How companies are recognising customer’s birthday? Sephora email

Ok, so it’s been a while, but I’m back and inspired about email marketing and a few other digital marketing things.

February is one of the best months because it’s my birthday and I can see which companies I subscribe (newsletters) remember my birthday and what they offer me. My birthday is under two weeks away and I’ve only received one email targeting my birthday. The thoughtful email was from Sephora, a US cosmetic and beauty company doing some great stuff online.

Below is the email I received:

Sephora - My birthday email sent on 6 Feb 2010

Sephora - My birthday email sent on 6 Feb 2010

This email details are:

  • Send date: Saturday, 6th February 2010 – exactly two weeks before my birthday
  • Send time: 8.59pm (Sydney time)
  • Subject line: It’s almost your birthday! Open your gift early.
  • Offer: Beautiful Eyes Kit redeemable instore or online
  • Small print: The offer is valid for one month (two weeks before and two weeks after my birthday)

When I clicked through to the site from the email, this is the journey I went on.

1. Signed in page (personalised Sephora page)

Sephora Login - Birthday message

Sephora Login - Birthday message

2. Birthday offer highlighted as the first message

Sephora Login - Birthday message details

Sephora Login - Birthday message details

3. Automatic offer included in checkout

Sephora Login - Checkout with birthday message

Sephora Login - Checkout with birthday message


  • Subject lines: Subject line invites you to open the email because there is a mention of a gift. I opened this email instantly to see what my present was.
  • Customer journey: Ensure the customer journey is seamless. If you make it easy for a consumer, they have a great experience and will return.



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Do you need a welcome? J.Crew thinks you do

As part of most email or newsletter programs, there is a confirmation or activation email that is sent after you subscribe online. The next email you receive after that is the first newsletter from the company.

I subscribed to the J.Crew newsletter in mid-April and was shocked to see a Welcome email from them in my inbox the following day (see screens below).

JCrew Welcome to The Club email

JCrew Welcome to The Club email

Even though there is not much in this email, I like that it welcomes me to The Club. It’s a positive experience.

The other positive thing about J.Crew is that they don’t spam like other retailers. Since signing up to the program in mid-April, I have only received 16 emails – which is about one every few days (see emails received below). With Bluefly, I receive at least one a day pushing me to buy something.

JCrew Emails received - 12 April - 6 June 2009

JCrew Emails received - 12 April - 6 June 2009

There are a few common themes with the email details sent by J.Crew:

  • Time: all emails are sent in the morning (or in the afternoon US time), usually between 3.30am – 7.00am. There was only one sent later, but majority are within that timeframe.
  • Subject lines: there is no consistency in the treatment of subject lines – some are in CAPS, others are normal text, some promote sales, others promote products. The common element is that majority are reasonably short and aren’t consistent.
  • Frequency: the first and last 10 days of the month are the most active. Within this period, there is an email sent every other day.

Stay tuned for some more J.Crew email learnings.



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What else could Apple be doing in their emails?

As a summary to my review of Apple’s email marketing, there is really only one thing to look at: what else should Apple be doing with their email communications? Overall, like everything Apple does, it works. It is clean, simple and effective.

There really aren’t too many other things they should be doing. I have thought of three things they could be doing more of:

  1. Bundling: Apple have got their product emails sorted, they are clean and very focused, but there is a huge opportunity for bundling. They have started this with the latest uni newsletter. However, they can be doing this with so much more.
  2. Asking questions: Apple have never sent me a survey or asked me how I want to interact with them. I’m getting a combination of messages: software, product and event. I’m happy to receive all types, but they are all dry messages. I want something more. More content or more relevance to help me expand my knowledge.
  3. Tailor content: They know what products I have, but the messaging isn’t relevant to this, ie upgrade messaging rather than buy. Where is the accessories push or up-sell in all of these emails?

The common theme throughout these additions is the data smarts and intelligence. There really aren’t many companies getting that right within this space. Victoria Secret‘s and the other US retailers (Bluefly, GAP) are really pioneering the way. They are able to determine your site activity and marry it back to your data and actions, ie if you leave something in the shopping cart on their site, you get an email letting you know it is still there for a limited time.

Most companies think a blanket email (one email for all customers) is enough. With email being so cheap it means you can test things and really understand what works for consumers. The ideal would be to use email as a test bed before any of the above the line communications goes out. Similar to search, it gives you the opportunity to test real-time what is working with your customers before rolling it out with a bigger budget.

Due to the financial opportunity, I wonder if companies will start to realise this and place more importance on communicating to the customers they already have and using them as a test case before spending millions and millions of dollars on media and creative.



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