Email signups: The good, the bad, and the MIA

In starting this blog, I created an email address specifically for it. Then I found a list of the top 100 retail brands, and set out to subscribe to as many of their emails as I could. That in itself was an interesting experience.  I’m going to continue to subscribe to more emails all the time, but here was my initial deep dive. It was really eye-opening to go through the process for a bunch of emails all at once and compare the experiences across different brands. It was especially useful for the brands whose websites I don’t normally visit, since I had to figure out how to navigate everything as a completely new visitor.

The Good
Gap had an email signup pop up a few seconds after I went to the website. Which, for my purposes, was actually kind of helpful. I didn’t want to spend that much time digging around most of these sites anyway. But normally, most people would find that annoying, because I’d imagine very few people go to an eCommerce site with the intention of signing up for emails. They also had an email signup at the bottom of their home page. Immediately after entering my email address, it went straight to a VERY detailed preference center, which asked me to select what categories I was interested in (Men’s, Women’s, Children’s? Maternity? Plus size?- I picked them all!). Then, it had a checkbox for “Would you like to hear from our other brands?” which led to a wormhole of signing up for Old Navy, Piperlime, Athleta, and Banana Republic – and then individual preferences for each of these brands as well.

I totally love this. As a consumer, I can ensure that I’m getting very specific content (assuming that they’re actually segmenting emails based on these preferences). As a marketer, Gap can reach customers who come in through any of their brands, and they don’t have to guess the subscriber’s gender or family status to send them targeted content.

Similarly, Ikea had a great preference center immediately following email signup. The actual email signup (for the US site) was small and subtle in the top right-hand corner, but easy to find. The email signup offered mobile text alerts and physical catalogs in addition to emails, and then just asked for First Name, Last Name, and Zip (in order to target content about the nearest store). After filling that out, the preference center asked a few yes/no questions that seemed a bit personal at first – “Are you engaged to be married?” “Do you have children?” “Are you a renter or a homeowner?” etc. I clicked engaged and put in a fake upcoming wedding date. I’m expecting to see emails about wedding registries and home remodeling. Let’s see what happens!

The Bad

When I signed up for Bed Bath and Beyond emails, this guy popped up:


Sooooo many required fields (including mailing address)! Bed Bath and Beyond – I am signing up for EMAILS. I am showing interest in your brand, and I am telling you how I would like your brand to communicate with me. And guess what? My way costs you less money. If you email me those weekly 20% off coupons (with a promo code I can use in store), you don’t have to spend money mailing them to me, and I’m more likely to have them available on my phone when I’m shopping at your store. NEXT.

So, Kohl’s. First, I had to scroll to the bottom of a very cluttered home page to even find the signup, and it wasn’t 100% that that’s what it even was: kohls email signup Once I typed in my email address (with a “+kohls” in the middle because I ❤ gmail filters), I was told that it was an invalid email address. Well played, Kohl’s. But you’re wrong. Let me enter my email the way I want. (Toys R Us did the same thing). NEXT.

Oh, Amazon. Don’t worry, we’re cool. Except that I had to create an account to sign up for emails. (I obviously have an actual account because I order from Amazon at least once a week, but I wanted to see how they market to people who haven’t shared a ton of purchase behavior info already. It appears that they don’t.) NEXT.


This one kind of surprised me.  I thought that Target MUST be doing something cool with emails. Articles have been written about their impressive use of data to target marketing. And yet…

I couldn’t find a place on Target’s website to sign up for their emails.

Some stores labeled their email sign-up as “Weekly Ads,” but Target actually had a digital version of its weekly ad there. They had a page called “all the deals” (which made me think of Hyperbole and a Half), but it still didn’t have an email signup. Eventually, I found a section that said “New Guest?,” which led to an account creation page.

But once I created an account, there wasn’t a way to give any preferences (and weirdly, the only personal info they asked for was first and last name, and birth month). There was a link on the sidebar for “Manage Subscriptions” (and maybe this is where my disadvantage as an email marketer comes in), which I assumed was about email preferences, but it wasn’t. I’m still not really sure what it was, because there was no copy explaining it. NEXT.


Best Buy had a similar setup. It required creating an account to sign up for anything. It took a lot more tries than normal to come up with a password, because they required a lot of different characters. (Normally, that’s fine for a password – for things that need to be secure. I just want to sign up for your emails). Then it required a phone number to “look up your account” in stores. And after begrudgingly filling that in, it looks like all I did was create an account with Best Buy (and there wasn’t a way to sign up for emails there, either). I browsed around on the site a little more, and found an email signup on their “Deal of the Day” page, but it took some digging to get there.

Huge missed opportunity, Best Buy. You sell tons of different types of products, and I guarantee I’m only interested in a small percentage of them. Please get a preference center ASAP.

What’s your email sign-up process like?


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