Top Christmas email campaigns: Waitrose tops the table for the second year

Dec 19, 2016 | Email marketing

With the holidays fast approaching, annual research from email service provider, Mailjet, has revealed that Waitrose is ahead of other supermarkets in the email campaign stakes as it vies to be consumers’ choice for Christmas dinner this year.

Key findings:

  • Waitrose Christmas emails score 21.3 out of a possible 29.0 points, outperforming rival supermarkets measured across seven separate marketing parameters
  • However, ASDA and Tesco’s investments in creative content and personalisation are beginning to surpass the more premium brand’s traditional approach
  • Sainsbury’s and Morrisons crash out of the running, gating emails only to existing customers

With a total score of 21.3 points out of an available 29.0, this marks the second consecutive victory for Waitrose in the study carried out by marketing experts at Mailjet. This year’s success also represents a significant improvement on Waitrose’s performance from last year, rising by 10% overall.

The research analysed emails sent by eight of the leading UK supermarkets and scored the emails according to a range of metrics including design best practices, personalisation, subject line, cross-channel marketing and the creativity of the content.

Close on Waitrose’s tails are Tesco (20.0) and ASDA (19.9). The mid-market brands have excelled this year in creating email campaigns that are tailored to the recipient and deliver a content-rich, interactive experience. By contrast, Marks & Spencer struggled to compete this year in each of the parameters being measured, scoring just 17.4 in total.

Focusing on emails prospecting new consumer audiences, the research places Morrisons and Sainsbury’s joint last, with both retailers failing to send any communications to consumers who haven’t yet purchased through their online shopping systems.

Heartfelt campaigns alone aren’t enough

On TV and across the web, Waitrose has echoed sister brand John Lewis with a heart-tugging festive campaign recollecting the epic journey of a young robin flying home across mountains and seas.

However, despite a strong performance in most of the marketing parameters measured, scoring 4.33 for design, content, use of calls-to-action and impactful subject lines, Waitrose came out as the leader in just one of the seven fields (subject line – 4.33). So whilst its campaign tops out on aggregate, the grocery brand is losing ground to other digitally savvy competitors.

For example ASDA, which placed third in last year’s scorecard, has moved in closer on poll position through strong content (4.9) and responsive design (4.63) ensuring that format, media and interactivity are maintained regardless of whether an email is viewed on a mobile, tablet or desktop.

It’s the thought that counts
Despite the amount of conversation that has taken place this year about the importance of personalisation in campaigns, only two of the UK supermarkets registered a score above 0.0 in this field. ASDA specifically fell short on the top spot for its lack of personalisation, losing 5 points by omitting any room to add personal messaging to the email in favour of a singularly product-focused, visual structure.

In addition, none of the supermarkets used automation in their campaigns, all scoring 0.0. This supports Mailjet’s research earlier this year which revealed that automation isn’t being utilised fully by marketers. For example Mailjet found that marketers are automating under half (44%) of their email communications.

Josie Scotchmer, UK marketing manager at Mailjet, comments; “Consumers buy from the brands they build emotional connections with, particularly during the Christmas season. With low scores in critical areas for digital marketing like personalisation and automation, many supermarkets are not making the most of their emails to engage consumers with powerful storytelling.”

Josie continues; “Winning greater share of the market in run up to Christmas holiday relies on having an online and offline campaign that fires on all cylinders. There are opportunities for all of these brands to learn from one another and broaden their use of digital strategies to engage and build loyalty with consumers at this critical period in the retail calendar.”

A team of marketing experts analysed emails sent by the eight leading supermarkets in the UK between November and December 2016. Each email was individually scored according to how well it met the below criteria, (scoring system: 5 = best possible score, 0 = worst possible score) the average result was then calculated for each candidate.

Scoring criteria:
Design best practices – email is viewed on a desktop, mobile and tablet device and scored according to whether it is responsive and how well the design works across formats

  • Personalisation – any evidence of changed fields or gender-bias for example
  • Subject line – optimum length, word inclusion, personal,
  • Cross-channel marketing inclusion – social media buttons, directing to app or website content
  • Creative impact of content – format, appeal, interactivity, tone, strong brand personality
  • Automation – whether the email uses automation technology
  • Call-to-Action – whether a call to action is included, the strength of their CTA copy and the number of CTA’s

Supermarkets included in research:

  • Tesco
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Asda
  • Aldi
  • Lidl
  • Morrisons
  • Waitrose
  • Marks & Spencer

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