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Amazon Leads Holiday Retailers Across Key Metrics of Email Marketing Activity and Performance

Our previous holiday email recap, which we published two weeks ago, looked at retail email marketing activity in the run-up and immediate aftermath of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Today’s update focuses on eight key retail brands, including: Amazon; four major full-line, multi-channel retail brands (Macy’s, Target, Kohl’s and Walmart); and three major big-box specialists with substantial holiday gift assortments (Toys R Us, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Best Buy).

Most Key Brands Increased Holiday Email Activity and Read Rates, but Many Met Declining Deliverability

The table below shows activity and performance information for each of these brands, covering the period between the day after Cyber Monday (November 29th) and Saturday, December 10th. Year-ago comparisons are made with dates that correspond with comparable days of the week for that same period.

Activity differentials are what we’d expect: Amazon and Walmart own the top numbers. Except for Toys R Us and Walmart, all brands increased their number of email campaigns versus last year, within a range of 111% (Target) and 32% (Macy’s).

Amazon produced the top read rates in this group. Year-over-year read rate increases occurred for all brands except Amazon, Dick’s and Best Buy. Target drove the largest increase (40%); Dick’s saw the largest decrease (18%).

With the exception of Dick’s, all brands maintained inbox placement exceeding 90%. However, all brands’ inbox placement eroded versus last year – except for Macy’s – and most seriously at Dick’s. Contact frequency may be an issue here. As a sample of one, this writer has been receiving up to five emails per day from Dick’s during this holiday mailing period.

Retailer / YearCampaigns MailedRead %Inbox %
Toys R Us
Dick's Sporting Goods
Best Buy
2016 time period from 11/29-12/10; 2015 time period from 12/1-12/12


Top-Performing Emails, Subject Line Key Findings

The following table shows an example of a top-performing email during this period for each of these brands. They’re ranked by read rate, and as usual, Amazon occupies the top of this list. Other highlights:

·         They all appear to be somewhat or very targeted, given send-size as a percentage of estimated list size.

·         There are product references in six of the eight subject lines shown.

·         Four of those subject lines also contain implicit or explicit price promotion.

·         Two other subject lines are also price-promotional.

·         There is only one direct reference to “Holiday.”

·         “Cyber Week” is referenced in one email which deployed on the second day after Cyber Monday.


BrandDateQuantitySubjectRead %
Amazon10-Dec603KNow on markdown: Shoes for every occasion37.0
Macy's 8-Dec572KMichael Kors: The season's best looks have arrived32.3
Target5-Dec1.0MSurprise! Coupon for $10 off holiday decorations inside25.2
Dick's Sporting Goods4-Dec453KHot Golf Deals Going On NOW!24.9
Kohl's5-Dec5.8MFLASH SALE: Extra 15% off + another 25% off for 7 hours only. HURRY!20.5
Best Buy6-Dec3.5MXbox One S & 4K TV for $599.98. It's good to be a gamer.20.3
Walmart8-Dec265KThe latest LG phone is waiting for you18.3
Toys R Us30-Nov982KDon't Miss These Great Cyber Week Deals!17.2

We’ll be back with our next Holiday Recap just after the Christmas weekend.  Happy Holidays!