When Brooklinen founders Rich and Vicki fell in love with luxury bed linen during a hotel stay, they wanted to bring a set of sheets home. However, they balked at the price tag—an astonishing $800. After spending a year researching the industry, visiting factories, and testing fabrics, they decided to create their own bed linen brand.
Brooklinen started in 2014 on Kickstarter, where they smashed their funding goal of $50,000, eventually raising nearly quarter of a million dollars. The company was bootstrapped for 3 years, then raised $10m in Series A funding in 2017. In 2020 they raised another $50m, due to a 40% increase in revenue to $100m, and 40% of daily revenue coming from repeat customers.
Rich cites email marketing as “the first thing out of the gate, that changed the business at the first level”. While email testing may sometimes be seen as easier for larger companies with a large user base, Rich encourages companies to do testing in the early days as well, as the effect of small tweaks are more noticeable. We take a closer look at Brooklinen’s email marketing strategy, and what we can learn from them.
Compress your onboarding e-mails to a few days.
When a customer arrives on your website, they are already interested in making a purchase; so strike while the iron is hot! Brooklinen isn’t shy about sending frequent emails to new signups, sometimes even multiple emails a day. The company believes in sending many emails to new leads within a short time period, so that they can communicate their value proposition quickly.
“The thought behind that is if they got to your site, they got to it because there were some small or big degree of interest in either the company or the product,” says Rich. “If you’re pitching it well, and if they’re genuinely interested, they’re going to buy either from you or a competitor, or some place else within the next few days. You want to communicate your value proposition as fast and efficiently as possible.”
There’s proof, too - a user tested Brooklinen’s email welcome series in May 2020 and received 11 emails in the course of 5 days (possibly bolstered by Memorial Day sales).
Looking at only their newsletter campaigns sent over the last 90 days, data from Mailcharts (needs an account to view) shows Brooklinen sends an average of 3 emails per week, 25% less than the last quarter of 2021. They also sent 36% less promotional emails than the previous period. This is likely because here were more sales happening end of last year and this first quarter of the year is a low period for retail. If this number seems low compared to 11 emails in 5 days as mentioned above, that’s because this data excludes trigger-based journeys (e.g. onboarding) and transactional emails.
Nurture your customers long before they reach the cart.
Brooklinen is constantly testing and adjusting their email marketing strategy to determine at which point in a customer journey does a customer respond best to prompts. One thing they seem to be doing is to nurture their customers to make purchases earlier on. Previously, they would send a triggered drip sequence upon cart abandonment, when customers add items to their shopping cart but leave the website without making a purchase. Lately, they have chosen to send browse abandonment emails instead, when customers view product and category pages on a website but do not go on to add items to their shopping carts.
We can visualize this in terms of a sales funnel, where cart abandonment happens at the end of the funnel, whereas browse abandonment is higher in the funnel. By changing their email re-engagement strategy, they can test the effectiveness of reaching out to customers higher up in the funnel.
In 2018 Brooklinen sent a 4-email drip sequence triggered by cart abandonment, but nothing for browse abandonment.
However in 2021, they did the opposite. They sent a sequence of 3 browse abandonment triggered emails, but no cart abandonment ones.
By switching out cart abandonment for browse abandonment journeys, Brooklinen may be testing different retention strategies. One possibility is that they are testing to see if catching a shopper who is curious about their products and sending them more informational and educational content is more effective than, say, catching a shopper who had left their shopping cart and trying to incentivize them to complete their checkout.
Rich describes drip campaigns as “critical” for standardizing their customer experience, and allowing them to test.
“Email was the first where we did a lot of testing very cheaply,” says Rich. “Now, we have a way more robust email campaign, with a lot AB tests on every email we send, and a lot of segmentation. It took a while to build to that point. What if we tell them about our great reviews on Day 2? What if we show them our new product releases on Day 2 instead of the reviews, and the reviews on Day 5? You slide it around. You see what people engage with the best.”
Re-engage customers over an extended time period so they come back when they are ready.
The work is not over when a visitor makes a purchase. Brooklinen continues to re-engage their customers with an extended drip sequence, so that they can be in front of their customers when the time is right for their next purchase. As with most other companies, their main goal with email marketing is to stay relevant and top of mind for people.
Mailcharts shows that making a purchase on the website triggered an 8-email drip campaign sequence over a one month period. This was just before the Memorial Day sales period, where Brooklinen is likely to have ramped up on promotional messages and begun communicating about the sale early to their existing customers.
This can be applied at any stage of the business. In the early days, the founders would email their 1,700 Kickstarter backers as often as possible, to “treat them like family”. They would send personal emails directly from the founders, sharing every step of their journey. “Our early adopters were our ticket to more customers,” says Rich, elaborating that they also incentivized people with early access, and for people to refer other people. This allowed them to grow their email list to a few thousand people by launch day.
As a result of Brooklinen's efforts above, they have been able to grow the business without needing to offer many discounts. The founder himself has candidly mentioned: “I cringe on discounts. I really don’t like that. It devalues the product even though we go on sale.”
The numbers tell the same story—they send significantly less promotional emails as compared to industry benchmarks for other premium brands (7% compared to 38%). This statistic is based on Mailcharts’ definition of a promotion, i.e. a percentage discount, an absolute discount, a “buy one get one free” deal, or free shipping.
While they send an above average number of emails per week, their communications are not focused on promotions. The graph below shows how Brooklinen’s emails and rate of promotional messages compare against industry benchmarks.
Their most popular subject lines as seen below give you a sense of the content of their emails, none of which mention any promotions (except for the bundle which is also a type of promotion).
Brooklinen’s success with email marketing was made possible by countless testing of emails, comparing results, and trying new things. In order to track and analyze the data from your email campaigns, you need a tool which can help you query your newsletter data. Airboxr has integrations with email marketing tools like Mailchimp and Hubspot Marketing, with more in the pipeline. Try Airboxr for free →