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Breaking Down Promotional Email, Part 1: "One-size-fits-all"

Breaking Down Promotional Email, Part 1: "One-size-fits-all"

Last week, we talked about the various content creation methods for B2C experiences, Scottish Pirate Metal, and telemarketers.  It was a pretty wild post.

For the next three weeks, our blog will be taking a deeper look at the "one-size-fits all,"  "segment based" and "AI-Prediction" methods mentioned in our last post, with some specific examples and commentary.  This week, we'll be looking specifically at two different "one-size-fits-all" promotional emails.   

Now you're thinking: "Excuse me, handsome narrator - why are you only talking about promotional emails?"  I'm glad you asked, savvy reader!    

We're focusing on promotional email for a couple of reasons: First, it's the primary re-engagement mechanism for B2C enterprises, and the only channel where marketers can control what their users are shown, making it a very impactful source of revenue and customer satisfaction.  Second, there's an incredibly stark contrast in user relevance, engagement and ROI between the various content creation methods in this channel.  

A Quick Recap on the "One-size-fits-all" Approach:

One-size-fits-all content is manually generated by marketing teams who coordinate around a detailed merchandising calendar.  Because the emails will be sent to hundreds-of-thousands of subscribers, content must be broad and open ended; most one-size-fits-all content features a large, carefully crafted hero banner that promotes significant site-wide discounts, thematic campaigns (i.e. summer sale, winter clothes), or discounted categories/products.

With that in mind, the following examples were taken directly from my (Chris McCarthy, Content Marketing Manager) personal email account, and at the risk of identity theft, I'd like to share some basic details about myself so you can decide how likely I am to engage:  I'm male, I don't have kids, and ordinarily dress in men's business casual/casual attire.

Email 1:


We'll keep the the first example short and sweet.  This is from a large North American apparel retailer, and it's successful in the sense that it communicates the 65% discount - however, I'm sure you'll agree that "Extra 40% off select styles" is vague, and there are no specific examples of the discounted products - there's no guarantee that anything I want falls within the discounted range.

The categories listed also stand out, simply because only one of the six are relevant to me as a person.  As I mentioned, I'm male and don't have kids - so four of the featured categories aren't something that would cause me to engage.  Because this company is sending to such a broad audience, they're attempting to activate everyone based on the large discount, but include enough to let people know their demographic applies - and despite the "End of Season Sale" ending today - I'm able to assume they'll offer a similar discount soon.  

From this email alone, why would I purchase anything now? Instead, I can wait for an email in the future that features sale categories I know I like.

Email 2:

The second email example is from another well-known North American department store.  The hero image at the top is very similar to the first, and they've added a great amount of merchandised products and categories that demonstrate specific discounts.


The common thread between the hero image and the rest of the email is that again, they're throwing in as much content in as many categories as possible, hoping something resonates with me.  Because of that, I have to scroll to the bottom of the email to find a category sale that I may be interested in (Men's coats).  The rest of the content, while nicely merchandised, doesn't appeal to me as a shopper.  

Again, It's reasonable to assume that more sales aren't too far off, so an extra 20% on goods I don't particularly care about won't motivate me to act now.  Is there another part of this email that would inspire me to interact?

"One-size-fits-all" content still exists because e-retailers have a deep bank of subscribers and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of products to surface.  Creating a more targeted experience (without a next-gen solution like Jetlore) would require an impossible amount of work from a marketing team, a web team, a development team.  So these retailers must rely on discounts, and cast a "wide net" to capture their audience's attention - reducing their conversion rates and missing out on an opportunity to know their customers on a more personal level.

Stay tuned - this conversation continues next week...

Breakdown of the Promotional Email, Part 2: Segment-based Content