Forbes + CommerceNext: Why TechStyle’s Test And Learn Culture Drives Results

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The fashion industry is known for taking risk on the runway. TechStyle—the fashion group with brands like ShoeDazzle, Fabletics and JustFab—takes risk on and off the runway, driving innovation through a unique test-and-learn culture tailored around consumer behavior.

TechStyle’s performance marketing efforts center around brand values. For many companies, these two concepts are mutually exclusive, but Laura Joukovski, Chief Media Officer at TechStyle, told our co-founder, Veronika Sonsev, exactly how they are not like others companies. Branding, data, advertising and the merchandise itself all carry equal weight within her nuanced marketing strategy and culture.

Between their proprietary analytics system and in-house media team, TechStyle can implement tests, extract results and make adjustment based on the consumer data very quickly. Because of their eagerness to test and the ease of execution, TechStyle ventures beyond the traditional digital performance marketing channels with a tightly honed process for measuring results anywhere, including offline. Burst models, top-down modeling and surveys allow TechStyle to closely study the ads and behaviors in each channel to determine which offline channels work best and should be scaled.

And in the middle of all this testing, Joukovski explained how they are able to stay on-brand and execute so quickly. TechStyle trusts its teams to execute within the brand guidelines, but doesn’t make them jump through approval hoops and marketing red tape. If a font or other small design point strays slightly but garners high response rates, they’ll take it. TechStyle is a company made of strong brands that customers know and stay loyal to, but it doesn’t let that get in the way of being innovative, pushing boundaries and remaining focused on consumer behavior data.

This article was originally published in Forbes: Why TechStyle’s Test And Learn Culture Drives Results. You can also dig in deeper by reading the full article below.

Customer acquisition has become a moving target. To stay competitive, companies must loosen their grip on brand controls and take (calculated) risks on new performance marketing strategies. This is scary and deterring for many.

Not for TechStyle. This forward-thinking fashion company, which includes brands like ShoeDazzle, Fabletics and JustFab, embraces risk to fuel innovation and, in turn, its rapid growth. Laura Joukovski is the Chief Media Officer running the data-driven, in-house media team at TechStyle Fashion Group. She cultivated—and continually nurtures—a test-and-learn culture across the portfolio of brands. It’s no small feat to maintain a brand and performance-driven marketing culture that also prioritizes innovation simultaneously—I had to learn more from Joukovski herself.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Veronika Sonsev: How do you determine what percentage of your marketing mix is performance-based vs brand marketing?

Laura Joukovski, Chief Media Officer, TechStyle Fashion Group COURTESY OF TECHSTYLE
Laura Joukovski, Chief Media Officer, TechStyle Fashion Group COURTESY OF TECHSTYLE

Laura Joukovski: We don’t think of marketing as brand vs performance. We believe a brand is built on advertising, experience with the website and the merchandise.

Our strategy is comprehensive and nuanced based on the needs of the channel to ensure we deliver content of interest to our consumers. Ultimately, all advertising is evaluated on a performance basis.

Sonsev: How do you measure your performance marketing efforts?

Joukovski: We look for the connection between ad exposure (via clicks and view-through) and people coming to the site making transactions. For this, we built a proprietary system to house analytics data. Our home-grown multi-touch attribution model looks at all touch points, including views, clicks and survey data to understand which ads are driving the right responses.

We optimize our marketing around a CPA [cost per acquisition] goal and target our advertising to acquire subscription customers. All of the brands have membership shopping programs and 95% of people engage with them. This makes customer lifetime value more predictable, which in turn makes it easier for us to determine what our CPA goal should be.

Sonsev: It’s fairly easy to test in digital channels like Google & Facebook. How do you apply that same strategy to channels like TV, radio, podcasts and print?

Joukovski: There are three ways we measure offline channels:

  1. Burst Models: When you expose many people to the same ad at the same time, you can apply burst models to analyze consumer response to the advertisement. We create fun and memorable commercials that always ask people to come to our site to transact. Burst models look at the traffic that comes as a result of commercials aired on broadcast channels. There is a bit of guesswork involved, but the models predict performance and give the ability to optimize by creative, network and daypart mix.
  2. Top-down Modeling: Correlating total media served with changes in traffic.
  3. Signup Survey: When people go through our signup process, we always ask them how they heard about the brand.

Sonsev: If you find a new channel that seems to be delivering good results, how do you approach scaling that channel?

Joukovski: When we find a new channel, we study it. We look at how the ad format and behaviors are different. We spend time with media partners to understand the requirements and their recommendations. Then, we lean in and test. We set aside money for experimenting and, since we run our own creative shop, we seamlessly execute our media buying end-to-end.

TechStyle was the first performance advertiser to run on Snapchat. We started Snapchat in Q4 2016. Our requirement was being able to track response, as that gives the fuel and currency to spend more. Snap worked with us to make this happen and we’ve continued to invest.

Sonsev: How do you empower your team to test aggressively while staying on brand?

Joukovski: We have brand guidelines, which include the fonts and colors that are brand appropriate. Most of the time we follow those guidelines, but sometimes there is a reason to deviate. As long as the content of ads is aligned with the merchandise we are trying to sell, we give our marketers some flexibility. If customers respond to an advertisement that has a slightly off-brand font, we’re willing to go there.

We run thirty-five thousand ads in a year. The only way that’s possible is lowering the barriers for brand approval—we don’t require every ad go through 10 layers of approval.

Sonsev: What kind of profiles do you look for when recruiting for marketing roles?

Joukovski: We hire people who are creative problem solvers and care about what drives consumer response. We let consumer response drive work.

Whether a campaign works is not personal—it’s about the results. We want to hire individuals who are curious about why consumers like one thing versus another and will spend time thinking about the user experience of the campaign.

Sonsev: How do culture and performance incentives play into your marketing team dynamics?

Joukovski: Performance is pretty deeply ingrained at TechStyle. We run advertising for people and we want people to engage with our ads. Our decisions are always based on data, which is why we ensure insights and analytics are readily available to the creative and media teams.

Our core key performance indicator is CPA for new subscription customers. Every person on the marketing team has their own way they can influence that number and are measured to that.

To a lot of companies, the brand is everything. Straying from a carefully crafted identity in the interest of taking risks isn’t a popular strategy. Yet, TechStyle tests everything (within boundaries) and is will to go slightly off-brand to get results. With curiosity and problem solving woven into the company’s DNA, it’s no wonder the marketing team conquered the challenge of maintaining brand integrity while prioritizing performance. TechStyle proves that growth comes from an innovative marketing culture, which ultimately comes from a basic willingness to test.

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