Bonobos: Customer Journey Breakdown and Marketing Review

Today, I’m going to take you on a customer’s journey, breaking down Bonobos’ email marketing. But first, some background information…

Founded by Brian Spaly and Andy Dunn in 2007, Bonobos has one obsession: the perfect fitting pair of pants— not too tight, not too boxy. This obsession turned a little startup into a booming retail business, and has led to the opening of many Bonobos Guide Shops.

In April 2017, Bonobos projected their revenues at $150m. It wasn’t but a month later, that Walmart reached a deal to acquire Bonobos for $310m in cash.

Instead of focusing entirely on acquisition, Bonobos focuses on keeping their current customers happy with free shipping, easy returns and “ninja” customer service.

Next I’m going to take you step-by-step through the customer lifecycle, walking through what Bonobos is doing well and where they can improve. You can apply the tactics you’re going to learn today in your own marketing campaigns, so don’t be afraid to take notes.
Let’s jump in!

Day 1
10:26am: Anonymous Cart Abandon


I enter Bonobos’ website URL into my search bar, find the golf tab, scroll to the bottom of the page then select this white FlexFit Performance Golf Hat.


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I add the Performance Golf Hat to my cart and click “Check Out” where I am prompted to enter my email. Then I close the browser without submitting.


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I want to see if Bonobos will put a cookie on my browser and retroactively assign it to me when I give them my email later. I do like the two step order process, asking for only my email at first. This focuses the customer on the desired next step.


Day 11-13
Various Retargeting Ads On LinkedIn And Marketing Websites


Kudos to Bonobos for leveraging the cookie they placed on my browser for retargeting. Retargeting is a great way to get customers on-site again. But how can Bonobos improve their retargeting CTR’s and conversions?

Instead of using a cool (but generic) image, use an image of the Performance Golf Hat I abandoned. This is the first step to personalization for your retargeting and will inevitably improve results as you relate to your customers’ exact interests.


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Day 14
11:10am: Joined Newsletter


Now the real fun begins. Let’s join Bonobos’ newsletter. I went to the website, scrolled to the footer, and gave them my email.


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12:08pm: Welcome Email


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The first welcome email comes nearly an hour after I submitted my email—  as a standard the customer expectation is that you get an email almost instantly.


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Bonobos opens up their email communication with a standard welcome email. The subject line is “Welcome To The New You”. Not especially eye-grabbing, but not bad either.

When you open the email, the copy is clever and uses humor to humanize the brand. A single, focused call to action button is placed center of the main image.

On the top right you find tabs with some basic product categories. As far as best practice, we would really like to see these categories or products featured prominently within the email as recommendations.

Even better— use personalization in this first email and include the Performance Golf Hat I anonymously cart abandoned a week ago to draw me in. Let’s see if the next email uses personalization or acknowledges my previous cart abandon.


Day 16
11:32am: Second Welcome Email


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A few days later I receive another welcome email. This email keeps the clever copy coming, but is much better than the first welcome email, diving into the different categories of the brand with cool lifestyle images. The only problem?

Still no personalization, and still no mention of my previous cart abandon. If I’m browsing around on site, the emails should at least personalize from my browsing activity as more data is being collected about me. Right about now I’m worried Bonobos isn’t taking this valuable information into account in their communication.


Day 18
3:30pm: Retargeting Ad on LinkedIn With New Image


Great, stylish photography (still no personalization in their retargeting, though). For example, ReSci has a feature that can personalize ads with products that users are interested in. This is based on data collected on that user as well as the user population as a whole. Utilizing machine learning algorithms to recommend products in ads can be a huge boost for your acquisition channel.

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Day 21
10:35am: Cart Abandoned Americano Necktie


I waited a few more days, and still no cart abandon email. This is a valuable lost opportunity to connect with the customer with data that you have available to leverage. Let’s try an overt cart abandon now that Bonobos has my email….

I selected this Americano Necktie in a trendy Atlantic Paisley color. But wait a minute…


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The Performance Gold Hat that I abandoned anonymously is in my cart weeks later after I’ve given them my email— and still no communication to get me to come back and purchase!

For the sake of the experiment, I abandoned the checkout page that had both the Americano Necktie and the aforementioned Performance Golf Hat.


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An aside: Oddly enough, I was still asked to enter my email before my cart abandon despite Bonobos already having it. This type of redundant process can lower conversions as it adds an extra hoop for customers to jump through.


Day 23
4:53am: New Arrivals Promotional Blast


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At this point my fears are confirmed. Bonobos isn’t leveraging cart abandon emails, one of the most fundamental and high-converting emails you can send to customers.

Why is this important? Because on average, cart abandon emails account for 18% of email revenue share. If Bonobos implements this email lifecycle stage, they will likely see a huge jump in their conversions.

In the promotional blast Bonobos sends, I notice they offer a 20% off coupon for my first purchase. This also makes me skeptical Bonobos is personalizing discounts with an incentive optimizer based on price sensitivity— 20% off seems like overkill.

I’m their target demographic; a male between 24-35 living in Los Angeles. I’ve been active and cart abandoned 2 products in recent days. I probably did not need a discount at all. A simple reminder may be all I need to finish my purchase, and I would have been just as happy with a 10% off coupon.

A better strategy would be to intelligently incentivize customers with artificial intelligence.

ReSci’s platform, Cortex, will send higher or lower discounts based on each customer’s predicted price sensitivity. It finds the sweet spot for conversions at different (or no) discount levels based on hard data.

This ensures a brand is right-sizing their discounts and protecting their margins.

In addition to the promotional blast email above, I got 3 more promotional blast emails on day 29, day 30 and day 32 highlighting work attire, merino sweaters and travels jeans, respectively. Each included the same 20% off discount code for a first purchase.

Next, let’s see if Bonobos uses any personalization at all— time to try a search abandon…


Day 26
10:00am: No Search Bar


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Unfortunately, Bonobos doesn’t have a search bar, so we know they aren’t personalizing their emails around that— Yikes!

Some marketers take away the search bar so customers won’t have a search come back with “no result,” and cause the customer to bounce from the page.

These marketers instead want customers to click into their home page’s predefined category tabs when searching for an item. This way, customers get lost in the options they DO have, versus searching for an item only to find it unavailable. However, there’s one big problem with removing the search bar from your store…

These brands fail to realize that customers *by default* use the home page’s normal tab navigation to find what they are looking for *first*. When they go to the search bar, it’s only because they have *already* clicked through the navigation tabs. When you take away the search bar, you’re only hurting yourself as the marketer because you’re losing data for your product and design teams. These searches can reveal what customers are looking for that you aren’t selling yet.

On top of all of this, a search is a buying signal with high intent. For ReSci clients that use search abandon emails with personalized product recommendations, we see customer open rates at nearly 40%, and click-to-open rates of nearly 20% on average.

Providing customers a search bar and sending search abandon emails that include personalized product recommendations will allow customers to start to become interested in products you actually have, and gives brands valuable insights for what is trending with their customers.


Day 33
5:25am: Newsletter Email: The Fit List


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Bonobos has a weekly email called “The Fit List.” In this email they highlight various products filtered by the Bonobos team, as well as the top selling items on their website.

The design is simple and straightforward, with 6 product recommendations. The only thing that changes each week is the color of the top left icon and the recommendations.

With templates involving product recommendations, it’s important to test how the number of recommendations in the template affects conversions. Will 3 choices work better than 6? The results of these tests can vary widely by company and industry and there’s no way we can tell if Bonobos has optimized for this. 

Another powerful way we see brands increase click through rate and conversions is by using personalized recommendations based on individual user preferences.

So how might this Newsletter email look instead using ReSci’s artificial intelligence?

Bonobos could upload multiple templates, each with a different number of dynamic recommendations. Once a marketer hits “send,” ReSci will quickly and automatically pinpoint and start delivering the highest converting template with the optimal number of recommendations.

At the same time, customers get an email that contains personalized recommendations based on that user’s on-site behaviors, demographics and past purchases. The AI takes hundreds of factors into account, predicting the product most likely to elicit a purchase for that individual user.

Automation also scales this process much more effectively than doing so manually and ensures each customer can see products specific to them within a trending category, for example.

On average clients using these product recommendations see 16% more conversions than a basic “top items” recommendation scheme.


Day 43
Personalized Retargeting Ads (Eureka!)


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The first sign of personalization from Bonobos! The exact two items I abandoned in my cart were shown over a carousel ad on Facebook. As mentioned before, retargeting ads can be an effective way to lead disengaged customers back on site.

But why does Bonobos wait weeks before serving personalized retargeting ads? Is it a deficiency in keeping data updated in their ad platform? Or possibly some sort of hold-out for business reasons? Regardless, not having timely personalization will mean lost revenue.


Day 53
No Winback Email

The last thing I did for this breakdown was totally disengage with Bonobos. That means I didn’t click their ads, stopped visiting the website, and didn’t open emails. I wanted to see if their messaging changed. Would they send us a discount to come back? Would they send unique messaging?

After a few weeks, we only kept getting Bonobos’ newsletter and standard promotional blast emails. One of the reasons customers churn, or never buy again, is because a brand isn’t staying relevant to their needs. The first step to getting back lost customers is to identify they have churned in the first place, and communicate with them differently.

For ReSci clients who send win back emails, we see average email revenue share for this stage at 2%, with a 24% open rate and 13% click rate. Adding recommendations in these emails is also a great idea. This can highlight products the user may have missed in their absence.


So What Grade Would We Give Bonobos?


Great Job:

  • Clever copywriting
  • Great photography and design chops
  • Good focus on getting users to take the desired next step
  • Personalized (if delayed) retargeting ads

Opportunity For Improvement:

  • No cart abandon emails
  • No search bar or predictive trigger emails based on search or browsing behavior
  • Lack of predictive product recommendations/similar items
  • Apparent lack of incentive optimization

Related: Check Out a Breakdown of Warby Parker’s Marketing, Here!

Discover how ReSci can track every customer’s data and behaviors and automatically send the email most likely to lead to a conversion (based on data science— no more guessing!)

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