J Crew Timer Hero

Real Time Countdown AWESOMENESS!

From: J. Crew
Date: 10/12/15
Subject Line: Get a piece of this sale event, now with free shipping (hurry, ends today)

J Crew Timer

J Crew

Wow, check this out. J. Crew had a one day sale. Instead of blasting reminders throughout the day, they included a timer that counted down to the end of the sale… in real time! It conveyed urgency and allowed people to check back throughout the day to see how much time remained in the sale. As you may be aware, this timer is not easy to pull off. Animated gifs can’t keep real time and complex code can’t be used in emails. So how did they do it? We speculate that this timer was made possible through a company called Moveable Ink. They use a server to generate an image on-the-fly based on the time and date the user loads the image. Genius. It’s not free, but the company provides some really awesome services that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

Rather than counting down to the end of a sale, this technique would work great for counting down to the START of a Black Friday or Christmas sale (when discounts are large, sales end quickly and your email needs to stand out)! Last year I saw a few companies offering exclusive first dibs on sales for email subscribers, prime members, card holders or high status spenders. The timer could be used to count down the amount of time the sale remains exclusive to those members. And don’t forget countdowns to shipping cut offs as well!

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Sale 101 Hero

Sale Messaging 101

Email marketing can’t be treated like any other form of marketing. Unlike print or websites, emails must follow different standards for language and design. Find out how you can optimize your SALE email message with my tips below!

WORDING:

Email marketing has a bad rep. People automatically associate it with the dreaded 4-letter word: “SPAM.” If your message seems even the least bit misleading, that’s exactly what you’ll be considered. The words “UP TO” or “AS LOW AS” in a sale message can be off-putting to a subscriber. Here’s why: When a subscriber sees “UP TO 70% OFF” they fear they’ll find one item that is 70% OFF while the remainder are nearly full price. It feels like a trick. You can be sure if they do click through and find that their fears were justified, they won’t be making that mistake twice. You’ve just lost all credibility.

Here are a few guidelines to follow to avoid misleading language and keep your subscribers happy.

40% (or more) off shoes
Use the mode percentage (percentage that appears most frequently), rather than the highest savings. This will set a more accurate representation of what you have to offer and won’t lead to disappointment. If everyone followed this simple rule, the only time we’d see “up to” is when the majority of products were at the max discount possible. Even if that’s the situation for you, I suggest not using it because abusers have ruined this phrase for all of us. This is why we can’t have nice things. 😉

Save 25% on ALMOST everything!
This can be a nice way to call out the mode as well, but only use phrases like “almost all” or “nearly all” if it’s true. Don’t be the boy that cried wolf.

60% off hundreds of items!
Help alleviate the worry of limited selection by calling out the number of products on sale. This can be generalized (40% off half of our store) or separated into categories (more than 25 shoes now 60% off) as well.

All shoes 70% off, All shirts under $20
If your savings can encompass an entire section, use it to your advantage. Provide separate links for the different categories or price points.

30-60% off the entire store
Use a savings range. It’s not the most glamorous solution but it’s honest and if used in combination with images and a breakdown of savings it can be a great option.

HUGE summer sale!
Omit percentages or prices all together. Use creative language or urgency to get your message across. Don’t overdo it if your sale isn’t really that great though or you might lose future clicks.

DESIGN:

Unlike other mediums, emails require the extra step of clicking-through. So, what may keep a subscriber from clicking?

One factor is the fear that they won’t find good deals or worthwhile products. Show that you have something to offer by including product images that highlight the discount. It will also provide visual queues to spark the subscriber’s interest.

Another factor is that they’ve grown numb to seeing the same text-based sale message again and again. If you’re sending frequently, varying product images will also help to keep your designs from getting stale and will show the customer that there’s something new to check out.

Although product images aren’t always needed, I find myself much more likely to click on an email that includes them. If you choose to go without them, find other ways to make your message interesting. Animation is a nice eye-catching solution. You can also mix in fun graphics. A clever theme or wording can really make an email stand out too. Just remember not to reuse the same image-less design again and again or it will lose its allure, no matter how good your deals are.

Here are some examples of sale emails done right:

From: Pottery Barn Kids
Date: 9/15/15
Subject Line: FURNITURE FLEA! Up to 40% off fresh new finds ☚

This email from Pottery Barn Kids is a great example of how to include product images in a sale email and highlight the savings. Although it uses the words “up to,” it shows there are many worthwhile products with great savings to check out.

Pottery Barn Kids

From: ThinkGeek Overlords
Date: 9/15/15
Subject Line: 20% off (or more!) on some of our greatest hits: press play & SHOP!

With the title “30 Greatest Hits: 20% OFF or much, much more!”, ThinkGeek shows us how to avoid the words “up to” by using the mode percentage. They also mention how many products can be found and they provide some product images as well. Score!

ThinkGeek


From:
Williams-Sonoma
Date: 9/16/15
Subject Line: Fall Bake Sale! 20% Off Pans, Mixes & More – In Stores & Online

This email from Williams-Sonoma is a nice example of how to include click-worthy images even when you can’t call out products specifically (due to inventory issues or what-have-you). What they do instead is include an image to represent each category. The key is to choose images placed in a setting to make it feel more generalized. These pictures give the feeling of the baking process or entertaining, as opposed to a cut-out image of a baking tool.

When I look at this email and see the picture of the beautiful pecan pie, it inspires me to shop for Thanksgiving. When I see the mixing bowls, I’m reminded that my set could use an update. I’m, personally, 100 times more likely to click on this email than an email that just says SALE. I don’t need to use my imagination to know what treasures I may find.

Williams-Sonoma

From: J. Crew
Date: 9/14/15
Subject Line: Don’t forget to shop 25% off select fall must-haves (ends tonight)
Date: 9/10/15
Subject Line: It’s the end of you-know-what. Here’s how to cope…

J. Crew delivered these unique image-less emails. Clever wording can sometimes be enough to attract interest from time to time. Just don’t over-use it, or it will get old fast.

J. Crew  J. Crew

From: Crazy 8
Date: 9/18/15
Subject Line: Entire site up to 65% off, 4 days only!

Crazy 8 does a great job at using a savings range in this example. They mention the range at the top of the email (entire site 40-65% off), and then go on to explain what can be found at which percentages (40% off regular price items and 20% off all markdowns). They also included a product image which is nice, but I would love to see more images. It’s also too bad they used the “up to” phrase in the subject line.

Crazy 8

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Inspiring Blog Hero

Inspiration Becomes Reality

I look to many brands as a source of inspiration — whether it be for fashion, cooking or decorating. I’ll evaluate the design, dissecting each element to determine what makes it so great. I love that these emails do the work for you. They pull you in with an entrancing image, and then break down the products that bring the final look together.

From: Anthropologie
Date: 9/06/15
Subject Line: Out-of-sight outerwear + final days, 30% OFF.

Anthropologie

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

Rejuvenation

From: Sur La Table
Date: 8/01/15
Subject Line: Recipes & tips for a Thai-inspired stir-fry

Sur La Table

From: J. Crew
Date: 9/06/15
Subject Line: September in 60 seconds: the shoe, the jacket, the sweater & more

J. Crew

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Above the Fold Hero

Give It a Scroll

When designing an email it’s important to keep “the fold” in mind. In other words, get your message across in the small space the subscriber will see without needing to scroll. If you can’t squeeze your information into that small area, give them a REASON to scroll.

From: GUESS
Date: 8/25/15
Subject Line: Last Call…Dresses & Tops from $20

I don’t know if I should file this email under “oops” or “genius.” Lol. I had to scroll just to make sure.

GUESS Mobile Fold       GUESS Email

From: J. Crew
Date: 8/30/15
Subject Line: You’re really missing out… Extra 40% off sale styles & free shipping on orders of $100+ ends tonight.

I was enticed, so I scrolled. I’ll give them points for originality, but in the end it wasn’t worth the scroll. The bottom of the email didn’t contain any new information. I expected to find some information about the promo? sale? new products? I was pretty sure they weren’t selling ice cream, but I had no clue what this email was about (aside from the subject line). Once I clicked through to the landing page and saw the copy “Summer Treat” and the promo code “saletreat,” the connection with the ice cream made sense. However, the email lacked context or a reason to click.

J. Crew Mobile Fold       J. Crew Email

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Social Media

Let’s Talk Social

With the many forms of social media out there, it can get confusing to know what kind of information can be found in each place. These brands did a good job breaking it down.

From: The Land of Nod
Date: 7/27/2015
Subject Line: Keep up with the latest and greatest.

This is my favorite design. I liked the use of tape, clips and fun fonts. It’s not overly wordy. The combination of bold and blue text made it easier to scan. Even the implementation of the icons is lovely.

Land of Nod

From: HomeGoods
Date: 7/30/2015
Subject Line: Like, tweet, pin, post, watch. Connect with us, Amy!

I love the quote bubbles that show what type of information can be found in each section. Rather than describing, they give an example — “I scored this for a client @HomeGoods for $299!! Made my day.” The information is easily digestible and thoughtfully put together.

HomeGoods

From: J.Crew
Date: 7/30/2015
Subject Line: Hello, @jcrew

I like the design and simplicity of this email. In this example, the images pretty much do all the speaking.

J Crew

From: Bluefly
Date: 7/25/2015
Subject Line: You Have A Friend Request!

I like the overlapping samples of imagery in the Instagram and Pinterest sections. It’s enough examples to give a really good idea of what can be expected in each location. Facebook could have used a bit more love though.

Bluefly

From: UncommonGoods
Date: 7/29/2015
Subject Line: Be First to Know

This email was well done overall, but one of my least favorite of this group. Even though the design is nice, the information wasn’t quite as scannable. They could have used titles or other ways of breaking up or highlighting text.

UncommonGoods

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