What E-Commerce Brands Can Learn from the Chubbies Newsletter
There are two people who send me emails with subject lines in all caps: That one guy on my neighborhood listserv and Joey Avery, the man behind the Chubbies content marketing. Both catch my attention, but gotta say that Joey wins the open every time.
For those unfamiliar, Chubbies is the men's shorts brand with a cult following and - as I've learned over the past year - a killer e-newsletter. Let me be clear, I am not a man in need of a pair of shorts. I'm not even a man.
Regardless, I somehow found my way onto the Chubbies email list and I can't. stop. opening them. And reading them. ALL THE WAY TO THE BOTTOM. This is unheard of, considering the amount of nonsense flooding my personal inbox (see Listserv Guy, above.)
Chubbies's newsletters are not only laugh-out-loud funny, but they're effective: Me, the non-man, recently purchased a bunch of their swim trunks for Christmas gifts, and a pair of shades for good measure.
Joey, is both the e-commerce content manager at Chubbies and a standup comedian. He brought his talents to the marketing world after after seeing a Chubbies team member give a speech at the FunnyBizz conference. He sent the company some clips and a resume and the rest is ridiculous history.
I sat down with Joey to talk a bit more about creating effective email marketing strategies in ecommerce.
Talk to us about the iconic Chubbies "voice." It's playful, friendly, and pretty ridiculous. Was the voice pretty well-established by the time you came on board? Or is it ongoing work in progress?
I think the Chubbies voice was very well-defined before I got here, but I think it's something that always continuously evolves based on the people that are putting it out. It is always a group effort, but it's definitely something that has stayed firm. I feel like with me being there, I think I've added to it in my own way, but it still remains a consistent voice from before I got here and will probably be the same no matter what.
Talk a little bit about the cadence of the Chubbies emails. How often are they going out?
We have a somewhat consistent schedule with when we send out emails that are related to products. On Fridays we send out the Weekender, which is a slightly different email which can include a product that we think is fun or appropriate for that email, but it could also just be something fun that's supposed to spice up your inbox.
The one thing we always try to do no matter what email we're sending is even if it's about a product or just about something cool that we found, we still want it to be a fun different moment of email reading from what you're doing most of the time. We have somewhat consistent send schedules, but we have different buckets that people fall into, so it can vary a little bit depending on how you're engaging with us.
What email system are you using either for sending out, also for tracking?
We use Klaviyo. It's what we use to send everything out. We use their data platform pretty extensively. We also use Google Analytics to track stuff as well.
Either for the company or for you personally, what's your favorite metric to watch as soon as you hit "send"?
That's a great question. For me whenever we hit "send," we always just start looking at everything all together because we obviously test variations of emails. We'll look at everything from open rate, to click rate, to product views generated by that email, to add to carts generated by that email, to checkouts generated by that email. It ends up the variation that we choose or how we choose to rebuild can be a conglomeration of all those things.
We'll even look at what creative people are clicking most because ultimately the goal with an email is to make sure that when you are sending it out to everyone, by the time it hits their inbox it is going to be the most compelling thing for them. This is so you're not wasting their time because everyone is, of course, very busy. We look at all of that to figure out what email is generating the most interest to our customers.
Along with that - so much of email marketing is about testing and figuring out what works and what doesn't. Do you have any unexpected surprises or massive failures that you've experienced along the way? Things you thought would work but didn't, or the other way around that altered the way you operate?
That's an interesting question because it's happened so many times that I keep changing my perspective. I'll put together an email and I'll be like, "Well, based on how things worked the last ones, I'm sure this one is going to win." Then you look at the data and you're like, "Well, it's a good thing we do this because I was wrong." We just try to trust the numbers. That way we can't get caught in our own preconceived notions about a product that we think is going to do well.
I think sometimes, and this is no longer surprising to me, but we'll spend time making a variation of an email that's super in-depth and has photos of everything, and it's the email that we put the most time into. Then we test the variation that's one picture and a link with 10 words, and everyone's like, "Yup, we like that one best." You're like, "Okay, why do I even ... That could've saved me so much time."
You guys are great at including surveys in your emails. The last one I noticed was sent before the holidays, to gauge your customers' interest in various swag giveaways. Can you talk a bit about how you gear up for major promotions?
No. I've been here for one year, but we do two big promotions every year. We have our Cyber Monday we call Thighber Monday for obvious reasons. We also do one in July, which we call Julyber Monday. It's basically to get your stuff in advance of Fourth of July.
It's two big days a year where we're in the office for 14 hours. It's all hands on deck. We're giving away free gifts. Our fans are excited, and they're tweeting all day. The preparation for that has always included a bunch of data gathering so we can figure out what gifts people are most excited about, what their perceived value of those gifts is because we want to make sure that everything feels right and feels exciting to people.
It's really hard to do that if we do everything internally. Surveys are similar to our approach to data. It's a great way for us to figure out what people are going to like instead of just trusting our gut, which is something that we do as well.
What would you have for anyone that's starting out just before the holidays or another major promotion?
When I started, I did go straight into the holidays. This is not incredible advice, but it's just follow the lead of the people who have been there before at the company. If you're just starting, get a feel for how it's been done at your company before. Be prepared to put in some long hours, but one thing that we always try to do here is as the work ramps up for the holiday season, we try to match that with the fun, and the excitement, and the camaraderie. If we know we're going to be spending a long day in here on Cyber Monday, we have a team people that comes in before we get in and decorates the entire office.
Last year when I walked in at 6:00 a.m., it was strung with Christmas lights all across the ceiling. All three meals are served that day. Even though we're tired, a lot of people will hang out and grab a drink after it's all said and done. We have big charts to track how the day is going. If you're going to be working really hard, we try to match that with making it also a culturally significant and fun day within the office. The goal is that if people are having fun in here, it means that our fans and customers are having fun, too. I think that voice usually tends to spill out.
Do you generally get responses on your emails? I guess it's no-reply, but do you ever get customer feedback from your marketing emails?
We get a ton, actually. You can reply and it goes to a customer experience team. They'll always share with us what people are thinking. Also, people will screenshot things on Twitter and provide their feedback that way if something is particularly funny. It is actually rewarding for us that so many people enjoy the emails. We write something that we think is funny and we send it out, we'll get to go on Twitter and see people talking about what they appreciated. That always makes us feel good. If we screw up, we also hear about that, too. That's helpful for us as well but less fun.
With email, and social media, and just the website in general, where does email fit? What carries the most weight in terms of converting customers?
Email is absolutely huge for us. We notice immensely on days when we don't send an email or an email doesn't do well a difference in revenue. Every time we send an email, we're looking for a pop. That's, of course, only if the mix of the product is good, and the email is clearly written, and people are liking it. All those things have to come together for it to be successful.
We do have an interesting business because we have a lot of people following us on social as well, but we don't do as much direct selling from that. We like to use our social channel as more of an extension of our brand voice, and an opportunity to be fun and for people to engage with us in a different way. For us it's everything. We focus on brand things like social media. I just helped us launch a podcast which we do. Those things are not going to be as directly aligned with conversions as an email is going to be, but we believe they're still an important part of our overall brand and making people like us and understand who we are so by the time they get an email, they have a little more context for the group that it's coming from. We think all that helps.
Obviously you have a comedy background, and you're working for a playful brand. For people who are reading and are just saying, "But I have no sense of humor. I don't have a sense of humor. My brand isn't fun. How can I still get people to read all the way through my marketing emails?" Do you have any advice for that?
I think what is most relevant for anyone reading about us is not necessarily that we like to be funny, so you need to be funny, too. I think that what's most valuable about what Chubbies has done is that they have a significant brand voice that people come to expect, and that happens to include humor. But there are tons of great brands that do that without humor at all.
Some brands, it's a certain lifestyle thing, if you look at Lululemon, for example, or all these companies that don't necessarily need to use humor for you to know exactly what they're coming at you with. I think that the most important thing for your own brand is to figure out what is that genuine voice that you can find and then trying to stay within that. If yours is just beautiful pictures of whatever your product is next to a lake or whatever your vibe is, it's basically honing that and figuring out how you can innovate and stay within that voice, but people will have a feeling when they think of your brand.
Thank you, Joey! Learn more about Chubbies here (and sign up for their newsletter!)