Case Study

Thanks to Improved Deliverability, Halston Heritage’s Email Marketing Efficiency Soars and Email Revenue Jumps 39%

In order for an iconic fashion brand to keep customers engaged, it needed a solid foundation for email marketing. Email Aptitude helped Halston Heritage improve its list quality, generate more email income, and initiate triggered campaigns that have boosted engagement as well as revenue.

2016 Performance Highlights

  • Completed a major email platform migration in 14 days
  • Improved list hygiene to boost deliverability by 146% and increased the click-to-delivery rate by 141%
  • Email revenue gains of 39% year over year for the first quarter of 2017
  • New triggered message campaigns to re-engage lapsed subscribers and first-time purchasers launched


Founded in the 1960s by Roy Halston Frowick, the Halston label took the fashion industry by storm. Known for his innovation in millinery, Halston used his signature materials of jersey, cashmere, and suede to reinvent the jumpsuit, the shirtdress, and the classic caftan, permanently leaving his mark on fashion. Halston went on to create one of the best-selling fragrances of all time in his signature tear-drop shaped perfume bottle designed by Elsa Peretti.

Halston created strong codes that are quintessential to the brand even to this day, as a new team of innovators continue to evolve the Halston legacy through the Halston Heritage collection. Under the vision of current Chairman and CEO Ben Malka and Chief Creative Officer Marie Mazelis, today Halston Heritage mixes iconic styles with a modern edge to create an effortless women’s collection of ready-to-wear, dresses, handbags, footwear and small leather goods.

The new Halston Heritage is carried by some of the world’s most formidable retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Net-A-Porter and Harvey Nichols. In 2013, the company opened a clutch of retail stores, as well as launching its first eCommerce site.

When the brand outgrew that initial foray into online retail, Halston Heritage began revamping its entire range of online offerings -- and realized it needed a more sophisticated approach to email marketing, to boot. The brand forged a partnership with Email Aptitude that was quickly put to the test.

Major Replatforming Kicks Off Partnership

When the Email Aptitude partnership began in September of 2016, Halston Heritage was about to move from a multi-purpose eCommerce, email, and fulfillment system to a new eCommerce platform and email service provider. What was thought to be a turnkey transition turned out to be a major undertaking -- and the Email Aptitude team leapt into action to help keep the project on track.

Working with the Halston Heritage marketing team, Email Aptitude technology team and strategists helped integrate the new ESP with eCommerce, order fulfillment, and customer relationship management platforms, while Email Aptitude designers worked on refining Halston Heritage’s templates and implementing them on the new platform. Mobile-friendly improvements such as larger font sizes and single-column layouts were part of the equation to help boost effectiveness.

Similar email platform migrations typically take over a month, but the Halston Heritage and Email Aptitude teams pulled off the project in 14 days -- enabling the launch of newly-revamped campaigns on the new email service provider platform by October.

“The opportunity to dive in and work side by side helped establish trust with Email Aptitude,” said Halston Heritage. “By the end, we had not only successfully transitioned to the new platform, but we were well-positioned to make the most of the partnership.”

– Halston Heritage

List Cleanup Improves Efficiency and ROI

Having met the platform migration challenge head-on, the Email Aptitude team immediately tackled another pressing issue: deliverability.

Earlier in 2016, marketing partnerships had brought more than 40,000 new subscribers to Halston Heritage’s email list within a short timeframe. Many of those subscribers were now inactive, impacting deliverability. The problem was especially acute on Gmail, which ranks engagement as an important factor when determining sender reputation.

Once again, Email Aptitude’s strategists leapt into action. An immediate one-time re-engagement series was sent to subscribers across the board, and then was automated to continue targeting those who haven’t interacted with recent campaigns. The two-message series opens with an initial aggressive promotion and concludes with a final invitation to stay connected or else be unsubscribed from the list.

At first, the re-engagement series was targeted to those who hadn’t engaged with campaigns within 90 days; then, as deliverability began to improve during the late fall of 2016, the timeframe was nudged back upward to 120 days. But as the holidays approached, the Email Aptitude strategists proposed holding the line on list size, and advised against sending out a list-wide promotion for Black Friday. For CyberMonday, Halston Heritage cast a wider net, but segmented recipients by email platform so that tighter controls for Gmail could be kept in place.

“The client really had to trust us when we said to keep the list size down,” said Email Aptitude lead account strategist Kellie Collins.

The conservative approach may have caused some hand-wringing, but the concerted focus on quality over quantity when it comes to list size has by now paid off. In the first quarter of 2017, the number of Halston Heritage emails delivered dropped fully 53% year over year -- but email revenues have jumped by 39%.

Engagement metrics have improved substantially as well, with the open rate achieving 22% in Q1 of 2017 -- a 126% increase compared with 2016 -- and clicks per delivery jumping 141%. Deliverability has improved across the board, and Gmail inboxing currently stands at 100%.

“The strategy expertise at Email Aptitude has been invaluable in helping us to focus on effectiveness,” said Halston Heritage. “The ROI of our email program has improved dramatically, and, more importantly, we’re serving our customers and subscribers better thanks to more relevant messaging.”

– Halston Heritage

Continual Optimization Boosts Earnings

In addition to boosting deliverability, Email Aptitude strategists have helped the Halston Heritage team boost overall effectiveness using rigorous testing and performance tracking.

A/B testing has played a key role in optimizing campaigns. For example, Email Aptitude strategists discovered that messages featuring a single “hero” image earned a 27% higher click-through rate than designs featuring an assortment of images. And when the email image linked to a category landing page instead of an individual product page, the average conversion rate jumped 69% on tested campaigns.

Email Aptitude has also provided guidance for revamping existing triggered campaigns for new email subscribers and shopping cart abandoners, as well as a “happy birthday” promotion. Combined with the new re-engagement series for lapsed subscribers, the automated email program has realized revenue gains of close to 88% in the last 6 months. A new triggered campaign for first-time purchasers is in the works.

With Halston Heritage’s content team supplying the editorial calendar and campaign copy, and Email Aptitude providing strategic guidance and design resources for building individual campaigns, the partnership relies on continuous active participation from both sides. Future plans include optimizing list acquisition via the eCommerce site signup overlay, rolling out a loyalty program to help forge the connection between Halston Heritage’s online offerings and retail outlets, and instituting personalization features to drive more relevant product recommendations to individual subscribers.

“We’ve realized significant improvements in our email program thanks to Email Aptitude,” said Halston Heritage. “We now have a solid foundation for further growth.”

– Halston Heritage

About Email Aptitude

Email Aptitude is a leading ESP-agnostic email agency, providing strategy and full-service management for some of the world's largest brands and fastest growing startups. The Email Aptitude team is made up of industry veterans and the new bright minds of email who work tirelessly to crush records for our clients.