How THG delivers global email and SMS marketing campaigns for ecommerce growth
Time to read: 5 minutes
THG needed to build an email and SMS marketing platform that was flexible enough to support their international and retail brand expansion goals.
With Twilio, THG has built a proprietary end-to-end ecommerce solution that enables email and SMS marketing to their customers in the UK, Europe, USA, and Asia, while providing flexibility for growth to new markets and channels such as WhatsApp.
THG is a leading global ecommerce technology group and brand owner with £2.2B ($2.7B USD) in 2022 revenue. They have grown to achieve this revenue through acquisitions as well as product, technology, and international expansion. THG operates under three core divisions: THG Beauty, THG Nutrition and THG Ingenuity.
THG Beauty is the largest division, operating leading pure-play sites such as Lookfantastic, offering more than 1,300 premium brands across the skincare, haircare, cosmetics, and fragrance categories, into 195 territories, with leading positions in the UK, US, and Europe.
THG Nutrition is a group of digital-first Nutrition & Wellbeing brands, including the world’s largest online sports nutrition brand, Myprotein. THG Nutrition’s products span protein powders, supplements, bars, snacks, drinks, performance clothing, and more.
THG Ingenuity facilitates the ecommerce platform for THG Beauty and THG Nutrition, while also offering the platform as a complete 3rd party, ecommerce solution to retail brands globally.
Integrating and expanding communication channels from global acquisitions
When Group CRM Director Paul Bonner first joined THG, they had just acquired Myprotein with 6 localized websites and were using an off-the-shelf email platform. THG had lofty growth goals, wishing to double in size and then double again by expanding to new locations and acquiring new brands.
THG had to address several challenges for this plan to work. Specific to email, expanding to new locations introduced new languages and template requirements. When acquiring new businesses, THG would need to migrate opt-in email databases as well as integrate with the existing MarTech stack. And maintaining growth would require marketing programs that were effective and able to be replicated/supported across the vast number of divisions, brands, websites, and more.
Bonner’s CRM team sat in the middle of many of these challenges. They spanned all divisions and have been chartered with ensuring that all digital tools are used with best practices and to their full potential.
On a monthly basis, THG has grown to send 1 billion emails and 3 million SMS, both used for marketing as well as transactional communications with consumers. Standard transactional emails may follow the customer through an order, starting with confirmation and providing updates through delivery.
For marketing, THG has built a robust solution that includes email and SMS marketing. Their marketing is centralized, meaning the channels are operated by the same group and system. Campaigns are segmented to send different content based on previous purchase behaviors and when targets are identified the marketing team decides which channel to use and initiates the program. Beyond discount promotions, they also conduct abandoned cart campaigns, loyalty/member campaigns, VIP offers, and more.
After the campaigns, results are evaluated through detailed analysis and fed into the CRM for future optimization, such as understanding what a particular consumer desires and targeting them more effectively.
“For Black Friday, we will often have a check in with Twilio and talk about our infrastructure and set up because we've grown to need new IP addresses and new IP pools to manage the volume. And we don’t want something we do in one part of THG to have a negative impact on another. Twilio has been super helpful over the years to work out the best way to set this up and continue to evolve it.”
Building an email and SMS marketing platform with data analytics for optimization
Bonner recalls when THG’s tech team learned that Twilio was built by developers for developers, “That sounds like the right option for us,” they said.
THG began by building their own, proprietary ecommerce platform that included functionality for distributing communications such as marketing emails. By building the email front end (interface) themselves, they enabled the users to build templates and segments of consumers for marketing campaigns. Owning the system has also allowed THG to benefit from quick and simple integration of new brands when necessary. Bonner explained, “That has allowed us, when acquiring a new brand, to easily plug them in.”
Working with Twilio has also enabled THG to expand their marketing platform to support SMS communications. Bonner explained that in some markets, like the USA, SMS is a preferred communication channel making it necessary for optimal marketing. THG’s success with email from Twilio SendGrid led them to do the same thing with SMS. They enabled SMS marketing campaigns through the use of Twilio’s APIs which were simple to plug into their current platform, reliable, and scalable to new markets in the future.
THG’s requirements for data to analyze results and optimize campaigns are facilitated by Twilio webhooks. Beginning with funnel reports, Bonner gave examples of requests, delivered, and delivered as a percentage. This data is important to understand deliverability trends and identify potential issues down the line for resolution.
THG also tracks common marketing engagement metrics such as opens, click-through-rates, blocks, bounces, conversions, and revenue for marketing attribution. Bonner explains that although there are slightly less metrics available with SMS, THG aims to have as much consistency as possible in their reporting across marketing channels. This data is then aggregated by day, brand, month, and campaign. Finally, THG feeds the results into their CRM for future segmentation and marketing optimization.
“The ability to quickly retrieve data through API and Webhook allowed us to bring all that data in-house into our proprietary reporting software and visualize it. It checked all the boxes in terms of what we wanted to do.”
Scaling marketing globally with email and SMS
THG has grown to send 1B emails per month and will have peaks on days like Black Friday of 3x their normal volume. In periods like this, Bonner explains how Twilio’s reliability is something they can count on, “Twilio has a reputation in the space for being a reliable supplier. It’s not something that I really spend too much time worrying about, which probably tells you everything you need to know.”
THG also benefits from using Twilio Professional Services to make sure emails are reaching inboxes at scale. In speaking with the Twilio Deliverability Consultant who works with THG, Serena Maffei, she conveyed that THG’s email delivery rate was 98.6% over the previous 12 months and they achieved 99.2% on 2022’s Black Friday. Bonner also explained that having a Deliverability Consultant is beneficial in helping address nuances in different territories. In Asia, he stated, the mailbox providers have much different policies than the Gmails and Hotmails of the world and having insights from the Twilio team has been quite useful.
Specific to SMS, 10-20% of THG customers sign up for SMS marketing and they now send 3 million per month with November volumes spiking to 6 million. Bonner explained that the impact from SMS marketing was very good from the start, “The engagement rates with SMS are really high so we know that it works really well for campaigns like short term flash sales and it’ll obviously work great on Black Friday. If I’ve got the CEO at my desk asking for a few more sales, I know that an SMS will drive that.”
THG’s future with Twilio
From 2019 to 2022, THG grew their revenue 194% and they don’t plan to stop there. THG will continue to focus on the UK and is looking to the USA and Japan to maintain the rapid growth they have been experiencing over the last few years. THG plans for expansion into new territories as well such as The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India.
While acknowledging that it’s important to communicate with customers on their preferred channels, and that it’s becoming more difficult to reach them by email and SMS, Bonner explained that WhatsApp is very important and is something that THG is looking into. Given that channel preferences vary across the world, Bonner cites “Twilio’s understanding, sharing of insights, and helping provide an understanding of where to focus is another terrific benefit from our partnership.”