BUSINESS, DIGITAL Marketing | May 22, 2013

A look at Gap’s Emails is Typical of What is Broken with Email Marketing

email marketing mistakes

I buy a lot online from Gap since I became a mom. I bought basics for me and a lot of clothes for my son. To keep me informed of what’s new, I subscribe to their marketing emails. But they are doing something that bugged me. It is the fact that Gap often sends me emails featuring toddler girl’s dresses when a quick look as my purchase history statistics would have shown, without a doubt, that I’m looking for toddler boy’s clothing. I expect that level of automatic email customization when it comes to big chain retailers.

And it is not that they are shy to send you emails. Subscribers to Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy emails know that they will receive a few weekly emails. In an attempt to limit what populates my inbox, I decided to update my email preferences at Gap. To my surprise, the Gap marketing team didn’t think that it is relevant to segment their emails by gender when it comes to babies and kids. I say to my surprise since their catalog already separates them.


Restricting the gender only for men and women is a mistake. And it is not just for the lack of consistency in the way that they segment the emails. It shows that they don’t value my time. Or it sends the signal that they don’t really care about these categories. Either way, it is not what a brand should tell its paying customers. From my viewpoint, I subscribe to these promotional emails to make my life easier. I expect the brand to deliver on that.

Bring Ideas and Tips, Not Just Products, to Your Customer’s Inbox

In case that you haven’t notice, the days of simply pitching your products are coming to an end. My advice to retailers is simple. Make sure that your marketing emails deliver something useful for your consumers. For a fashion retailer, it could take the form of a small lookbook or it could done by showing the different ways to assemble an outfit. Forget your marketing message. Instead, look at it from the consumer’s perspective.

  • What type of information would they value? 
  • Why not tell them how they could wear the hot items of the season with past season clothes that they bought from you?
  • Why not talk about fabric care?
  • Why not include curated links from fashion bloggers who show people how they could wear their clothes?
  • Why not add relevant posts, activities or places that fit the lifestyle depicted in the lookbook that you pitch in your emails?

On the fly, I can think of plenty of ideas that would fill your editorial schedule. I will leave you with that thought. If you want your customers to read your emails, become a relevant source of information for them.

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One Response to “A look at Gap’s Emails is Typical of What is Broken with Email Marketing”

  1. Excellent points. I’m also a subscriber and Gap buyer and remarked myself this morning that it would be nice to get tailored newsletters since I’m buying Infant Girl. Being in marketing, I can’t help but jump and down in regards to your recommendations.

    Fabric care is also an excellent point. As a former Gap employee, fabric care, visuals, pairing and upselling was drilled into us. There seems to be a disconnect between the in-store and online experiences, especially since product knowledge is one of their most valued brand experiences. The graphics already exist, it would be a fairly simple transition to make the information available on jean care, fabric care, provenance, brand values, etc.

    This could be a very relevant post to send to their marketing team.