Luxury Email Marketing from American Retailers

Eradium luxury email marketing Rodeo Drive

Luxury Email Marketing from American Retailers

How Luxury American Retailers Use Email Marketing. Are things really better south of the border?

This article is from the weekly series of posts about eCommerce Email Marketing Best Practices.

Luxury department stores have a life of their own. They do not follow the trends of the overall retail and “march to the beat of their own drum”.

Canada’s $1.6-billion luxury apparel market, at 6% of overall retail apparel sales. It has the relative market share less than half than its counterpart in the U.S. market and attributes it directly to the proportionally smaller amount of high-income earners we have in Canada relatively to the U.S. (1)

As American mid-tier department stores report crawling sales, the luxury goods sector continues to pull quietly ahead.

Dallas-based luxury retailer Neiman Marcus said Tuesday that its third-quarter comparable sales rose 5.5 percent from a year ago to $1.19 billion. Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay, operator of Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue, reported Tuesday that its third-quarter sales nearly doubled due to the recent acquisition of Saks. Same-store sales at Saks rose 1 percent. And last month, Nordstrom reported sales rose 8.9 percent in the third quarter to $3 billion while profit rose to $142 million from $137 million in the year-earlier period. Comparable store sales at Nordstrom increased 3.9 percent while sales at Nordstrom Rack, the brand’s discount outlet, increased 1.7 percent.

Compare that to mid-tier store Macy’s, which reported last month that its third-quarter sales fell 1.3 percent despite its ongoing attempts to appeal to both upper- and middle-income shoppers, or J.C. Penney, which reported flat third-quarter sales. Kohl’s reported a 1.6 percent fall in third-quarter sales. (2)

Marketing to the customers of these stores is an art of its own. Most traditional approaches will fail.

People who buy luxury products are most often have the following 5 traits:

  • Will not care about the sale aspect of the promotion
  • Interested in the high-end and exclusive brands the store carries.
  • They want to be spoiled and have the preference for high customer service.
  • Always connected, mobile optimized content is key
  • Have a large social influence and are also trendsetters in their own circles

How can these experiences be best transferred online when there is no human interaction.

Let’s review the three different campaigns to see how the retailers tried to connect with their affluent shoppers. Things are definitely not as rosy as one might think.


We review on a weekly basis:


  1. Colors – colors have good contrast, consistent
  2. Typography – fonts have readable size, clear titles
  3. Images – clear, visible, easy to understand
  4. Formatting – blocks follow each other in an easy to navigate pattern
  5. Mobile Optimized – all elements are visible and formatted correctly on the mobile phone


  1. Subject line – signals urgency and clear main offer that will be found inside the email
  2. Clear offer – one main offer with clear call to action
  3. Urgency to purchase – time, stock, shipping that motivates the buyer to purchase
  4. Product highlights – clear description of the products to evoke the interest of the reader

Neiman Marcus

Neiman Marcus, originally Neiman-Marcus, is an American luxury specialty department store owned by the Neiman Marcus Group, headquartered in Dallas, Texas The company also owns the Bergdorf Goodman department stores, and operates a direct marketing division, Neiman Marcus Direct, which operates catalogue and online operations under the Horchow, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman names. In the US, Neiman Marcus competes with luxury retailers Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Von Maur. Neiman Marcus is currently owned by CPP Investment Board and Ares Management.

Email 1: Neiman Marcus

Subject Line: 50% OFF! Midday Dash

Eradium-luxury-email-marketing- Neiman-Marcus


  1. Colors: 2* – not appropriate for the desired target audience
  2. Fonts: 3* – hard to read
  3. Images: 1*– no images
  4. Formatting: 3* – single column but the top banner and the bottom banner appear disconnected
  5. Mobile Optimized: 3*–same format just appears smaller


  1. Subject line: 4* – inviting to open but not relevant to target audience
  2. Clear offer: 3* – there are a few discounts being offered
  3. Urgency to purchase: 4* – there is a specific window for shopping
  4. Product highlights: 1* –  there is no showcased products

 Overall rating: 2.7

Conclusion – BUYING FACTOR: NO

This type of an email is designed more for the everyday shopper who is really conscious about pricing versus the actual product they are getting.

This does not feel luxury and appealing towards the more affluent shopper. Perhaps it was intentional attempt to broaden the market to a wider audience. I would hope they took out the luxury shoppers from the email list when targeting the mass market. This type of campaign could diminish a brand.

Saks Fifth Avenue

Saks Fifth Avenue was the brainchild of Horace Saks and Bernard Gimbel, who operated independent retail stores on New York’s 34th Street at Herald Square in the early 1900s. Their dream was to construct a unique specialty store that would become synonymous with fashionable, gracious living.

The combined financial input of these great merchant families led to the purchase of a site between 49th and 50th Streets on upper Fifth Avenue, then jointly occupied by the Democratic Club and the Buckingham Hotel. With the opening of its founders’ “dream store” on September 15, 1924, Saks Fifth Avenue became the first large retail operation to locate in what was then primarily a residential district. By offering the finest quality men’s and women’s fashions, as well as an extraordinary program of customer services, Saks Fifth Avenue has become the byword for taste and elegance.

Email 2: Saks Fifth Avenue

Subject Line: When you’re ready to chill

Eradium luxury email marketing Saks Fifth Avenue


  1. Colors: 2*– very dark and not season appropriate
  2. Fonts: 2*– very light and hard to read the text over the image
  3. Images: 3* – a single image but not appealing given the season
  4. Formatting: 2*- a simple single image
  5. Mobile Optimized: 3 *– appears to look the same on the phone, takes a while to load


  1. Subject line: 3* sounds appealing and relevant but opposite of what is found inside
  2. Clear offer: 3* – single specific call to action
  3. Urgency to purchase: 1* – there is no indication of anytime accurate information
  4. Product highlights:3* – only a picture with no real description or “learn more” information

Overall rating: 2.5*


I am not sure why retailers insist that it is a good idea to market winter apparel in July. The affluent consumers who are not price sensitive will not look for winter bargains in the middle of the summer season. These types of shoppers will come in in the middle of November and buy the best and trendiest jacket at that time. They will never be seen in last year style just because they went on sale.

Sending a lifestyle shot of the trendiest summer or at least early fall product is more thought provoking for this category of retailers.


Nordstrom, Inc. is an American upscale fashion retailer, founded by John W. Nordstrom and Carl F. Wallin and headquartered in Seattle. The company began as a shoe retailer and has since expanded its inventory to include clothing, accessories, handbags, jewelry, cosmetics, and fragrances. Select Nordstrom stores also have wedding and home furnishing departments. There are 296 stores operating in 38 states, which includes 118 full-line stores and 178 Nordstrom Racks. Nordstrom also serves customers through, the newly developed e-commerce site, and its online private sale site, HauteLook. In addition, Nordstrom operates one clearance store, along with two Jeffrey boutiques. Nordstrom, Inc.’s common stock is publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol JWN. The company announced plans to open six stores in Canada beginning in 2014, as well as its first namesake in New York City in 2018. Nationally, Nordstrom competes with luxury retailers Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as middle class retailers such as Macy’s, Von Maur, Dillard’s and Belk. Of its luxury retail competitors, Nordstrom has both the largest number of store locations and the largest geographic footprint, and its stores anchor many upscale malls throughout the United States.


Email 3: Nordstrom

Subject Line:  ‏ Get Inspired: Explore Our Style Categories‏



  1. Colors: 3*- too much white
  2. Fonts: 3* – only one type of black font used for all type of information, missing attention specific font
  3. Images: 3* – do not showcase the products well
  4. Formatting: 3* – single column
  5. Mobile Optimized: 1* – does not display at all on the phone


  1. Subject line: 3* – is intriguing but does not correspond with the message inside
  2. Clear offer: 3* – there are a number of types products the retailer is trying to communicate
  3. Urgency to purchase: 2*-there is no specific mentions of any date limitation
  4. Product highlights: 2* – has no product specific information

 Overall rating: * 2.6

 Conclusion- BUYING FACTOR: NO

The email is trying to say a lot and not enough at the same time. The messaging is hard to follow and most importantly it does not display properly on the phone. Not sure how a luxury retail who knows that most of their customers are extremely mobile driven does not check their email on a mobile device? It is better to say less but making it work. Specific information on the products being showcased would definitely be helpful.

Just for Fun

A winter sale in July? I really do not think that this type of sale can get much traction. Who wants to buy Christmas décor 6 months before the holiday? It is bad enough that you have to buy it in December but going Christmas shopping in the middle of summer, is really not fun. No matter how big the discount is.

Eradium luxury email marketing Sears


How to appeal to your luxury buying segment in 10 easy steps:

For Service

  1. Include information about customer service, shipping, and return policy
  2. Allow easy access to customer service either via chat or quick replies in off hours
  3. Include social references if available and links to social media

For Look and Feel

  1. Use this season color palette for the product if available
  2. Make sure you have lots of shots of the material, this is second best to the in-store experience

For Product offering

  1. Make sure that the product you are promoting is high on the cool factor in your given segment
  2. Include only simple information with clear call to action
  3. Include information about online and store purchase options
  4. Include description and references to the items showcased in magazine style format vs flyer advertising
  5. Make sure shots of products include demographic relevant models to have a deeper connection with you audience

 Let the luxury shopping begin!

Anna Battrick

Anna Battrick is Eradium’s Director of Ecommerce Services, has an extensive background in retail marketing and project management. With over 10 years of managing complex projects from inception to completion while always maintaining “it can be done” spirit. The world of retail is not only a professional interest but also a personal hobby which lets Anna see the other side of retail, from a shopper perspective. This helps create engaging marketing programs that speak personally to the shoppers interests and engage them in a conversation.