How One French Skincare Brand is Using Email and SMS Marketing to Grow Its DTC Business

If you’ve ever visited France, you may have noticed that Parisians have a certain glow to them.

This may be, in part, because of Yon-ka, a skincare brand based in Paris that sisters Catherine and Francoise Mühlethaler founded in 1954. 

Since its inception, the Mühlethalers have always prioritized natural ingredients like plant extracts and essential oils. But this isn’t just another clean beauty brand—all of Yon-ka’s products also undergo scientific development and testing. 

And although the Yon-ka brand has been around for more than 60 years, their marketing is anything but old-fashioned. 

With the expertise of Raphael Faccarello, Yon-ka’s head of ecommerce and digital, and Dan Scalco, founder of Digitalux, Yon-ka’s digital marketing agency, the team’s modern marketing strategy is almost as radiant as their customers’ skin.

To find out more about how Yon-ka has evolved and how the team is thinking about the customer experience from acquisition through retention, I virtually sat down with Raphael and Dan. Here’s what I discovered about their approach to ecommerce marketing.

Yon-ka’s deviation into digital marketing

Yon-ka didn’t always have the direct-to-consumer (DTC) presence it has today. In fact, the brand primarily used to sell business-to-business (B2B) at different spas until launching their website on Magento in 2016.

“The B2B aspect is still a big part of the business, but like most other brands, now we’ve gone into digital as well. The DTC website is more important than ever, especially since we’ve seen the boom in ecommerce sales during the pandemic,” said Raphael.

"The B2B aspect is still a big part of the business, but like most other brands, now we’ve gone into digital as well. The DTC website is more important than ever, especially since we’ve seen the boom in ecommerce sales during the pandemic."

Raphael Faccarello, head of ecommerce and digital, Yon-ka Paris

As Raphael has begun to focus more on Yon-ka’s online presence, owned marketing channels, such as email and SMS, have become an integral part of their customer acquisition strategy. But they weren’t always.

“We had a seven percent email open rate before coming to Klaviyo. We were emailing the same blanket promotions to our entire database. Klaviyo told us to stop emailing ‘zombies’ and now have a 22 percent open rate,” said Raphael. 

"We had a seven percent email open rate before coming to Klaviyo. We were emailing the same blanket promotions to our entire database. Klaviyo told us to stop emailing ‘zombies’ and now have a 22 percent open rate."

Raphael Faccarello, head of ecommerce and digital, Yon-ka Paris

“The revenue keeps increasing, meanwhile we’re emailing a fraction of the people we were before, and we’re slowly but surely winning back inactive subscribers,” he said.

Creating a warm welcome

When I asked Raphael and Dan which marketing automations have made the most impact on Yon-ka, they mentioned their welcome automation receives some of the highest engagement. Not to mention, it’s a huge revenue generator. 

But they don’t just send out a one-and-done welcome email to new subscribers—Raphael and Dan have strategized a three-part welcome series that receives a 60 percent open rate. They also recently started experimenting with SMS marketing and sending a different version of their welcome series over text.

Raphael and Dan have strategized a three-part welcome series that receives a 60 percent open rate.

1 | Curate different experiences for different customers

When shoppers go to Yon-ka’s website on their desk computer or laptop, a popup form immediately entices them with a 15 percent off discount in exchange for their email address. 

In order to appeal to mobile shoppers, anyone who accesses Yon-ka’s website on their smartphone sees a variation of the signup form, embedded into the page, that asks for their phone number instead of an email address.

While the type of signup form may seem like a small detail, it’s actually a highly strategic move since popup forms can come across obtrusive for shoppers who are browsing from a mobile device. 

Once someone subscribes to either of these experiences, they’re automatically entered into the welcome series flow for email or SMS.

yon-ka paris embedded signup form sms yon-ka paris popup signup form email

2 | Offer an irresistible incentive 

The first text message in the welcome series is short and sweet, with the promised discount code as the main focus. 

yon-ka paris welcome series text discount

Meanwhile, in addition to the coupon code, the email also includes stunning product imagery, promotes product recommendations, and reveals that the brand offers free shipping and free samples on qualifying purchases.

yonka welcome series email discount

3 | Introduce your brand

“The next message in the series is more about differentiating the brand in terms of what makes Yon-Ka different from the big-box skincare companies,” said Dan.

As Dan noted, Yon-ka’s next email provides more information on how the company started and details how the business has grown to familiarize new subscribers with the brand. Plus, the email includes a testimonial at the bottom to drive trust through social proof

yon-ka paris welcome series brand email

The second welcome text is, again, a briefer variation of the email, reading, “Blending science and nature, Yon-ka Paris believes in holistic beauty since 1954. Discover what your skin has been missing,” with a link to shop and a vibrant image of one of their lotions. 

yon-ka paris welcome series brand text

While SMS inherently provides less room to go into deep detail about the brand’s 66-year-old history, the team does an excellent job of highlighting some of the brand’s main benefits and core values with the limited space they have over text.

 

4 | Promote your products

Lastly, Yon-ka highlights some of their must-have products in their email and describes the many benefits of each.

yon-ka paris welcome series product email

“New subscribers and first-time buyers might not know what products to get or what works for their skin, so after we’ve introduced them to the brand, we go into what makes the products unique,” Dan said.

Similarly, their last text calls out the same three best-sellers with links to each product, rather than detailing the benefits in the text, so subscribers can learn more and view the full description on Yon-ka’s site.

yon-ka welcome series product text

Overall, this welcome series is a prime example of the difference between SMS and email marketing, and how marketers can use both channels to introduce new subscribers to their brand.

Focusing on customer retention

While Yon-ka’s customer acquisition strategy is impressive, their retention strategy is equally appealing.

Raphael mentioned that one major way they keep customers engaged is by leveraging their loyalty program through Zinrelo

Whenever a customer earns enough points to hit the next tier in Yon-ka’s loyalty program, an email triggers telling them how many loyalty points they have and what they can redeem them for.

yon-ka loyalty program

They also have dedicated days, like their recent Double Points Day, where they encourage customers to shop and earn extra points on special occasions throughout the year. Instead of holding regular sales or promotions, these campaigns are a great way to incentivize customers to shop without training them to expect discounts.

yon-ka double points day

Besides promoting their loyalty program throughout their email campaigns, Dan said that being able to personalize their email automations has also made an enormous impact on customer retention. 

“We’ve been personalizing email automations for people who have bought a product that typically pairs well with a second product and considering how we can target those people to get them to purchase the preferred product pairing in a cross-sell. That type of granularity and personalization has led to an increase in customer lifetime value,” said Dan.

"We’ve been personalizing email automations for people who have bought a product that typically pairs well with a second product and considering how we can target those people to get them to purchase the preferred product pairing in a cross-sell. That type of granularity and personalization has led to an increase in customer lifetime value."

Dan Scalco, founder, Digitalux

The secret to segmentation

Whereas Dan and Raphael used to batch-and-blast Yon-ka’s emails to their entire list, today they’re taking a far more segmented approach, and they believe this is one key to the brand’s online success.

In fact, Dan’s top tip for other ecommerce marketers is to use email segmentation to get to know your audience better. Segmenting your customers can help you identify patterns in their buying behavior so that you can adjust future communications based on those trends. 

“Make use of segments to better understand what your audience is doing, what their buying behaviors are, where you’re losing clients, what their needs are, and how you can personalize your messaging without just taking the shotgun approach and sending out mass email campaigns. Then use those segments to create more personalized flows and campaigns to attract new customers and keep your audience engaged,” said Dan. 

"Make use of segments to better understand what your audience is doing, what their buying behaviors are, where you're losing clients, what their needs are, and how you can personalize your messaging without just taking the shotgun approach and sending out mass email campaigns."

Dan Scalco, founder, Digitalux

“When in doubt, test to understand how you need to adjust your campaigns moving forward,” he added.

Additionally, Dan emphasized the importance of using segmentation to win back lapsed customers.

“We create segments based on which customers we want to re-engage, as well. For whatever reason, these people bought our products or visited our website in the past but have fallen off in recent weeks or months, so we create campaigns around those subscribers and strategize different ways that we can reintroduce them to the brand and get them interacting with us again,” said Dan.

"For whatever reason, these people bought our products or visited our website in the past but have fallen off in recent weeks or months, so we create campaigns around those subscribers and strategize different ways that we can reintroduce them to the brand and get them interacting with us again"

Dan Scalco, founder, Digitalux

As Raphael and Dan invest more of their time into Yon-ka’s ecommerce experience, and email and SMS marketing in particular, they’ve realized that the art to a good open rate is constant iteration. 

This year, they plan to use the lessons from 2020, and the data they’ve collected on their customers, to make those improvements, including taking a fresh approach to their messaging and email content. 

“We’re focusing on content marketing, elevating our narrative, and communicating our brand as high-end to our consumers in order to be more inline with our luxury product offerings,” said Raphael.

As their DTC presence continues to evolve, it’s evident that the Yon-ka team is prioritizing sustainable customer relationships in 2021 and beyond. 

Wondering how you can more effectively communicate with your customers over text? Check out these SMS marketing tips.

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