zulily Email Review: Does it close the deal?

zulily Email Review: Does It Close the Deal?

zulily Email Grade: [C-]

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

February 18, 2018

Organization Overview

Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, zulily is an online retailer that sells clothing for the entire family, as well as toys and home products, from both well-known and up-and-coming brands. The company offers its products through a flash-sale model: deals of up to 70% off regular prices are offered daily, and each collection of products is available for a limited time (e.g., typically 3 days). zulily was founded in 2009 and has operated as a subsidiary of QVC since 2015.

Subject Line Contains Personalized Information but Is a Bit Obscure

“Lagoon Flower Short Wallet & many more, still available.”

This is the subject line of an email that was sent to a zulily customer who had recently browsed some short wallets at the company’s website. It was accompanied by the preheader, “Grab them before they’re gone!”

The email subject line is relevant and personalized—mentioning the actual name of a wallet browsed by the recipient. But if a recipient was browsing several wallets at the website, would he or she remember the specific name of this particular wallet? And the subject line doesn’t provide any incentive or urgency to open the email. In fact, it states that this wallet and “many more” are still available. The preheader attempted to create urgency to “grab them before they’re gone,” but it comes off as contradictory to the subject line.

Weak Preview Pane and Boring Eye Path

The preview pane without images is weak. No alternative text is used for the primary image of the wallet that was browsed online and mentioned in the subject line. Although product labels are located below the other images, recipients must scroll past the enormous blank spaces to read a series of vague product descriptions (e.g., “Oilily Fig Short Wallet”). There’s little incentive in the preview pane for recipients to either download the images or click on the “SHOP NOW” call-to-action button.

The eye path is straightforward but rather boring. The main product image is aptly positioned in the top fold of the email message, along with the call to action. The email is very long, incorporating ample white space and featuring multiple product shots. Then, positioned beneath the awkwardly large product images are more random links: “sales hand-picked for you,” which include stocking stuffers and 1-day sales.

Email Message Is Clear, But Call to Action Could Be Stronger
The email message is clear and simply stated. In addition, this is a good example of how to follow up with prospective customers who are browsing your website without you being considered too creepy. For example, the following copy gives all the information needed, without using the recipient’s name:

  • “nice find! Your discovery is still available.”
  • “Based on what you viewed, here are our recommendations!”

The call to action is big, clear, and above the fold. But because it’s the same color as the rest of the copy, the button blends in. Adding some color and more exciting copy would help make it pop and potentially get more clicks. Plus, providing the product name (Lagoon Flower Short Wallet) would improve the congruency between the subject line and email message.

Missed Opportunity for Offer and Urgency

As far as the offer and urgency in this email, there are none. Because the company is set up on a flash-sale model, products are sold at prices up to 70% off and only for a short time. In this email, zulily missed the opportunity to remind this customer of the great deal the wallet was listed for and failed to create any urgency, such as by highlighting a limited supply or a purchase deadline.

This email from zulily is a good example of how to create emails that are personalized with relevant product recommendations based on website browsing behavior. However, we identified some improvements that may have helped drive even more opens, clicks, and sales.

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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