Bon-Ton Email Review: Black Friday in July?

Bon-Ton Email Review: Black Friday in July?

Bon-Ton Email Grade [D]

Subject Line


Preview Pane


Eye Path


Clarity of Message


Call to Action






Sense of Urgency

Email grades are based on a 5-point scale: A = 5, B = 4, C = 3, D = 2, F = 1

August 2, 2016

Organization Overview

Based in York, Pennsylvania, Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., is a regional department store company that operates 275 retail operations in 26 states in the northern United States. Bon-Ton offers a wide selection of limited-distribution merchandise, as well as competitively priced national and private brands, including clothing, shoes, beauty and fragrance products, furniture, bedding, and housewares. Thanks to the company’s website Bon-Ton also reaches customers beyond its geographic boundaries.

Subject Line Looks Like It’s a Mistake

“Black Friday Starts TOMORROW: $10 off $10 Coupon + Door Busters ▶”

This is the subject line of an email sent to a customer who had signed up to receive promotions from the Bon-Ton stores. For this recipient, the subject line stood out in the inbox primarily because she thought it was a mistake: A Black Friday email sent during the first week of July? Traditionally, Black Friday occurs once a year and falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Apparently, Bon-Ton was joining other retailers that celebrated “Christmas in July” this year (e.g., Amazon, Walmart, and QVC). However, that was not made clear in this subject line.

In addition, “$10 off $10 coupon” is confusing. Perhaps it’s supposed to read: $10-off coupon.

On a positive note, the uppercase “TOMORROW,” the plus sign, and especially the arrow placed at the end of the subject line all work together to draw a recipient’s attention in an inbox crowded with other brands.

Preview Pane Could Be Improved

The preview pane without images looks clean. It also includes some alternative text to let recipients know about the contents of the email and encourage them to download the images. The first and most prominent image box, however, is empty, and there’s no call to action in this email.

Unclear Message and Weak Eye Path Detract From the Great Offers

This email message is unclear. In addition to not explaining why a Black Friday promotion is occurring in July (e.g., celebrating Christmas in July), there’s no call to action. The large $10-off coupon prominently displays that it’s for use “in-store only!” Yet a promotional code for free shipping is displayed at the top, right corner of the email. Are the door-buster deals advertised in the email available in-store only, as well? If that’s the case, it’s likely that a general template including the free-shipping promotion was used and not updated for this particular in-store promotion.

The eye path for this email is weak. There’s so much going on that recipients don’t know where to focus their attention, especially because there’s no call to action. Although Bon-Ton may be counting on recipients to bring in their cell phones to redeem the coupon, providing a “print this coupon” or “find a store near you” are examples of calls to action that could accompany the $10-off coupon.

In addition, the layout of the door-buster promotions – alternating wide ads and ads that are half as wide – makes it difficult to scan and read. Then, to add to the confusion, there are more promotions at the very bottom of the email: an extra 25% off sale merchandise and a yellow-dot sale, which also includes a black-dot promotion. The offers advertised in this email are great, but because there are so many, they end up competing with each other.

Sense of Urgency and Credibility Could Be Stronger

There is a sense of urgency in that the Black Friday deals are available for “3 days only,” as described in the seal at the top of the email. But that urgency is somewhat diluted by stating that the sales are “all weekend long!” which makes it seem much less urgent.

Bon-Ton department stores are regionally known for having quality merchandise at a good price. But this email could have done a much better job of promoting that image and establishing credibility. The unclear message of a Black Friday sale in July, lack of a call to action, and so many competing offers crammed into one email is overwhelming for recipients.

Disclaimer: FulcrumTech does not have access to the performance data relating to this promotional email, so any tests performed on this email can’t be reflected in FulcrumTech’s commentary.

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