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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Product Bigger Hero

Make My Products BIGGER

You may recall the satire video “Make My Logo BIGGER!!!” which jabbed at companies constantly wanting to make their logos, well, larger. These emails from Crate and Barrel are my take on “Make My Products BIGGER.” But, actually, it works. In fact, I’m kind of in love with them. The size of the products really make them stand out and show a lot of detail. Some products are partially shown, some are at angles, and some overlap — all great techniques to make these layouts interesting to look at and create nice flow. So, go ahead. Make those products bigger!

From: Crate and Barrel
Date: 9/28/15
Subject Line: What you need to host a festive Halloween.

Crate and Barrel

From: Crate and Barrel
Date: 9/07/15
Subject Line: Fireside chat.

Create and Barrel

From: Crate and Barrel
Date: 8/16/15
Subject Line: Our favorite fall living room look.

Crate and Barrel

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How It's Made Hero

How It’s Made

Sometimes the thing that makes a product shine is how it’s produced. The love, time and craftsmanship that goes into each piece can make it entirely unique. What better way to let people know how it’s made than an email highlighting the ins-and-outs of the process. These emails contain photos of the products being made and the people that make them. They highlight stories about where they come from, the history behind the products, and what makes them special. You can even learn how buying them can help a cause.

From: Crate and Barrel
Date: 8/21/15
Subject Line: 15% off + 5 reasons you’ll love a Crate and Barrel sofa.

I love how digestible this content is. It’s broken down into 5 sections, each with a short and to-the-point title. The pictures selected for numbers 1, 3 and 4 show the behind-the-scenes process well, which are a fantastic addition. I’m not sure that I like how much real estate the sale message takes up at the top, but at least they do a nice job tying the two messages together with the title “5 Reasons Your Next Sofa Should Be a Crate and Barrel Sofa.”

Crate and Barrel

From: UncommonGoods
Date: 8/24/15
Subject Line: These Goods Have Roots

This email has nice flow with the left-to-right image placement and overlapping pictures. I also appreciate the variety of image types which include both square-cuts and cut-outs, as well as products and process shots. However, the copy in this example isn’t very scannable. Some bolded headlines or keywords could help with that.

Uncommon Goods

From: west elm & Rejuvenation
Date: 8/26/15
Subject Line: Meet Rejuvenation + take 20% off!

This email’s focus isn’t the craftsmanship, but it’s included as a supporting selling point. I like the way they integrated the information with the color block + arrow and the behind-the-scenes image of the product being assembled. It’s just the small touches like this that make a product stand out as being more special.


From: west elm
Date: 9/08/15
Subject Line: We’re changing the world, one handcrafted piece at a time.

As opposed to the last email from West Elm, this one is solely focused on the craftsmanship behind the products. It takes a much different approach than the other examples with an entire lack of story. Instead they use a giant hero image that makes the message clear, along with a title and a link to learn more. This email is great for those with short attention spans that don’t want to do a lot of reading, and the call-to-action to learn more can help to drive click-throughs. My only gripe is the opening title is a bit wordy – I might swap the sub-header with the headline.

West Elm

To sum it up, sending an email like this is a great way to show your product has more to offer than the average cookie-cutter product straight off the assembly line. Highlighting the custom work, small details and the thought put into each design can really set your products apart from the competitors. As we’ve learned from these examples, it’s a good idea to include images of the products being made and remember to make text scannable by using bold headlines or keywords.

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Design Flow Hero

Creating Flow from Chaos

When you’re tasked to fit A LOT of products in an email, it’s tough to find a layout that will flow, draw interest and won’t overwhelm. Here are two design styles that I think pull it off quite nicely.

Solution #1: Staggered Image Grids
Works well with: Environmental Photography

I’m really drawn to this popular layout. Breaking away from the traditional grid, the staggered effect really draws your eye through the images and down the page. It has minimal text so it scans easily.

From: Rejuvenation
Date: 8/12/15
Subject Line: Looking to update your bath? Start here with Free Shipping!


From: Pottery Barn Kids
Date: 8/12/15
Subject Line: POW! Save on our Super Hero Collection

Potterybarn Kids

From: Anthropologie
Date: 8/16/15
Subject Line: It’s your move (our move: free ship).


From: Crate and Barrel
Date: 8/01/15
Subject Line: Last chance to save on outdoor furniture.

Crate and Barrel

From: Aéropostale
Date: 8/05/15
Subject Line: Online Sneak Peek: Employee Discount Sale!


Solution #2: Diagonal Lines
For use with: Product Cutouts

This design method uses graphics in addition to product photography to create flow.

From: The Children’s Place
Date: 8/05/15
Subject Line: Up to 55% Off All Uniforms + Get Back to School Essentials Starting at $2.99 + Extra 25% Off Savings Pass!

The Children's Place

From: Ulta Beauty
Date: 8/13/15
Subject Line: Who’s Getting a Gift? (Hint: It’s You)


Date: 7/29/15
Subject Line: Summer Denim: 7 For All Mankind, HUDSON & more



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