Archive for the ‘Email Marketing Reviews’ Category

The First 2 Weeks – Grocery Stores: Part 1 of 2

Posted by Nic Winters on January 4th, 2010

grocery stores

Welcome again to The First 2 Weeks, where we analyze 3 competitors’ email marketing strategies when it is most crucial… the opt-in process, welcome message, and first few campaigns as these marketers attempt to establish relationships with subscribers.

For this edition of The First 2 Weeks, we have chosen 3 competitors in the grocery store segment: Jewel-Osco (a Midwest division of Albertson’s), Kroger, and Meijer.

OPT-IN PROCESS

Jewel-Osco features the best positioning of promotion for an opt-in opportunity, as they very clearly display an envelope graphic and the words “Email Signup” in the navigation area at the top of their homepage. It is clear promotions in prime positions such as this that lead to the greatest opt-in activity. Kroger promotes “My Kroger Account” throughout their homepage, however it is only at the bottom left that it clearly spells out that this includes beneficial emails you can opt-in to receive. In comparison to these two competitors, Meijer’s opt-in promotion is fairly hidden. You must scroll down to the bottom right of the page to find a note about “Sales Alerts” that includes a form field for your email address.

Along with having the clearest opt-in promotion, Jewel-Osco also features the best opt-in form. They have done a great job at keeping the information collection simple (only requiring first name and zip code) and they set expectations by listing information about how often you will receive email and displaying a sample newsletter. In addition, they feature a great reminder on their thank you page to add their from address to your address book to help assist with future delivery. The opt-in form for Meijer was also fairly simple, however as you enter in your zip code you must then select the preferred location in your area. Kroger takes a more complex approach, requiring a similar store-lookup via zip code, but also requires a password creation. One great feature within the Kroger opt-in form is that they offer the ability to opt-in for 3 different types of newsletters (and most importantly, none of these options have pre-checked boxes).

WELCOME MESSAGE

Greetings from both Meijer and Kroger arrived within 1-2 minutes beyond opt-in – a very timely response to begin the email relationship, whereas Jewel-Osco failed to send any confirmation or thank you via email.

However, even though Meijer did send a welcome, they aren’t that far ahead by doing so. When you send out a message such as this with no true purpose than to just say thank you… you aren’t exactly setting a great tone regarding the value that can be expected in future emails. They just touch on the fact that if you didn’t set up a password during opt-in a random one was assigned, which can now edit if you wish. They do include a link to shop within the header graphic, however they should address this call-to-action within the body of the email – pushing you to click now and save, etc. One final issue found within this email is their choice of from name – ShopForMore, which leads to subscriber confusion as it doesn’t include any indication that the email was sent from Meijer.

As Kroger utilizes a double opt-in list, their welcome message has a very clear purpose… confirming your opt-in. They have chosen to use a simple text only email design that ensures nothing is lost with images disabled, however no branding has been carried through on this key first communication piece. Kroger does a great job however at including a reminder at the top to add their from address to your address book to ensure future delivery and they also list out all of the email newsletters you requested to receive.

Watch for Part 2 in the coming weeks in which we will evaluate campaigns sent beyond the welcome message and preference editing options.

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The First 2 Weeks – Steakhouse Chains: Part 2 of 2

Posted by Nic Winters on December 30th, 2009

steakhouse

Welcome again to The First 2 Weeks, where we analyze 3 competitors’ email marketing strategies when it is most crucial… the opt-in process, welcome message, and first few campaigns as these marketers attempt to establish relationships with subscribers.

In our last edition we evaluated the opt-in process and welcome messages for 3 competitors in the steakhouse restaurant chain segment: Lone Star Steakhouse, Outback Steakhouse, and Texas Roadhouse. In part 2 we will now investigate campaigns sent beyond the welcome email and preference editing options.

INITIAL CAMPAIGNS

Both Outback and Texas Roadhouse sent out additional campaigns beyond the welcome email within the first 2 weeks, but there was a vast difference in timing. Texas Roadhouse capitalized on the interest of a new subscriber by sending their welcome email relatively quick and then a second message within the next week. However, Outback (who didn’t send a welcome message) didn’t deploy their first message until day 14. Both competitors are much more aggressive than Lone Star, which didn’t send anything beyond the welcome message within the first 2 weeks – missing out on continuing to grow the solid foundation they established with their welcome offer.

Overall, I found myself fairly unimpressed by Outback’s email, as the design seemed to be missing a clear focal point. In addition to this fault, the message was comprised entirely of images. However, they did employ an interesting alt tag strategy, as the alternate text that displays with images off doesn’t entirely spell out what is contained within that image. Instead they used the 2 alt tags that display as part 1 and part 2 of a sentence that summarizes the overall focus of the message (“Summer is almost over…” and “but there is still time left to try our $9.95 Summer Adventures. Visit us tonight!”)

Texas Roadhouse took a similar approach to email design – all images. However, they utilized alt tags throughout to identify the contents of key items when images are disabled. They also utilized the information gathered during the opt-in process by pulling in your favorite location within the content and the from name along with pulling in your first name as well.

EMAIL PREFERENCE OPTIONS

Outback lacks any preference capabilities – only supplying an unsubscribe link. Lone Star goes just one step further by allowing the subscriber to update their email address on this well-branded webpage. However, they provide only an archaic unsubscribe capability, as their link is just a mail-to link that generates a draft message with no subject line… requiring you to email them to be removed.

Texas Roadhouse provides the most options for subscribers of these 3 competitors by far. They include an “Update your information” link at the base of all messages – taking you to a preferences page similar to that seen during opt-in that allows you to change not only the items you submitted in the past, but also fill in additional fields. They have take a great approach to collecting more optional information on this page, as those who are visiting have already indicated interest in updating settings. These additional fields include items such as how often you visit, marital status, if you have children, favorite time to visit, favorite menu item, and even an area where you can suggest events/offers you would be interested in. All of these items could lead to additional segmented messages with relevant content/offers.

Watch for our next edition in the coming weeks in which we will evaluate the campaigns of 3 new competitors!

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The First 2 Weeks – Steakhouse Chains: Part 1 of 2

Posted by Nic Winters on December 7th, 2009

Steakhouses

Welcome again to The First 2 Weeks, where we analyze 3 competitors’ email marketing strategies when it is most crucial… the opt-in process, welcome message, and first few campaigns as these marketers attempt to establish relationships with subscribers.

For this edition of The First 2 Weeks, we have chosen 3 competitors in the steakhouse restaurant chain segment: Lone Star Steakhouse, Outback Steakhouse, and Texas Roadhouse.

OPT-IN PROCESS

Outback features the best positioning of promotion for an opt-in opportunity, however the wording is a little unclear – with “KEEP IN TOUCH” as the main call-to-action. Texas Roadhouse has a less obvious location (requiring you to scroll down a little) but also has some unclear promotion – using “Become a Text Roadie VIP” as the phrase to pull you in. Finally, Lone Star also requires a little scrolling but features the clearest language as it directs you to “Join our E-CLUB”.

The opt-in forms for all 3 competitors were fairly similar as they all collected information such as birthday, favorite restaurant location, and zip code (all information that could be very valuable for deploying segmented campaigns). However, Lone Star caused a decent amount of confusion as they made their form appear as if no information was required but if fields were left empty you received error messages.

WELCOME MESSAGE

Greetings from both Lone Star and Texas Roadhouse arrived within 12 and 15 hours beyond opt-in (respectively) – a fairly timely response to begin the email relationship, whereas Outback failed to send any confirmation or thank you via email. Both competitors that sent welcome emails also immediately establish the value behind their email programs by providing coupons for free appetizers. This offer not only is rewarding the subscriber for supplying their email address but also hopefully is driving traffic into their restaurants. However, both restaurants should have promoted this welcome offer on their main page to entice visitors to subscribe.

Both Lone Star and Texas Roadhouse did a decent job of creating email designs loaded with branding and imagery but still utilizing alt tags and text to ensure that all was not lost with images off (LS & TR). Both also took advantage of the information they gathered during the opt-in process by personalizing the emails with the subscriber’s first name and Texas Roadhouse went a step further to list the subscriber’s favorite location at the bottom of the email. Both competitors also wisely included a reminder at the top of their emails to add their from address to your address book to ensure delivery of future messages. Overall – a job well done by both competitors, and certainly as step ahead of Outback… which opted not to deploy a welcome.

Watch for Part 2 in the coming weeks in which we will evaluate campaigns sent beyond the welcome message and preference editing options.

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Email from a curtain company left me in the dark

Posted by Rob Ropars on November 30th, 2009

I received an email from smith+noble, a great purveyor of drapes, curtains and all things window covering.  Several things jumped out immediately when I opened the email.

The first issue is that the entire email is image-only.  Many spammers send all-image emails to avoid spam filters looking for specific words/phrases common to spam.  Spam filters adapted to this move by looking at the balance of images-to-text in emails and the balance of text between the HTML and text-only versions.  The fewer words you use, the greater the risk you will potentially be seen as a spammer. smithnoble

The second issue involves their use of alt tags or “alt text”.  This simple coding addition allows HTML software, browsers and email clients, to show text if images don’t load.  Not every email client supports alt tags, but it’s best to use them nonetheless for those that do.  This is a great way to reinforce your message and what’s in the unloaded image.  Intrigue me.  Make me want to click the link to view that image.  Although they did use alt tags, they used the SAME alt tag for each and every image (“smith+noble”):  yeah I got it…you’re smith+noble.  I felt like I was in a Twilight Zone episode were suddenly everything had changed to their name.

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The First 2 Weeks – Arts & Crafts Retail: Part 2 of 2

Posted by Nic Winters on November 19th, 2009

arts

Welcome again to The First 2 Weeks, where we analyze 3 competitors’ email marketing strategies when it is most crucial… the opt-in process, welcome message, and first few campaigns as these marketers attempt to establish relationships with subscribers.

In our last edition we evaluated the opt-in process and welcome messages for 3 competitors in the arts and crafts retail segment: Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann, and Michael’s. In part 2 we will now investigate campaigns sent beyond the welcome email and preference editing options.

INITIAL CAMPAIGNS

Both Hobby Lobby and Michael’s sent out additional campaigns beyond the welcome email within the first 2 weeks, both sending 2 additional emails. Both competitors were much more aggressive than Jo-Ann, which didn’t send anything beyond the welcome message within the first 2 weeks – missing out on this chance to quickly establish a solid foundation with subscribers.

The emails sent by Hobby Lobby include very heavy image use, however they did a good job of using informative alt tags so that all is not lost with images off. They did a very good job of sticking with a template for their design as well, as additional messages arrive in the inbox with the exact same design setup. Thus, subscribers quickly learn what to expect and where they can find the information they are looking for. However, within this design they have pushed the coupon far too low in the design – as this is an item that should be featured near the top to drive redemptions and maintain high interest in their email offerings. This design framework also always includes a quirky quote at the base of the email – a creative touch that I could see some subscribers seeking out on future emails.

Hobby Lobby incorporated a few other best practice items, however each of them was slightly flawed as they are all hidden too low in their email. They linked to their RSS feed capability, allowed you to forward to a friend and gave the ability to subscribe if you were forwarded an email… but each of these become lost as they are low in the email.

On their first additional message, Michael’s did a great job of using both text and background colors to develop an email design that is images off friendly. However, even though they have incorporated this tactic, they fall behind at the same time since none of their images included alt tags. This is especially evident when you reach the coupon section of the email (like Hobby Lobby… once again too low in the creative) and you have no indication there is a coupon without images enabled. They also successfully incorporated a forward link at the top of their message and remind their subscribers to add them to their address book to ensure delivery.

We have identified some flaws in this first message from Michael’s in addition to some successful best practice items, however in their second message it is hard to find a single item to praise. The email is comprised entirely of images… and not a single one contains an alt tag – leaving you with a completely blank email with images off. This leaves me wondering why they didn’t take the same text and background color approach they used on the first message as the entire right side of this message could have been achieved with text.

EMAIL PREFERENCE OPTIONS

In offering preference options Michael’s falls behind their competitors, as they only provide a simple unsubscribe link on all messages. Both Hobby Lobby and Jo-Ann instead provide robust preference capabilities that may assist in retaining subscribers.

Hobby Lobby features an “Update Your Subscription” link at the top of each message which takes you to an easy form to check off the subscriptions you would like.

Jo-Ann takes a slightly different approach with their link (at the base of emails) leading to a page that allows you to select to receive all emails or fewer… even spelling out the estimated frequency related to these options.

Watch for our next edition in the coming weeks in which we will evaluate the campaigns of 3 new competitors!

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