Welcome to our monthly Email Hall of Fame / Hall of Shame, highlighting some the best and worst transactional and triggered emails.
This month’s selection features emails from Grammarly, Sephora, AT&T, and more. We hope you enjoy them — and learn from them — as much as we do.
Hall of Fame:
Williams Sonoma, the kitchen and housewares retailer
This email, sent to the person who placed the order, is a delivery confirmation for an item that was ordered and shipped as a gift. It’s always nice to receive an email confirming delivery but it’s especially important when the customer orders something that’s to be shipped to someone else. And this email includes everything that matters — item details, including image, when it was delivered and to whom, with a single CTA to track the shipment and confirm it was delivered to the right place.
Granted, it might not make much sense to recommend more grills to someone who has just had one delivered, but this was a gift, so the purchaser may still need one. And kudos to Williams Sonoma for including product recommendations at all — too many retailers completely miss this cross/upsell opportunity in transactional emails.
The minimalist, almost plain-text look and feel of the email perfectly reflects the Williams Sonoma website, right down to the font. And the extra details, like mentioning the fact the item was gift wrapped and including the full text of the gift message to the recipient, combine to make this email Hall of Fame worthy.
Grammarly, the grammar checking platform
This opt-in weekly report from Grammarly is everything a good app notification should be. It shows the user’s productivity, accuracy, and vocabulary stats for the week, comparing them to previous weeks. Stats that demonstrate what the user is doing well improve engagement, encouraging the user to continue using the platform in order to keep improving. Not only that, the user’s stats are also compared to those of other Grammarly users — nothing like a bit of healthy competition to inspire buy-in.
Grammarly is all about correcting errors, so this email goes a step further to also show the user their Top 3 Mistakes, including how many times each occurred. We don’t know about you but 251 missing commas and 161 missing periods — all of which were fixed — would definitely make us grateful for Grammarly.
And then there’s that upgrade offer. The purpose of every app notification email, especially for free products, is two-fold: to encourage user engagement and to demonstrate the value of the product in order to encourage users to upgrade. Grammarly’s usefulness is made abundantly clear by the stats in this email, and even though the benefits of going premium could be better spelled out, who can argue with 50% off?
Sephora, the beauty retailer
This email is an example of a growing trend — an email receipt for an in-store purchase. What an awesome idea. While Sephora is by no means the first retailer to do this, by offering an emailed receipt they’re digitally engaging in-store shoppers and encouraging email sign-ups. And as an added bonus, it’s good for the environment.
The email is simple and straightforward, including an itemized receipt for the items purchased, with images, payment method, and store details such as address and store number. And it’s 100% on brand, reflecting both the in-store and online Sephora shopping experience.
Hall of Shame:
Interac e-Transfer, the e-transfer arm of the network that serves as the Canadian electronic transaction and debit card system
Oh, dear. Interac has been around since 1984 and this email looks like it might be almost that old as well.
When a Canadian consumer uses Interac e-Transfer to send funds to an individual or business, they do so through their financial institution. Most Canadians think of it like this, “I’m transferring money from my bank account to [Uncle Bob / Chuck the babysitter / Barb the mobile mechanic]’s account at their bank.” They know Interac is involved in the transaction *somehow* but they don’t really give it much thought. They just see it as transferring money from their bank account to someone else’s.
So when an email like this one arrives, it can be a very poor customer experience. The average consumer would expect the confirmation email to come from their bank, in this case, TD Canada Trust. TD’s name does appear as the ‘From’ name and once again in the footer, in a very faint, grey font, but nowhere else. The email itself is wholly branded as Interac. How confusing is that? Especially when we’re talking about something as sensitive as banking and electronic funds transfers?
But not only that, why is the customer’s name in bolded ALL CAPS? Bolded text is often a good way to call out the most important information, but does that apply to the customer’s name? Maybe it’s just us but aren’t the recipient’s name and the amount a bit more important? And all caps? Completely unnecessary, as is addressing the customer by their full name, including middle initial.
AT&T, the telecommunications giant
You can’t see it here but the ‘From’ address for this email is terrible — email@example.com. Looks an awful lot like a spoofed address but it is, unfortunately, legit.
And AT&T should know better. The link at the bottom of the email points to Cyber Aware, AT&T’s hub for security awareness and education. Their page on phishing includes advice to, “Only open emails from a sender you know and trust,” which begs the question: would an average consumer consider firstname.lastname@example.org a sender they know and trust? Possibly but anyone even slightly cautious would probably be skeptical.
Beyond that horrible ‘From’ address, the email isn’t the worst we’ve seen but it could definitely use some improvement. The copy could be pared down to just the pertinent information. For instance, the sentence explaining what to use the password for can be cut completely; whether or not it was the customer who reset their password, they already know what it’s for. And a contact option besides a telephone number would be a welcome addition — sending from an email address that accepts replies would be ideal. Finally, there’s no reason the link to Cyber Aware shouldn’t be a proper CTA button.
Westjet, the Canadian airline
Ummm, pretty much everything? (With one exception, but we’ll get to that later.)
Let’s start with that subject line — what the hell were they thinking? ‘e-BP HNL-YVR (VNYIQW)’ is meaningless. And there is no ‘From’ name to help, just a generic email address, email@example.com.
And remember that old adage, ‘Don’t bury the lede?’ Well, Westjet has elected to open this email with, ‘This is an automated email. Please do not reply.’ And they bolded it. Come on, Westjet, at least tell us what the email’s about before saying you don’t want to hear from us.
And even though the email does include some flight information, it’s limited to the flight number, departure date and time, and ticket number. It would be very helpful to also mention the originating and destination airports, the passenger’s seat number and boarding group, and the departure gate (if known). Even Westjet’s company name is conspicuously missing from the email body — it’s not even in the footer. (Oh, wait — there is no footer.) Providing as much information as possible in the subject line, preheader, and within the email itself would eliminate the need to open the boarding pass for anything other than going through security and actually boarding the plane.
And to top everything else off, Westjet knows the customer’s language preference — in this case, English — so every bit of French copy is unnecessary. If there’s a reason the airline feels they must provide the information in both official languages, they could send the email in the customer’s chosen language and include a link to view the email in the alternative, i.e. ‘Voir cet email en français’.
Finally, there is no CTA in this email, just a text link to ‘minimum cut-off times for check-in or baggage drop’. How engaging. Where’s the link to book your next flight or find your next vacation? Or a link to onboard entertainment options or meal choices? How about a link to join the airline’s loyalty program? There is so much more Westjet could do with this email but instead, it’s a missed opportunity.
Oh — that exception we mentioned? The fact that the attached boarding pass is a JPG image is pretty awesome. Most airlines attach PDF boarding passes, which aren’t always the easiest to open on mobile devices. This JPG opens fast, with a single click, each and every time. Kudos for that, Westjet.
If you have any transactional emails you’d like to suggest for either the Hall of Fame or the Hall of Shame, we’d love to see them. Simply forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org.