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 Planet Fitness, Walmart, Home Depot, and more. We hope you enjoy them — and learn from them — as much as we do.
Hall of Fame:
AMC Stubs A-List, the movie theatre chain’s top-tier membership program
Who doesn’t love free movies? AMC Stubs A-List allows subscribers to see up to three free movies per week and book tickets online with no service fee. (And that’s just for starters.) This order confirmation email makes all of that crystal clear to the customer, showing which movie they’re seeing, at which theatre, when, and the fact that the total cost is a big, fat zero, nada, zilch.
This email provides everything the customer needs to know, clearly and concisely, with no unnecessary information, all in a perfectly on-brand package. We love the app promo and hope 🤞 it’s a conditional based on the fact that the user doesn’t already have it. And letting the customer know they can enjoy an adult beverage is great but a reminder about membership concession perks or an ‘upcoming movies you might like‘ section also wouldn’t be out of place. But overall, it’s still a great email.
Quip, the electric toothbrush company
A good referral program should reward both parties but even better is when the reward also furthers engagement by making it easy to refer more friends. That’s exactly what this email from quip does. Quip offers reasonably priced electric toothbrushes with subscription-based refills for brush heads and batteries, which both arrive every three months like clockwork.
Despite the slightly awkward phrasing, the subject line clearly lets the customer know they have received a $5 refill credit. And the reason for that credit is someone they referred has signed up.
Personalizing the email with the referred friend’s name is an exceptional touch, giving the customer the opportunity to say thank you. But beyond that, the email is clean and simple, providing no extraneous information, with a clear and obvious CTA to refer more friends. And that $5 refill credit covers one full refill, so who wouldn’t want to refer more friends?
Planet Fitness, the fitness center chain
This welcome email provides the new member with details about their home club and a list of their membership benefits. It’s on-brand and to the point, with a clear CTA to the user’s online account.
This email looks great while accomplishing exactly what it’s supposed to — getting a new member excited about the gym membership they just purchased and all the associated benefits and perks. Hey, it even made a hugely workout-averse colleague want to sign up, so it must be good. 🏋️♀️💪
Hall of Shame:
Walmart, the retail giant
Okay, so at first glance, this review request from Walmart doesn’t look all that bad. It’s on-brand, clear and concise, with some promotional content to re-engage the customer. But look closer and the problems multiply.
First of all, that giant 2-day shipping promo has nothing to do with the purpose of the email. There’s absolutely no reason it should be displayed so prominently. Providing promotional content within a transactional email is a huge opportunity but it should never distract from the email’s primary purpose, as it so blatantly does here. It should also be personalized based on the customer’s current purchase, their purchase history, or their recently browsed items. There is absolutely nothing personal about the 2-day shipping offer. Walmart would have done better to place it lower down, closer to the recommendations.
Granted, there are some product recommendations further down that appear to be related to the current purchase. But click through and you discover that the links point to product category pages, not specific items. And one of those categories is TVs – the very thing this customer just bought.
Way to go all-in on the personalized offers, Walmart. 🙄
But all that said, there is a far bigger problem with this email, one you can’t actually see. This request for a product review was sent to the customer two days after they returned the item, making it a pretty safe bet their verdict would not be good.
This was a case where an online purchase returned in-store failed to update the customer’s data — either in time or at all, we’ll never know — and stop this automated email from being sent. It’s a situation we see far too often and one that connected, consolidated data can prevent.
United, the Friendly Skies airline
Ummm… why would an airline send an email notifying a passenger that their flight has started boarding when odds are that passenger is — at that very moment — waiting at the gate to board the plane?
Triggered and transactional emails are great for providing important information at crucial points along the customer journey. But sending a ‘your flight is boarding’ email feels like an email sent just for the sake of it, something intended to look like great service while actually serving little to no purpose at all.
And even overlooking the email’s lack of usefulness, it’s still pretty shameful. Just one line of text, with no links and zero personalization, and a header and footer that are twice the size of the email body, each. An in-app push notification or an SMS message would have accomplished the same thing. No, correction — either one would have been a vast improvement.
Home Depot, the home improvement retailer
This email is intended to notify the customer that an online order is ready for pick up in-store. But just like the Walmart example above, the email arrived two days after the customer already picked up their order.
But even aside from that major faux pas, the email itself is pretty horrific. Way too heavy on the text, providing way too much information the customer doesn’t need while failing to include the most important detail — what it was the customer actually ordered. See that broken image followed by the blank line, right under the Order Summary header? That’s supposed to be the item image and name. Without those the model number that appears in the Order Summary is meaningless.