By Chris Marriott, President & Founder, Marketing Democracy
It’s been another big year in the world of email marketing. Volume continues to grow, engagement is on the upswing, and ESPs continue to evolve and innovate. In fact, email is more vital to marketers than ever before. Its share of revenue continues to grow in all major verticals from retail and publishing, to travel & hospitality.
In an era when Amazon has emerged as the most dominant force in retail, both online and offline, it's worth remembering that a world without email marketing is a world without Amazon. Without further ado, I give you 2017’s list:
1. Best abandoned cart email—The Grommet
Subject line: “We want you to have it! Take $5 off”
The Grommet makes its first appearance on our list with this excellent example of an abandoned shopping cart email.
A lot of people deliberately abandon a shopping cart when dealing with a new website to see if they can get a better offer (you know who you are!). Let’s face it, who doesn’t like to get a little something back from an online retailer for going back and completing a transaction?
So while the offer from of $5 off on a $199 item isn’t all that generous, it is certainly more meaningful than no offer at all. We particularly liked that a coupon code that comes with the email.
How many times when you’ve been prompted to put in a coupon code a check out have you wished you had one? It’s what keeps companies like RetailMeNot one of the most popular online destinations!
You get a code, and you want to use it. The email itself is nicely designed, with both a picture of what was left behind as well as other suggested items of interest. Well played, Grommet!
2. Best coupon email—The Vitamin Shoppe
Subject line: “Are you really going to blow off this 20% coupon?!”
We’ll be the first to admit that what really caught our eye with this email was the subject line.
It’s hard not to engage with an email with that subject line, and after all, that’s what subject lines are supposed to do.
But once we opened the email there were other things to like as well. This was a recent email, and it plays into the season in both the visual of fall colors as well as the coupon code itself: “APPLEPIE”.
The “Last Day” notification on top adds a nice sense of urgency to the email, while the reorder button adds an element of convenience. An email with lots to like and without a lot of clutter, the Vitamin Shoppe makes our list for the first time.
3. Best request for feedback email—Clarks
Subject line: “Christopher, you've been selected”
Yet another newcomer to our list, Clarks was actually a finalist in two categories, getting the nod in this category.
We say it every year, but getting customers to provide feedback is never an easy task—unless they want to yell at you about a bad experience you put them through. Getting a satisfied customer to give you feedback is much more difficult. Clarks recognizes that through its offer of a 15% off coupon for filling out the survey.
And the personalization in the subject line adds a bit of specialness to being asked your opinion. After all, we could get just anyone’s opinion, but we wanted yours.
We particularly liked the fact that Clarks was honest upfront that it was going to take someone 15 minutes to fill out the survey. We know from our own experiences that surveys can themselves be abandoned if they seem to take too long with no end in sight.
By setting these expectations up front, Clarks is more likely to get completed surveys and reduce the risk of irking a happy customer in the process!
4. Best deal of the day—Gap
Subject line: "Codes ALLGOOD + ITSFREE = deals, on deals, on deals...”
This makes it the second year in a row that Gap has won this category. This email piles deal upon deal upon deal.
First you get 50% off almost everything. Then they stack an additional 20% off on top of that. But they’re not finished as the deal also include free shipping.
It’s almost impossible to ignore this email, and not at least go see just how inexpensive a possible purchase might end up being.
Throw in some product that you’ve recently browsed on the site and we dare you not to click on this email. One of the key strengths of this email lies in the fact that, despite all the talk of deals, the Brand itself does not come across as being a “discount” product.
That’s because the design is fun and focuses on the online exclusive nature of the offer, as opposed to it being a “sale”. It’s simply a choice of words, but words matter (as every copywriter will be happy to tell you).
5. Best welcome email—Goldstar
Subject line: "You're in! Welcome to Goldstar”
The best welcome email this year comes from Goldstar. Think about Goldstar as the Groupon of entertainment and you can quickly grasp what the value proposition.
It’s all about low price tickets to events, shows, concerts, etc. in your general vicinity—like the Chicago metropolitan area. What we particularly liked about this welcome email is that it introduces the idea of your own personal ticket concierge, Jane.
With Jane leading the way the welcome email succinctly describes all the benefits of being a subscriber beyond just access to cheap tickets. Jane and her team will curate events on your behalf, be there 24/7 to help you with any questions you might have, and get access to the best tickets directly from the venues themselves.
All the best welcome emails remind the subscriber of why they subscribed in the first place, but Goldstar adds a personal touch that adds a membership feeling to becoming a subscriber. Very welcoming!
6. Best Triggered Email—Netflix
Subject line: “<name>, The Last Kingdom Season 2 is now on Netflix”
Triggered emails today are much more than shopping cart abandonment or browse abandonment messages. This email from Netflix is a great example of how they can be used to reinforce customer loyalty by providing timely information to that subscriber.
In this particular instance, Netflix has triggered an email based on viewing habits of the subscriber letting him or her know that a new season of a show they watch is now available. The message of this email is so simple and direct one doesn’t even need to open the email to get everything he or she needs to know.
However, should you open the email, there’s a play button you can click on to start watching right away. Frequent viewers of Netflix might not need a reminder when a new season is available, but for less frequent viewers this is a great way to bring them back to the channel.
With prices continuing to go up at Netflix, it doesn’t hurt to remind viewers why they subscribe in the first place!
7. Best drive to retail email—Sierra Trading Post
Subject line: “Find It in Store: Cozy Apparel & Gifts”
A 2015 winner in the daily deal category, Sierra Trading Post is back this year and the winner in the Best Drive to Retail Email.
What made this email stand out? We had a “There’s no basement in the Alamo!” moment when we first read the subject line (fans of Pee Wee Herman will get that allusion).
The fact of the matter is we didn’t even know they had brick & mortar stores. If that’s not a great “Drive to Retail”, we don’t know what is! Now curious, we opened it and discovered that they actually did have stores in many states, including our own (We’re assuming this email was geo-targeted only to those subscribers who reside in states that have stores).
What else made this email a winner? We liked how it laid out the different categories of products, making it easy to navigate directly to what you want to see.
At the bottom was a reminder that Sierra Trading Post is part of a family of brick & mortar stores, enabling you to check these of Brands out with a simple click.
8. Best newsletter—Fitbit
Subject line: “Your October Newsletter”
First-time winner Fitbit gets the nod this year for its newsletters. While the subject line calls it a newsletter, the look and feel of it when we opened it was akin to what you might get from a fitness or wellness magazine.
There were a number of articles on many related health and fitness topics (all supposedly selected just for us!) so that its highly likely that a subscriber will find at least one of interest to read. That’s very important because it’s also likely that a subscriber will open a newsletter only once if there’s nothing of interest inside.
The next one will get ignored. Like all the best email newsletters, this one is curated for people who share a common passion for a product where these is available a lot of related content.
In the past it’s been products like cameras and photography, and this year it’s a device that tracks your level of fitness. But it’s important that these newsletters continue to deliver valuable content, because without that they become simply a digital form of junk mail. Well done, Fitbit!
9. Best re-activation email—Payless ShoeSource
Subject line: “We Miss You <name>, Get 30% Off and See What's New”
Newcomer Payless ShoeSource gets the nod this year for best re-activation email. The best re-activation emails are simple, direct, and give the recipient a strong incentive to remember why they subscribed in the first place-in the case of this email, and extra 30% off any single item.
Not every “silent unsubscribe” is deliberate. Many times a subscriber simply gets out of the habit of opening the emails from a particular company.
Appealing to both the subscriber’s wallet and his or her desire to stay up-to-date on the latest in shoe fashion is a great way to bring them back into the fold. And if this doesn’t work, you have to ask yourself “is it time for a little list hygiene?”.
Getting inactive subscribers active again, and getting rid of those who don’t keeps your deliverability numbers high. The need for list hygiene is a pointed reminder that you should always be adding new subscribers to your database (but that’s the subject of a future column).
10. Best timed email—nakedwines.com
Subject line: “A wine you like is about to disappear”
In a remarkable feat for a small Brand, nakedwines.com wins a category for the second year in a row. Last year it was for best request for feedback (won this year by Clarks), this year it’s for best timed email.
In a category where there are limited quantities of the product, warning someone that something they like is on the verge of going away forever is a great way to build loyalty and to generate immediate sales. This email accomplished both tasks.
It does it in a way that isn’t hard sell, but rather comes across as doing the customer a favor.
That’s your Top 10 for 2017! A mix of well-known big brands with some lesser known smaller brands, and several repeat winners. This shows that any size company can send a great email.