eBay Email Review: Does It Deliver the Personalized Experience Promised in the Subject Line?

eBay Email Review: Does It Deliver the Personalized Experience Promised in the Subject Line?

eBay Email Grade: [D]

Subject Line & Preheader


Preview Pane


Eye Path


Clarity of Message


Call to Action


Offer & Urgency



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

August 2, 2017 —

Organization Overview

Founded in 1995 and headquartered in San Jose, California, eBay, Inc., runs commerce platforms that connect buyers and sellers from around the world. The eBay platforms include the online marketplace at eBay.com, eBay mobile apps, and the StubHub online ticket platform. These platforms help sellers organize and offer their products, thus enabling customers to find them and buy them. In addition, the platforms allow users to buy, sell, and pay for products through various online, offline, and mobile channels. According to the eBay website, the company currently has 171 million active buyers and 1 billion live listings.

Subject Line and Preheader Set Up Recipients for a Personalized Experience

“Attention all Karens! We have deals coming your way”

This was the subject line in a promotional email sent by eBay to a recipient who was not an eBay customer and unsure how she got on the company’s email list. The subject line was paired with the preheader, “We’ve collected some great deals we know you’ll love,” which sets up recipients for a personalized email experience. The subject line also has personality, which helps this eBay email stand out in the inbox.

However, using the word “we” 3 times in the subject line and preheader makes the copy sound more eBay-focused than customer-focused. And although the subject line is a fun and different take on personalization, clarity trumps cleverness. In other words, frontloading a special sale or promotion in the subject line is likely a more effective way to drive up open rates among eBay’s target audience.

Weak Preview Pane and Eye Path

If recipients see only the preview pane without images, there’s little incentive for them to download the images. Five gray image boxes are slightly misaligned, and only 3 of them display any text: “Here’s What’s Popular, “Handpicked for You,” and “Today’s Dose of Inspiration.” These subheads provide little information about the content of the email message. Plus, there’s no call to action included in the preview pane.

The eye path is disorganized, with no special promotions or primary calls to action to draw recipients’ attention or guide them through the exceedingly long email message. The email starts with a “Beat the Heat” section that is appropriate for the summer season, during which it was sent. But no product images are displayed. Plus, a floating “Free Shipping” offer and a “Shop Now” call-to-action button blend in with the rest of the section’s copy.

In addition, there was no consistent treatment used for the other subheads in the email, making it difficult to determine which products correlate with which subheads. Another confusing aspect of the eye path is the way the design switches back and forth from double columns to single columns throughout the email.

Unclear Main Message and a Primary Call to Action Is Lacking

As recipients read through the subheads, there’s no cohesive story or congruence from one section to the next. This makes the main message of the email unclear.

There’s also no primary call to action, but rather several call-to-action buttons scattered throughout the email. And recipients must search for them because they are small and easily blend into the background. In addition, the copy featured in the call-to-action buttons is not user-centric and doesn’t convey value (e.g., “Explore More” and “See More Trends”).

No Outstanding Offers or Urgency Presented

As far as offer and urgency, this email doesn’t have any promotions that stand out. The only urgency is the “Almost Gone” in red that pops up under some of the featured products.

The eBay brand is well known and highly credible. Contrary to the personal promise presented in the subject line and preheader, however, this eBay email appears to be a selection of random products that are not at all “handpicked for you” (as described in the email). Focusing on one central theme—such as the seasonally appropriate “Beat the Heat”— would likely add both the clarity and congruency that are missing, as well as create a journey for recipients to follow as they read through the various email promotions.

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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