Rainbeau Curves ups its social media game

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Social media marketing can be risky. When the right customer is targeted, they feel an immediate connection with the brand. When they aren’t, at best case, it’s a missed opportunity. Worst case, it’s potentially offensive or ripe for ridicule.

Rainbeau Curves managed to successfully navigate just such a misstep — and turn it into a stroke of luck. The plus-sized athleisure brand had been using social media marketing to reach potential customers when it targeted a Facebook ad to someone who was not in its market. She was, however, in sales for social media marketing firm G/O Digital.

“She said, ‘I’m not the right person, but I can help,’” says Zack Bussin, Rainbeau Curves’ director of e-commerce.

The resulting campaign has more than brought a significant boost to the company, which is a division of Rainbeau, a long-standing private label house that produced clothing for other retailers. Rainbeau Curves is its first line.

“It’s exponentially increased our business and our reach,” Bussin says. Finding the right social media marketing strategy has taken the company international. “It’s a whole new base of people who had never heard of us.”

All from one marketing target that went awry.

The great equalizer

Few companies are so fortunate. But all can learn from some of Rainbeau Curves’ initial mistakes — and later successes.

While social media can be the great equalizer between large and small companies, startup e-commerce companies can miss the mark by taking on a “bigger bite than they can chew,” says Lauren Greer, senior digital account manager with G/O Digital.

“Facebook provides a unique opportunity to test who your target is. You can target niche … groups and interests. Why not use that to hone who your audience is and to adapt or have different messaging around those people or groups?”

Rainbeau Curves grew out of a niche that wasn’t being filled, Bussin says. “We saw a hole in the market and we were able to fill it. We’re not just a startup clothing company that is using a third party to create clothes. We have our own production and design teams.”

Capturing the “California lifestyle” in its athleisure was easy — and different. “The plus-size customer never had this supplier who was willing to get out loud prints and loud colors,” Bussin says. “We wanted to be very youthful.”

That idea is displayed through an intense focus on fashion photography. The first photo shoot was on location in San Francisco; subsequent ones have been in Los Angeles. Some are active, others are more leisurely.

“We put those images into our market and into lookbooks,” Bussin says. “It really does add so much to our marketing.”

But before the company began working with G/O Digital, few were seeing the images. Rainbeau had tried some social media strategies, including engaging bloggers. “The bloggers worked, but it was just too expensive for us as a startup,” Bussin says. Facebook posts were boosted, with Rainbeau Curves determining how to target those ads.

“We found that Facebook was working, but we’re in the garment world,” he says. “We’re not very tech-savvy in all these ways of targeting people.”

That was amplified when the targeted post landed on the feed of a petite salesperson for G/O Digital. And it is when the opportunities that social media marketing offers became apparent.

“Rainbeau Curves has a niche market and with social, we have the ability to target those niches,” Greer says. “Facebook is unique in being able to get in front of the right people if you know what to aim for. You don’t have that same sort of flexibility on Google AdWords. We find that the cost per click is more affordable on Facebook, with more precise targeting.”

“We’ve never really had a brand before,” Bussin says. “We’re going to keep going with it and see where it takes us.”

The right strategy

G/O Digital helped Rainbeau settle on the right strategy for a couple of different goals. The company wanted to increase its wholesale business and tried LinkedIn but found “advertising there is expensive,” Greer says.

Other social media sites weren’t the right fit for the startup. “Pinterest was a much longer buying cycle,” she says. “Snapchat only really makes sense for global national brands due to the cost. We’ve seen some success on Instagram to increase conversion rates. But we’ve primarily been focused on Facebook.”

While Rainbeau has engaged G/O Digital to help craft a social media advertising strategy, the clothier still manages its social accounts, using them as an opportunity to engage with customers.

“Rainbeau knows they need to engage with their users on social media. They do that very well,” Greer says. “Rainbeau is always open to trying something new and they were the first brand I follow that took advantage of Instagram stories.”

The creative photography certainly helps, she says. “Other retailers don’t always understand the importance of good creative. While it is important to have good quality product images in your feed, you also need great lifestyle pictures. You have to know the importance of capturing the essence of activity to whatever you’re marketing. You have to convey the right spirit, and get your user to picture themselves there.”

With the immediacy of social media, marketing strategies can — and should — change on the fly, Greer says. “It is important to optimize ads that are getting the highest engagement rates and serving those more frequently. With something new, I’m looking at it daily and we do a pulse check weekly to see if certain ads are seeing fatigue.”

Constantly checking on campaigns — as well as monitoring the frequent changes that social media sites make — is an important tactic to avoiding the biggest pitfall that startup e-commerce companies often make.

“Sometimes they undervalue social,” Greer says. “They may think, ‘Let’s give social to the youngest person in the room. The same person can manage the Facebook page and the ads.’ The ads are more technical than posting something quippy and responding in a timely manner.”

Exploring opportunities

Honing a social media strategy has paid off in obvious ways for Rainbeau. During the peak of its campaign, the company enjoyed a click-through rate of 4 percent and a peak return on investment of 256 percent. But the reach has extended well beyond those immediate sales.

Bussin says Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sam’s Club representatives saw Facebook posts and “came to us”; Rainbeau is now manufacturing products for both of those e-commerce sites.

“Social media and Facebook advertising have really increased our sales and inventory,” he says. “It’s improved our bricks-and-mortar business. It makes our brand more well known.”

It also has allowed Rainbeau Curves to expand internationally, a move made easier by a reliance on YakIt, which works with local postal services internationally to simplify global e-commerce.

“When we first started, we were using FedEx, but found that it’s an expensive charge, especially in rural areas of Canada,” Bussin says. “The customers were paying for shipping and two weeks later getting a bill to pay duties. YakIt factors in the duties in advance.”

Solving the issue with shipping to Canada opened up other countries as well. To date, Rainbeau Curves has shipped to 18 countries. It also has received requests from retailers in Australia and Canada who want to carry the line.

“We’ve never really had a brand before,” Bussin says. “We’re going to keep going with it and see where it takes us.”

Sandy Smith grew up working in her family’s grocery store, where the only handheld was a pricemarker with labels.

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