Q&A with Fan Bi, CEO of Blank Label

Portrait 2015

I spoke with Fan Bi, the CEO of Blank Label, an award-winning custom menswear brand, to learn more about his marketing strategy and how he uses Klaviyo to increase email revenue and expand brand awareness. Since its foundation in 2010, Blank Label has shipped over 100,000 custom garments to customers all over the world, and has just opened a new store in Washington D.C. 

  1. How has your email marketing revenue increased since using Klaviyo? What were you doing for email marketing before Klaviyo?

“The game-changer for Blank Label was going from regular, en masse email campaigns to doing detailed segmenting and sending different messages to different customers based on their behavior. When we switched over from MailChimp and started doing segment-based email marketing, we immediately noticed a much higher open rate and click-through rate.”

  1. What percentage of your annual revenue can be attributed to email marketing?

“Over half of our revenue comes from repeat customers, and the main way we communicate with our existing customer base is via email. Our customers don’t engage with brands on social media, but they live in email all day.”

  1. As a marketer, what do you find most difficult to do in your day to day? How has Klaviyo helped alleviate these difficulties?

“Blank Label takes more of a brand marketing approach than direct marketing approach. We aim to create messages that are brand positive first, and revenue positive second, which is why we don’t run sales. With all the analytics available today, it’s easier than ever to figure out what marketing campaigns are working. But in a brand marketing world, we still need to be looking for leading indicators. For example, even if an email campaign didn’t get a lot of purchases, if it got a lot of clicks, it’s still successful because it shows a strong engagement with the content.”

  1. When it comes to email marketing, what are some must-have features for you?

“Setting up flows in Klaviyo was a game-changer for us. This feature allows us to create a segment of customers, e.g. people who haven’t purchased in a year, and send them an email (or series of emails) every time someone enters that segment.”

  1. I know you have two brick and mortar stores — do you use Klaviyo in conjunction with your point of sale system?

“On a foundational basis, we have a different list for each of our ‘stores’, one for our Boston store, one for Washington, D.C., and one for our ecommerce store. Depending on where the customer makes the purchase, our point-of-sale speaks to Klaviyo and tags each of our customers with a location.”

  1. As your business has grown, have you changed your email marketing strategy? If so, how?

“The longer we’re around, the more rich our customer data set becomes. We’ve been adding new products, new store locations, and more, so we’re able to create complex segments. For example, we can create a segment of customers who have purchased a lot with us, or haven’t purchased in a long time. We can segment based on whether someone has bought shirts but not suits, or pants but not jackets. We also segment based on a number of factors — if they’ve been to our Boston store but haven’t purchased online, for instance. In addition to email campaigns, Klaviyo is just a really easy way for anyone non-technical on our team to query our database and see how many customers have done ‘x and y’ versus ‘a and b.’”

  1. For your business in particular, how important is mobile optimization? Do you find that a lot of your customers interact with your emails on mobile? Is this number growing?

“This has been a big shift since we’ve been in business over the last six years. We did a major website redesign last year to make the website responsive to browser size, so our site looks great on large desktops, smaller laptops, tablets, or phones. Moreover, we now design emails for mobile-first, whereas as recently as two years ago, we weren’t even checking how our emails looked in mobile.”

  1. Are there any marketing venues that you’ve found particularly effective that you didn’t expect to?

“When coming up with a marketing strategy, we think about where our target customer is. Even though most of the Blank Label team is personally on more up-and-coming marketing venues like Snapchat, we don’t believe our customer is, so instead we go where he likes to hangout. And that’s often offline. We do a lot of events and partner with organizations such as the Tiger Woods Foundation, Ritz Carlton, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

  1. What advice do you have for ecommerce brands that are just starting out?

“Try to grow organically. Whether that’s pitching bloggers and journalists, search engine optimization, or customer referrals, it’s very hard starting out to be able to be profitable doing paid customer acquisition, namely Google Adwords or Facebook Ads. Growing organically is a great litmus test if your business has legs, because if bloggers aren’t interested enough to write about you, or customers aren’t interested in returning or referring, you’ve probably got something more fundamental to figure out before hitting up paid marketing.”

Be sure to visit Blank Label’s website and subscribe for their newsletter for more information! 


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