Email is a versatile marketing channel. For example, it can be used to deliver a content strategy, to maintain customer relationships, or to promote new products.

However over at Macy’s, email is really only used for one thing – offering discounts and money off.

In fact I’ve noticed that for the past few months the only marketing messages I’ve received from Macy’s are those that promote a seasonal sale or special offer.

Email is a very effective sales tool, with respondents in Econsultancy’s Email Marketing Census stating that it delivers the best ROI of any digital marketing channel.

Discounts or offers are a common tactic and can drive high volumes of sales, however Macy’s approach is overkill.

I have to go back three weeks to 25 August to find a subject line that didn’t mention some kind of sale or discount, but since then I’ve received 12 other sales emails.

If I go back to the beginning of June, giving us a window of two and a half months, I have received 55 emails from Macy’s of which only one wasn’t promoting a sale.

However it was promoting a digital wallet, which enables shoppers to “save & manage your Macy’s offers all in one place!” So it is still essentially a sales message.

Macy’s poor email creative compounds the problems caused by the constant barrage of sales messages.

I’ve discussed this before in a post looking at email call-to-action design, but it’s worth reiterating here:

Father’s Day email

This email is supposed to advertise a Father’s Day sale, but the first link is for women’s products and there’s also a link for handbags.

In general there’s too much going on and so it fails to achieve its stated goal of promoting Father’s Day gift ideas.

There are a further five promos beneath this email, which further dilutes the sales message.

Promo code email

This design is so cluttered that you have to read it several times before noticing there’s a promo code.

It’s also followed by a huge amount of other content promoting homewares, furniture, cologne and even mattresses.

As one would expect from Macy’s, there are further ‘two-day’ specials on offer at the bottom of the email.

Labor Day discounts

This email coincided with a Labor Day sale, though it takes careful reading to work out which discount I’m actually entitled to.

Is it 25% off, 15% off, $10 off, or free shipping?

In conclusion…

In fairness to Macy’s, its welcome email spells out what customer should expect to receive: “Now, you’ll be the first to know about exclusive offers and savings.”

But Macy’s aspires to be a mid-range retailer – it has its own parade, after all – and this image is undermined if email is only used in this way.

Instead the brand is positioned as a discount retailer and customers become conditioned to expect money off.

Why would anyone ever pay full price at Macy’s when they know they need only wait a few days before they’ll receive a sales email?

The department store clearly feels this is the most effective way of using email marketing, but it runs a high risk of creating fatigue among recipients who eventually become blind to the never-ending flood of discounts and offers.