Disruptive by Design: How D2C Heist Studios Owns Their Growth

Industry: Apparel and accessoriesPlatform: BigCommerce


of revenue driven by email in Klaviyo


increase in repeat purchase rate as a result of personalization


increase in average order value from customers’ first purchase to their second

When the London-based lingerie brand Heist Studios launched at the end of 2015, they saw an opportunity for disruption. Traditionally, consumers have been faced with a paradoxical choice when it came to women’s undergarments: choose products that were sexy and uncomfortable or comfortable and unstylish. Heist Studios founders knew that consumers deserved better: a product rooted in innovation and modernity.

Nearly five years since its inception, Heist Studios has proven successful on many fronts: a 44 percent repeat purchase rate, a community of loyal customers who drive 20 percent of Heist Studios’ sales, and products endorsed by Vogue and Who What Wear.

But success wasn’t simple. As an ecommerce business, acquiring new customers, nurturing them to become loyal enthusiasts, and creating a community-driven flywheel was crucial to building a sustainable business—and these were all challenges that were made more difficult with the limited capabilities of their initial marketing automation platform.

These business needs required a marketing stack that let Heist Studios use data to understand their customers and power delivery of personalized communications at scale, all while maintaining a premium brand experience to match their product.

Why Heist Studios uses content to acquire new customers

Heist Studios’ top-of-the-line product initially created a difficulty for their business: women who were used to budget tights or shapewear weren’t ready to pay a premium for a product they thought of as a commodity. Customers who did buy the product raved about it—the problem was getting more consumers to try it in the first place. Heist Studios used both product and content marketing to decommoditize their product.

By using technical fabrics and construction more commonly found in athletic apparel, Heist Studios created a high-performance product that was durable, sleek, and stylish. And by throwing out nearly all notions of traditional undergarment marketing, they built a brand that was authentic and celebrated their audience’s diversity.

The classic direct-to-consumer challenge is keeping growth going while you are no longer as novel as you once were. At a brand level, we want to be known as liberating. At a product level, we want to innovate away the issues women have with underwear.

Toby Darbyshire, Co-Founder and CEO, Heist Studios (via Financial Times)
Three women standing next to each other while wearing lingerie from Heist Studios.

Heist Studios complements their imagery with distinctive communications through their blog and out-of-home advertising campaigns that are provocative at times.

Once a customer is drawn in, they’re guided on an educational journey about product innovations and why they matter.

To continue to grow efficiently, you need distinctive communications your customer can relate to. Content is essential and we use it to engage customers in conversation at every touchpoint in their lifecycle.

Hannah Craik, Chief marketing officer, Heist Studios

Although Heist had content down to a science, they didn’t necessarily have a strategy to effectively communicate their ideas to their subscriber lists and influence repeat purchases.

A screenshot of an email campaign from Heist Studios.

How Heist Studios built a tech stack to support their marketing strategy and create a premium customer experience

For Heist Studios, finding technology that would support their goal to create bespoke customer experiences was crucial.

Heist initially used Mailchimp as their marketing automation platform, but realized it didn’t meet their needs in terms of its ability to centralize data to understand their customer lifecycle or deliver personalized content. With Mailchimp, Heist Studios couldn’t understand what stage in the customer journey subscribers were in and customer segmentation required a manual, daily upload of data.

Heist switched to Klaviyo because it provided an events-based system for a holistic view of customer interactions across multiple channels. Since moving to Klaviyo, Heist Studios has seen 66 percent increase in revenue from emails.

How Heist Studios makes their content strategy more effective with Klaviyo

Upon implementing Klaviyo, Heist was able to use segmentation to create their content in a more personalized way. They now use behavioral actions such as products viewed, purchases, and other engagement signals to create relevant content for their customers.

For example, they created a segment based on shoppers who viewed shapewear, which allows them to personalize future marketing content geared towards making that first shapewear purchase.

After seeing success with this personalized content strategy, Heist began A/B testing these campaigns and saw incredible results. One A/B test that featured different images of shapewear resulted in a 6X increase in revenue per email.

How Heist increased repeat purchase rates and influences brand loyalty

Using Klaviyo, Heist Studios has accelerated retention and repeat purchases. Nearly 50 percent percent of Heist Studios’ revenue is repeat. Not only do their customers come back to repurchase, but they see an 11 percent increase in average order value (AOV) from a customer’s first purchase to their second.

Once a customer experiences the product, it’s safe to say they’re hooked. But staying top-of-mind is critical to encourage the customer to make another purchase.

Heist Studios uses segmentation to ensure that previous purchasers are given first access to new colors and styles within a category where they’ve previously made a purchase. When they released new shapewear in three limited edition colors, past shapewear purchasers were the first to know.

A hand holding a phone with an email campaign from Heist Studios on the phone screen.

This type of campaign is not only a reliable way to give a new product release a sales boost, but it also creates major customer loyalty. Heist Studios is now engaging in a relevant two-way conversation based on their customers’ past behavior as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.

They take this same theory and apply it to entire categories, products, and product specifications. By knowing what products their customers already own, they can make recommendations about other products that person might need or enjoy.

How Heist builds their brand through customer loyalty

Once Heist Studios saw a loyal following growing around their hero product—their tights—they knew it was time to grow their product category range to serve their customers in more ways. They stayed true to their design philosophy and diversified across product categories from tights to shapewear and, soon, underwear.

When developing new products, they not only followed their own innovative approach, but invite past customers to get involved, too. Heist Studios has built a unique relationship with their customers through initiatives like Lab12, a focus group that regularly inspires and refines new products.

As their product range grew, they again looked to a personalized marketing strategy to cross-sell their loyal customers. They encourage shapewear lovers to try their tights for the same fit, durability, and style, and vice versa.

With a brand that’s built on customer feedback and behaviors, it’s no wonder why Heist Studios customers are loyal—they feel heard and listened to.

Why data is at the center of Heist’s marketing strategy

Klaviyo has quickly become a central component of Heist’s tech stack since it pulls in data from BigCommerce and other sources of customer sentiment, like Trustpilot. With the data Heist collects through Klaviyo, the brand can then deliver highly-personalized, timely content to individuals who are in different stages across the customer journey.

We wanted a partner tech stack that best replicated and matched the expertise and innovation of our product. With a premium product with a premium price tag, you need a customer experience that supports that.

Hannah Craik, Chief marketing officer, Heist Studios

That mindset drove a similar switch from a custom ecommerce solution to BigCommerce, which allowed Heist to focus development resources on improving their user experience and conversion rates and not on infrastructure or reliability.

They’ve also focused heavily on using Trustpilot to build an excellent brand reputation by encouraging customers who have a positive experience to leave a review on their website. Using Trustpilot has helped Heist leverage a hugely powerful channel—word-of-mouth—to educate and influence other consumers.

Some very popular brands have poor scores on Trustpilot because of the quality of their support interactions. We’ve focused on getting that experience right and our rating (4.5 stars for over a year!) reflects that.

Hannah Craik, Chief marketing officer, Heist Studios

By investing in direct customer relationships, personalization, and the right tech stack, Heist Studios is growing through efficient means like content marketing, repeat purchases, word-of-mouth, and referrals. They aren’t as reliant on advertising or marketplace platforms to build the top of their funnel, which tends to come at a greater cost and can be harder to control.

What’s next for Heist Studios

2020 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Heist Studios. They plan to expand to select retail partners like Net-A-Porter in the UK and US, adding a key channel to grow their presence in women’s undergarments.

These partnerships provide added convenience for customers and they’re a way to acquire new customers in an already proven market. Launching direct to consumer (DTC) provided Heist Studios with the data they needed to attain product-market fit, which was attractive to luxury retailers.

They also continue to invest in improving an already cutting-edge product, as well as the communication strategy and infrastructure to deliver it. Hannah explained that as the industry starts to see new entrants, using an owned marketing strategy to nurture strong customer relationships and customer-driven product development will be paramount.

Being customer-first is a strategy that never goes out of style.

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