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Email + Location: How 9 Large Brands Localize Campaigns


By Julia Peavy

As more and more emails are read on mobile devices, email marketers must design for mobile, create a positive mobile experience, and work to perfect the timing of emails to generate the greatest response.

Location is another factor that email marketers must integrate into their email programs. A quick scan of my inbox shows a few different ways marketers are currently integrating email and location. 

Link to a Local Flyer

Several marketers, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Shopko, simply include a link to their local flyers within the body of their emails. Clicking on the link brings subscribers to a web page where they enter a zip code to find offers available in their local store. While this might be an easy way to incorporate access to local content from an email, the experience takes several steps and is not easily completed on a mobile device.

Big Lots takes a similar approach with a “view your ad” link, but provides a better subscriber experience. The link goes directly to a web page that includes the address of the subscriber’s local store (and a link to change locations) and displays the ad specific for that store. If location data is currently limited or unavailable, ensure any web page where subscribers search for their local store is mobile friendly.

Including the Word “Local” in the Subject Line

Emails from Ace Hardware and Michael’s included the word “local” in the subject line, but the content was generic and not specific to my local store. While the entire email was the “local ad,” the experience was the same as with marketers that simply included a link to the local flyer and drove subscribers to a landing page to enter their zip code. Hopefully, the use of “Local” in the subject line without local content isn’t frustrating subscribers. Linking a zip code entered online to the subscriber email address can help establish the foundation for more truly local content.

Local Store Address and Happenings

Old Navy includes a subscriber’s local store address at the bottom of the email template. Williams-Sonoma and REI take this a step further by including local store events in addition to the address of the subscriber’s nearest store. The incorporation of this personalization starts to provide more value and link email and mobile more closely. A link to view these addresses on a map can also help create a better mobile experience for these local emails.

Stand-Alone Local Emails

Emails that only include events, offers, and deals from a subscriber’s local store are another way marketers are working to integrate email and location. In addition to their general emails, Whole Foods and REI each send stand-alone emails that highlight local sales and events. These emails allow the brands to create a richer experience for their subscribers by leveraging one data point: zip code.

Location-based Emails

Just as the email database has been a great way promote a brand’s social media presence, it is only a matter of time before we start seeing regular emails that promote checking in and driving subscribers to disclose their location for discounts, benefits, and rewards. While I couldn’t find any recent emails in my inbox that encouraged the use of Foursquare or the like, the steadfast email program will become crucial to any location-based initiatives.

Getting Started

In order to integrate email and location, collect zip code (or preferred store location) during online opt-in if possible. During in-store opt-in, be sure to link the local store to the email address and link any shipping address to an email account during online purchase. In addition, always provide the opportunity to collect this information in an email preference center or ask for it directly in the footer of an email.

As subscribers continue to interact with their emails on their mobile devices, it will become more critical that the email is not only optimized visually, but that marketers continue to use the data available to them to create a more personalized and local experience.

Julia Peavy is director, response consulting for Return Path.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Nei
Date: 2013-11-15 10:45:40

I worked with several companies that used to translate their content in several languages for the localization purpose. I recommend this tool for the translation part, it saves up lots of time.
Posted by: Jordan Cohen
Date: 2012-08-07 19:06:59
Subject: Taking it Even Further

Big brands with brick-and-mortar locations should definitely weave Local into their email marketing strategies. But, in addition to (or in lieu of) showcasing locations closest to recipients' homes (driven by self-reported zip codes), they should also localize content based on where recipients are at the moment of email open. Case in point: my customer lives in Westchester but commutes to NYC for work 5 days a week. He/she may be more likely to buy a new video game for their kid from the Best Buy around the corner from the office during their lunch break than from the Best Buy closest to their train stop after a long ride home. Email tailored to current location rather than home address creates the best user experience and will yield even stronger offline response. Respectfully, Jordan Cohen Movable Ink