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Exclusive Q&A: Party City gets sales bump from email marketing with AI

Party City is optimizing the language used in its email messaging.

A leading party goods retailer is utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) technology to increase the engagement and open rates of customer email campaigns.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Alisa Stewart, senior director, acquisition/CRM & loyalty at Party City, about how the company has been leveraging the AI-powered Phrasee copywriting platform to enhance the effectiveness of its customer email campaigns since early 2021.

With 80% of Party City's sales coming from in-store shoppers, Party City wanted to leverage the Phrasee AI platform to boost its in-store sales by optimizing email subject lines. As a result of using the AI-enabled solution, Party City saw a 4% increase in-store sales, as well as a projected almost $650,000 in additional in-store sales per year.

What specific challenges was Party City facing with email marketing?
The majority of Party City’s sales have historically come from in-store shoppers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when many customers shifted to online shopping, our desire to connect with our customers and drive incremental shopping occasions ramped up the focus on our email strategy.

The bottom-funnel attribution of the email channel creates a requisite need to have conversations with our customers that are engaging and attention-grabbing. This need brought us to Phrasee.

How and why did Party City select Phrasee?
We selected Phrasee Engage to optimize our email campaigns at the start of 2021. We selected Phrasee’s platform because we were impressed with the company’s in-depth experience in creating optimized email campaigns for large retailers. We were also drawn to its knowledge of brand language in the retail space. The combination of deep learning and machine learning within Phrasee’s AI platform was a good fit for Party City and our goal to enhance customer engagement.

What have the results of your AI-based email optimization technology deployment been?
We have been thrilled with the results. Since optimizing our email brand language with Phrasee’s AI technology, Party City has seen a significant improvement in the performance of our email campaigns and increased customer sales. The results include a 4% in-store sales increase, over 300,000 more opens per generated email, and a projected in-store sales increase of $649,000 during 2021.

Are there any future plans for Phrasee and/or email marketing you can discuss? 
Party City looks forward to continuing to use Phrasee’s AI-powered platform to enhance engagement with our customers. In addition to using Phrasee Engage to optimize email subject lines, we plan to also explore in-email copy, such as headlines and calls to action (CTAs), and will look for new ways to optimize our language across new audiences, campaigns and channels.

[Editor’s Note: Party City reported total revenues of $535.7 million for the quarter ended June 30, 2021, an increase of 110.4% compared to the second quarter 2020, driven by a strong rebound of retail sales. Total retail sales increased 138.9%. Comparable sales increased 118.3% over the year-ago period and were up 19.1% compared to the second quarter of 2019.]

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