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The Email Strategies of 20 Top Retailers

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Many major retailers are not personalizing their marketing emails based on customer behavior, instead sending out generic messages with nontargeted product recommendations, according to a recent report from SimpleRelevance.

The report was based on data from email campaigns sent by 20 companies in the Internet Retailer Top 500, including Internet-based retailers (e.g., Amazon, Netflix) and brick-and-mortar stores with significant e-commerce operations (e.g., Macy's, Wal-Mart, Walgreens).

The data set was relatively small (418 emails total), so the analysis is more of a snapshot of current behavior rather than a comprehensive audit of all campaigns sent by the companies.

Below, key findings from the report.

Personalization 

  • Of the 418 emails examined, 104 did not include any product recommendations at all.
  • 46% of those emails that did include product recommendations were generated on an individual basis, and 54% were delivered based on categories.
  • 78 of the emails examined suggested that their product recommendations were tailored for the customer, but more than half of those were in fact composed of generic content; only 37 of the emails offered truly personalized recommendations.
  • Only 10% of the emails contained personalized images (i.e., images of products relevant to that particular consumer based on previous behavior).

Email Frequency

  • 40% of the retailers included in the analysis sent less than one email per week or didn’t send marketing emails at all during the time period examined.
  • However, a few retailers sent a high volume of emails; in particular, both the Home Shopping Network (11.8 emails per week) and Men’s Wearhouse (10.5) were aggressive with their messaging.

Subject Lines

  • 109 of the 418 emails had subject lines longer than than 50 characters.
  • The Children’s Place and Macy’s had the two longest subject lines: 123 and 77 characters, respectively.

  • "Your” was the most frequently used word by retailers in email subject lines, followed by "daily" and "extra."

About the research: The report was based on data from 418 emails sent by 20 companies in the Internet Retailer Top 500, including Internet-based retailers (e.g., Amazon, Netflix) and brick-and-mortar stores with significant e-commerce operations (e.g., Macy's, Wal-Mart, Walgreens).


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Ayaz Nanji is an independent digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Content, a marketing agency specializing in content creation for brands and businesses. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji

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  • by Email Insights Wed Oct 1, 2014 via web

    Great summary of the SimpleRelevance report! You can find additional email campaign data on retailers at Email Insights (Retailers and more!)

    http://www.emailinsights.com/i/258i

  • by Ken Wed Oct 1, 2014 via web

    Any findings on how the email frequency impacted email performance (opens, clicks, engagement, sales, etc.)?

  • by Debbie Miller Wed Oct 1, 2014 via web

    Nice information; would like to know what is effective tho. I know pics capture a persons attention more than lots of verbiage. Information would be more informative with what really works

  • by Lee Thu Oct 2, 2014 via web

    Very interesting. It's crazy to think that some places can be sending 12 emails per week! It didn't clarify whether this was to the same group of customers though?

  • by David Thu Oct 2, 2014 via web

    Perfect, I've been looking for the perfect headline, and now I've finally got it.

    Your New Daily Extra Special Daily Deal! Save Online Today!

  • by Sahiba Tue Oct 14, 2014 via web

    Please also look into the anlysis of top 85 online retailers in India @ http://octaneresearch.in/research/state-of-email-marketing-in-online-retail... an Octane Research Study

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