played a big role in those numbers. Kovacs created an extended email audience for the holiday weekend, including less-engaged customers they don’t email throughout the year.

On Black Friday, the Annmarie team emailed the extended list every 4 hours.

If 6 emails a day sounds like too much, think again.

In 2022, Annmarie Skin Care’s total revenue was up 20% year over year for the weekend—but revenue from email was up 40%, Kovacs reports.

If 6 emails a day sounds like too much, think again. In 2022, Annmarie Skin Care’s total revenue was up 20% year over year for the weekend—but revenue from email was up 40%, Kovacs reports.

Driving email revenue, he says, is “all about staying top of mind.”

Table of contents

How to send a lot of email that doesn’t feel like “too much”

Email did a lot for Annmarie Skin Care on Black Friday alone, but it works for the brand year-round. It has to, or they’d drown in customer acquisition costs (CAC).

Ever since Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, paid social CACs have been “more and more expensive every month,” Kovacs says.

Ever since Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, paid social CACs have been ‘more and more expensive every month,’ Kovacs says.

Apple’s privacy update threw a wrench in the paid social status quo. Social platforms suddenly had less behavioral and performance data to learn from—so Facebook Ads, for example, could no longer target campaigns or optimize for conversions like it used to.

That made finding new customers through paid digital more expensive. To balance out up-front costs and stay profitable, brands need an effective retention strategy.

For Annmarie Skin Care, that’s a maximalist email strategy powered by Klaviyo: frequent emails, some of them quite long.

They’ve tested slower-burn email cadences, but every email they cut from the schedule led to a drop in revenue. Sometimes, more is more.

Kovacs and his team segment their email list heavily, and each of their subscribers gets at least one targeted send per day.

The high-frequency sends require a diversified content strategy.

If I message you every day—‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’—you’re going to get sick of us. You’re going to look at us like we’re Bed Bath & Beyond, emailing you with coupons every day.
Gabe Kovacs
VP of marketing

“If I message you every day—‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’—you’re going to get sick of us,” Kovacs says. “You’re going to look at us like we’re Bed Bath & Beyond, emailing you with coupons every day.”

So Annmarie Skin Care takes a different approach. They send two types of emails:

  • Punchy, product- and sales-forward emails, like their Black Friday sends
  • Longer-form explainers and brand storytelling pieces, repurposed from the blog

The email team might close blog-style sends with product recommendations, “but the buying is really secondary,” Kovacs explains, “so that you don’t feel like we are bombarding your inbox.”

Even with sales-oriented sends, the team still links out to their blog at the bottom, usually highlighting a post unrelated to the body copy, so they can reach skimmers who would otherwise bounce without clicking.

“Approximately 10% of all clicks in an email go to that blog,” Kovacs says.

It shows that using content as “a secondary hook” in emails can boost email engagement and blog traffic—all while reducing the likelihood that subscribers feel “bombarded” by sales CTAs, Kovacs says.

3 reasons long-form email works for the Annmarie brand

Frequent emails are one thing. Long emails are another thing—and most brands avoid that rodeo entirely. Too resource intensive.

“It’s like we’re putting out a magazine every day,” Kovacs says.

It’s like we’re putting out a magazine every day.
Gabe Kovacs
VP of marketing

But Annmarie Skin Care’s strategy makes sense for their brand—so much so that it drives about 45% of site-wide revenue. Here’s why.

1. Explainers play to the founders’ strengths

Before they founded Annmarie Skin Care, Annmarie and Kevin Gianni were professional explainers, decoders, and communicators.

They shared insights about health and wellness on their blog and YouTube show, covering topics from foraging to California product labeling regulations.

2. The value prop is complex

The thing that sets Annmarie Skin Care products apart is the production process: They’re made in small batches from organic and wildcrafted ingredients, without even trace amounts of parabens, phthalates or synthetic preservatives.

In total, they have a list of 5K different ingredients banned from all their products, Kovacs says.

Email makes room for nuanced, long-form storytelling.

To appreciate how unusual and valuable this is, though, consumers need education. Specifically, they need to understand:

  • The Annmarie Skin Care production process
  • How it’s different from the typical mass-market skincare brand’s production process
  • The reasons Annmarie’s approach is better for the skin—and the earth

That takes nuanced, long-form storytelling. Email makes room for that.

3. The customer base reads

Annmarie Skin Care’s customer base skews toward women in their 50s and 60s. And in a landscape seemingly dominated by short-form video, this demographic loves to read.

“They have a higher attention span,” Kovacs says. “They very much love the educational piece of learning about the products, learning about the ingredients, learning about the sourcing.”

So sending in-depth, educational emails just makes sense. It reaches readers where they are.

How email boosts 3 other top-of-funnel channels

We already know email isn’t some siloed success story at Annmarie Skin Care—it’s a distribution channel for the blog.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Email, and the performance and customer data it generates, is “the heartbeat” of Annmarie Skin Care’s business, Kovacs says.

Email, and the performance and customer data it generates, is “the heartbeat” of Annmarie Skin Care’s business, Kovacs says.

Here’s how email creates synergies with all of the brand’s major marketing channels.

1. Paid acquisition

Annmarie Skin Care invests quite a bit in Facebook and Instagram ads, as well as Google and Bing search ads. “Paid does drive a lot for us,” Kovacs says.

On paid social, where they have the most creative freedom—and character count—their ads often feature minimally made-up models, products shot against leafy backdrops, and 5-star reviews.

Their copy, peppered with plant emojis like 🌱 and 🍃, often highlights their commitments to clean beauty and the natural world.

From Annmarie Skin Care’s Facebook ad library.

The brand has an organic social presence, too—on Instagram, they have a following of more than 34K, and on Facebook, where they have more than 430K. But big picture, organic social “doesn’t move the needle for us,” Kovacs says.

It’s paid social and search that do the heavy lifting.

You can’t get faster feedback than with email. I can know in 24 hours, ‘Did people like and resonate with this story?’
Gabe Kovacs
VP of marketing

The role of email: It’s a low-cost paid messaging lab. “You can’t get faster feedback than with email,” Kovacs said. “I can know in 24 hours, ‘Did people like and resonate with this story?’”

When an email performs well, Kovacs and his team test similar messaging in a paid campaign.

2. Affiliate marketing

You could also call this influencer marketing, but Kovacs prefers affiliate marketing—because instead of paying per post, Annmarie Skin Care pays partners in revenue share.

“Every single influencer that we work with has an affiliate deal with us,” Kovacs says. “They all get paid based on the sales that they drive through our store.”

Each influencer curates a skincare kit, with trial-size versions of their favorite products. One vegan and natural health influencer, for example, reached out to Annmarie Skin Care because she loved the Aloe Herb Cleanser and the Anti-Aging Facial Oil so much.

Annmarie created a trial-size bundle of both, and the influencer shared their personal experience using the products with their followers.

It’s a win-win: the influencer gets a cut of the proceeds from a heartfelt recommendation, and Annmarie Skin Care gets an authentic testimonial from a trusted public figure.

The role of email: Email welcomes and retains customers acquired through affiliate partnerships.

Every single influencer funnels into the same up-sell flow. I’m constantly testing in that up-sell flow on what would work to get those people to purchase.
Gabe Kovacs
VP of marketing

Customers who buy through an influencer get a welcome flow built around that specific influencer and the products in their kit.

These flows include tips on applying the specific products purchased, and context on Annmarie Skin Care’s clean ethos. Essentially, they’re a stream of reasons “you don’t need to have buyer’s remorse,” Kovacs says.

Next, the new customer goes into an up-sell flow.

“Every single influencer funnels into the same up-sell phase,” Kovacs explains—because the more people he sends to, the quicker he can reach statistical significance on CRO tests.

“I’m constantly testing in that up-sell flow on what would work to get those people to purchase.”

3. SEO

Annmarie Skin Care’s blog features heavily in its email copy, but it’s also an SEO powerhouse in its own right.

The founders started blogging in the brand’s early days, and they’ve steadily built search credibility for the last decade. Today, Similarweb estimates that the site gets 200K pageviews from search per month.

That’s thanks to a mix of branded searches and searches for natural beauty and wellness tips, on topics from natural hair darkening to Vitamin C uses for oily skin.

The blog is a top-of-funnel marketing win, but those site visitors won’t buy Annmarie Skin Care products without some kind of prompt.

Enter the Annmarie Skin Assessment: a 12-question quiz with questions about the user’s age, budget, skin concerns, skincare regimen, and lifestyle.

Every blog post ends in a banner encouraging readers to take the quiz, which closes by recommending a 6-product skincare routine. Users get a discount if they buy all 6 at once.

The role of email: Quiz-takers need to enter their email address to see their results. That means the quiz not only captures new subscribers for Annmarie’s list—it also captures valuable segmentation data.

Once they know a prospect’s top skin concern (thanks, question 6!), they can use Klaviyo’s Typeform integration to send relevant emails for years to come.

In 2023, email and SMS will complement each other

Email already drives nearly half of all revenue, and on Black Friday, it drove a majority: 60%. It supports every major top-of-funnel channel at Annmarie Skin Care, including paid social.

In 2023, Kovacs thinks Annmarie Skin Care can do more of what it does best: segmented storytelling

It’s doing a lot—and in 2023, Kovacs thinks it can do more of what it does best: segmented storytelling.

He plans to leverage email and SMS in different, intersecting ways:

  • Email will focus on announcements and educational content.
  • SMS will ask customers for “quick answers and feedback,” so the team can put them on personalized customer journeys, Kovacs says.

In other words: Surveys will shrink down to 1-2 questions, and move to SMS—a more conversational medium.

An SMS survey could be about product satisfaction—“Did you like your new serum? Reply 1 for Yes, 2 for No”—or general quick pulse surveys on product usage, skin concerns, and values.

The bottom line: People engage with and reply to texts more, according to preliminary Annmarie data.

“You have a much lower opt-in rate for your surveys when you’re sending it out via email,” Kovacs says. Customers know they’ll have to click through to the site, and that “it’s never going to be one question.”

Once Annmarie shifts personalization questions to SMS, email can do more of what it does best: hypersegmented storytelling about what Annmarie Skin Care sells, why it matters, and (of course!) when it’s 40% off.

Email can do anything—but it shouldn’t have to do everything at once.

Mae Rice
Mae Rice
Mae Rice is an editor and writer covering marketing, tech, and the ways they intersect. She lives in Chicago.