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Victoria’s Secret gets up close and personal with Adobe

Madeline Bennett Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett March 21, 2022
Lingerie retailer shares the secret of its digital success.


Victoria’s Secret is in the midst of a huge personalization program. The lingerie retailer, which rakes in $6.1 billion in annual sales, with $2.4 billion of that from e-commerce spending via its 700 million website visits, is hoping to get much closer to its customers using Adobe technology.

The firm began its personalization journey back in 2018, initially carrying out a raft of user research to identify key opportunities, and then developing a five-year roadmap.

The first stage of the roadmap was building a digital commerce personalization foundation, using Adobe Target and Audience Manager to drive relevant product placement content and offers on the website. The firm then moved onto implementing personalization across its marketing channels using Adobe Campaign, which offers email and direct mail triggers, and push notifications.

With these two stages complete, Victoria’s Secret is now at the next phase of its roadmap, which is accelerating adoption of these capabilities. Speaking at this week’s Adobe Summit, Jenna Brunner, the firm’s Director of Digital Products for Personalization, said:

We are setting out a goal to really connect the customer journey offsite to onsite and vice versa, and consolidating and unifying the solutions that are in our ecosystem.

Brunner noted that Victoria’s Secret chose to implement Adobe Target via the server-side approach rather than a client-side JavaScript approach. There are various benefits to the former approach for a retailer like Victoria’s Secret: the ability to have real-time product inventory checks before rendering to the customer; flexibility from keeping data and content in the firm’s source systems; and reducing the payload transferred between servers and users.

The features Victoria’s Secret have deployed fall under three main pillars: product recommendations, personalized content and individualized offers.

The firm has added product recommendations to its homepages and landing pages, featuring trending products to help drive conversion, and is also highlighting key matching items on product pages. Brunner added:

We've even played with adding the customer's name to user-based recommendations to add that extra personal touch.

From a personalized content standpoint, the retailer has run several tests on its homepage, targeting different audiences with different content. It presented acquisition messaging to non-credit card holders to try to get them to sign up for a Victoria’s Secret credit card, and tried out some geo-based content personalization to serve up a customer's local store from an offer perspective. Brunner said: 

One of our biggest goals as a premium brand was to not be promotional. We spent a lot of time on how to better target offers to the individual at the right time and place versus the total site audience, which was historically all we could do.

This included connecting offer experiences from marketing drivers through Adobe Campaign back to the website and app, and targeting high value customers using Adobe Audience Manager with a timed promotion that expired after an hour to drive urgency to convert. For non-high value customer groups, the retailer upsold the customer in the cart to drive a higher order value, said Brunner: 

We are continuing to iterate and test and iterate and test, to try to squeeze out as much juice as we can and continue to optimize each of these activities on a consistent basis.

Match backs

One of the most interesting features the firm has been using, according to Brunner, is  automated match backs, a section on the product page that highlights matching items:

One of the biggest goals in our business is to sell total outfits. If a customer buys a bra, we want them to check out with a panty and vice versa. The problem we identified is our internal teams were manually assigning these matching items, and the way they chose them was not based on any customer behavioral data.

Victoria’s Secret changed this so that customers see matching items powered solely from Adobe Target to drive a higher average order value. Now, when a customer visits a product page, they see those items that other customers have bought with it, Brunner explained: 

The result was a win-win solution. We saw single-digit lifts within the revenue per visitor metric, and we've continued to iterate and have run 30-plus tests to test different criteria to see what drives the highest growth here. We also were able to eliminate that manual workload from the internal team.

The Auto-Allocate feature in Adobe Target has also been a boon, changing the content displayed on landing pages for new or returning customers. The company saw significant growth by displaying more educational content to new customers versus pre-planned content for returners, including a mid-teen lift in revenue per visit for new customers.

Victoria’s Secret took advantage of Adobe Campaign to digitize its seasonal reward program, switching from physical cards with an 11-digit offer code that needs to be manually typed in to email coupons. Brunner said: 

This experience of making it a frictionless redemption saw a single-digit lift in revenue per visit. Customers could go back to their email and didn't have to save the physical card, and as they return to the site, getting reminded that they have this offer in their drawer to use really was a conversion bump.

The firm also devised a way to measure the overall value its personalization efforts, rather than just having the per-feature impact number. The retailer held back 5% of all site visitors from receiving any personalization experiences, and found that over the course of a 12-month period, there was a 15% revenue lift in its digital business using the personalization capabilities.

On the back of its proven personalization successes, next up for the retailer is auto-personalization, a capability Victoria’s Secret has not yet implemented, said Brunner:

We are using Adobe Target through auto target and auto allocate in a robust way, but what we're seeing is that with auto allocate, for instance, we need to outline every single iteration of sequencing of the content on our page. What we're trying to achieve with auto personalization is allowing that to do the heavy lifting in terms of reorganizing the page from a content sequencing standpoint, to serve up the sequence that's right for that individual customer.

The firm also want to be able to personalize its editorial marketing emails. It can already send out triggered communications via email and push and direct mail using Adobe Campaign, but it hasn’t unlocked the ability to send out personalized content in normal marketing blasts.


Looking ahead, in Q2, the retailer is going to be focusing on personalizing its collection pages, adding recommendations like it has already done for its home, landing and product pages. It is also creating a guided fit quiz, a digital way for customers to determine what the right bra is for them without needing to try it on in store. Brunner explained: 

Our goal is to eliminate that manual work driver of maintaining a matrix of results, and leverage the attributes and customer behavior data that we get in Adobe Target to power the most relevant results for the output of that quiz.

In Q3, the plan is to implement personalized SMS capabilities, as well as winding down some of the systems Adobe Campaign has replaced so the business gets one solid view of all the different contacts it’s making to an individual customer:

That's really going to unlock our ability to understand how each individual customer is engaging with our marketing drivers and how to better target them with relevant content and communication going forward.

Victoria’s Secret then plans to deploy Adobe Target content personalization in its native apps in the final quarter of the year. Brunner said: 

And win at holiday. Our business is massive in Q4, we are a huge gifting destination. So we don't want to deploy too many capabilities in the Q4 timeframe, but we want to make sure all the capabilities that we've deployed within the 2022 year are fully baked, fully tested, fully rolled out to realize the full benefit in Q4.

A key takeaway from the personalization project is the need to rely on data-driven decision-making to drive confidence across the business in the new tools and methods. Brunner cautioned that making the huge shift from a one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategy to a multifaceted AI-driven, algorithm-based approach brings challenges.

For Victoria’s Secret, the primary challenge was evolving its processes and people, and driving adoption of the new capabilities. Hence, the major key to success is a robust test and learn agenda, and relying on data to determine next steps.

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