How I, a millennial email marketer, optimized parts of my life with startups (and stopped using email to shop)

As a millennial (technically – I’m what has been referred to as an “Oregon Trail Millennial” or a “Xennial“) who has worked in email marketing for about a decade, I’m so tired of hearing about how millennials are killing everything. Within the first five minutes of every single email conference, someone on stage will mention the word millennial. And most millennials will probably roll their eyes and tweet about it. Complaining about all the generalizations about millennials has become a pretty common generalization about millennials, and maybe one of the only accurate ones.

But – maybe millennials ARE killing everything, and that’s okay. Within the last few years, I’ve completely changed how I shop. And, this may be troubling for many readers of this blog, but – I don’t use email for shopping in the way that we as email marketers think people do. That’s not to say that I don’t think there’s a place for email marketing anymore. There is. But it’s shifting, and should be more about relationship building than discounts and sales. This isn’t a new idea, but many brands still don’t get it.

Direct-to-consumer brands are popping up all over the place, shortening supply chains and eliminating the need for big chain stores. I’ve almost completely shifted all my consumerism to these companies. I’ve eliminated a lot of little decisions that normally have to be made every day, and found ways to save time. I’m not spending more money than I would be otherwise, just spending it differently. When I have a need for a new product, I’ll do research, but once I find a brand or method I like for obtaining it – I’m loyal af.

So, here are some of the companies/apps I use to optimize my life (and my referral codes for them, obviously).


In the last few years, I’ve almost completely stopped buying fast fashion. I sew, and knowing the work that goes into producing a garment, I can’t justify buying something that someone was paid pennies to make, in usually terrible conditions. It’s wrong. I’ve been exploring ethical fashion – buying vintage/secondhand clothes at sample sales, and things made in the USA (where someone had to at least be paid minimum wage). That usually means spending a little more on clothes, but I’m not contributing to the demand for mass-produced garbage. I’ve been buying less things, but much higher quality. MM.La Fleur has been my go-to for clothes when I buy them – they make a lot of them in NYC, they’re timeless styles, and look professional. M. Gemi is where I’ve been buying shoes – they’re made in Italy in small batches, with new styles every week. And another bonus – these are both women-owned companies.

There’s also the factor of the amount of time that goes into picking an outfit in the morning. I was intrigued when I first read about having a work “uniform,” but also love clothes too much for that to last long term. I needed something that would give me flexibility and variety, but not too much variety every morning. I don’t work at the kind of company where I can wear jeans and t-shirts (and even if I could, I wouldn’t. I don’t like jeans and t-shirts. I like dresses and skirts.)

Enter Rent the Runway Unlimited. I think most women know about Rent the Runway. If you don’t – it’s a company where you can rent designer dresses for special occasions, for MUCH cheaper than it would cost to buy them.  I’ve recently starting using their unlimited program: 4 garments at a time, you can keep them as long as you like, and then swap them out whenever you want. All in, it’s about $170/month, and I’m wearing DVF, Tory Burch, and many other designers I otherwise wouldn’t be able to buy very frequently – every week. I won’t have to purge my closet every few months, and I don’t have to deal with dry cleaning. I’m not spending time shopping, but when I feel like shopping – I just go to RTR and add things to my “hearts” to rent later. I’m spending less money, wearing more, dressing better, and consuming less.

Blue Apron – I like cooking. I hate the mental energy that has to go into grocery shopping and meal planning. Blue Apron has been a lifesaver in ensuring that we don’t order takeout every day, we’re eating healthy, and not spending too much on food (1 week of Blue Apron = 1.5 nights of takeout). I like taking a few minutes every few weeks selecting meals for the upcoming weeks. It makes it so much easier during the week -we’re not choosing from an infinite number of meals. We’re choosing from 3. There have been a lot of articles recently about the emotional labor women do every day in managing a household, and Blue Apron has helped eliminate some of that work for me.

For lunch – I’m happy to report that a company has finally figured out a good way to use QR codes. A few NYC lunch chains (Hale & Hearty, DigInn, Fresh&Co, and others) use a program called “LevelUp.” You can download apps for each of these restaurants or just use the general Levelup app, but instead of paying every day, it accumulates your purchases, and just charges you once a month. It saves the restaurants credit card fees, and saves me time/money. All of the restaurants have some kind of loyalty program, so there are rewards for frequent purchases. I’ve been using it about 2 years, and I’ve saved more than $200. When I’m checking out at the restaurant – I just scan a QR code from my phone instead of having to deal with money (which is really nice and fast, especially during lunch when I might not have a lot of time, and there’s a long line behind me). It also makes my decision making easier – I usually just go to one of a handful of places, and have a few go-to meals I get every time.


Other life stuff:

Home: We use Handy to get the apartment cleaned once a month. Obviously, we still need to do SOME cleaning in between, but this ensures that things like dusting, mopping, and bathroom cleaning actually happen. Before, my husband and I never got around to doing certain tasks, and then resented having to spend our weekends deep cleaning when we actually did get around to it. So we threw a little bit of money at the problem, and it helped. It freed up our weekends too. It also helped with that whole “emotional labor” thing.

Periods: I use Clue to track my period cycle. It sends me eerily accurate push notifications letting me know when it’s about to start and when I’m most fertile, and links throughout the app explaining the biology behind everything. They also send very informative newsletters. I’ve also completely switched to Thinx. It’s a much better experience for me physically, better for the environment, and I don’t have to remember to carry (or buy) supplies. It seemed weird at first, but I got enough Facebook ads from them, read a lot of articles, and then finally went to a popup they had at a local boutique and bought some. Totally worth it. (And no, it’s not gross. They feel like wearing a swimsuit bottom). And they also send a great newsletter. So, think about that – I bought a product that lasts a long time, that I’ll probably only buy 1-2 times a year, and I still regularly open and read their emails.  And I regularly tell other people about the product. I’m excited to see women-owned startups like this, because they’re solving problems that have long been ignored and stigmatized.

Pets: We adopted a very cute puppy last summer. She’s a terrier mix, and loves to play, run, and chew on things. So we signed up for Barkbox, a monthly subscription box for dogs that comes with a few toys and treats. Does she destroy the toys immediately? Yes, usually. But Barkbox has started developing toys specifically for dogs like her that play a little more rough. We just got a really cute pineapple squeaky toy that had layers: when she ripped open the first layer of fabric, there was another one with a different design, and when she ripped that one open, it was a rubber squeaky ball. Barkbox has always sent great emails – usually full of fun doggy content. They have a fantastic brand voice. And while they sometimes feature products in their emails, they are filled with cute dog gifs and helpful articles. I stayed a subscriber after my last dog passed away in 2016, even though it was almost a year until we got Sprocket.

Local Businesses: I try to shop locally when I can. We send out our laundry using a neighborhood laundromat (again, getting chores done in a much easier way and removing the emotional labor involved). We get our dog food at Whiskers, a wonderful local holistic pet food store. I buy greeting cards and gifts at another local store, Lockwood. I buy my fabric and sewing supplies at Mood. I get emails from some of these companies (if they have them), but that’s not what brings me into the stores. The need for the product is what brings me into the stores.

For everything else: There’s Amazon. 🙂

Was this blog post about email? Not really. But you know what else isn’t really so much about email? The way I, and many other ~millennials~ shop. I get emails from these brands. Many of them have adopted the strategy of sending valuable content that’s relevant to their products, without outright selling or promoting them. They don’t do frequent sales and discounts. They don’t send emails more than once or twice a week (and for many of them, the only emails I get are transactional, but I’m still a very loyal customer). I want to be in control of my consumerism, and don’t want or need brands telling me when or what to buy. I know that makes it harder for brands, but I think it makes it better for everyone in the long run. Marketers need to adapt.




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