Welcome to our monthly Email Hall of Fame / Hall of Shame, highlighting some the best and worst transactional and triggered emails. We’re continuously impressed by the extraordinary emails that hit our inboxes every month, as well as disheartened that so many great brands continue to send emails that look like they’re straight out of 1997.
So much so that we’ve created a monthly Hall of Fame / Hall of Shame to highlight both the really good and the really bad. We hope you enjoy them — and learn from them — as much as we do.
Hall of Fame:
Capital One, the financial services/credit card company
Okay, granted, this email isn’t technically transactional. Generated by the customer’s use of their card to purchase airline tickets, it’s a triggered email reminding the customer of some of the great travel benefits associated with their card. Both the subject line and header make it clear what the email is about, and what triggered it is explained in the first sentence. The email is on-brand, the information provided is clear and concise, and the only call-to-action is a link to learn more about how to take advantage of those travel benefits.
We love this email. Some marketers out there might be thinking, “What’s the point? It’s not transactional and it’s not promoting anything.” But that is the point. This email provides value to the customer, reminding them of benefits they may have forgotten about or may have never been aware of in the first place. It’s an exceptional brand experience, one that inspires confidence and fosters loyalty, making it more likely that the customer will choose their Capital One card when booking future travel. And double bonus points for allowing the customer to rate the usefulness of the information from right inside the email itself.
Acorns, the micro-investing app
As an investment company that has to jump through all kinds of security and regulatory hoops, it understandably takes Acorns a bit of time to set up a new account. This email reassures the new sign-up that they’re working on it and sets the customer’s expectations around how long it should take. Its simple, minimalist design is completely on-brand, reflecting the Acorns website experience.
In a move that’s highly unusual for a financial services company, this email is from a real person, someone with a name and a face. Targeted to younger investors who have little interest in the stodgy investment firms of their parents, and no patience for faceless corporate entities, this fresh approach suits Acorns’ target audience. The inclusion of an explainer video is also a pretty bold move for an investment company but it works. Bonus points for including a referral offer.
Alibaba, the global ecommerce marketplace.
As an ecommerce marketplace, Alibaba doesn’t just facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers, they have to facilitate communication as well. This email is notification to the customer that a supplier has replied to their inquiry. It includes the full contents of the response, full details of who the response is from, as well as full details of the product the customer was interested in.
The email has a clear purpose, provides all the important information within the email itself, and even though Alibaba loses a point for including two CTAs, they make the most important one, ‘Reply Now’, obvious through the use of color.
Hall of Shame:
Bell Mobility, the Canadian cell phone company.
Delivery Confirmation for your order number : xxxxxxx
Yes, we’re talking about a subsidiary of that Bell, the oldest telecom company in North America. And where do we even start?
First of all, this email is actually a shipping notification, sent when a new phone ordered online has been shipped. So right off the bat, the subject line, ‘Delivery Confirmation for your order number : xxxxxxx’, is just plain wrong. That subject line sent a ripple of anxiety through the recipient — they hadn’t received their phone, so who had?
The body of the email did virtually nothing to alleviate that anxiety. Written in plain text that looks like it came straight off a telex machine circa 1972, using a blue font that is extremely hard to read, the email looks as old and dated as the Bell brand itself. It was only upon finding – with great difficulty, due to the blue font – a hyperlinked tracking number that the customer was able to confirm that the order had not, in fact, been delivered but was still in transit.
The duplication of every field label in French/English only compounds the readability issues. Canada does have two official languages but every Bell Mobility customer has multiple opportunities to select their language preference — upon first visiting the website, when signing up to receive marketing emails, when creating an account, and again when placing an order. There is absolutely no reason this email should be in both languages.
Discover Camping, the reservation system for British Columbia Provincial Park campgrounds
Oof. How did this one ever make it past QA? The email is being encoded somehow, resulting in the HTML formatting tags being displayed as text.
But even going beyond that, the email includes no proper CTA, just three links that use the lazy, unimaginative ‘click here’ link text, and one that doesn’t even bother with that, using the full URL.
What more is there to say? The whole thing looks unprofessional and provides a lousy customer experience. (But to be fair, when we pointed the problems with this email out to Discover Camping, they did take steps to fix them.)
Blizzard, the video game developer and publisher
Again with the full URLs instead of proper CTAs. (Why do so many companies do this?) And that URL to verify the email address is simply ridiculous, stretching across more than three full lines of text.
The email itself, just like that ridiculous URL, is way too long. We love you, Blizzard, but TMI. The purpose of the email is to get a new user to verify their email address — everything else is superfluous. Blizzard would have done so much better by sticking to just that, with a single, obvious CTA, rather than overwhelming the customer with more information and more options than they need. The rest of the information can come later, as part of their onboarding campaign.
If you have any transactional emails you’d like to suggest for either the Hall of Fame or the Hall of Shame, we’d love to see them. Simply forward them to email@example.com.