The UK’s retailers still have plenty of room for improvement in their email campaigns and are not making the most of tactics which could improve their email ROI, according to a new study.

Marks and Spencer and H Samuel both performed well and scored 81 in the study, but both Somerfield and H&M need to improve, as they were joint bottom on 48. 

Overall scores were down compared to last year’s survey, with retailers failing on crucial areas like personalisation and gathering relevant information when customers sign up in the first place.

The dotMailer Hitting the Mark report looked at the emails of 41 high street retailers, and awarded marks on criteria including opt-in forms, unsubscribe processes, subject lines, and design.

Some highlights from the study:

Email opt-ins

The email sign up process offers retailers the chance to get some basic information about customer preferences that will enable them to target emails more effectively in future. This is also a chance to set boundaries on email frequency which can help reduce future unsubscribe requests from recipients.

The average score for opt-ins was 3.6 out of 6, with the majority missing the opportunity to gather some useful information. Currys scored a zero here, and looking at its sign up form I can see why.

It asks for too much compulsory information but doesn’t actually gather much that will help to target emails more effectively:

Currys email sign up form

M&S scored maximum points for this criteria, as it makes the sign up process relatively easy, but also gathers some handy information on gender and preferred product categories without needing to ask for address details:

M&S email sign up


Average scores were better for this (5.3 out of 8) but still room for improvement. Retailers are coy about placing the unsubscribe link in a prominent position, with only one placing it at the top.

No retailer scored zero here, but criticisms included requiring too many clicks, when the unsubscribing process should be easy to avoid the need for customers to report unwanted emails as spam.

I mentioned the unsubscribe process from M&S in a recent blog post as it gives users the option of less frequent emails, as well as gathering feedback, and it is praised for this in dotMailer’s report, though it didn’t gain full marks, possibly due to the tiny unsubscribe link in its emails. 


Of the retailers studied, 71& failed to use a personal greeting on emails, despite the fact that most will get recipients’ names when they sign up, and that personalisation can improve open rates. Some are missing a trick here.

Who is sending the email?

This is one area where the UK’s retailers have done well, with all but six sending from a branded domain name and using a recognisable ‘from’ name, something which is essential to get users to open emails.

Not surprisingly, H&M didn’t do well in this category, with a bizarre sender name:

H&M email

Calls to action

It should be made clear to recipients what action they are expected to take if they are interested in an offer they read about, whether this is to go to the relevant landing page, or download a voucher to print and use offline.

While retailers such as Waterstones made calls to action clear and placed them above the fold, recipients of emails from H&M, Schuh and Lidl were left wondering what to do next.

See our recent Email Marketing Census for more on these issues and how organisations are managing their campaigns.