Close this search box.

M&S wins the Christmas battle of the inbox, but supermarket emails still lack personalisation

This is an archived article - we have removed images and other assets but have left the text unchanged for your reference

Results of the 2019 supermarket direct marketing analysis are out and premium grocery brand M&S has won the Christmas battle of the inbox. The analysis, conducted annually by marketing specialists Mailjet, saw M&S take the win with 10.25 points out of the 15 points possible.

Narrowly missing out were budget brand ASDA (the 2017 winner) and last year’s winner, Waitrose, who is currently undergoing a significant restructure as part of its merger with John Lewis. Both brands scored 10 points, just shy of M&S.

The research analysed emails sent by nine of the leading UK supermarkets (including M&S, Tesco and Iceland) and scored the emails according to a range of direct marketing metrics including responsive design, personalisation, campaign content, shopability and cross-channel elements.

While M&S did not outperform all other brands across all categories, the premium supermarket scored top marks (3.0 out of 3.0 possible points) in cross-channel marketing and responsive design, and performed well in creativity of the campaign content, scoring 2.75 out of 3.0 points.

Earlier this month, research by Nielsen highlighted that UK supermarkets are experiencing an unexpectedly slow start to the festive periodand warned about the importance of multichannel and omnichannel strategies, something not all brands seem to be considering. Morrisons and Sainsbury’s failed to send any holiday emails during the time period analysed, and Iceland’s only campaign during this time was linked to Black Friday.

Emails still lacking a personal touch

Just like last year, brands continued to fall short in personalisation of their emails, scoring an average 0.17 out of 3.0 points. In fact, most brands failed to add any personalised content at all, despite most of them requesting additional data such as name, surname and postcode during the signup process.

Waitrose remained the only brand to include personalisation within its email campaigns. However, the premium supermarket’s personalisation efforts were limited to including the recipient’s first name in the email body, proving that there is still a long way to go for brands to send more relevant content that really resonates with their consumers.

Judy Boniface-Chang, Chief Customer & Marketing Officer at Mailjet, comments: “Meaningful personalisation goes beyond using demographic information about customers in the email, and should rather put customer engagement and preferences at the center of the communication strategy. Supermarkets should consider investing in the right set of tools and technology that could deliver shopping experiences based on past purchase behavior and shopping patterns, to drive revenue while building customer loyalty.”

No shortage of creativity, but room to improve email-drive revenue

Overall, UK supermarkets excelled in the creativity of the campaign content. Aldi, ASDA and Waitrose led this category. Most brands also did well in responsive design best practices, with M&S, Lidl and Tesco scoring full marks by using relevant images, easy-to-read text and easy-to-click CTAs. Waitrose and Aldi lostpoints due to some of their sections not being easily readable on smaller devices.

However, supermarkets failed to incorporate design elements to encourage conversion, falling short in shopability and scoring only an average of 1.30 out of 3.0. All brands missed the opportunity to add interactive elements that would allow customers to do any shopping within their emails, although Lidl regularly included GIFs to draw attention to the offers promoted. The strategy seems to be paying off, as the budget brand was reported to be experiencing a significant growth in the lead up to Christmas.

Boniface-Chang concludes: “Sending mobile responsive email has become a standard for supermarket brands. M&S and Lidl went a step further, removing different elements in their emails to simplify the mobile version. But with the Christmas period being such a busy time for customers, and the competition for attention in the inbox steepening, marketing teams could improve revenue opportunities by making it easier for consumers to purchase items directly from within their emails.”

Read More

Register for Newsletter

Group 4 Copy 3Created with Sketch.

Receive 3 newsletters per week

Group 3Created with Sketch.

Gain access to all Top500 research

Group 4Created with Sketch.

Personalise your experience on