Holiday Shakeout: Bloomingdale's And Sephora Top Email Ranking

Bloomingdales and Sephora have scaled the email summit, each receiving an “A” for their holiday campaigns in the latest edition of SmarterHQ’s Email Marketing Retail Showdown.

Both retailers sent around 20 emails, with half of these personalized.

In contrast, Walmart earned a D, with 50 emails sent and none personalized. And Neiman Marcus was given the same low ranking, with inconsistent personalization in its 80+ emails.

How was all this determined?

SmarterHQ signed up last July for each of the 19 listed brand’s email newsletters. It now conducts a monthly analysis of these emails, dividing the senders into four categories: Top Retailers, Membership Only, Department Stores and Digital Native Brands.

In addition to rating brands on their degree of personalization, it ranks them on volume. These criteria are based on findings that most consumers want relevant email only, and not too much of it.

In general, SmarterHQ found that digital native brands sent more emails in December than they did in prior months — the exception was Amazon. Most did not participate in Cyber Week, and many lacked any holiday messaging at all in November. But they ramped up in December with holiday sales.



Walmart, Best Buy, Costco and Amazon each ran a 12 Days of Deals promotion. Many brands supported causes — for instance, Home Depot featured “Green Monday Savings” in an email, and Nordstrom ran a “Wear this and give that” campaign in the first half of December. Amazon used email banners to encourage donations to Toys for Tots

In addition, many brands offered BOPUS (buy online, pick up in store) and free two-day shipping, lowering the threshold for the latter as the Christmas deadline approached. But most “missed the mark on personalization,” neglecting to take advantage of shopper behavior, the report notes.

Bloomingdale's and Sephora aside, most in the Department Store category seemed to lag, with Saks, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus each scoring poorly. But Marcy’s pulled a B with its 35 emails, half personalized. Ulta also scored a B.

Among Digital Native Brands, Amazon achieved a B with 49 emails, with half of these personalized. Bonobos, Everlane, Warby Parker and Birchbox each drew a C with inconsistent personalization.

The most dismal performance was in the Top Retailer category, with Walmart, Target and Apple each being awarded the lowest possible grade. Apple, astonishingly, offered no personalization in its 35 emails. Target had some, but sent 70+ emails.

The Membership Only sector did so-so at best. Sam’s Club was given a B for its 35 emails, some personalized. It also incorporated a message stating, “Your membership is expiring soon,” in its emails. Costco also sent 35 emails, but had little or inconsistent personalization — thus, its grade of C. 

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