U.S. Vs. UK: British Brands Have Email Edge, Study Finds

Can the Brexit jokes -- U.S. retailers could learn something from their British counterparts. 

UK fashion brands achieve higher email engagement and deliverability rates, according to Brits vs. Yanks: How U.S. and U.K. Fashion Brands Compare on Email Marketing, a study by Iterable. 

Iterable partnered with Holistic Email Marketing to compare 20 retail fashion brands — 10 each from the U.S. brands and the UK — over a 30-day period. It also used panel data from eDataSource’s Competitor Tracker.

Here’s what it found in four different areas:


UK brands had an average read rate — the percentage of emails that are opened and read— of 22.4%, versus 20% for U.S. marketers. And the top three read rates were achieved by British retailers.

The highest read rate of 34% belonged to Topshop, followed by Burberry (31%) and Alexander McQueen (27%). 

In the U.S., Cole Haan and White House Black Market were tied, with read rates of 24% apiece.




UK brands also enjoyed a higher average deliverability rate — 99% versus  98% in the U.S. Of the 20 brands studied, only one failed to score above 90%, and that firm obviously has some work to do.

Of course, there are differences in the U.S. and UK deliverability setups. Under CAN-SPAM, U.S. firm can email without consent, although all the retailers examined here ask for permission. In the UK, you have to ask.

Content and Strategy 

Six in 10 UK brands use personalization in promotional emails, versus three out of 10 in the U.S.

However, nine out of 10 U.S. brands personalize lifecycle emails — i.e., welcome,  cart and browse abandonment, win- back, birthday, wish-list and second purchase--compared with three out of five in the UK. 

Indeed, five out of the 10 UK brads “didn’t have any life cycle programs that we could determine,” the study states.

U.S. firms are more prone to send behavior-based lifecycle emails, particularly welcome, win-back and abandonment cart. UK firms tend to focus more on price-drops an wish-list emails.

UK emails, perhaps because of Great Britain’s proximity to European countries, are more likely to be multi-lingual. For example, Boden has send emails offering 60% off—in German, “60% rabatt.”

In subject lines, UK retailers emphasize these primary emotions: 

  • Fascination
  • Excitement
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Urgency
  • Exclusivity
  • Gratification 

In the U.S., the main emotions are:

  • Urgency
  • Fascination
  • Exclusivity
  • Excitement
  • Encouragement
  • Intimacy
  • Gratitude 
  • Guilt

The study reports that UK brand Pretty Little Thing has “the most automated programs in place out of all 20 brands in our study.”


U.S. marketers have more aggressive acquisition and retention tactics — they tend to feature opt-in forms on home pages Three UK brands did not so much as mention their email programs anywhere on their home pages 

Of course, these are two different countries. Among the surface differences are  “color/colour, cart/basket, Main Street/ High Street, holiday/Christmas,” the study observes.

In addition “ U.S. marketers haven’t caught on to the ‘payday’ or ‘bank holiday’ promotions that are a staple of U.K. marketing, although Boxing Day (Dec. 26) is beginning to make its presence felt,” the study says.


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