How The Sole Supplier Increased User Engagement and Revenue in Less Than a Year With Braze
Founded in 2013 with headquarters just outside of London, The Sole Supplier is the UK’s leading authority on sneaker news and releases, providing the fastest and most comprehensive daily coverage and content on exclusive sneaker drops. I spoke with Pedrom Pourkashanian, Head of Acquisition at The Sole Supplier, about their rapid adoption of Braze, the growth they’ve seen since onboarding onto the platform earlier this year, and the huge business impact they’re driving with their mix of reactive and planned customer engagement efforts.*
Tell us about The Sole Supplier. You have both a content side and an affiliate side. How does it all blend?
The Sole Supplier started out as an influencer in the sneaker space—we have over one million followers on Instagram. A lot of similar brands do paid partnerships, but we rely on affiliate links instead. While the main business is affiliate-based, we also have a marketplace and post about sneaker news, do shoe unboxings, and publish opinion pieces. We've seen massive growth over the last few years where the affiliate side has become a dominant part of the business, so that's where we've focused our attention.
You’re relatively new to Braze. Which aspect of your goals have you been focusing on first and how have you managed to prioritize it all?
Our first goal was to improve our engagement with our users. Before Braze, we were sort of just sending messages. We didn't have any customer journeys set up, but knew they would be integral to helping us improve our relationships with customers. Right away, Braze helped us transform the customer journey, especially with its journey orchestration tool, Braze Canvas. Also, a lot of our users said we sent too many emails or too many pushes, which led to them opting out. Now, we've set it up so that people can opt in to news, restocks, sales, and/or promos individually. Letting users customize the types of messages they get has improved opt-in levels and engagement.
In terms of the users feeling like they're being over-messaged, was that an internal conversation you had to have? I know some people feel like fewer messages means fewer sales, and finding a happy medium takes time.
We send quite a lot of messages. I'd average it to be around 15 pushes and five emails a day. What's helped us manage the volume an individual user would get is the detailing of the segmentation.
Our teams have sales targets, so we need to give them freedom to send what they want, but with restrictions in place to prevent too many overlapping messages. Since we started this new kind of targeting, year on year, our push revenue has increased by 188% and email [by] 21%. And that's just for our men's brand. We’ve seen massive growth—the app is now our largest channel for the business.
Who uses Braze on a day-to-day basis?
We have the marketing team in there, which is five to six people. We have it split out between a men's team and a women's team, which is what products they will be messaging. For the marketplace side of the business, which is still new, we have somebody sending a weekly email that tells sellers the current top-performing products. And then we're also trying an approach where if a product sells out after launch, we follow up with a push to say you can get it on our call market as well.
Can you walk us through the process of how a campaign comes to life?
We have both reactive and planned approaches. The reactive approach is when we scrape a lot of retailers to see if something’s come into stock. If we see that, say, Foot Locker has a product that just released, we'd go into Braze and set up a campaign. With Braze, we've been able to speed up the process of these reactive campaigns. We draft campaigns with the audiences built into them, almost like a shell campaign we can duplicate quickly as a template. Then we add on the messaging and links and sometimes overlay size-specific targeting once we need to. It’s really fast. I think they go out in one minute, two minutes. Some of our pushes go out before the actual shoe brands’ do!
And what about the more planned-out campaigns? Any you’re proud of on that front?
On that side, we’ve got our Canvases, which are more about informing users about the value of The Sole Supplier. Take the welcome journey we built as an example. Our CRM manager built the Canvas out so that it reacts differently depending on if you click a push or email along the way. It’s done really well because of how detailed the filtering is. For example, if someone gets the email about setting a shoe size, we can then filter it down to split between if they did or did not set it and follow up appropriately. Based on how the profile changes, we can adapt the messaging. We need to make sure that the people are filling out their profile, because it helps make the future messages they get more relevant.
Overall, we’re proud of how much user engagement has increased. And we've definitely seen a reduction in the amount of people saying they get too many emails, which is always a plus.
How do you share internal success stories you're having with your campaigns?
We use a lot of click references we can attribute to each of our campaigns. For example, we had a sale for back to school, and can look at the click references and see what that specific campaign is bringing in. We can see what products are selling. We also share that data with the business and they know the value of different channels, like push or email or social. So, for that back to school sale, we were able to see that push was the biggest contributing channel across the entire business. And push is definitely the place where we see the most opportunity, and the channel that both has the biggest target and gets closest to being achieved every month.
Why do you think push is performing so well at the moment?
I think it’s because we can get them out so quickly while still adding in all the information we have on each user in Braze. That targeting combined with the speed helps a lot. We target based on size and gender, for example. A lot of retailers sometimes don't even have an app, so we'll be telling users that this product is available at a retailer that doesn't have an app, who then gets lots of web traffic off the back of that, which helps our affiliate business.
I'd love to hear about the IP warming process. What was your strategy?
It was quite an easy process. We did it as a welcome newsletter. We thought “we don't send a weekly newsletter at the moment” and we thought “this is probably the best opportunity to do it.” So we scaled it up each day by increasing the amount of users who could receive it, which all worked out quite well. It also helped everyone understand the platform, as well.
Have you kept up with the newsletter post-IP warming?
We have, and we've also been trying different things. Our previous platform didn't allow us to do any targeting based on if a user had clicked a link in an email or if they opened an email. Now, with Braze, if someone has clicked one of the last five different campaigns, we can filter them into a special audience. That's working really well—we get above average open rates. August was a 73% open rate, and it's been increasing every month. Conversion rates, too, have gone from 2.4% to 2.6%. We’re seeing similar improvements and open rates in the men’s newsletter, too.
The team finds it quite easy to test, which helps us improve engagement and conversion. We might test GIFs as the main image versus a static image versus a combo of four images. We then have a weekly email chat to go through what they've tested and what's working.
How has Braze helped The Sole Supplier be more effective, efficient or both?
The shell campaign setup has definitely helped with our speed, especially compared to the previous platform we were using. The downtime has definitely been a lot better than what we were seeing, too. The journeys have been a lot clearer, as well. The Canvases that we've set up have helped and we're seeing our users being more engaged, which then filters down to bringing us more revenue.
What's your experience been like working with the Braze team and community so far?
Our Customer Success Manager is really good. We’ve had great communication where he would send us things we should implement that we hadn’t thought of. He understands the industry and the area that we work in, and has suggested campaigns or Canvases that we should work on. So that was a really nice and a good start for us that helped us hit the ground running.
There are so many things that we're looking forward to using. The Braze Learning courses have also helped us with uncovering new ideas. We’ve given some of our team members targets to take the courses since we want to make sure everyone is up-skilled as much as they can be on the platform.
How do you envision Braze will help you continue to grow?
Braze has made it easy to scale and keep growing the business. We're actually looking to get investment and expand to the US, so we’re excited about how Braze will support that.
Hundreds of innovative small and growing companies like Underdog Fantasy, Memmo, and Simple Habit are using Braze to achieve success. See for yourself why Braze is the secret weapon startups turn to to gain a competitive advantage, engage thoughtfully with their users, and ultimately drive business outcomes like user growth, conversions, revenue, retention, and more.
Ashley Christiano is a Principal Customer Marketing Manager, Global SMB based out of Los Angeles. When she’s not helping customers get more out of Braze, she’s probably sorting her books by color, writing horoscopes, or hanging out with her cat Gracie and dog Louise.