Make It Pop!: From the Inbox to the Store: Using Email to Bring People into Retail Locations


For too long, too many marketers have underestimated the value of email’s impact on offline retail. Some believe that email marketing boosts only online sales, when in actuality cross-channel messaging carries high value across brand sales, reinforcing relationships with customers and, when optimally leveraged, alerting them to brick-and-mortar sales and events.

We’ve been seeing a wide range of approaches to retail store messaging in email. Here are some noteworthy tactics to try:

In-Store Discounts: Entice subscribers into stores by telling them about a special deal that they can’t get online. Victoria’s Secret advertises a lotion giveaway only available in stores. Betsey Johnson‘s email alerts subscribers to an in-store-only “spend more, get more” gift card offer, where customers receive a gift card with their purchase, increasing in amount depending on their spending level. QFC invites subscribers to check out sale items at their local store, since deals vary across locations.

Printable Store Coupons Bar Codes: Including barcodes or printable coupons in email, like Half Price Books and Janie and Jack, is becoming more common. It provides a way to measure the success of email in bringing people into stores, and is an effective way for email marketers to show marketing managers how the value of email reaches beyond online sales. The Container Store email gives a bit of a tease, asking subscribers to click to find out what the in-store offer is. While this has its charm, the extra step of requiring subscribers to click and download might deter some.

Exclusive In-Store Products and Events: Email is an excellent way to spread the word about events or special offers happening only in stores. Starbucks sends a local events calendar that not only promotes the opening of a new store, but also demonstrates Starbucks’ interest in their larger community. Pottery Barn Kids includes a module at the bottom of their retail customer messages about upcoming events at local stores, and REI promotes one of their free classes in a dynamic module.

Promoting the In-Store Experience: Detailing excellent customer service offerings, such as the personal shopper touted in this J.Crew message, encourages subscribers to come in and interact with a brand representative in real life. This J.Crew message did miss an opportunity to dynamically populate the email with the subscriber’s local store info (I know J.Crew has my address). Similarly, Apple reminds subscribers both of their great in-store service by including a picture of a blue-shirted expert alongside store offerings, and also by using beautiful store photography to make subscribers eager to experience in-store shopping.

In-Store Charity Events: Using email to spread the word about in-store charity events both encourages involvement and reinforces a positive brand image. Gap’s Give and Get program offers subscribers a printable coupon. White House Black Market invites subscribers in for “A Special Evening to Give Hope,” during which shoppers received a discount and a portion of proceeds went to the organization Living Beyond Breast Cancer. The invitation makes the event seem like a special experience that subscribers don’t want to miss.

Prominent Store Directions: It’s becoming more and more common for emails to include subscribers’ local store info, as in REI holiday email and this Crate and Barrel email. When brands don’t have subscribers’ location information, most include links inviting subscribers to find their local store, as at the bottom of this Pottery Barn email.

Invitations to New Store Openings: When brands have subscribers’ location information, email is an effective way to spread the word about new store openings. Williams-Sonoma includes a special offer to encourage subscribers to come check out their new space. Urban Outfitters’ store announcement takes it up a notch. Their creative shows a theme that fits city, includes an early bird offer to ensure a crowd when the doors open, and shows their commitment to the community by announcing their donation to a local scholarship fund.

Personalized Invitations to Loyal Subscribers: The least common (but most awesome!) way email is used to get subscribers into stores is a personal email from a sales associate to loyal customers. Nordstrom personally invited their most loyal customers in for a sale screening before their anniversary sale.

Get the most bang from the inbox by optimizing cross-channel marketing opportunities. Remember that there’s likely much overlap between your most loyal email subscribers and your loyal store visitors, and when there isn’t overlap, aspire to create it!

Faithfully in Email and In-Store,
Lisa Harmon and Alex Madison, Smith-Harmon

–>Read other Make it Pop! posts.