The Top Ten: Who's Best At Retail Email

To dispense with the suspense, the best email marketer among retailers is Club Monaco. It pulled the highest score in a study by RSR of 138 firms in the Internet Retailer Top 500 list. Crabtree & Evelyn came in at No. 2.  

The study, sponsored by Coherent Path, rated retailers on factors such as frequency, the breadth of products featured and consistency between subject line and content.

No retailer scored better than a C+. Nine were in the D range, and the remainder pulled an F.

Based on scores from one to 100, here are the top ten brands:

  1. Club Monaco — 79.9
  2. Crabtree & Evelyn — 76.8
  3. BCBG Max Azria — 76.0
  4. Hudson’s Bay — 75.1
  5. Hanesbrands — 74.7
  6. Lowe’s Canada — 71.4
  7. Charming Charlie — 71.3
  8. J Crew — 71.0
  9. Bebe Studios — 70.8
  10. Duluth Trading Co — 69.7



To put this in context, the average score was 51.7. Even a veteran player like LL Bean was only six points from the very bottom of the top 50. Still, it placed. 

RSR rated the top performers in three areas:

1. Email Frequency

Here, retailers walk a fine line between annoying their customers and disappearing in the overcrowded inbox.

The optimal number of emails appears to be one (or less) per day, on average. And the top contenders all but maxed out their scores on this one:

  1. Old Navy — 32.8 (out of a possible 33.3)
  2. Dick’s Sporting Goods — 32.7
  3. Hanes — 32.7

RSR considers this as the most important element.  

2. The Catalog Exposure Missed Opportunities

This measurement rates retailers on whether they are too repetitive in the categories they feature for unresponsive subscribers. According to RSR, they ought to broaden their mix to highlight as many as they can.

Sadly, 45 retailers were awarded no points at all in this area. In fact, it would take them “five years or more to get through the entirety of their catalog,” at the rate they’re going, the study says. The median is 2.6 years.

However, two companies actually did max out. The top three:

  1. Hudson’s Bay — 33.3
  2. Joss & Main — 33.3
  3. Neiman Marcus — 30

3. Email Content

We’d expect this to be the most important component, but it’s third. Simply, it measures emails on factors such as their length, whether subject lines and content match, and the presence of promotions in the subject lines.

Only 17 firms succeeded at subject line-content matching 75% or more of the time. But 41 outfits achieved it in less than 25% of their emails. And of all the emails evaluated, only 41.6% had a perfect match — a “very disappointing result,” RSR contends. The winner? Fingerhut, which had a 100% score — in this skill.

As for promotions, 38.6% of the emails studied had some form of promotional language in their subject lines.  The remainder had none. Worse, twelve firms relying on discount language had no match between the subject line and the email proper, so they were “promising deals in their emails, and then not delivering.”

Also rated was the percentage of emails optimized for mobile.

“Amazingly, only six retailers — Sport Chek, GNC, Timberland, H&M, Zappos, and Beachbody — send 100% of emails optimized for mobile. Across all 138 retailers, an average of 24.4% of emails were mobile optimized. And 83 retailers sent no mobile optimized emails.”

Which product category is the most proficient at email overall? The list includes:

  1. Apparel — 57.6
  2. Department store — 50.6
  3. Sporting goods — 48.1
  4. Big Box Specialty — 47.9
  5. Home goods & furnishings — 46.6
  6. Health & Beauty — 43.3

The study concludes by warning that personalization is “not a silver bullet to repair an existing email strategy of ‘spray and pray.’”

Note on methodology:RSR used a third-party tool, MailCharts, then acquired “every email each of these retailers sent to an “unknown” or generic user (not a member of any loyalty program, without registering any click-throughs or preferences) for approximately the period from March 2016 to March 2017. “

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