How a clever email strategy helped Apple Rose Beauty thrive during the pandemic

Kristi Alexander, founder of Apple Rose Beauty. Photo courtesy of Apple Rose Beauty.

“I went to corporate America for 10 years and was on the fast track, getting promoted every two years,” Kristi Alexander, founder of Apple Rose Beauty, told us. “I was about to get another promotion when I decided to travel the world. I found myself in Thailand, volunteering with an organization that helped save women from human trafficking. It really changed the direction of my life.”

While in Thailand, Alexander met two survivors of human trafficking, Apple and Rose. She founded her own cosmetics company in 2015, naming it after women to honor them and highlight a greater mission – to help stop human trafficking. Alexander employs human trafficking survivors and supports organizations that rescue and rehabilitate women such as Apple and Rose.

Apple Rose Beauty, headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, is a luxury skincare company. Organic facial care products designed for people with sensitive skin. “I developed the products for my skin,” Alexander said. “I have sensitive skin and am also sensitive to fragrances. I wanted to create a natural line with little or no scent and gentle on sensitive skin, but still very effective.”

Alexander credits her dream of opening a cosmetics company to the chemistry class she took at the age of 15 in her native Trinidad and Tobigo. While attending class, she analyzed the cosmetics and discovered that it was something she really enjoyed.

Use email to build strong relationships with clients

When she started the company, Alexander realized she needed a solid email marketing strategy. She wanted a flexible and scalable email marketing system with automation features built in. She chose ActiveCampaign, a marketing automation platform that includes email marketing and CRM capabilities.

“Technology brings together what people think of as email marketing, marketing automation and customer relationship management,” explained Maria Pergolino, CMO at ActiveCampaign. “We’re bringing these technologies together with powerful automation so companies can run campaigns and raise their voice to multiple audiences.”

“I was looking for something that was flexible in terms of automation and communication with my clients,” Alexander said. “ActiveCampaign stood out from other CRM companies that had strict automation that didn’t allow me to think of flexible ways to communicate with my customers using ‘if… then… else’ scenarios. The other part was that I needed a platform where I could own and grow my customer relationships.”

In the early days of growing her business, Alexander worked with a consultant and tried several CRM tools. “Maybe I am one of those people who has tried them all,” she said. “We accepted a lot of frogs first before we got here.”

Five years later, having built a robust email list, Alexander faced another challenge — reaching customers who used to touch and feel her products at a time when that had become impossible — and that was the pandemic.

Using technology to strengthen relationships with customers offline

Alexander uses ActiveCampaign for email marketing, but it also takes advantage of Facebook integration to automatically upload its customer list for paid Facebook ads. It is able to customize campaigns on Facebook with messages related to customer behavior.

When COVID-19 hit, Apple Rose Beauty was doing most of its business offline through partnerships with retailers like Macy’s, local markets, and other physical locations. Alexander’s strategy of cultivating strong relationships with offline clients helped him quickly transition into the online space. Before the pandemic, online sales accounted for only about 30% of its business.

Alexander said, “I’ve always heard about the importance of email marketing, but my focus was not on COVID before. We configured our customers from whatever channels we acquired and tried to get their email addresses so we could remarket to them. We did a lot of personal activations. In the store and in the markets.

Personal feedback helped Apple Rose Beauty get to know its customers – the people who were truly drawn to the brand. This gave Alexander and her team a solid understanding of their customers’ challenges and pain points that contributed to developing the brand’s positioning.

“When COVID hit, I didn’t realize how useful these personal feedback was to our brand or how much of an impact it had on our entire market entry strategy. After COVID, we missed those instant feedback. We were still emailing, but it was a traditional one-way communication. And we thought How can we recreate the kind of relationship we originally had with clients they interact with in person?”

Make email a conversation

Not being able to connect with customers in person has inspired Alexander and her team to rethink how they use automation and specifically how to leverage ActiveCampaign. They’ve moved on to a more conversational kind of email marketing, asking customers to respond to them.

“When COVID hit we were in a state of not knowing what was going on. We were used to seeing our customers and so we were really wondering how they are doing and how they are coping with the pandemic. That’s what the initial emails were all about — just reply back and tell us what you’re doing. What do you need? “

Asking customers how they’re doing helped kick-start the Apple Rose Beauty transition from offline to online sales. Their clients knew the company had a website, but they used to buy in person at Macy’s or local markets in Jacksonville, or in Atlanta where Alexander is based.

“With skincare, it’s so sensitive, it gives customers a chance to smell the product and see how it spreads on their skin,” Alexander said. “So, we were a very high-profile company before COVID, both locally and across the United States.”


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The skyrocketing rise in online sales and a new business approach

By focusing on e-commerce and a new personalized email communications strategy facilitated by ActiveCampaign, Apple Rose Beauty was able to increase its online sales by 300% in 2020. “We’ve been able to develop the kind of relationship with our customers that a lot of retailers aren’t necessarily able to It’s in an online environment. They really feel like we care. It’s not just about marketing or promoting them, but they feel like they can have a conversation with us,” Alexander said.

Alexander notes that about 70% of businesses are now online, which is a complete reflection of what it was like in pre-pandemic times. Although they are slowly starting to return to personal events, she has no plans to go back to what she was before.

“We can expand a lot through email marketing and online sales,” she said. “We’ve also shifted our acquisition model to using more paid advertising and online advertising. When our new customers were coming from those in-person markets, we’ve now moved on to online customer acquisition.”

An example of a welcome email from Apple Rose Beauty. Photo courtesy of Apple Rose Beauty

This strategy enabled Alexander’s small team of three to achieve six-figure sales annually and continue to grow. She credits the strong relationship she built with her clients – as well as her focused digital transformation strategy – to this success.

“Customers are the lifeblood of a company, right? If you don’t have customers, you don’t have business. Pay special attention to this customer relationship because it is very important to nurture and maintain it. You want to make sure, as a brand, that you are in control of communications and messaging so you can continue focus on nurturing that relationship.”

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About the author

Jacqueline Dooley is a freelance B2B content writer and journalist covering technology industry news and trends. Since 2018, I’ve worked with B2B-focused agencies, publications, and direct clients to create articles, blog posts, white papers, and eBooks. Prior to that, Dooley founded Twelve Thousand, LLC where she worked with clients to create, manage and improve paid search and social campaigns.

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