May 14, 2005

Staples vs. Victoria’s Secret (HTML Email)

StaplesvsvsI used to love getting email offers from Staples. They used to be fun events. I’d print their coupons and go spend $75 at the store the next day, and get myself a box of free copy paper. But lately, I find myself deleting every single email they send me. Maybe it’s because as soon as Staples sends me an email, Office Depot sends one 5 minutes later with virtually the same offer. Watching the two duke it out in my inbox is annoying, so I just delete them all.

It also doesn’t help that the emails tell me nothing in the blink of an eye…

As you probably already know, most email apps hide images in HTML until you click the "display images" button.

Here’s what Staples’ HTML email looked like in Mozilla Thunderbird before I click that button:


and here’s what it looks like after I click the "Show Images" button:


Their message (in tiny white text) doesn’t show unless the blue background is loaded!

Since I couldn’t tell what this email was about in the blink of an eye (unless I displayed the images), it was absolutely irrelevant to me. I totally missed the point:

  • Check out our insane anniversary specials
  • Free printer
  • Router for $4.94
  • Save $50 on any all-in-one
  • Click for online specials

To their credit, they have a link to "change email preferences to plain-text" which I did  promptly after posting this. Maybe now I’ll get emails that are easier to read.

Compare Staples to Victoria’s Secret (yeah, I get their emails—what of it?).

Here’s what their HTML email looks like when images are blocked:


Victoria’s Secret knows they have to get their "this really is relevant!" message across in the blink of an eye:

  • They placed their offer—in text—above all the images
  • They don’t force you to show images in order to read their message—and their images are way, way more compelling than a $4.94 router!
  • They include a tiny line, asking users to "click here" if they can’t view the photos (linking you to their online version, hosted on their server)

Take some time to review your own HTML email campaigns. Are they constructed so that the relevant, compelling message appears in the blink of an eye?