Where's The Christmas In Emails? Retailers Forgot Holidays And Personalization Last Month

Consumers may be shopping earlier, but retailers have not caught up with them. 

Only four retailers sent any kind of email with holiday shopping messaging in September, according to the 2020 Holiday Marketing Analysis by SmarterHQ.

Home Depot sent one such email on September 17 to encourage people to begin decorating for the holidays.

Sephora sent an email on September 11 offering holiday gifts sets. 

And Target sent two emails focusing on holiday decorations, starting on September 25.

That’s it for Christmas, folks: The other “holiday” emails mentioned either Labor Day or Election day. 

Worse, retailers tended to send out email blasts containing promotions or generic messages. And some sent high volumes. Saks topped the list with 88 emails. 

This could be counterproductive, given that millennials prefer one to three marketing emails per month. “Retailers really need to dial it down or risk frustrating/losing customers,” the study notes. 



In August, SmarterHQ signed up for the email newsletters of a range of brands in three categories: top retailers, department stores and digital natives. 

Each month, the firm carts two new items and heavily browses a category on the brand’s website. It analyzes the emails at the end of the month. 

Let’s drill down into the three categories studied by SmarterHQ.

Top Retailers 

Walmart sent 20 emails, all of them lacking personalization based on cart/browse behavior. Only one offered curbside pickup.  

In contrast, Target sent 30 emails, 18 of which were mass blasts.  

However, Target was one of only brands in this category to mention COVID-19 precautions. The other was Best Buy, which highlighted safety in all of the six emails it sent. 

Apple sent a mere three emails, none of them personalized based on cart/browse behavior. Indeed, Apple seems to have ignored this form of personalization for the last three months. 

Department Stores 

Saks sent 88 emails, none personalized. Bloomingdales was second, shooting out 85.  

Sephora led the way in personalization, featuring a full personalized message in five of the 12 emails it sent, and personalized blocks within two.

Roughly half of Bloomie’s 85 emails were focused on specific product categories or personalized in some way.

Nordstrom was the only retailer in this category to address COVID-19 safety precautions, mentioning them in 26 out of 27 emails.

Digital Native Brands 

Amazon sent 37 emails. Roughly two-thirds of these were personalized as to product/category interactions, and recommendations-based.

Bonobos was the only brand in this group to offer free shipping, although the only holiday it highlighted was Labor Day. It sent 10 messages altogether

Everlane, which sent 29 emails, conducted a two-day shipping promotion. And it mentioned Election Day in one communication. 

None of the brands addressed COVID-19, as you might expect since they have no live contact. 

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