Q&A With Michelle Lin of Live Love Polish

Michelle Lin is the co-founder of Live Love Polish. She talked to us about growing her team to 20+ people and counting, developing custom nail polish colors for the hit movie Crazy Rich Asians, and being recognized as one of Forbes 30 Under 30. Read on to find out what makes the emails from Live Love Polish so effective — and the one email marketing metric Michelle makes sure to keep an eye on.

How did you start Live Love Polish?

About four years ago, I was going through a difficult phase in my life.I was buying a lot of nail polish and painting my nails to cope with the stress. I wasn’t even aware of my addiction until my brother Wayne pointed out to me, “Michelle, you really buy a ton of nail polish!”Michelle Lin of Live Love Polish

That got us thinking. Nail polish is a hard product to buy online, and I thought it should be easier. I also like to geek out on the ingredients of the things that I use. Lots of popular nail products contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to our health.

Finally, in fashion, there’s so much variety and  different ways to express yourself. And it just felt like with nail polish, you were restricted to the same plain colors you find in the drugstore.

Wayne and I realized there was a unique opportunity there. We said, “This is a market that is ripe for disruption. Let’s start this business.”

How has your company grown since then?

When we started Live Love Polish, we were working out of the East Village studio where we lived. We packed all the orders ourselves. At the end of every day, we would drag all the orders to the post office in a suitcase!

We’ve come a long way since then. We have a growing team of over 20 people, and a large warehouse office in Long Island City. We’re outgrowing that space too, so we’re in the middle of transitioning again.

Your success led to you being named one of the Forbes 30 Under 30. What’s been the biggest impact of that for you?

The thing that I absolutely love about 30 Under 30 is the community that they’ve built. It’s made up of so many passionate entrepreneurs that are very willing to help each other. There’s no competing at all. It’s all about collaboration, and I really value that.

How did you end up developing nail polish colors for the movie Crazy Rich Asians?

Warner Brothers reached out to us and invited us to partner with them on special colors for the movie. And we were actually very full in our production pipeline, so I was ready to almost say no.

Live Love Polish for the movie Crazy Rich AsiansBut there was someone on my team who had read the book. She was crazy about it and she convinced me we needed to do it. It turned out to be an amazing decision.

For the color development, we were invited to watch a screening of the movie before it came out. We created a color for each central female character in the movie to reflect their personalities.

For example, the character of Astrid is the perfect girl with sophisticated taste — so we designed a conservative, classy pink for her. And then the character of Kitty Pong got this crazy purple color. Our team loved working on this project.

What sparked the decision to start using Klaviyo?

We were running into frustrations with other service providers. We noticed a lot of emails were going into spam, even for people internally in our company. We used different service providers to handle our newsletters and “flows,” so there was no way to control the volume of email that a customer was receiving. Klaviyo can handle all of this, and controls email volume with “Smart Sending.”

With our previous email platform, we weren’t happy with the level of segmentation that we could perform. Klaviyo lets you get extremely granular – down to the product that someone has viewed recently, to ensure that we are always sending relevant content.

As we were exploring options, it seemed like a lot of the other solutions out there in the market were either overly complicated and expensive, or just too basic. We needed something in between that was very user-friendly but also very data-driven and customizable.

Klaviyo was on our radar. We kept hearing great things about Klaviyo everywhere we went–from our ad agency, entrepreneur friends, and even at a Forbes meetup. That was the moment where it hit me: “Maybe it’s time to switch.”

What was important for you to find in an email marketing platform?

The ability to segment is very, very important, but not in this overly complicated way where you have to know SQL queries. Not having to be a programmer to perform the segmenting is very important. With Klaviyo, I can put anyone on the team on it and they’ll figure it out because it’s so easy to use.

I love that Klaviyo allows you to go very in depth with a user’s actions. You can look at what they’ve added to the wish list, you can look at the products that they browsed, and that’s awesome. You can predict their lifetime value too.

We visited the office recently to talk about some of the new features that are in the works. We sat down with members of the data science and product development teams. They showed us features that were solving a lot of the problems that we had been itching to solve.

Even when there are feature requests that we want that aren’t here yet, it feels like we’re actually being heard. And this is something that’s very rare from our interaction with like software providers in general, that feeling of a partnership.

Live Love Polish Felis Collection

Is there any particular metric in Klaviyo that you like to keep an eye on?

Revenue per recipient has been very interesting. We historically never even paid attention to this metric just because it didn’t exist in the dashboard of our previous ESP.

But now that it’s there in Klaviyo, we realize it’s actually such a useful way of measuring overall performance. It might even be more useful for us than the topline revenue that we’re getting from a campaign, because it takes into account everything from the open rates to the click rates to the revenue. I really love that metric.

How do you think about who gets which email message?

In terms of the types of emails that we send out, we have promotional emails and emails that are more educational. With the promotions, there are different types: 20% off sitewide, or free item with purchase.

And we’ve seen that people react differently to all types of promotions. They also prefer to receive emails at a very different cadence and they want to see specific types of content.

In the past, we weren’t doing any of that kind of segmenting based on those preference. And now with Klaviyo, it’s something that we are enabled to do. We can segment by all of these behavior profiles. And with the new features coming up, it seems like the segmentation capabilities will be going even further in depth.

How do you figure out what type discount someone prefers?

If they check out with a specific type of discount, that’s an easy way to tell. You can also run the discount multiple times to see how they respond. Usually we do that and see how much they engage.

You can also learn from what they open. If you explicitly use the discount code as the email subject line and they open that email, they either really love your brand and open everything — or they’re interested in the offer in the subject line.

Something that we notice as well, with looking more closely at our email open rates, there are people that will open an email five or more times. And that also shows that they’re really interested in the content of an email even if they’re not acting on it or converting on it. They like it so much that they’re going to look at it five times.

Your emails often include GIFs. How did you start using them in your emails?

Live Love Polish Sunset Collection GIFWe tend to test out content on social media a lot, and we saw that these sorts of videos were getting high engagement. So we thought, “Why not throw that into email? There’s no reason why email has to be a static, boring experience. Let’s bring it to life the way that social is.”

Your brother and co-founder Wayne attended Klaviyo:BOS in September. Did he bring back any ideas to try out?

He went to a talk there on designing high-converting emails by Matt Sanocki, the founder of Mineral.io. Wayne really liked that talk. When he got back, he took us through all 130+ slides.

The talk validated our desire to keep things simple and not put too much into one email. Big companies have complex emails with multiple call to actions. As a young company, it’s so easy to look at larger companies’ email programs and think, “They have a large team, so they have to be doing things right.”

And the reality is, for a lot of these large organizations, there are a lot of departments that are fighting for real estate in email. So the email has what’s new, dresses, shoes, and then a call to action here, and here, and here, and here.

And then other companies see that and think, “Oh, we need to mimic big X company over here.” But that’s not the case at all. So mimicking startups is probably a more effective strategy.

What advice would you have for someone who’s reading this who would like to improve their email marketing?

Well, switching to Klaviyo is a good first step. There are a lot of things you just can’t do with a beginner ESP, and the corporate ones are tedious to use and hard to understand.

Klaviyo also has some very helpful guides on the website about how to do certain things. I get emails about those posts, and sometimes I’ll read them. They’re very helpful and I could see a beginner really benefiting from them. And attending these Klaviyo conferences is a good idea as well. From what I’ve heard from Wayne, the one this year was super helpful.

What’s on the horizon for Live Love Polish?

We’ve learned a lot about our customers. They’re unique, creative, and fascinating people. Over the next year, we’re going to be hyper focused on amplifying our brand story.

Live Love Polish has always been about empowering people by providing them a place for self-expression. We want people to embrace their own uniqueness. We want this story to be crystal clear to anyone who interacts with our brand.

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