hashtag hero

Don’t Waste That Hashtag

I keep seeing email after email underutilizing hashtags (ahem, examples above). Retailers seem to be using them as a way to look trendy, but with no real purpose. This is such a missed opportunity. Hashtags are essentially FREE MARKETING! By encouraging your customers to share their images and thoughts about your brand, they are marketing to their friends, family, and followers for you. So how can you use hashtags to your advantage? Here are a few suggestions:

1) HOST A CONTEST
Who doesn’t want free stuff? Contests are a great way to get people involved. In this example, Williams-Sonoma offers a chance to win a grill or grill set for Father’s Day. The hashtag makes a bold appearance in the headline. This campaign could have even more impact if the headline included the words win and/or contest.

From: Williams-Sonoma
Date: 6/18/16
Subject Line: 3 Days Left! 20% Off 1 Item + 5 Great Picks for DAD – In Stores & Online

williams-sonoma message

2) OFFER FAME / BRAGGING RIGHTS
Social media is addictive. People love to sit back and watch the “like” meter count up. Why not give them their 5 minutes of fame. In this email, Live Love Polish encourages subscribers to tag their nail art photos for a chance to be featured on their website. The headline is well-worded (very direct), and the use of imagery from other customers is an inspiring addition.

From: Live Love Polish
Date: 6/03/16
Subject Line: Ripper NEW BRAND From Down Under!

live love polish message

3) ENCOURAGE SOCIALIZING
Sure, incentives are a great way to populate your hashtag feed, but some people are more than willing to contribute for nothing. Simply make people aware of the hashtag and what it should be used for. Here, Pottery Barn Kids invites customers to simply share their 4th of July photos. I like the use of the Instagram logo used to emphasize the preferred social platform (just in case people are too lazy to read).

From: Pottery Barn Kids
Date: 7/04/2016
Subject Line: Happy 4th of July! Up to 25% off EVERYTHING + FREE SHIPPING (’til midnight!)

pottery barn kids message

4) DONATE TO CHARITY
What a fun, free (for the taggers anyway) and effortless way for customers to donate to a cause! Encourage them to share and in exchange, you make a donation! Aerie shares the love by donating $1 for each post using their hashtag. With this message they decided to go big or go home; it’s hardly a secondary message since it’s comparable in size and location to the primary message. It works though! I only wish the headline was a bit more direct in calling out the donation aspect.

From: aerie
Date: 6/30/16
Subject Line: 500+ Swim Faves Now $10! For REAL.

aerie message

Okay, so let’s say you’re successful in creating and populating a unique hashtag. Some of the marketing has already begun by people simply contributing to it. New posts will show up in “new” or “popular” areas of social media, and followers of people who have shared will see the posts in their feeds. Now’s the time to take it one step further. Include a link in your emails (and/or website) to encourage more people to check it out and contribute.

There are a few options for creating links to these posts. You can link to a page within Instagram or Twitter, but that will limit you to that one social media provider. If you want to grab hashtags from all social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for example), companies like Tagboard offer just that. You can link to a page within the site for your hashtag, or (for a price) Tagboard also allows you to embed posts on your website (displayed in an iframe).

A SMALL TIP: For a hashtag that’s more general, feel free to give it hierarchy in your email when you wish, but there’s no reason you can’t permanently give it a home at the bottom of your email. Here are two examples, from Carters and Land of Nod, showing how they included their hashtag in their footer.

carters footer  land of nod footer

ONE FINAL NOTE. Make sure when using a hashtag that you’re clear about how it should be used. If customers don’t know what it’s there for, you’ll be missing out. Here’s an example illustrating this from Banana Republic. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that they’re attempting to create a public hashtag; they call it out in two separate emails (in a prime location) and even in the subject line. However, there is no explanation about how the hashtag should be used. (IE: who should be using it and what type of posts should go there.) As a result, there have only been a couple posts using this hashtag to date, all made by Banana Republic. I would like to give them props for making the hashtag bold; it definitely stands out. It just needs a bit more instruction with it.

From: Banana Republic
Date: 6/19/16
Subject Line: This week in Your Life. Styled.

banana republic message

From: Banana Republic
Date: 6/20/16
Subject Line: Now, later, always: #BRClassic

banana republic message

In summary, if you’re going to use a hashtag, think beyond looking #trendy and make them work for you!

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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.

Cliff-notes:
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!

Express

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.

Shutterfly

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.

Express

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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Countdown hero

♫ Because your list (your list) is on my list …

…because your list (your list) I can’t resist!

Lists can be a great way to call out your most popular products. There are many ways you can tackle designing such a list. Here are 5 drastically different approaches and a few pointers to keep in mind.

NOT JUST NUMBERS

From: Pottery Barn
Date: 11/18/15
Subject Line: Celebrate the Season of Giving with Our Top 10 Holiday Gifts

Pottery Barn  Pottery Barn zoom

The last thing you want is for your numbers to get lost or to feel like an afterthought. Think of them as a graphic rather than text. I love how Pottery Barn made their numbers large so that they feel like a conscious part of the design. They toned-down the color to keep them from becoming overwhelming. Another great addition is the horizontal lines. They help to unify the sections and also add dimension & interest by intersecting the numbers.

ADD DEPTH

From: Sephora Beauty Insider
Date: 11/23/15
Subject Line: Take your pick: free fragrance mini

Sephora  Sephora zoom

Don’t let your design fall flat. Sephora’s email has layers upon layers of dimension by 1) overlapping product cut-outs over square cut images, 2) including drop shadows, and 3) sprinkling in confetti ground cover. In this design, the numbers all run along the right side. The flow is made possible with the help of ornaments, gold fans, and carefully placed confetti stars.

USE A VARIETY OF IMAGES

From: Pottery Barn Kids
Date: 11/13/15
Subject Line: Top 10 gifts we L♥VE

Pottery Barn Kids  Pottery Barn Kids zoom

By using both product cut-outs and square-cut images, you are getting the best of both worlds. The square-cuts will help to set the scene and show off your products in the best way possible. But when you get too many environment shots, your design will become hard to scan and overwhelming to look at. This email has the perfect mix. I also like how the environment images are all full-width with the number and text written on top of them.

MAKE IT A COUNTDOWN

From: OshKosh B’gosh
Date: 11/19/15
Subject Line: Extra 30% OFF COUPON ends tonight!

OshKosh  OshKosh zoom

A countdown is a great way to get your subscribers to scroll in order to reveal the big #1 item. In OshKosh’s design, even though the numbers are aligned down the center, they are able to create flow by staggering the corresponding text and products. I also like the mix of fonts, clever wording, and scannable titles.

KEEP IT CLEAN

From: Williams-Sonoma
Date: 11/21/15
Subject Line: Last Chance to Save on Thanksgiving Essentials + FREE SHIPPING ON ALL ORDERS

Williams-Sonoma  Williams-Sonoma zoom

Don’t let your design get too cluttered. Sometimes simplicity and predictability is the best solution to a scannable email. Here is a classic example of a staggered design. Everything is cut into a perfect grid with the images zigzaging down the page. The copy appears on the opposite side of each image. The copy is kept concise for easy scanning.

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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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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!

Rejuvenation

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).

Anthropologie

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!

Aero

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)

Ulta

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

NORDSTROM RACK

 

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