For our Inner Circle Q&A this week, the folks at Custora, one of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle: On the Road, San Francisco sponsors, interviewed an exec at one of its great customers, Renee Lopes Halvorsen, senior director of marketing and e-commerce for Marine Layer. A San Francisco-based company, Marine Layer is known for making “absurdly soft clothes (that are stylish too).”
Custora: First, we’re interested in hearing a little about you. What made you become a marketer?
Renee Lopes Halvorsen: I love retail marketing. A lot of consumer behavior is pretty predictable, but trends, weather and content execution make it an ever-changing blend of art and science that’s super engaging. It’s exhausting, but really fun.
I started my career in investment banking and realized that if I was going to work this hard, I needed to be passionate about what I was doing. I was lucky enough to then spend eight years working in finance, then strategy and then marketing at Gap Inc. and Athleta. I loved learning how to use customer growth to forecast business and empower brands to invest in nonpromotional marketing.
I’ve been at Marine Layer for almost four years, and it’s been rewarding to apply what I learned at Gap Inc. to a startup retail environment.
Custora: What were your biggest pain points when it came to collecting and analyzing your customer data before implementing Custora? How did our platform help you overcome these obstacles?
RLH: For emerging retail companies, most iterations of technology stacks are set up to support online-only businesses. Marine Layer has 38 stores, so it was important for us to find a customer marketing tool that could integrate data from our retail and web businesses — merging the online and offline experience. I also don’t have the internal expertise or resources needed to build an advanced customer database with predictive customer lifetime value (CLV). Custora helped Marine Layer with all of this.
Custora: Marine Layer specializes in “basics,” and your clothing aims to hit the perfect balance between comfort and style. What surprising insights surrounding CLV of these lower average unit retail (AUR) items were uncovered when you began to use Custora’s platform?
RLH: We expected T-shirts would acquire the highest volume of customers, but we were pleased to see that these customers also have a 1.2 x higher CLV than our average new buyer. Once we stepped back and digested this, it made sense. For Marine Layer, T-shirts embody what our brand is all about: investing in quality pieces that will become your new favorites.
Custora: How will this discovery influence your marketing efforts?
RLH: It’s helped us focus our acquisition content on the optimal entry point into our brand. We’re testing T-shirt-focused messaging in direct mail and podcasts in the hope that we can acquire lots of high-value customers with this approach.
Custora: What personas have emerged since using Custora, and how will you tailor your messaging to each?
RLH: Marine Layer sells about a 50-50 split for guys vs. gals product. Personas were helpful in understanding that there are a meaningful percentage of customers who buy both men’s and women’s product. We’re applying this information to our email content and segmentation strategy.
Custora: What will be your focus as the Marine Layer brand grows?
RLH: I want us to stay focused on CLV as the super metric. We have big aspirations to grow quickly, but we want to do it by acquiring really high-quality customers and maintaining healthy productivity of our existing buyers.
Custora: Women in Retail Leadership Circle is a place to learn, connect, mentor and grow. As senior director of e-commerce, what’s your advice to other women in retail preparing for more senior roles?
RLH: There’s a lot happening in marketing. There are infinite data points to collect and competitors to watch, and it can be overwhelming. As women, we tend to take it all on and feel like we have to crush ourselves to keep up.
I’ve found I’m a much more effective leader when I focus on doing a few things well and really empowering my team. Becoming a mom has helped me professionally because it forced me to delegate and say “no” more often. So, my takeaway is find ways to slow down and be more aware of how you’re spending your time to make an impact.