Jet.com: Cool mail, but lacking strong call to action

When I moved to New York City, I joke that I learned that as a New Yorker, I was obligated to greet people by saying either “How you doing?”, or “Up yours!” I typically prefer the former. I also learned how much convenience plays into how a New Yorker chooses where to do business – where to get a haircut, where to shop, etc. In some parts of the city, there are three TDBanks within 10 blocks because, well, that’s convenient. Who wants to cross a pair of busy intersections just to get $20 from an ATM?  Not a New Yorker.

So, even though most New Yorkers live within a mile of brick-and-mortar stores that have everything they need, they are still likely to purchase dry goods online. It goes back to convenience. After all, having a box arrive at your doorstep with your laundry detergent is easier than having to lug that weight home from the supermarket.

Enter jet.com. According to Wikipedia, the company was formed three years ago. Originally, the company had branded itself as the “biggest thing in shopping since shopping.” However, about two years ago, it was purchased outright by Walmart. Based on this CNN story and other articles found online, jet is being positioned as a site for higher-income urban millennials. Here in New York City, television advertising and subway billboard ads communicate the ability to purchase curated brands and city essentials in one place. That seems convenient. This ad, showing a New Yorker being gawked at by tourists, is locally-centric. The landing page is also themed around shopping while living in The Big Apple. On my first visit to their landing page, I am greeted with a serene, winter picture of the East River. 
Jet.com's NYC Landing page

Scrolling down, I find the opportunity to purchase kale and an iPad.
Below the fold on landing page

Which brings us to their self-mailer.
Address panel

It is the second one I have received in as many weeks. Creatively, it is on-brand and on-message. It uses the same tagline and reflects the same sales proposition around the ability to purchase brands relevant to New Yorkers who are, presumably, like myself. And, while I’m not a millennial and I don’t know what Walmart defines as high-income, this is not a Fail for Targeting because, based on my zip code, I live in an area populated with people who fit that target market. 
First fold-out panel with small call to action

The call to action is subtle. One has to unfold the self-mailer partially but not completely to find the call to action to shop at jet.com. It’s not even to make a purchase – just to shop. It appears to me that this mailer is barely above branding piece, a supplement to the mass media advertising that conveys jet.com’s image and sales proposition. 
Next fold-out panel

Final fold-out panel. No call to action

Intuitively, I would think that if the purpose of this self-mailer were to bring traffic to the site and encourage near-term purchase activity, including of an incentive specific to the mailer would be useful -- even something minor but specific that might encourage immediacy. Maybe “$5 off your first purchase by 11/30/18” or “Free shipping on any size purchase with your first order in 2018.”  These would include a personalized promo code so it is not misused by people in the public domain and sales resulting from the mailing can be tracked. Jet.com’s check-out process already includes an input field for promo codes, so the infrastructure is in place. And doing so would not jeopardize the aspiring high-end brand image – after all, even Tiffany and Lexus have promotional offers from time to time. This looks like a Fail for Offer.

Perhaps there was a conscious decision to not include an incentive with consideration of the target market. Maybe the expense for a self-mailer is categorized by Wal-mart as merely brandingThere is a school of thought in marketing that millennials are not interested in discounts (such as in this article). However, some marketers have arrived at the conclusion that finding the best deals impact millennials’ shopping decisions. One should also consider that some recipients of these self-mailers are not millennials and are watching their dollars.

Maybe Jet’s management is trying to be as unlike Walmart as feasible. That’s understandable given the investment in jet.com’s new brand positioning. Nevertheless, I would at the very least execute an A/B test of Incentive vs No Incentive and include a useful means of tracking customers against the mailing list. 

My question to jet.com marketing leaders regarding the success of these mail campaigns is the same as how I would greet them here in New York: “How you doing?”

1. Consider an incentive and a timely call to action to encourage immediacy of purchase activity, if that is your marketing goal.
2. Including a unique tracking code is an excellent means of tracking response. 
3. Not sure what works?  Test your hypothesis.


Celebrity Cruises: Will 209 emails convince me to set sail?

In April, I wrote about Celebrity Cruises sending me an email once a day, on average. Every day is a new special – or, perhaps, the same special as yesterday that bears repeating! Nearly every email contains a limited time offer, so I’d better “Act Now!”

I received 207 209 emails since returning from a March cruise, making Celebrity’s near spam-like email solicitations a sad Fail for List.  (I started this morning with 207 emails but received 2 more in the past hour.)

Let’s recognize that going on a 3- to 14-night cruise to exclusive destinations (pardon me for absorbing their sales language) is not entirely an impulse purchase decision. If it were, then Celebrity would have offers that last a day or two rather than a week. But, hey, I’m not a cruise industry marketing expert.

Celebrity isn’t the only cruise line that continually hits homes with marketing communications. Every month for at least four years, I’ve received a mailer from Norwegian Cruise Lines. Every monthly mailer tours a destination and rotating offers such as on-board high-end dining, excursion credit, friends and family tag along for free, in-cabin Wi-Fi, or the opportunity to binge-drink at sea – also known as “unlimited open bar.”

The distinction between Norwegian’s and Celebrity’s marketing is that Norwegian’s printed and mailed offers include an aspirational flair: You want to be on the beach in the Caribbean or watching whales off the shore of Alaska. In contrast, Celebrity’s special-offer-of-the-day emails tend to be more transactional in nature. To be fair, maybe some of the emails strive for a more emotional resonance, but, even as a marketing professional, I’m not going to review all 200+ of them to find out.

Test the frequency of communications with your customers to learn what is the most responsive. Sometimes less is more.


MoMA: Failed Mail, But Is It Art?

I moved to New York City last July. Last week, I received the below solicitation for membership from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The Outer Envelope Teaser reads, “Welcome to the Neighborhood!” Inside is an offer of discounted membership “… available only for our new neighbors.” However, I moved to New York City last July.

Museum of Modern Art Solicitation
Inviting Outer Envelope
"Welcome to the Neighborhood!"

I can only speculate why I received a solicitation with this type of messaging after living here nearly a year. Did MoMA purchase a hot movers list that wasn’t so…hot? Did the mailer obtain my information several months ago but didn’t use it until now (e.g. a Fail for Timing)? If either of these is true, that is poor targeting (e.g., a Fail for List). Did MoMA know I moved more than 10 months ago but chose to position their solicitation as being for new residents? If so, that appears to me to be a Fail for Creative, because the messaging is not relevant.

Museum of Modern Art New York City
Front of letter

Museum of Modern Art New York City
Back of letter includes many membership level options

Aside from that point, creative execution is quite good. The package includes many of the elements known to support optimizing response:
  • Outer Envelope. The outer envelope clearly identifiers the sender. It is stamped, which suggests a personal correspondence. The teaser “Welcome to the Neighborhood!” is in an inviting color.
  • Letter. In lieu of a typical Johnson Box, the letter tastefully displays what a new member might expect to enjoy at the MoMA. Displaying the organization name and return address on the side (as well as choosing a font that visually matches the MoMA brand identity) is inviting. The interior highlight colors match the outer envelope teaser. The copy describes the overall benefits of membership and is inviting. The letter is personally signed by a relevant individual, and it closes with a postscript that reinforces the offer. 
  • Buckslip. The buckslip insert clearly and simply reinforces basic membership benefits and includes a call to action.
    Museum of Modern Art Solicitation

    Museum of Modern Art Solicitation
    Buckslip insert
  • Personalized Response Form. The Membership Acceptance Statement already has the prospective member’s name and address. The form includes mention of to whom to make out a check and includes an option to pay the membership fee using a major credit card. 
  • Business Reply Envelope. The reply envelope is postage-paid, meaning the recipient won’t need to spend effort finding an envelope or a stamp. The FIM Bar and barcode will ensure smooth and fast response delivery.

Museum of Modern Art Solicitation
Standard Business Reply Envelope
Prepaid postage allows for easy return & fast delivery

This solicitation may also deserve a Fail for Offer, because there are too many and they are confusing. The front of the letter lists four membership options, while the back of the letter lists nine – with costs ranging from $70 to a whopping $6,000. If the people being solicited are new to the neighborhood, they are likely not ready to put down more than a couple hundred dollars on membership at a museum. They may also not be willing to take the time to understand the difference between the $70 “Global” membership listed on the back and the $70 “Individual” membership listed on the front. This forces the consumer to make a decision within a decision – to first make a decision whether to be a member and then to make a secondary decision regarding the type of member to be. Forcing the secondary decision risks prospective member frustration, which leads to delayed or no action on the primary decision.

It would be worthwhile to communicate only two to four entry-level options for new members, then take action to upsell them later when they call to join – or upon their first enjoyable visit to the museum.

In addition to caring for the Fails, there are a few minor optimizations I would consider with this type of solicitation:

  • Open the letter with the recipient’s name. Perhaps there wasn’t space with this design; but, if you are going to take the effort of having a personal-style letter solicitation, open with “Dear Marc Davis” – or, if the list source data allows, “Dear Marc.” 
  • Explain some elements a bit better. When communicating museum features and benefits, consider the fact that the intended recipient is new to New York City. For example, the back of the letter and the buckslip mention free admission to “MoMA PS1.” A new neighbor might confuse that with something related to a SonyPlayStation
  • Reinforce the promo code. To get the discount, the new member has to enter a promo code mentioned in the body of the letter. Someone simply scanning the letter, however, would be hard pressed to find it. It should be listed in the Acceptance Statement in #1 under “Four easy ways to join” and it could be reinforced in the postscript. 
  • Create a matching landing page. The current call to action mentions moma.org/join, which appears to be the standard page for new member enrollment. Unfortunately, that page has even more options than the letter – creating even more potential for confusing prospective members – and the page also doesn’t reference the new member discount. This means the recipient of the letter couldn’t use it to get the targeted discount. A matching landing page can have an inviting URL (i.e., moma.org/newneighbor), visually match the solicitation, and show only simplified, relevant membership levels at the offered price without forcing the new member to enter a promo code. In addition, quantifying page visits can support gauging overall prospective membership interest resulting from the solicitation. 
  • Avoid the zip+4 on the outer envelope return address. This bit of technical accuracy doesn’t help optimize mailing the package and detracts from the light, personal feeling of the solicitation. 
One needs creative skills to design the right type of communication for the target audience to mail at the best time. But is it art? Well, maybe – but the actions of measuring, testing, learning, and optimizing mean it is also math.

Maybe, one day, MoMA will have an exhibit featuring creative elements of successful direct mail, perhaps next to a Swatch Jellyfish watch or Macintosh classic desktop computer

  1. When choosing to communicate to prospective customers around life events, make sure your list source is accurate – and mail on a timely basis.
  2. When soliciting new customers to your program, offer few and simple options.

(Edited to correct hyperlinks.)


University of Delaware gets informal with me

I received this email from the University of Delaware this morning:

Email to Blue Hen Alumni
Page 1 of 5

The Fail for Creative is that the Subject Line contains what appears to be HTML rather than my first name.

I could joke that this is also a targeting Fail because the invitation is for a Yankees game and I'm a Mets fan, but perhaps fellow Blue Hen alumni prefer to root for a winning team.

Lesson: Before sending a personalized email, verify that all variable fields are properly displaying the correct information.


Beam: Beam Me Up!

This email from Beam was sent out yesterday.

Meetbeam.com reference
Journey email from Beam

The email makes no mention of the product or service, or what the Journey is about.  A person who received this might wonder, "Is this something I requested? Is this a PR Announcement?  Is it spam?"  In fact, the person who forwarded it to me thought this was a product that helped transmit information when in fact it is a banking site.  This lack of reinforcement messaging is a Fail for Creative.

Perhaps the people at Beam ("Beamers?") were so excited about their launch, they forgot that the thousands of people who expressed an interest in their banking service may have forgot what it was about when they originally expressed that interest.  

Lesson: Reinforce your product and benefits, even in an email update.  


Celebrity Cruises: My Ship Comes in Again… and Again… and Again…

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had planned to cruise on Celebrity Cruise Lines. At some point, when booking excursions, I must have opted in for marketing communications. I know this because, in addition to communications regarding the cruise, I received emails with limited-time deals for upcoming cruises. Many, many emails. In the month after the last day of my cruise, I received 37 emails from Celebrity. (That was yesterday.  As I post this blog, the count it now 39.)  That’s more than an email per day with a marketing offer to make the major travel purchase of a cruise.

In digging through these emails, however, I did receive two that addressed my recent cruise. One was a polite thanks for our sailing. It arrived five days after we disembarked. That’s timely. 

The next relevant email arrived two days later with the subject line of, “Marc, Thank you for sailing with us.” As a quick proofreading note: I would not have capitalized “Thank you” when preceded by a comma, but at least the messaging was relevant to my experience – with a timely call to action to book another cruise. Disney is effective using similar techniques when reaching out to their customers after a trip to The Magic Kingdom.

What Disney may not do is spam the crap out of their customers. I have too many emails to display here, with subject lines like, “Last Day – Do NOT miss these low fares to Alaska.” (March 26); “Now ending: Savings for all, plus TWO free perks” (April 2); “Exciting Deals is coming to an end. Last day tomorrow.” (April 8) “Just arrived! Just arrived! New offer to Alaska gets 50% off.” (April 9). I received two emails on the same day: “Marc, it’s Funday Sunday, perfect for booking an Exciting Deals getaway.” (April 22, 10:15 am) and “Traveler, it’s Funday Sunday, perfect for booking an Exciting Deals getaway. (April 22, 10:27 am).

It appears to me that Celebrity’s Marketing Department uses the criteria to send promotional emails only on days ending in “y” – and that’s a Fail for Timing for sending too many emails too often. They become meaningless in the continued clutter of communications. It may also be that there are several marketing lists floating inside the Celebrity organization and they don’t relate them to the customer experience. If that is the case, and they are using a Spray and Pray method of marketing, that’s a Fail for List.

Know your customers. Communicate to them sparingly and with relevance – addressing them in the context of your customer relationship.


Celebrity Cruises: A Ship Came In, But It Wasn’t Mine

My wife and I are looking forward to a cruise with Celebrity in a few weeks on a ship sailing to a few locations in the Caribbean. Like any good marketing machine, Celebrity is sending us frequent reminders of our upcoming vacation while providing us with add-on solicitations: beverage packages, gourmet dining, and excursions. Until recently, these emails appeared to me to be well targeted (and enticing, but I digress). However, this email for One-of-a-Kind Modern Luxury Adventures misses the mark.

Celebrity Discovery Collection

Celebrity Discovery Collection

Celebrity Discovery Collection

The email visually represents a few exclusive opportunity excursions in Europe. As much as I’d like to go to Europe, I’m not. Perhaps the email was intended as a general sales communication of their new Celebrity Discovery Collection excursions. Perhaps the targeted population was everyone in their email communications list. If so, then the reference to “HERE’S A SAMPLE OF WONDERFUL EXCURSIONS FOR YOUR NEXT VACATION” is too assumptive, because my next vacation – and that of many other customers receiving the email – won’t be to Europe. 

If this email had been targeted as intended – a broad audience – then the headline should have read “HERE’S A SAMPLE OF WONDERFUL EXCURSIONS WITH CELEBRITY” or simply “HERE’S A SAMPLE OF WONDERFUL EXCURSIONS.” This merits a minor Fail for Creative, because the messaging is not aligned with the target audience. If the email had been targeted at upcoming European cruise customers, then it merits a more substantial Fail for Targeting, because it was sent to people not planning to sail to Europe.

It appears to me that Celebrity does not fully manage their customer communications.  Some emails are properly targeted and personalized, while others seem to have a Spray & Pray approach.  Specifically, they send the same communication to every email address they have.  Such emails fail at building and maintaining customer relationships.

Consider the best use of your small data, that is, the collection of information already available that can be used simply and effectively.

In the meantime, below is an example of a well-targeted upsell email complete with personalization and relevant visuals of available excursion opportunities. No Fails here.


Verizon Wireless: Winback Email That Does Not Win Me Back

Last June, I wrote about lack of communications from Verizon Wireless after I switched my mobile service to a different carrier. A couple months later, I started to receive winback offers shown below – offering a package deal price of $40 per line for four lines with unlimited usage.
Verizon Wireless
I need 1 line -- not 4

This is a Fail for List. Verizon had 15 years of customer history and could have easily discerned that I was a single-line, low-usage customer. An unlimited plan is not useful for me, much less a plan with three devices more than I need. Verizon Wireless doesn’t need to use Big Data to properly tailor its winback offers. Making smart use of Small Data – namely, the collection of information already available that can be used simply and effectively – would be sufficient to understand former customer needs and offer a service that is relevant. 
Verizon Wireless mail that fails
Page 2 of email -- fine print & disclosures

My supposition is that Verizon’s leadership has chosen to take a product proposition and push it out. As I write this, their mass media marketing focuses on unlimited usage offers on their better network. After 20 minutes on their confusing website, I’m not sure there is even a low-usage plan available anymore. 

Granted, the population of U.S. consumers using less than 4 GB per month is decreasing, but keeping or winning back a customer is always less expensive than winning an all-new customer. (To wit: As of this writing, Verizon Wireless is offering rebates of $150 and up to new customers.)  Keep the customers you have, then you can upsell and cross-sell them later to 5G, home FIOS, and other services.

The best way to win back former customers is to offer what your data suggests they want or need.


Borgata: Cyber Monday was so yesterday

Many years from now, people will look back and ask "What was Cyber Monday?  Why buy gifts only on one particular day of the week?"  But, we're not there in 2017.  Not only do retailers leverage Cyber Monday as a sales opportunity, so do resorts.

Sent on 11/28/17 (time stamp circled), touting special offers only on 11/27/17

This email from Borgata was sent mid-day on November 28, a day after Cyber Monday.  Not only does the email tout Cyber Monday deals, but it explicitly says in the disclosure below that the offers are valid only on November 27. 

This is a classic Fail for Timing.  It should have been sent on the morning of Cyber Monday, or even late in the day on Get Home From Thanksgiving Trip Sunday.

When you have a time-specific offer, even a short-term one, allow customers adequate time to respond.

Get your customers’ attention now

This article in the Wall Street Journal reviews mistakes that retailers are making in reaching out to customers via email during the holidays.  The article mentions that emails often fail to offer products relevant to their customers’ interests or are outdated upon arrival.

What the article doesn’t mention is that retailers often fail to make their case for immediate purchase upfront.  At this time of year with the gifting holiday imminent, retailers should put their purchasing sales proposition in the Subject Line and reinforce them at the opening of the body of the emails.  Inappropriate subject lines I’ve seen include:

“Cyber Monday Deals from Project Fi” (Google)
“We're Extending Cyber Monday to TUESDAY!” (Resorts World Bimini)
“SAVINGS. GALORE.  All day!” (Hampton Inn)

Better subject lines would be:

“Free $100 Fi Credit with phone purchase – until midnight tonight”
“2-night stay + Island Transfer = only $199. Must book by 4 pm”
“10% off 2-night stay if you book tonight”

These may not be the best subject lines under normal circumstances, but on Cyber Monday they are.  Customers are at best scanning retailers' emails to find the best deals for them.  Retailers need to get past the clutter of other opt-in email communications and get their message across right away.  When you can, include a deadline upfront.

On Cyber Monday and during peak shopping seasons, use an immediate call to action.