MAKE IT POP!: Email Takes on the Economy

We all know that America’s economy is hurting and that a lot of people (even those who aren’t personally feeling the crunch) are worried enough to slow down their virtual and in-store shopping trips. Retailers aren’t lying down and waiting for the storm to pass, though. Let’s take a look at some of the interesting marketing emails that have been delivered by retailers working to push through the slump.

Creative Sales. Many retailers have responded to slow spending by getting more inventive with their sale techniques and infusing great deals with a sense of urgency.

Old Navy‘s “Early Columbus Day Sale,” with its 1,492 items priced at $14.92 or less, takes the cake for creativity in the sale category. Who would think that Columbus Day could feel like cause for retail excitement? It’s early and limited-time, so it feels urgent, too.

Threadless also has a sweet deal with a deadline, selling Girl’s Tees (usually $18) starting at just $12 until Oct 12. The urgency and the significant savings strengthen the sale.

Moosejaw‘s sale email generates extra excitement with its exclusivity, sending each subscriber their very own secret code that yields one of (what we must assume is) a selection of discount offers.

J. Crew and Horchow are just two of many retailers who have been pushing limited-time free shipping messages over the past couple weeks. J. Crew’s include the cute seasonal touch of asking subscribers to enter code “ACORN” at checkout, and both Horchow and J. Crew have sent multiple reminder count-down emails.

Straight Talk. Some have opted to confront the economic downturn head-on by mentioning it and even joking about it.

Restoration Hardware sent a one-day-only “spend $400, save $100” voucher with a bailout theme on October 2. They may have missed the mark—as a joke, it’s a bit off-color and politically-slanted. They were using current events creatively, which can be clever, but they probably should have played with something less controversial and stressful for many subscribers. launched a new Real Estate service on October 2, which they introduced in a letter at the bottom of this email beforehand. In the introductory letter, they remind subscribers that is committed to helping subscribers save money, and the letter makes their new service seem on-brand and sincerely subscriber-focused.

Splendora also takes a branded attitude towards the economic crisis that is gutsy and dismissive, urging subscribers to check out the upcoming trends that they’ll be able to shop after this “little rough patch.”

Spend and Save. In line with Restoration Hardware’s discount approach (but without the bailout theme), Bloomingdales, Boden and Neiman Marcus, among others, offered limited-time, “Buy More, Save More,” offers (as Bloomie’s called theirs). These not only encourage higher spending; they also encourage spending NOW, before the offer expires. The messages warn subscribers that their offer isn’t waiting for Wall Street to stop reeling, and neither should you.

Many retailers are feeling the squeeze, and we’re sure to see more and more unique approaches to email as the situations unfold.

Still spending,
Lisa Harmon and Alex Madison of Smith-Harmon

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