Tuesday, 16 March 2010

What we learnt from 188 pre-Mother’s Day emails

As our UK readers are well aware, this past Sunday was Mother’s Day —a major event in the gift-giving calendar. You’d assume, as I did, that most of the email newsletters landing in my inbox in the days prior would have a special Mother’s Day offer—at the very least a cursory note not to forget 14th March. So it came as quite a revelation that out of a total of 188 promotional emails from cataloguers and online retailers received between 3rd March and 11th March*, 112 emails, or 59.6 percent of them, did not reference Mother’s Day at all.

As expected, business-to-business merchants didn’t promote Mother’s Day. I received emails from Slingsby, Machine Mart, Filplastic, and Teknomek that understandably did not factor Mother’s Day into their promotions. Out of those emails, my favourite was Teknomek, which used the opportunity to let recipients know of its presence at an upcoming trade show.

British mums must not be very sporty if the emails I received are anything to go by. Two golf-equipment retailers, County Golf and Direct Golf, sent out enewsletters during that (extended) week and neither suggested buying mum a new set of clubs for Mother’s Day. Derby House, a cataloguer that specialises in equine-related equipment and accessories, sent us at least four emails during the period and none gave us a mother-related special offer. Further, snow and surf brands Ellis Brigham, Extremepie, and Blue Tomato were just too cool to promote mums.

Also surprising was that quite a few apparel brands decided not to send out Mother’s Day-related offers. Kaleidoscope, Joe Browns, and Plumo were among those that didn’t mention Mother’s Day in any of their emails. The “worst offenders” in this category, however, were Wall London and Wallis. Wall sent three emails during that week and Wallis sent five—none promoted Mothering Sunday. This was made even worse by Wallis’s inclusion of a competition that would have been a perfect Mother’s Day hook. It was offering a two-night Champneys Spa break for the recipient and a friend. Why it did not add “or take your mum!” to the offer is beyond me.

Many of the retailers sent us more than one email during that week. This gave them scope to send one email with a Mother’s Day offer, and one without. Of those that sent us multiple messages, Roman Originals targeted the more organised of shoppers. It sent out an email on the 4th March with an offer for Mother’s Day; five days later, the offer was removed from the email. The same tactic was used by Baker Ross, Past Times, and John Lewis. Curiously, lingerie etailer Figleaves approached it the other way round. Its emails sent prior to 9th March were Mother’s Day-free zones. However, come the 9th, Figleaves’ subject line was: New spring arrivals, 20% off lingerie offer + 20% off nightwear - perfect for Mother's Day! Neom Organics also made a point of targeting last-minute shoppers on 9th March with the subject line: FREE Gift & Mother's Day Special Offers.

What did we learn from 188 pre-Mother's Day emails? That the majority of retailers aren't concerned with Mother's Day at all. So what were they promoting if not Mother’s Day? Seven percent promoted spring—or new arrivals for spring—whilst just two percent promoted Easter. Most of the offers focused either on specific ranges, promoting existing sales, or pushing product.

Of the 112 emails that didn’t promote Mother’s Day my favourites were:

Sent on 4th March with the subject line “Today's your last chance for 15% off at Boden, online. Shop now or miss out‏”, Boden’s email appeals to my cute receptors. It sent a similar email six months ago, I liked that one too!

Hotel Chocolat
Although the email has a tab labelled Mother’s Day, it didn’t directly promote Mother’s Day offers. What it did promote were Easter eggs—and lots of them. The email has an almost irresistible selection of chocolate eggs (irresistible because I cannot justify spending £22 on one Easter egg). Despite the amount of product featured in this email, it’s not confusing and doesn’t seem crowded. Hotel Chocolat called it its “Easter Eggs-ibition”, and it certainly seems to have a gallery feel to it. I particularly like the graphic at the bottom which compares the egg sizes to one another—a little “happy” egg right through to a giant chocolaty “Ostrich” egg.

This gets top marks for concept rather than execution. Received on 10th March—three days after the Academy Awards ceremony—the email from fashion etailer Oli is titled “The Oli Awards are here‏”. The categories are Best red-carpet dress, Hottest heels, and Must have accessory. There are three nominees and a winner. I like the idea—but the follow-through is lacklustre. Why did that green dress, or those platform shoes, win? Are they the most popular with customers? What makes them better than the other pieces in the list? The pieces were chosen by Oli staff, but there’s no reason behind their choices. What I’d liked to see is a pre-Oscars competition where Oli customers vote on their favourite pieces. The winner gets her favourite item and the reason for loving it into the email. Maybe next year?--MT

* Why did I choose the 3rd to 11th March? For a start, I factored in delivery dates; the 11th fell on a Thursday which still enabled delivery by Saturday. The 3rd was chosen to allow for emails with an early-bird offer to be included.

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