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 Bank of America, SEMRush, Air Canada, and more. We hope you enjoy them — and learn from them — as much as we do.
Hall of Fame:
Splitwise, the app for friends and roommates to track and split rent, bills, travel expenses, and more
This is a great example of a clear, straightforward payment notification. It includes who paid, how much they paid, and what group they paid in (helpful for people splitting expenses with multiple groups). The email includes everything the user needs to know, with nothing unnecessary to clutter things up.
You know how we go on about how horrible ‘no reply’ transactional emails are? Waxing poetic about the importance of the user being able to hit ‘reply’ to get answers from a real person? Well, Splitwise takes that to the next level — hitting ‘reply’ on this email won’t just reach a real person, it will reach the very person who made the payment. No need to hunt down an email address or sign in to the app to send a message. We think that’s a pretty darned exceptional customer experience.
SEMrush, the online visibility and marketing analytics software
We love a good onboarding email and we especially love a good onboarding checklist. The variety of tools an SEMrush subscription offers (over 30 and counting) can feel more than a bit overwhelming to a new user. This onboarding checklist provides a set of logical (and manageable) steps to get started.
Ignoring the awkwardly worded copy and focusing just on the checklist, it’s a near-perfect list that provides a great balance between links to get started using the actual tools and links to information and education to give the new user some direction. And bonus points for the option to provide feedback directly from within the email.
YogaGlo, the online yoga platform
This is the welcome email YogaGlo sent to customers upon downloading the app and signing up for a free trial. The email is fun, straightforward, and perhaps most importantly for a yoga app, unintimidating. The graphic images appeal to beginners while the photos appeal to more advanced yogis, and the primary CTA — [Take your first class] — is exactly what a new user, of any level, is most likely to want to do first.
The secondary CTAs could probably have waited for a subsequent email, or those links could be made available upon signing in, but at least they’re unobtrusive.
Those cartoon-like graphics are awesome. As any beginner walking into a yoga studio for the first time will tell you, yoga can be pretty intimidating for newcomers. But those graphics make yoga feel fun and accessible to anyone.
(There is, however, some bad news: YogaGlo is now Glo and their welcome email has changed. And not for the better. You might just see it in a future Hall of Shame. Sigh.)
Hall of Shame:
Bank of America, the American multinational investment bank and financial services company
When you consider the fact that Bank of America is the second largest bank in the US, with over two trillion USD in assets, this statement notification is pretty horrific. Plain text isn’t necessarily a bad thing but this kind of plain text is straight out of 1998, with URLs as long as your arm and absolutely zero useful information besides the last four digits of the customer’s account number. Has Bank of America never heard of addressing a customer by name? HTML? A CTA? Even simple, hyperlinked text, for crying out loud?
Not only that, it’s from a ‘no-reply’ email address. They very helpfully provide an address where the customer can forward suspicious emails (really?), but there is nothing even remotely resembling an option to contact the bank for help.
And that half-hearted attempt to include promotional content? Where do we even begin? The mention of the app certification and JD Power link are an irrelevant waste of space. The customer simply won’t care. And that random-looking ‘Ask Erica’ line is actually a reference to their app’s voice assistant — (um, wait, their app has a voice assistant but their emails look like this?) — which could potentially be helpful but here it has no context. It’s meaningless for both customers who don’t use the app and those who do but have never used Erica. The very next line, promoting the app, sort of recognizes that they may be talking to non-app users but including both the Erica reference and the app promo doesn’t make much sense.
How hard would it be to promote the app to those who aren’t already using it and provide the ‘Ask Erica’ tidbit (but with some improved context) to those who do? Not hard at all, Bank of America, not hard at all. (Give us a call, we can help you out with that.)
Air Canada, Canada’s biggest airline
We can’t help but notice that when an airline is trying to sell you something — airfare deals to Europe, tropical vacation packages, etc. — their emails are stunningly gorgeous. They’re quite adept at tempting us with professionally taken photos of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and crystal blue waves lapping against white sand beaches. But once you’ve booked your trip, the transactional messages that follow — from the booking confirmation to the check-in reminder, to the electronic boarding pass — tend to look like this example from Air Canada. 🤦♀️
It’s plain text — again — with full URLs rather than hyperlinks, no greeting at all let alone one that addresses the customer by name, and from a ‘no-reply’ address. But unlike Bank of America, Air Canada does at least provide a link to their support site.
We recently featured an electronic boarding pass email from Westjet, another Canadian airline, and while it, too, was pretty shameful, comparing it to this one has us thinking we might have been a bit hard on it. (No — scratch that — its problems were real.) But at least it was an HTML email with hyperlinked text rather than full URLs. The best part of that Westjet email, though, was the boarding pass itself — it was attached as a JPEG image, fast and easy to open on any mobile device, even without internet access.
Air Canada’s boarding pass link, on the other hand, opens in a browser, meaning you have to be connected to open it. And who wants to be stuck in an airport with notoriously fickle wifi and spotty cell service, fiddling with trying to open a link in a browser while an overworked TSA agent glares and the line behind you threatens to stampede? No, thanks. Give us that JPEG any day.
Salesforce, the CRM platform
Holy URL, Batman!
What, exactly, was Salesforce thinking? A password reset email does not have to look like this. There’s absolutely no reason it can’t be properly branded HTML, and personalizing with more than the customer’s email-address-as-username is ridiculously easy, as is replacing that butt-ugly URL with a proper CTA button.
What else is there to say?