From humble beginnings on the Gold Coast, Princess Polly has grown into a leading and 100% independently-owned retailer with global reach and they’ve expanded their team to over 200 people across their two offices in Burleigh Heads, Australia and Los Angeles, USA.
Achieving Princess Polly’s level of digital domination in the fiercely competitive fashion industry is no easy feat. In this case study, we unpack the strategies and tools Princess Polly uses to grow their brand and how they acquire, convert and retain customers online.
The Early Days of Princess Polly
Princess Polly originated in 2005 as a brick and mortar store in the Gold Coast. Queensland-based founders Wez and Eirin Bryett launched the digital arm of the business in 2010 after noticing their online sales were overtaking their physical store sales.
Princess Polly founders Wez and Eirin Bryett believed they needed to do two things:
- Give Princess Polly an online presence to substantially increase sales and be able to export their products to almost anywhere in the world.
- Use that online advantage to start building a loyal following through Facebook and Instagram advertising.
The brand started by offering a constantly evolving product line by leveraging influencer marketing to build their social media following. Additionally, they were able to use this engagement with their community to assess what's hot and what's not in fashion trends.
According to information provided to potential investors, Princess Polly was expected to make $15 million in earnings in 2018. The same year US-based equity firm Elevate Brandpartners took a 50% stake in Princess Polly with plans for an international rollout. By 2019, they had expanded into the US market.
Then & Now: A lookbook of Princess Polly’s homepages
Due to the brand’s unwavering nature to stay up to date with the latest trends, it’s evident in their branding, their social content and their website.
Using the wayback machine, we were able to find a series of snapshots that provides an interesting insight into how Princess Polly’s branding and product offering has changed over the years.
Things to note while you scroll down:
- How they’ve adapted their user experience.
- The design evolution of their homepage.
- How trends in women’s fashion have evolved.
- How Princess Polly’s ‘brand feel’ has transformed, including the logo.
If there’s one thing we can take away from the evolution portrayed in these screenshots is that Princess Polly knew how to adapt to scale and survive.
Customer Acquisition - Here’s what we like about how Princess Polly acquires customers
Before we start, let’s take a quick look at Princess Polly’s marketing stack.
In 2019, Princess Polly launched their North America store on the Shopify Plus platform and migrated from Magento to Shopify Plus for their Australian store.
Here are the main Shopify compatible plugins that BuiltWith listed at the time of analysis:
- Gleam - Competitions
- Hotjar - Heat mapping and user analytics
- Nosto - Personalisation and product recommendations
- Klaviyo- Email Marketing
- FullStory - Improving UX to increase revenue and retention
- Smile io - Loyalty and rewards
- Back in stock - Back in stock alerts
- Instant Search + - Ecommerce search functionality
- Zendesk - Omnichannel Customer support
- Yotpo: Customer reviews
- Afterpay - Shop now, pay later
- Vop - Shoppable Tik Tok and Instagram
- Shop pay: Accelerated checkout
- Affirm: Buy now, pay later
- Venmo: Digital wallet
Let’s look at how they’ve used these tools to support their digital marketing strategy.
They’ve built massive street cred leveraging influencer marketing & brand partnerships
One of Princess Polly’s biggest strengths in their customer acquisition strategy has been influencer marketing and brand collaborations. If you search for Princess Polly on YouTube, the page fills up with countless ‘princess polly haul’ videos, all with thousands of views.
Using social media and influencer marketing has allowed Princess Polly to tap into greater reach and potential consumer growth than otherwise would have been possible through their brick and mortar stores.
They’ve used rapid feedback provided by social media platforms prior to product release which has allowed them to accurately predict demand for its specific product lines and minimise the costs of unpopular lines.
Princess Polly also regularly teams up with a number of popular and influential beauty and clothing brands for product releases and photoshoots. This is then broadcasted across the social channels of the brands collaborating, the influencers modelling the products and on Princess Polly’s social channels. When you consider the thousands of subscribers and followers collectively following these channels, that’s incredible exposure for Princess Polly.
Their social media strategy makes it abundantly clear they know who their audience is & how to connect with them
Considering Princess Polly’s target audience is predominantly young women teens to mid-twenties, their approach to social media is very effective.
They work the right channels knowing all too well that young women will be using Snapchat, Tik Tok, Instagram and Facebook. They post consistently, releasing new clothes every week using a combination of their own Princess Polly employees and influencers.
They keep their content offering up to date with all of the latest women’s beauty, lifestyle and fashion trends. During the 2020 isolation period, Princess Polly live-streamed on their Instagram account with well-known influencers and guests teaching skills on beauty and lifestyle.
Search Marketing Deep Dive
Data from SimilarWeb provides some interesting insights into Princess Polly’s traffic sources on desktop.
- 43.98% direct
- 2.41% referrals
- 39.61% search
- 8.35% social
- 2.12% mail
- 3.54% display
The high percentage of search and direct traffic comes as no surprise, considering influencer marketing is a huge part of their overall marketing strategy.
According to an analysis of all-time traffic trends in SEMrush, Princess Polly’s organic traffic was climbing for quite some time when they first launched online in 2015. Due to some data renovation by SEMrush, the majority of the timeline has no data recorded for us to compare.
But if we make some assumptions and connect the dots from the point it dropped off to where traffic took off, we can make the assumption that Princess Polly’s organic traffic would have been trending up.
Another call out is that their US site went live in April 2019, and the original Princess Polly AU site was converted over to Shopify Plus in September 2019.
If we take a look at Princess Polly’s top 10 keywords as part of their paid search marketing strategy, you can see they bid aggressively on:
- Broad and highly competitive keywords such as ‘dresses’ or ‘dresses online’
- Brand-specific products such as ‘doc martens’ ‘afends’ and ‘jagger and stone’
- Their own discount codes such as ‘princess polly discount code’
Looking at the most recent analysis of the search marketing traffic for Princess Polly’s website, they receive the most traffic through branded traffic. This reinforces the strong brand presence and cult-like following they’ve built with a solid social media strategy.
Princess Polly’s ad copy is reflective of their brand voice and the common language used by their target market. Common phrases include ‘hella cute’ ‘get cozy AF,’ ‘babe’ or ‘bbys.’ As you would expect from a fashion retailer, the advertising is based on seasonality. Most ads have some form of discount code which is the extra sweetener to get the sale — as price is a key driver for their target market.
The content of the ads is mixed between videos of photoshoots or influencers in the clothes and static images of mobile phone selfies. It’s exactly the kind of content their target market relates to.
Shoppable Instagram and TikTok
Princess Polly sells their products via multiple channels. And they are all connected to give their customers a seamless buying experience. Using Vop, they’re able to seamlessly integrate their social channels with the main Princess Polly website to drive sales from these dominant acquisition channels as well.
Snapchat Dynamic Ads
With the release of Snapchat Dynamic Ads, Princess Polly has been able to diversify their paid marketing to reach their Millennial and Gen Z audiences.
Princess Polly saw early successes with a 66% decrease in cost per purchase and a 171% increase in ROAS, compared to their similar pixel campaign simultaneously running in the U.S.
Google Text Ads
Their strategy for google text ads is to focus on brand-specific keywords or anything that is specifically trending such as “Mom jeans” or “Cord Jacket.” You can see that price point, fast delivery and choice are common USPs used in Princess Polly’s ad copy.
Examples of copy:
- You’ll think you’ve died and gone to fashion heaven!
- Shop the hottest dresses online now
- Sale, Hurry, limited time online
- Go wild babe
- You’re gonna love these hot new styles
- Shop a wide range of Princess Polly clothing and accessories now
Princess Polly’s Email Marketing Strategy
Using Klaviyo for their email marketing, Princess Polly’s emails are highly price and product-driven which appeals to their millennial audience.
Each email will typically have:
- A top banner with the latest discount code or promotion
- The latest product/s to shop
- High-quality photoshoot images
- Payment options including a ‘buy now, pay later with Afterpay’ banner
- Free express shipping and 30-day refund policy
- Student discounts
- Links to download the Princess Polly app
When you sign up for Polly Mail on their website, you’re given an instant 10% discount code.
Here’s an inbox overview:
As you can see, their emoji-filled subject headlines aim to create FOMO.
Building your dream wardrobe with the Princess Polly App
Princess Polly has an app to make it even easier for their customers to ‘save on their faves for later’ and keep everyone in one place for when they’re ready to buy. Customers also receive exclusive offers when they shop straight from the app.
Online User Experience
Using the Shopify Plus platform, the shopping experience is simple and clean. They cover all the information you’d expect to see when shopping for clothes and accessories online.
- They use high-quality product imagery sourced from the campaign shoots and studio photography
- They provide a ‘wear it with’ banner on all products to upsell
- Product description, shipping, returns and model sizing are all detailed
- They also use Yotpo to pull in reviews on specific products
And if you’re looking to add a few products to cart, they offer a ‘quick view’ option so you can add to cart while still browsing the main product page.
Once a user adds a product to cart and checks out, they are taken through a standard 4-step Shopify checkout process.
Princess Polly is a brilliant example of next-generation millennial retailing. They’ve evolved into a brand that stays authentic and knows exactly how to appeal to their target market.
- They know price is important to their target market, which is evident across their accessible discount codes, promotions and competitions.
- They know how to keep up engagement and build relationships with their customers leveraging a consistent social media marketing strategy.
- They’ve been able to harness influencer marketing in a big way to maximise their reach.
- They move just as quickly as fashion trends do, introducing new products weekly and making sure they are delivered just as fast.