Last updated on April 16, 2020

Kate Bould
Communications Manager @ Yotpo
April 15th, 2020 | 9 minutes read

I spoke with Randi Gladstone, Global Director of Email Marketing at Tory Burch, about digital strategy, her journey into eCommerce, trends, and navigating global expansion. 

Can you tell me a little about how you got into eCommerce? 

I started in out-of-home marketing, billboards, and transit media. At the time, I thought: you put a campaign out there and then it takes six to seven months to figure out if it was successful. And then, we landed a client, Gold’s Gym, the franchise, who had organizations all over the country. They needed a way to consolidate their media so that all of the gym owners and their teams could access everything in one place. So we took all the heavy-lifting out for them, no pun intended. 

With that, we built a really basic eCommerce site where the gym owners could log in and find all of their collateral. We built their marketing package, and then started emailing and communicating with the owners. We were able to learn quickly how much they sell, and what marketing messages were resonating (including regional resonance). I loved it. 

I loved having the interaction with the customer. I really loved understanding and having visibility into the different demographics, and the ability to tailor different messages. From there on, I was done with traditional media — 15+ years ago, that was pretty progressive. 

From there, I went to work at Redcats, which was a catalog company. They had 12 catalogs and they wanted to bring them online, so I worked with their development team and enhanced their email program. We were managing customer lists, bringing those customer lists online, and creating digital versions of the catalog. It was really interesting and I learned a ton about remarketing and tagging the sites. I was able to understand not only what people were converting on, but also what their site activity was. 

Then I moved on to CheetahMail, a former ESP, and I really started honing in on my interests. Email is one of those channels that is very heavy in demand — it’s a really strong vehicle to learn about any company that you’re in. Everyone depends on email to be a significant traffic driver and certainly a big revenue driver. What I love about it is that it allows the opportunity to bridge strategy and creative. 

With every company that I’ve been to, I’ve tried to either move up a level or ensure that I have the opportunity to learn something new, and now, being at Tory Burch, I am exposed to the global perspective.

Not only do I oversee email marketing and strategy for North America, but I also oversee email programs across multiple regions. We’re thinking about how we can tailor the programs that are working so well in North America and build them out with regional relevance, while still keeping that continuity. It’s been a long journey, but I’m continuously learning from the people around me — including people from other verticals within the organization. 

Email and eCommerce are 24/7, there is a need to constantly respond and optimize based on the trends in the environment, I don’t sleep much, but I have and work with an incredible team. 

I used to work in the fashion space and we would watch as companies tried to find their space in global markets — some with crazy success, some with massive blunders. How are you guys approaching that? 

I think about the Tory Burch organization in comparison to other companies that I’ve worked for. Tory Burch is the founder: there’s an emotional connection to her as a brand owner, her story resonates because people are familiar with her. 

If we do that in other regions, it’s not as powerful. To help drive relevancy, there is an opportunity to couple a US centric story with one that has a higher regional relevance. Examples can be through a great holiday event, in-store experience, and/or social content. 

Overall, it can’t be a one size fits all approach in the way that it used to be. People are savvier and they have access to media from all over the place — so it’s necessary that we speak to people in a way that they’re familiar with, and find storylines that resonate with the different regions, cohorts, or age groups in a way that we haven’t done in the past. 

What’s an exciting trend or development you’re seeing in the fashion eCommerce space? This can be customer communications, email, or a great pair of pants that you saw — this is really up to your discretion. 

Two years ago, you could dictate trends to a customer. Now, the customer is demanding a conversation; they value their own point of view, including what they’re experiencing, how they want to wear a trend, and how they even define trends, so it’s not so one-sided anymore. 

It’s not that a brand’s point of view doesn’t matter— it definitely does. It’s more about taking the brand story, the trends that we/you as an organization think are important, and figuring out how to tell that story on a customer (individual/cohort) level. 

This is how the email marketing channel within the industry is evolving. It’s authentic and it’s two-way; it’s reciprocal. You give her what she wants, she comes back, and then we build on that. It’s the same way I shop — I love edits, I love lists, I love when companies have the power to combine what I may already have in my closet with a new product they’re offering or selling. To me, that’s real. In email marketing, it’s all about being dynamic, personalizing, leveraging recommendations, and bringing in social — and that’s what I’m excited about. 

Who do you think is doing great things in eCommerce right now and why? 

I like athleisure brands like Carbon38 and Outdoor Voices. I think any brand using their subscribers, their lists, and their reach to form a community are doing a great job. In a meeting the other day, we were talking about Carbon38. They were doing this great initiative called Workout Wednesday, and to me, that’s a great way to pair commerce and conversation. It feels authentic and relevant. I also love Rank & Style, that’s my bible. Not a lot of people know about it, but it’s the best. They put an edit out every day and have a great perspective. 

Has there been a defining moment or lesson learned that shaped who you are today? 

We recently experienced a major technology issue with a vendor over a peak weekend and I learned that the blame-game doesn’t get you anywhere. I try to be really solution-oriented, thinking “How do we fix it? What can we do? What can we learn from this?” 

I try to remember that the blame game is not going to solve anything.” Being difficult and demanding is going to make the problem bigger. Our first priority should be: let’s fix it. Let’s find out what happened. Let’s find the root cause. And then let’s figure out how to not make it happen again. Taking that approach helped us solve the problem quicker. 

I try to do that in my personal life too, but it doesn’t go as well. 

What does a day in the life look like for you? 

I typically start my day with a very large iced coffee with a shot of espresso. I try to go to the gym in the morning just to set myself up with some energy. Being in email marketing, my inbox is usually slammed, but I try to touch base with my team. I prioritize my inbox, see what I have to do first, look at our programs, then do a quick competitor email analysis to see if anybody is on a really big promotion or if there’s something happening we should be speaking to, whether it’s in New York or around the world. Then I run from meeting to meeting. 

I spend a lot of time making sure that whether it’s a marketing email, a non-selling email, or an email for the foundation, everything is following the brand guidelines and working with our creative. Email marketing is inherently cross-functional, so there’s not a day that I’m not talking to our creative team, or meeting with CRM to figure out who the right segments are and optimizing our programs. 

There’s probably no “typical day,” and I’m sure you get that answer all the time. But that’s one of the things that’s both a blessing and a curse. I would love to come to my desk every day and know what’s going to happen around the clock. But part of the excitement is that you don’t know: it’s half structured and half reacting to what’s going on around you. 

Something that I know hit home for you is our support of Girls Inc. Can you speak a little bit about the Tory Burch Foundation? 

The foundation is one of the most incredible benefits of being part of the Tory Burch organization. That team is passionate! We work together to support through email and all of our new technologies — it allows us the opportunity to contextualize marketing messages and for the channel to reflect the soul of an organization: purpose driven and authentic. As far as Girls, Inc. is concerned, on a personal level, I was involved in it when I was in college, so it was really exciting to see a connection. 

Who do you look up to as an amazing woman in eCommerce? 

Obviously Tory Burch, without sounding too cliché. She’s constantly innovating, she sticks to her intuition, she’s willing to try new things. I think we can all learn a lot from people like that. 

I’ve worked with amazing, amazing entrepreneurs who have an idea and aren’t afraid to go after it. Jennifer Hyman is one of them, Jenny Fleiss, and Marissa Evans and Stephanie Choi, the founders of Sawyer, a new company. There are so many women right now, Serena Williams and Rachel Maddow, doing such amazing things. I’m empowered by their innovation, their entrepreneurship, and their lack of fear. This new era of female founders is inspiring and inevitably leads the way by example.