Discounts are one of the oldest tactics in email marketing. But retailers are overusing them, and it may be time for new approaches.
Worse, they are sending these offers to the same subscribers as their competitors in many cases, according to Discount Emails—The New Playbook, a study released on Wednesday by Gartner L2.
Of the email campaigns examined, 55% featured discounts in their subject lines. On average, they were sent to 37% of a given firm’s email list, showing that they went to broad segments.
Brands are thus exhausting “substantial subsets of their customers with messaging that comes across as impersonal,” the study argues.
Product discovery subject lines are also overused, going to 37% of the average brand’s list. They were seen in 40% of the total email volume.
Discount offers generated a 16% average open rate, and product discovery emails generated 17%.
In contrast, retargeting/remarketing emails -- which made up a tiny fraction of the volume -- pulled a 31% open rate, and abandoned cart emails generated 32%. Both of these email types went to the lower single digits of the average brand’s subscriber list. Win-backs hooked 31%, and welcome emails pulled 27%, although the latter jumped to 29% when a discount offer was included.
This proves that “brands that employ less frequent, but timely, relevant emails triggered by customer site engagement or transactions, outperform their peers,” the study notes.
GartnerL2 examined 98,197 Email Campaigns by 100 brands.
Brands are also showing a tendency to use generic language in their subject lines, missing a chance to stand out in the inbox. Here are some examples:
Gap: “50$ off + the summer styles you need”
Express: “50% off tops shorts, dresses & more”
Abercrombie & Fitch: 60% off SO many styles
Banana Republic: 50% off - best sweater season ever
These brands all pulled subject lines hovering around 16%, with Gap and Banana Republic hitting 17%.
But lulumon athletica averaged 39% with such lines as "You’ve been (holiday) hooked up" and "One discount fits all."
Gartner L2 processed 44,203 discount subject lines for this section.
But here’s the really weird part: Brands are often emailing the same people.
For example, the average retail brand has a 23% overlap with Old Navy’s subscribership. The percentage is 15% for Forever 21 and Hollister, 14% for Gap and 11% for Abercrombie & Fitch.
"This means that a given general apparel brand can expect anywhere from one-tenth to one-quarter of its subscribership to overlap that of a close competitor — a signal that brands must differentiate the language of their subject lines and conduct data-driven email targeting to stand out," the study argues.
Overall, the study documents that automated engagement emails combined with discounts outperform generic discount emails.
What does it take to achieve the above?
“Whether the signal is an initial email signup or a customer indicating interest in a product without following through, specialty brands need to merge signal-based and traditional segmentation data to get their foot in the door,” the report concludes.