Commentary

End-Of-Summer Blast: Retailers Sent More Email, Little Of It For Back-To-School

Inboxes were stuffed with retail emails in August. But few featured personalization or back-to-school themes, according to a study by SmarterHQ.

Neiman Marcus was the top sender of emails, blasting out 80 separate emails in August — up from 39 in July. Saks sent 71 in August (versus 47 in July). At 43 emails, Amazon was in third place, while Target was fourth, with 41.  

SmarterHQ signed up for each of the listed firms on July 11. The relatively low volume in July may be partly due to the fact that the firm may have missed earlier emails in the month.

Among the so-called top retailers, Target sent 41 emails, half of which were personalized based on behavior. This included “secondary content blocks in mass sends,” the study notes.

Walmart sent 25 emails, and all but one lacked personalization. Most failed to mention fast delivery and shipping — presumed to be motivators — while 16 focused on discounts and promotions.

Target sent 41 emails, with 17 highlighting discounts and promotions. But 23 were personalized based on behavior, and 23 had secondary content based on cart/browsing behavior, compared with zero for Walmart.

Apple circulated 13 emails, the least of the top retailers studied. And only two focused on using Apple Pay for back-to-school. 

Home Depot blasted 18 emails, but they were good ones — all highlighted fast delivery and back-to-school. Labor Day messaging was also prominent, and 11 mentioned the holidays.

Then there were the department stores. Although it sent the most emails, Neiman Marcus personalized none of them; rather, 65 featured discounts or promotions. All mentioned shipping costs and back-to-school.  

In contrast, Saks personalized 43 of 71 emails it sent, and only one did not offer free shipping. Nordstrom’s personalized zero emails out of 39. Bloomingdale’s played a wilier game, sending a paltry six emails. But five were based on behavior.

Of the digital native brands, Amazon personalized 24 emails — over half. It promoted Back-to-School in two emails, and fast delivery in four. 

In general, retailers in this category sent fewer emails in August than any category, and in some cases two or three — while Birchbox sent one. Most sent personalized messages, for what it was worth. But Everlane was the only one apart from Amazon to mention fast delivery.

Bonobos was the sole digital native to send fewer emails in August (two) than July (10).

Among the two members-only retailers studied, Sam’s Club sent 30 emails, three of which were personalized. Costco sent 27, including five that were personalized. Sam’s Club sent two emails with Labor Day messaging, and Costco send three that had back-to-school or Labor day themes. 

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