Targeted Hero

Product Targeting: Tips & Types

Who wouldn’t like their own personal shopper? By utilizing link tracking and shopping history, you can send messages about products that are relevant to each customer’s interests. This is referred to in the industry as an Event Triggered Email. There are many ways you can utilize this information (from birthday discounts to product ratings), but for now I’m focusing on product triggered messages. Below are six types of messages you can be sending and some helpful takeaways.

Do: Include a picture of the product(s)
Do: Get creative with layout
Do: Be clever with wording
Do: Cross promote (product suggestions)
Do: Give a reason to buy: Customer service, price match service, urgency, sale, etc.
Do: Add a personal touch (make it less generated feeling)
Do: Run tests

Let’s dive in with six types of emails you can product target with…

1) Product Recommendations
Based on your browsing/shopping history, we thought you might be interested in these items. (Or, other customers who shopped for [product] also liked…) 

From: Crate and Barrel
Date: 11/14/15
Subject Line: You may also like…

I like how this email feels personalized and less like a template. The images are a nice size and fit together without a bunch of dead space. The wording, “Our experts have hand-picked these items just for you” feels so much more personal than “we thought you might like….”

Crate and Barrel

From: UncommonGoods
Date: 11/10/15
Subject Line: We did a little personal shopping

This email is similar to the last example, but with more products. It’s well made, (and this is just my humble option) but I’m not a fan of the wording chosen for the CTAs (show me more). Show me more, what? Products? Something like, “shop now” or “check it out” sounds a little more product specific. I might recommend running some tests on a few options. Testing is always a good idea in general — get the most out of your messages by seeing what customers respond to best.

Uncommon Goods

From: OshKosh B’gosh
Date: 10/01/15
Subject Line: We picked these just for you!

I love that this email shows a product you’ve viewed, along with corresponding suggestions. Sometimes your suggestions feel out of left field and you’re left wondering — why on earth would they think I would like that? This email clearly answers that question. The variety of image sizes also makes the design more appealing. They also included a secondary message for “favorites,” which is a nice addition.

Oshkosh Bgosh

2) Exclusive Discount
Still thinking about this item? Use this code for X% OFF!

From: Express
Date: 10/30/15
Subject Line: Style you love + free shipping = no regrets

Express pulls out all the stops with this email. They offer a one-day only discount for free shipping. They also include corresponding products and a few best sellers. Sometimes an incentive like a personal discount is what the customer needs to get them ready to buy!


From: Shutterfly
Date: 8/20/15
Subject Line: WOW. 40% off to finish your photo book.

Shutterfly also offers a great incentive to order — 40% off! I like the image choice and the bold CTA, but the headline is a bit long.


3) Abandoned Cart
Don’t forget– you left this in your shopping cart.

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 11/03/15
Subject Line: Did you forget something?

The copy in this email is straight forward and scannable. My biggest gripe — I would have preferred it if they included the product image or name in the email.

American Eagle

From: Williams-Sonoma
Date: 10/14/15
Subject Line: Come back soon – items remain in your cart!

Williams-Sonoma adds some urgency by placing a time limit on how long the product will remain in the shopping cart. If you’re not ready to bring down the price as an incentive, this is an easy way to add motivation without hurting your bottom line. I also like the inclusion of the product image, the offering of product support, and the recommendations.

Williams-Sonoma Home

From: Crazy 8
Date: 10/18/15
Subject Line: Going, going, gone! Don’t let the items in your Shopping Bag sell out.

I am really impressed with how specific this email is! Rather than just telling me that I left items in my cart, the email shows me my entire shopping cart with products and current prices! They also finish it off with a few recommendations at the bottom. Nicely done.

Crazy 8

4) Browse
We saw you eyeing this, take another look.

From: Crate and Barrel
Date: 10/26/15
Subject Line: Thinking about it? It’s still waiting for you.

I like the customer support angle that this email took. They make reaching them effortless while keeping the email personable.

Crate and Barrel

From: Express
Date: 10/19/15
Subject Line: These are definitely worth a second look…

I loved the wording Express chose for this email. My favorite is actually easy to overlook; in the preheader, “It’s called retail therapy for a reason.” Followed by the body copy, “Not to make you feel guilty, but your closet is getting pretty lonely.” It’s clever and fun, making the email feel less generated. They also include related products without calling them out as being such, continuing the natural flow. The varied image sizes add to the design. Finally, they include best sellers.


From: Best Buy
Date: 9/09/15
Subject Line: ⚠ Friendly reminder | Amy, thanks for checking us out:

I like how Best Buy mentions their price match guarantee. It’s important to remind your customers why they should chose to shop with you over your competitors. This email also includes my name, which is a nice touch. Although, both of these things aren’t very prominent in the email. I might suggest testing the name in the body copy and make the guarantee part of the main message. What if they headline was, “We’ll Match Any Price!”

Best Buy

5) Back In Stock
This item is now available!

From: Pottery Barn Kids
Date: 9/25/15
Subject Line: This item’s back in stock and we wanted you to be the first to know!

What a helpful and unique way to use target messaging! By reminding a customer that a product they viewed in back in stock, it may light a fire to order it before it goes out of stock again.

Pottery Barn Kids

From: Forever 21
Date: 12/09/15
Subject Line: They’re Back! Your Waitlist Items Have Arrived!

Here is a similar email from Forever 21. Their copy includes more urgency, “Snag them now before they’re gone (again!).” They also include additional must haves.

Forever 21

6) Sale
That item you’ve been eyeing is on clearance!

From: Williams-Sonoma
Date: 12/18/15
Subject Line: Now On Sale: Williams-Sonoma Giant Snowflake Cookie Cutter With Cutouts

Similar to the emails that offer an exclusive discount, this email makes the customer aware that the item is on sale. I don’t know about you, but I can’t resist a deal, so I would LOVE to know when a product I’m interested in is available at a lower price.

Crate and Barrel

And a final note — something I would love to see included in all product targeting messages:
Not interested in this item anymore?

Half of the time my targeted messages are based on items I bought for someone else, food for a cat I no longer own, or because I clicked on a product by mistake. This link could help save customers from the annoyance of a message that “missed it’s target.”

If they do click that link, turn a negative experience into a positive one. Allow the customer to select categories that they ARE interested in so you can better understand and target them in the future. Maybe even offer a discount or other incentive for filling out their preferences!

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Best Buy

A Great Start

I’ve seen some inspiring marketing strategies from Best Buy lately. Unfortunately, the email designs have been a little lackluster. With a few adjustments, however, these emails could really stand out. Check out some of the ideas they’re bringing to the table and my suggestions about how to improve the email experience.

From: Best Buy
Date: 9/11/15
Subject Line: Man Caves and She Sheds—the ultimate getaways
Landing Page

Best Buy

I love the idea of the “makeover” email. The before and after room transformation is a fun, compelling, and original idea. Imagine how this could be applied across other brands. I’d LOVE to see a before and after makeover from a clothing or makeup retailer! As for the design, I like that they provided before and after photos. But the pros stop there. This email has a lack of hierarchy, too much information, not enough flow, and the supporting content doesn’t have enough tie-in so it feels almost unrelated.

From: Best Buy
Date: 9/24/15
Subject Line: ✈ Don’t Delay! Tech you need for your next trip.
Landing Page

Best Buy

“Six Activities for Family Fun.” This email focuses on fun ways to spend your summer and features products that make each activity possible. It’s a great soft sale, making the focus the activities instead of the products. I like the product cutouts that overlay the environment photos. It helps add dimension and ties the activities and products together. But, there is a lot of room for improvement with this email. The biggest missed opportunity has to do with the images. On the landing page each picture has a fun animation, but they didn’t include it in the email. This could have really made this email POP in a fun way. I would also suggest losing the 3 subsections (adventurous days, peaceful nights and connected at all times) — they create unnecessary division. Staggering the images would also add some much needed flow to this design. Finally, although the copy for each activity is short, they could use titles for even quicker scanning: Scavenger Hunt, Family 5K, Movie Night, and Staycation.

From: Best Buy
Date: 10/05/15
Subject Line: Got an appetite for fright?
Landing Page

Best Buy

Best Buy offers up 5 ways to make your house spooky for Halloween. They have some great ideas that are original (electronics that turn on unexpectedly and objects that move on their own), trendy (head in a jar) and awesome (who knew you could make your own two way mirror so easily?!). The pranks are quickly and easily explained, each with their own how-to video. It’s clear that a lot of thought was put into these. However, the email fell short by a landslide on this one. It doesn’t give any indication about what type of pranks can be found by clicking through. The lack of imagery and design really is a bummer. They also missed a BIG opportunity by not including an animated gif of the video/s from the landing page. On the plus side, the text is concise and scannable, so at least people know there are haunted tips to be found. But without any teasers, it’s not as likely to get many clicks.

From: Best Buy
Date: 10/21/15
Subject Line: Hey McFly—The Future is Here!
Landing Page

Best Buy

Movie fans around the world were celebrating October 21st this year for a unique reason. This was the day that Marty McFly and Doc jumped into the future in the classic Back to the Future sequel. Countless people were dressing up, watching the movie and sharing this event through social media. However, not a lot of retailers were cashing in on this craze. Best Buy was one of the few. They were able to stay current, to recognize chatter in social media and keep up with what people are interested in. Their landing page evaluated which tech from the movie actually became reality. It included everything from the hover board to the food hydration machine. I found the concept smart and fun. But, like the other examples, the email was lacking. On a positive note, the copy was concise and scannable. The subject line was clever. The hero image was a nice way to set the mood of the email – bringing back the nostalgia. But what the email is missing is a preview of some of the tech from the landing page. Rather than using a general hero image, I would have preferred to see staggered images of scenes from the movie with the tech they touch on.

Bottom line: Put the same amount of thought into your emails as you do for your landing pages. If you take the time to make a video or animation, include it in the email. Also make sure to keep in mind email design best practices: scalability, hierarchy, and flow. No matter how good your landing page is, without a compelling email, no one will see it.

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