How Express drove revenue gains, 20% traffic bump with digital experiences

Express has seen a rebound in sales as the fashion retailer carries out a strategy that includes reaching customers where they shop — namely, on their mobile devices. The omnichannel approach has helped the retailer to recover from a disastrous period when the pandemic led to temporary closures and a steep drop in foot traffic for many stores.

Re-engaging with consumers has entailed the creation of digital experiences that convey the look and feel of Express’s brand. These efforts encompass imagery for social media apps that are popular among younger consumers, who are harder to reach through traditional media channels like linear television.

“Our marketing has evolved to reflect where and how content is being consumed, expanding storytelling on platforms most relevant to our demographic,” Sara Tervo, CMO of Express, said by email. “We have also leveraged more video content across TikTok, Instagram Reels and social-selling livestreams”

The video content generated more than 110 million views during the fourth quarter ended Jan. 29, when the critical holiday shopping season was in full swing. During the period, Express launched its “RSVP YES!” campaign with a bigger presence on TikTok. The brand tapped into the popular “Tell Me” theme on the social video app to urge customers to respond to every holiday event invitation with a “yes.” The campaign generated more than 89 million impressions among social media platforms alone, while other elements of the omnichannel effort included a segment on the “Kelly Clarkson Show” and a spot during the “Adele One Night Only” special on CBS and Paramount+.

Express has sought to maintain its momentum in spring with its latest “Express Yourself” campaign featuring stylists who share their latest looks on social media.

“This approach has illustrated the evolution of our marketing, and we will continue to highlight the value and versatility of our product by investing in our styling community and providing them with a platform to not only consume but also share their unique perspectives across all social media channels,” Tervo said.

Expanded mobile features

Giving customers more flexibility to shop at any time on its app has produced positive results, especially in supporting relationships with shoppers who check in frequently to see the latest products and offers. Its 2.3 million app users visit Express five times as often as customers who shop on its website or in stores. Each mobile shopper also spends an average of $300 a year more than those other customers, per data the company shared.

“Our mobile app also continues to be a destination where our most loyal customers shop,” Tervo said. “Last year we added features and functionality to enhance the experience and saw app demand increase 72% for the full year, with increases in traffic, average order value and conversion.”

With the addition of more features and functionality in its app, traffic increased 20%, average order value rose 27% and conversion was 45 basis points higher than in 2020, according to the company. The results helped to lift total net sales 55% from a year earlier to $1.87 billion, a year-end report showed.

Building style communities

Express also has sought to cultivate communities around its brand with “style editors” who act like fashion influencers online. During the third quarter, it launched its Express Community Commerce program to give fashion enthusiasts a way to earn a commission for showcasing seasonal collections.

The company in November enlisted fashion designer and celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe to help recruit, guide and mentor style editors. Her involvement helped to raise awareness for the program. Express’s first livestream shopping event highlighting Zoe’s Express outfit picks racked up almost 450,000 viewers across and Facebook Live, according to data shared by the company.

“Not only do our style editors engage with one another and virtually consumers, but they also host events in our stores for real-time styling of customers,” Tervo said. “This component of the Community Commerce program has been very well received, and we’ve already held double the number of events in one month this year than we did during 2021.”

Enhancing in-store experiences

Express’s stores are important in introducing new customers to the brand, the first step toward supporting longer-term loyalty with its digital sales channels. Its loyalty program last year added 2.7 million new customers and 2.2 million reactivated customers.

“The vast majority of our new customers come to us through our physical store locations,” CEO Tim Baxter said during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call with analysts. “That has always been true.”

Amid the shifts to consumer buying habits during the pandemic, the company last year set a goal to generate $1 billion in e-commerce sales by 2024. To give customers as much flexibility as possible, Express will roll out more features to its buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) service this year, Tervo said.

“We will support all of these opportunities by aligning our omnichannel experience and execution to our customers’ expectations,” she said. “The app has the power to be an amazing shopping assistant when in our stores, and we would like to make sure that we are giving our customers all the capabilities. They need to make shopping in all channels easier and more inspiring.”

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