Creating Facebook ads manually was wearing thin for TechStyle, the parent company of members-only fashion ecommerce sites ShoeDazzle, JustFab, FabKids and Fabletics.
When a brand spends nearly $90 million a year on digital marketing, automation is the key to sanity.
“Elegant, hard-working, effective advertising at scale is exciting – but the idea of doing that manually is terrible,” said Laura Joukovski, TechStyle’s SVP of media and analytics.
TechStyle, which handles all marketing efforts across its four brands in-house with the exception of TV media buying, allocated roughly 70% of its $125 million global marketing budget to digital last year, the bulk of which went to Facebook and Instagram.
In-house creative and video production teams at TechStyle tackle everything from design to development – dealing with multiple agencies for that stuff was a bit “like herding cats,” Joukovski said – but there’s only so much media creation and optimization the company can handle on its own.
Setting up campaigns on Facebook at scale and ensuring that the tracking works properly is tough, tedious, time-consuming and really important. Technology partners are de rigueur, Joukovski said.
“We need to make sure we tag everything correctly in the first place and set up the pixels so we can see all the way through,” she said. “That really saves us a bunch of time.”
Roughly a year ago, TechStyle partnered with Smartly.io, a Helsinki-based Facebook Marketing Partner that helps its customers automate and streamline their Facebook and Instagram advertising. Other clients include eBay, BarkBox, Foodpanda and APAC ecommerce giant Lazada.
One of the first things Smartly did for TechStyle was create a custom tool that auto-generates Bitly tracking links and appends them to Facebook ads. Previously, TechStyle manually shortened each link – thousands and thousands of links – and uploaded them into Facebook’s Power Editor tool.
TechStyle is also using Smartly to manage Dynamic Ads campaigns on Facebook, which represent a growing chunk of its overall Facebook spend.
At TechStyle’s behest, Smartly developed functionality that automatically grabs multiple images from a product feed – the best-sellers across categories, for example – and combines them into a single image.
Prior testing revealed that ads featuring an assortment of products produce good results, but they were also a pain because TechStyle’s in-house designers had to create each amalgamated image one by one.
“We want our creative team to be spending their time working on templates, thinking about how we want our ads to look and feel, rather than having to make every single ad themselves,” Joukovski said.
Outsourcing the drudge work to the machines also enables more high-volume testing.
“This gives us the chance to test what merchandise is resonating with people so we can be more tailored and specific as we’re running our advertising,” Joukovski said.
The relationship helps engender a virtuous cycle of creation informed by data.
Smartly’s system ingests TechStyle’s user data to leverage it for targeting and campaign optimization. It automatically adjusts and reassigns budget based on real-time performance, said company COO and CFO Anssi Rusi.
But the real-life one-on-one interaction between TechStyle and Smartly is what really makes the partnership work.
“Everything that happens under the automation umbrella is about efficiency,” Rusi said. “But we also work very closely with our customers to almost become a natural extension of their team. We do this so we can understand their mindset and help them solve their problems, and we’re constantly visiting TechStyle to make sure that the feedback loop between us stays as short as possible.”