Over the last 45 years, Peacock Alley has established itself as a leader in high-end, luxury linens and bedding by placing their valued customers first, from product design to enjoyable, evolving shopping experiences.
Peacock Alley recently signed on with Faraday to leverage artificial intelligence and nationwide consumer data to continue to deepen their understanding of their current customers and intelligently target and acquire new customers.
Ryne Higgins, Head of eCommerce and Digital Marketing, spearheaded the efforts to incorporate AI into Peacock Alley's marketing strategy. We had a chance to speak with Ryne about Peacock Alley, their decision to implement an AI solution, and what their onboarding experience has been like so far.
We'd like to thank Ryne for sharing his thoughts and experience, and hope you enjoy the interview!
Can you provide a brief history on Peacock Alley?
"Our founder, Mary Ella Gabler founded Peacock Alley in 1973 (yes, we are 45 years old and working with an AI / machine learning software!) on the "Little Black Dress" theory to bedding and bath linens; own the best basics and then thoughtfully work everything else in.
About 9 years ago, she handed the reins over to her sons – Jason and Josh - and they are continuing to run the business today with her watchful eye still on product development and brand.
The company has been through a lot of iterations throughout the years but our core business channels are perhaps not that much different than you'd expect – we have a growing wholesale, retail, and eCommerce presence still today."
Who is a typical Peacock Alley customer? Is your customer base changing?
"The typical Peacock Alley customer is a difficult question and one of the reasons why we have paired with Faraday.
Across our channels, you may get a lot of answers. For example; our wholesale channel sells to a number of specialty stores, online dropship channels, and direct-to-designer. Our retail stores, while open to the public, mostly focus on the professional, accredited designer who is looking for the touch and feel experience in Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, or Nashville.
For my purview of the business (eCommerce), we are mostly focused on striking the cord with the do-it-yourself designers (think of what you see on Pinterest and beyond).
I wouldn't say that our customer base is necessarily changing – we're still committed to the people that have made us successful over the past 45 years – however, as a brand, we are always interested in understanding what makes our customers tick and finding ways to attract new customers."
What does a typical Peacock Alley customer lifecycle look like? For example, are a lot of your customers repeat buyers? How do you communicate with past customers?
"Like a lot of 45 year old brands, our changes in the online space have been more revolution vs. evolution. In the past year; we've redesigned / replatformed our website, paired with companies like Faraday, and have really been trying to reshape our marketing mix between traditional and digital channels. For digital channels, we are seeing a high rate of new customers as we've built an experience that they are interested in interacting with.
We see very strong customer loyalty and to be frank with you, our product and brand has really stood on its own in bringing customers back historically. Our messaging and retention strategies have really been based more on the personal relationships we've built with our customers over the years.
As a brand with high-touch customer service and interaction, we are always looking for ways to supplement the old-fashioned "how are you doing" with digital communication that adds value to our customer's experience with the brand."
How has your marketing strategy evolved over the last 5 years? Where have you found success? Where have you struggled?
"Without getting into too many details, I will say that it is definitely in a place of evolution. Our business was built on the wholesale channel and sales tools, swatchfolios, etc have always been a staple of our marketing efforts.
That is still true today but we are also trying to find ways to improve those assets while also mixing in digital marketing (be it SEO, paid search, paid social, etc). As with most traditional media efforts, tracking can be difficult compared to the relative ease of digital. Faraday's toolset will allow us to continue to close that gap."
To what extent has data guided your marketing strategy throughout that period?
"Data and the ever-evolving digital landscape has been paramount in our evolution of our marketing strategy. When Mary Ella started the business, you could have never imagined directly tying a dollar spent to a dollar earned in marketing.
As these tools and technologies continue to evolve, for us it is about finding ways to marry the digital tools out there today with the traditional efforts that have really built and grown this business over the years."
Can you describe your current tech stack from your e-commerce system to customer data management? Has this changed significantly over the last few years?
"Sure. The fun thing about digital is it is pretty easy to find out what tools and technology people are using so it's pretty much public information.
Last year, we made a transition from Magento to Shopify, we signed on with a tool that allows us to visualize the true color of a product without having to shoot our products in a dozen different colors, and have signed on data and machine learning partners like Faraday.
We believe that to scale the marketing efforts of a luxury business through digital – we had to have a partner that could help us solve for the black box of channels like Facebook and Instagram.
It is pretty unbelievable that, with as great of a platform some of these channels are, they can only build look-a-like type prospecting audiences with 2.1M+ people in them, making it very difficult to understand why something is performing or not.
By leveraging a partner like Faraday, we have the ability to pull back the curtain and communicate with members of their account management, leadership, and theoretically their engineering team if ever needed.
For us to make significant adjustments in our marketing budgets, we need the ability to find the right people and send the right message at the right time. It is a fairly cliché statement but partners like Faraday should help us close that gap."
Prior to learning about Faraday, had you considered leveraging AI in any aspect of your business? If so, how? If not, why?
"I mean, sort of? I come from a background that is extremely digital in nature and I'm constantly trying to follow the trends that will help us build our brand. I will say – before talking to Faraday – I didn't think that AI was accessible to brands like ours quite yet (we have a small, scrappy team).
I was extremely impressed with what a relatively small team in Vermont can produce, and I liked their ability to "flex" their messaging to someone who considers themselves digital savvy but would have never considered scaling an in-house data science team in the short-term."
Why did you choose to leverage Faraday's AI solution?
"I've said a lot in the rest of the interview that I think answers this question but I would also say that the ability to take our use cases and personalize their product to what we needed to accomplish was key.
The Faraday team (shout out Robbie) is the type that listens, and I genuinely got the feeling that, in a world of technology partners who say a lot, they actually had the ability to walk the walk."
Can you describe your onboarding experience with Faraday?
"I've been through countless onboarding meetings and they are often met with a disconnect between sales and account management. It seemed like sales and account management was in sync. They had communicated our efforts, asked for refreshers as needed, and without the need for constant follow up have been meeting the quick deadlines that we needed them to.
As a business manager, I'm constantly met with "how" or "why" type questions and the team has been very responsive and thorough. It really sets the stage for our entire engagement."
"This might sound weird from a customer of the company, but don't just sign up for AI because you'd like to say you work with an AI firm. Take the time through the process and see if you can link Faraday's AI solution to your business outcomes.
Consider your ability to execute with the platform. We've been waiting for the solutions that we think Faraday can solve for and it seemed like a great fit for our business."
Thanks a bunch, Ryne!
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