Taking on Fast Fashion: How One Ethics-Driven Brand Builds Community

Bombinate is a UK-based artisan online marketplace.

It’s no secret that 2020 led to some drastic changes for the consumer—but did you know that consumer interest in ethical brands has increased not just in 2020, but steadily over the last five years?

I recently chatted with Alessandra Russo, head of content at Bombinate, where ethics is a founding brand principle. In fact, everything Bombinate sells—currently menswear, homeware, and furniture—is ethically sourced from European artisans.

This uptick in searches for ethical brands mimics what Bombinate has seen in customer growth, which has steadily increased alongside their launch of furniture in 2019.

"We had this intuition that the conscious consumer was evolving and they would realize that this was important—for the earth, for the planet, for ourselves, for the rest of humanity."

Alessandra Russo, head of content, Bombinate

“The consumer is changing. Ethical sourcing is becoming more of a priority for all businesses, not just ours. We had this intuition that the conscious consumer was evolving and they would realize that this was important—for the earth, for the planet, for ourselves, for the rest of humanity,” Alessandra said.

Read on to discover how Bombinate has used their mission-driven approach to not just capture the attention of customers but to also create a community around their brand.

The hidden gem of artisanal craftsmanship in Europe

Though they’re headquartered in London, the idea behind Bombinate was born on the legendary Silk Road.

Bombinate’s co-founders, Massimiliano Gritti and Elliott Aeschlimann Perales, journeyed from Switzerland to Mongolia and became enraptured by the exotic artisanal goods they encountered.

“They met with all these people and saw all these artisans. And that was the moment they said, ‘Wait, why don’t we have something like that in the Western world where things are done with patience, with craftsmanship, with traditional techniques?’ We’re losing that,” Alessandra commented.

She went on to say, “When the founders came back to Europe, they started researching and found so many small businesses, artisans, etc., and they wondered, ‘Why don’t we know about these?’”

So Massimiliano and Elliot founded Bombinate to make European creators—rich in quality, craftsmanship, story, and ethics—more visible to a wider customer base.

Contrary to the fast-fashion giants, Bombinate provides an alternative for conscious consumers who are interested in products built to last.

“We know customers might find the same gray jumper for cheaper elsewhere, but that jumper may only last three or five washes. Ours may be more expensive, but it’s higher quality—and customers know they supported an artisan who made it,” Alessandra said.

How Bombinate engages the conscious consumer

The Bombinate team knew they were uniquely suited to appeal to a conscious consumer, but it’s not enough for them to guess at what their customers care about—they asked.

“Content is really worthless if it’s not based on insights. If it’s not, you end up creating content for the sake of it. It’s nice to look at, but customers aren’t really interested. We want to serve content and emails that engage customers. So we surveyed over 1,000 previous customers about their perception of Bombinate, and also about their demographics,” Alessandra explained.

To make sure customers were motivated to take the survey, the team tested email versions with a sample group of customers. They then segmented the final emails—an initial and followup send—based on how many times the customer had purchased.

Here’s the mission-driven email they sent to promote the survey:

Email example Bombinate sent to encourage survey responses.

The survey’s prominent finding? Repeat customers came back to Bombinate because they trusted their curation process. So the team served up content to educate more customers about the values behind the products.

Bombinate's sustainability-focused email example

In addition to better understanding their VIP and repeat customers, the survey also enabled the Bombinate team to target emails to people who expressed interest in specific verticals.

One test proved the value of this method: they sent a menswear-focused newsletter to an audience with a menswear preference and it generated a five percent higher click-through rate and four percent higher open rate than the same newsletter they sent to other audiences.

Community led, customer focused

Another key to Bombinate’s growth is the emphasis the team places on building community.

Alessandra broke down the first step in Bombinate’s strategy to create a community of customers.

“Community is such a buzzword, but it’s really a matter of ensuring that your brand is transparent. Your community will organically come to you and start interacting with you because they know that there is someone behind the picture posted or that story,” Alessandra said

How does this play out?

For Bombinate, one tactic is to keep the creators front and center—and their recent Valentine’s Day campaign does just that, while also tapping into the feeling many customers have while experiencing more time at home due to COVID-19.

“Many of us are sharing the home space with our partners, or friends even, and finding it hard to balance between our day-to-day home life, our relationships, and also work. We interviewed brand founders who are partners in life and in business, and the content performed really well—not only in email but also on Instagram, LinkedIn, and our website,” Alessandra shared.

Bombinate's Valentine's Day campaign featuring business partners who are couples.

By focusing on the creators behind the products, plus tapping into their customers’ current emotional state, Bombinate produced content that helps customers relate to the brand’s mission on a personal level.

Building a community may start with making the brand visible, but Alessandra made it clear that Bombinate’s community focus does not end there—how customers interact with each other is crucial.

Alessandra shared an example of how the brand facilitates communication between customers.

“Just last week, we posted an image of a beautiful, inspiring interior on our Instagram and a follower wanted to know what kind of tree it was. Then someone else went and actually found out and communicated it back to the community, and it was such a good feeling of everyone coming together and helping each other, even on a trivial thing,” she said.

Bombinate's instagram post of a tree with customer comments.

She went on to explain, “If we’d said, ‘Oh, this is the answer,’ it would’ve been maybe as effective, but not as community led.”

When customers can connect with each other, they become part of the community, rather than just an audience.

Want to build a community of people who love your brand? Check out How to Build a Brand Community.

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How Bombinate keeps customers coming back

Alongside customer segmentation and community building, Bombinate keeps customers coming back with automated campaigns that drive nearly 40 percent of all email revenue.

The secret behind the flows? They’re triggered based on two key factors: where customers are in the funnel and what products they viewed onsite.

Depending on whether customers have viewed a product, added a product to their cart, or started checkout, they will receive an email tailored to their actions.

“The email would be an intro to the brand, to Bombinate, or have a bigger focus on converting the user with a tailored coupon code. Since we started running these behaviorally triggered flows, the sales allocation has gone from zero to about 40 percent of our total email revenue,” said Raoul Buijs, Bombinate’s email marketing manager.

"Since we started running these behaviorally triggered flows, the sales allocation has gone from zero to about 40 percent of our total email revenue."

Raoul Buijs, email marketing manager, Bombinate

Email with footwear pictured.

In this example of the brand’s footwear-focused browse abandonment email, the coupon codes at the top are for new customers. But, if the recipient is part of the Bombinate loyalty program, they’ll instead see their unique credit amount.

“Every customer gets five percent back in Bombinate credits on each purchase. So if a customer spends £100, he or she would get £5 to spend at Bombinate. The credit amount is unique to each customer and gets added to their customer profile in Klaviyo. When we communicate this incentive in our emails, the banner updates dynamically,” Raoul said.

This level of personalization and focus on what matters most to the customer doesn’t just drive revenue—it drives customer loyalty, which is Bombinate’s ultimate goal.

How Bombinate will continue building their community

As the Bombinate team looks ahead, community is at the heart of their strategy and the team is focused on providing their community with as much value as possible—even if it means straying from what typical ecommerce brands would do to drive repeat purchases.

Buying less—but making those purchases count—is central to Bombinate’s mission, so it makes sense that they want to help customers shop wiser.

“We’re serving up more content in the upcoming weeks where we give suggestions and tips on how to preserve your garments for longer, how to choose a sofa that will last for a decade, or three decades,” Alessandra shared.

If you want to follow along with how Bombinate is centering community and ethical consumerism in their brand, check out their website.

Want email inspiration to create automated email campaigns that drive revenue? Check out The Top 10 Email Automations of 2020.

Try the tool that Bombinate used for their data-driven, customer-focused email marketing.

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