Chico’s, Tommy Hilfiger, Philosophy & More on Rewriting Email Best Practices

As we first reported last year at eTail West, email marketing is far from dead. A solid argument could be made that with the proliferation of mobile and social, email is seeing new interest as retailers find that it can integrate across these new channels and remain attractive to consumers. Still, it’s all about getting:

1) people to open your emails

2) people to click from your email to your site

3) people to buy from your site, and

4) people to sign up for your email list(s)

That means new ways to engage people across channels to get them excited about the emails they’ll receive from you.

About a year ago at Tommy Hilfiger, VP of ECommerce, Jared Blank, adopted an overlay to the homepage which pops up and prompts an email sign up from visitors only on the first time they visit the site. He and the team thought about whether it might be annoying to visitors and deliberated for a while before deciding to go for it. Fortunately, they’ve seen some great success from it.

“We saw our bounce rate was entirely unchanged,” said Blank. “Between one to two percent of all people give us their email address that way. It has been a gigantic victory for us.”

Before the overlay implementation, Tommy Hilfiger had a flat email address retention rate. After the added feature, the company has at least tripled its email list.

Philosophy homepage 2/27/12

At Philosophy, Tiffany Berry, Online Marketing Manager, has found that special giveaways like a gift with first purchase and sweepstakes to win $250-$500 worth of product works well to get email opt-ins. Philosophy has a prominent email opt-in prompt in the header and the footer clearly stating the free gift for email sign up.

Liz Ryan, the former director of marketing for, said that because of the nature of the site, being an online community, a personalized email works well. “We would personalize a welcome email, give them something brand new right off the bat,” she said.

At Chico’s, Jenn McClain, VP, Online Marketing and Analytics, said she is testing Facebook for email acquisition right now. She advised to always validate email addresses, particularly when acquiring them in store. “The ROI is there,” she said.

Whatever email initiative you decide to take, though, Brand advised that these projects take time.

“Sometimes I think to myself, ‘This is amazing everyone must be on this incredible ESP,'” said Brand. “But just to be a little realistic about it, the overlay probably took us six months. Our abandoned cart took us 10 months. This stuff all takes a really long time. I’ve been back at Tommy Hilfiger and I’ve been shocked about what we’ve been able to accomplish. Don’t feel bad – have a realistic view of what you can accomplish and you’ll be all good.”

All agreed that another important facet of email marketing is to continually work with vendors on acquisition programs and to expect them to come up with creative solutions for you.

“Work with your vendor – they’re supposed to be the experts in acquisition,” said Ryan. “Go through what you’re going to do with subscribers. Don’t let them off too easily.”

“Have your developers talk to the vendor before you do anything,” said Brand. “I’ve heard so many times, ‘It’s only a single line of code. It’s never just a single line of code!”