Garden Variety Emails: Top Retailers Sent Few Personalized Messages In October

With the election looming, some of us may have overlooked the flow of retail emails. But they were out there, although few were personalized, according to this month’s 2020 Holiday Marketing Analysis from SmarterHQ.

Saks was the top sender among retailers in October, with 80 emails going out. Bloomingdale’s was second with 78, followed by Neiman Marcus with 67 and Nordstrom with 36.

In contrast, Home Depot sent only nine, while Apple sent eight and Best Buy sent four. 

The Travel & Hospitality category also accounted for few emails in October. 

Saks dominated in the number of personalized emails sent: 33, versus 19 from Bloomingdale’s and 14 from Amazon.

More than half of Amazon’s emails contained recommendations based on browsing, as did Sephora’s.

In August, the SmarterHQ team signed up for each of the listed brand’s email newsletter. It carte two new items at the start of each month and browsed a category on the site. It analyzes the resulting emails at the end of each month. 



Here is a breakdown by brand category: 

Top Retailers

A majority of emails featured a specific product or category. But personalization was rare — only three of Target’s 34 emails were behaviorally targeted. And Walmart sent only three personalized emails. Still, that’s more than the other brands. 

Home Depot and Best Buy plugged free shipping in every email they sent. Best Buy also included COVID-19 messaging in all its emails, while also mentioning holidays and promoting curbside pickup.

Department Stores

All of the emails sent by Saks, Bloomie’s, Neiman’s and Nordstrom highlighted shipping/cost. 

Al brands acknowledged the holidays, but Bloomies sent the most messages.

Nordstrom mentioned COVID-19 safety precautions in all of its 36 emails.

Native Brands

Amazon led this category, sending 29 emails. Everlane was second, with 29. 

Everlane pushed Election Day in one email, but otherwise the only emails mentioning holidays were two from Amazon, one or Halloween sales and another titled, “Home for the Holidays.” 

Of all the brands in this field, Bonobos was the only one to highlight free shipping. None of these digital brands had reason to discuss COVID-19 precautions.

Travel & Hospitality

Given the slowdown in travel, it’s no surprise that Travel & Hospital firms sent the fewest emails in October. 

Southwest sent only nine, Marriott eight, Hyatt four and, Delta five. 

Delta sent one email that seemed to be based on flight browsing behavior. Otherwise, most emails from all senders stressed mass flight discounts or destinations. 

Travel brands tried to soothe fear of flying during the pandemic, while none specifically addressed COVID-19.

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