How Ruthie Grace & Shoelace Leveraged Community to Increase Revenue 303%

Ruthie Grace first opened its doors in 2011. What started as a single storefront in its home state of Texas, Ruthie Grace has since grown and become a fashion staple for women all over the United States. Stemming from a lifelong love for clothing, Tara Austin wanted to create not only a boutique, but a community of women supporting and uplifting other women.

“Businesses need to be personified. It's like a good friend and a good cup of coffee, [...] you're going to feel better when you walk away from those kinds of conversations, and that's how I want people to feel when they leave my business, whether they leave buying something or not.”
- Tara Austin
  Co-Founder, Ruthie Grace

To achieve this, Tara did what she could to make her customers feel beautiful and empowered, rather than just making a sale. As a business owner, mother, wife, and friend, Tara embodied the community she was creating. Everything from the storefront to branding created a space that people wanted to be a part of.

However, Tara also understood the direction the world was going. Four and half years into its existence, Ruthie Grace ventured into e-commerce, and Tara needed a strategy that replicated the feeling of community online.

Ruthie Grace and Shoelace launched Customer Journey Retargeting in 2018, and overall revenue grew 74% compared to 2017. Revenue attributed to social grew 141% YoY 2018-2019, and 303% in their first two years.

Creating the In-Person Experience Online

In the beginning, Tara focused on organically growing her online audience versus paying for it. She spent her time making sure her social presence was as strong as her physical one by pouring careful attention and TLC into her growing digital community, interacting with her customers, and answering their questions via email or social media in the same tone and manner she would if they were physically present.

Given all the success she saw organically, she knew there was more that could be done to continue to grow Ruthie Grace, and discussions of a paid media strategy became part of the conversation.

“I remember taking that first step into spending [...],” recollects Tara, when asked about the decision to make the leap, “and being completely terrified of that.”

These fears turned to joy when she partnered with Shoelace to run their first-ever retargeting campaigns, and tapped into Customer Journey Marketing. Her commitment to understanding her community’s needs and wants came with a huge pay-off.

"We had astronomical results from the very beginning, and that’s because we were really in tune with what our customer was going to respond to."

By analyzing the entire customer journey funnel from top to bottom and tailoring the appropriate copy and creative, Shoelace was able to ensure the community that Tara had worked so hard to build was cared for.

Regardless of where someone was in their buying journey, this cohesive approach meant Ruthie Grace customers were only seeing ads and messaging that was the most relevant for them and provided the most value.

The addition of this robust retargeting strategy in conjunction with her in-depth customer knowledge led to a customer journey Ruthie Grace’s audience really resonated with.

With Shoelace at the helm managing their campaigns and driving new sources of revenue, Tara and her team were able to focus on other areas of the business, such as planning their buying strategy, new weekly collections, or Tara’s co-led Manifest Mastermind course (a class for eager entrepreneurs looking to enter or grow in the online retail space) without concern for what was going on behind the scenes.

“That's what’s so great about what Shoelace does, they're constantly working for you even when you're not.”

Growing the Ruthie Grace Brand

Then, in early 2020, COVID-19 hit, and while the world was shutting down, ROAS for Ruthie Grace was up 45% from the previous year.

This was due to the working relationship Ruthie Grace and Shoelace created. While Tara and her marketing team continued to manage content creation and community, their Account Strategist, Metis, handled everything from a technical and analytical perspective.

“She’s our advocate,” says Tara in reference to working with Metis. “I think the scope of how ads are run and understanding how they're performing goes beyond what the average entrepreneur of an ecommerce site can keep up with. Being in control of our creatives and audience standing, that’s our job. […] What Metis does is bring the expertise, knowledge, forecasting, as well as any kind of technical data and analytics that allow us to come together and decide the types of campaigns [we run].”

With business booming, Ruthie Grace launched prospecting. In order to find new customers, Shoelace leveraged Tara’s committed and engaged community to create lookalike audiences of existing Ruthie Grace customers and email subscribers. Interest and demographic-based audiences were pulled into the mix as well, and it felt almost effortless because Tara just knew who her customers were and what they were interested in.

Full Funnel Customer Journey Marketing held strong even during the pandemic with the addition of prospecting in 2020.

As Tara put it, “that’s when everything really changed.”

At the heart of the Ruthie Grace strategy is their weekly new arrivals which they’ve found to be incredibly helpful in driving engagement and repeat purchases. However, this meant their digital strategy had to be in lockstep. With every new arrival came a social post, and an updated catalogue, and then Shoelace went to work.  

By leveraging Shoelace Nudges (one-off campaigns that run for a predetermined amount of time), Metis was able to ensure that every week, Nudges were created and updated highlighting Ruthie Grace’s new must-have outfits. These campaigns excelled for both prospecting and retargeting audiences. While most past purchasers were excluded from their evergreen campaigns (to avoid being annoying, repetitive, or irrelevant), a lot of these ads were directly targeted at them.

They kept these past shoppers engaged, and caught the attention of potential new customers, repurposing the content and creatives that the Ruthie Grace team created week over week.

For Tara, however, it isn’t just about the numbers. A lot of the value that stems from working with Shoelace is the time it gives her to spend with her family, and the freedom and confidence to try new strategies.

It’s fair to say that in many ways, the relationship Tara has worked so hard to cultivate with her customers echoes the relationship she has developed with Shoelace over the years, going as far as looking at Metis as part of her marketing team. “Our success is her success, her success is our success,” she explains. “She's not just a paid service, she's somebody whose opinion that we value very much."

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