Lauren Merkin Pinterest promotion: 3 easy steps

I received the below email yesterday from, announcing a Pinterest sweepstakes. I’ve seen a number of brands conduct Pinterest sweepstakes/contests, and this stood out to me in a positive way as one of the cleaner and easier implementations for users to understand what is required of them.  I particularly liked the way they broke it down into simple steps/directions for users to follow.  All too often, I’ve seen brands include paragraphs of text, where users really need to focus and digest the instructions. Lauren Merkin made it clear and straightforward as to what is required to enter.

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 10.55.33 AM

My main suggestion to improve this communication would be to add a prominent call-to-action, like a “go now” or “enter now” button that links to their Pinterest page. Currently if you click the image, it does link there, but this isn’t readily apparent.

When I searched Pinterest for #LMWishlist, nothing came up. This seemed strange to me because I would expect that they’d seed content themselves. Perhaps there is a delay on Pinterest before search results for hashtags appear.  When I search for “Lauren Merkin”, I do see a handful of entrants, but the hashtag is noted in the comments instead of the description so it’s not clickable.  According to articles on Oh So Pinteresting and Hashtracking, hashtags are only searchable and linkable when they are in the Pin description (not the board or account description). I am unclear on what happens if users include a hashtag in the comments section but this may be the problem.  (ex. See sparkly bag in 3rd column below):


Lauren Merkin’s account does pin quite a bit (1,000+ pins) and have adorable cover photos for each of their boards, but it looks like their Pinterest offering is in its infancy (under 200 followers). I am under the impression that this promotion is an attempt to spark growth in their # of followers. This is likely important for them during the holiday season since it’s so widely reported that Pinterest is effective as a channel for retailers to generate sales.  I’ll be curious to check in a few weeks and see how effective this was for them in terms of new follower growth.

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Old Navy Boyz II Men White Jeans Spot: Memorable!

Not sure if my dear friend Anne Montgomery Cambria was the brains and energy behind the Old Navy White Jeans TV spot I recently saw, but the messaging definitely cut through! Typically, I find the Old Navy TV spots to be nothing short of  cheeky, juvenile, and overall annoying, but this one stood out in a good way.  A few reasons:

  • The use of Boyz II Men as the celebrity talent was great, as it hit home with their target audience (assuming I am in the target as a late 20s/early 30s woman). The song choice instantly conjured a positive association (and fondly remember 7th grade), and made me look at the TV to see if it was the real Boyz II Men performing.  It was ear-catching!
  • The spot focused on a specific product, white jeans. After watching the spot, I knew that I could go to Old Navy and find an assortment of white jeans. They showcased multiple styles (skinny jeans, flare leg, kids) to convey the idea that regardless of your body type, there may be a cut you’re interested in.  Instead of just a “summer styles are here” type messaging, I found the focus on one specific product to be wise and memorable.
  • The price-point was clearly highlighted ($19 for women, $8 for girls). Especially for a seasonal product like white jeans, shoppers likely want to participate in the trend but not spend a fortune on this style. They can so easily get dirty and who knows if you’ll want the same pair next year. Again, very smart in my opinion to not only highlight the availability of the trend, but also display how affordably shoppers can get the product for at Old Navy.

Here it is. What do you think?

Stand-out sites in their response to Hurricane Sandy

This has obviously been a week turned upside down for many in the New York area, including several friends/family who are still without power. While I personally am in a neighborhood that was not impacted, and led life in a fairly normal sense this week, not everyone was so fortunate.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it was interesting to see how various NYC-based companies were affected and how they mobilized to relay this information to their customers, despite challenging circumstances to pull this together.

A few in particular stood out: – I first saw this posting on Facebook and thought this was a creative effort. With the subways largely out of commission, yesterday, buses started running from Brooklyn to Manhattan, but with lines of over an hour in some cases, due to exceptional demand. reacted quickly and took this opportunity to hand out coffee and morning breakfast to people standing in line in hopes of easing their commute.  I thought this was a smart move and demonstrated their agility and ability to respond quickly. – This was the first communication I received (on Tues 10/30), kudos to Jason Goldberg and team. It was a straightforward and basic text explanatory email highlighting how the team was impacted and how the storm may also impact customers.  I am continually impressed with their team for being incredibly proactive, transparent, and the way Jason has established a personal reputation/visibility with the customers.  I did not receive most other email communications from companies until two days later, 11/1. – AirBNB waived fees on listings that would help those evacuated/without power in the NY-area to find alternate lodging.  While not free (the renters still can make money and set their price), it seemed that AirBNB encouraged people to discount these listings and is not making any profit themselves on this type of usage.

airbnb, I first got wind of this on Twitter, but these media sites dropped their paywall for the week, allowing all users to access the content on these sites so they could stay up to date on the latest in NYC.  I think this was the appropriate action from these media companies. – GiltCity NYC is donating 30% of profits from this week through Sunday to the Red Cross disaster relief.  They were the first company I noticed to take this action, although I am guessing this is a more widespread effort at this point.

giltcity nyc

Additionally, I received a slew of emails revealing how the hurricane affected orders placed online, impacted various companies warehouses, corporate HQ and employees, and expressing the companies’ concern and well-wishes. This information was helpful in some cases where I had placed orders, but also felt routine/standard after a while.  These included communication from J.Crew/Madewell, Tory Burch,, Rent The Runway,, ideeli, Botkier, Learnvest, Uncommon Goods, Amex, Chase, Bank of America, and I’m sure others that I neglected to mention here.

LOFT Enhances Product Reviews

Looks like LOFT is updating/showcasing their peer-generated product reviews in a much bigger way.  I received an email today with a promotion where you can enter to win $1,000 by writing a product review.


Seems they have made this aspect of their site more prominent, and bulked up the number of reviews recently. I couldn’t honestly recall if they always had reviews on their site or not, but the earliest I could find a review from is late September 2012, so seems that they are relatively new. I think the way they are treating them on site is clean, easy to read, and overall a great enhancement. Now shoppers can use the reviews in conjunction with the product descriptions to add a “real-person” element to their shopping decision. LOFT has nailed both the quantitative (# of hearts) and qualitative elements (allowing users to create their own headline and description of the item).  Similar to Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy, I love how LOFT has incorporated the reviewer’s age and body type along with their review itself.


I also thought it was helpful that on the left hand side they have advanced filters to narrow which reviews you see, and in addition to an overall star rating, you can see the % of users that recommend this product overall. I definitely read the product reviews when they are available, particularly to decide if I should size up or down, and to get a better sense of the fabric.  Great addition!


In-Store Discounts, Today Only

I received two emails this morning within hours of one another, each promoting discounts for in-store purchases, today only.  Both LOFT and Banana Republic served up these offers to my inbox.  I had a few hypotheses on why this may be:

– Retailers are trying to drive mid-week sales to their physical locations on typically slower traffic days

– The end of October is quickly approaching (which is when retailers report monthly sales, and also end of October is typically when retailers close their books for fiscal third quarter).  This means there may be even more emphasis/urgency around driving comp store sales

– Sheer coincidence?!

Anyone else seen promotions for mid-week discounts, only redeemable in stores (not online)?  Have theories on the “why” behind this?

Subject line: 50% off EVERYTHING (in stores only)



Subject line: Today only: 40% off in stores.


Online retailers go offline to capture attention

Today’s mail contained a promotional piece that caught my attention – from  The direct mail piece was a tri-fold that opened and highlighted five of their upcoming flash sales, showcasing products and listing out the dates the sales will be live. It didn’t feel particularly relevant or personalized (I am not a pet person and explicitly opted out of their “Pets” editions), but I am guessing they are targeting their existing mail file. Rather than the messaging being explanatory about what is (targeting new members), it seems they are going after re-activating members who have made past purchases but whose activity has lessened recently, trying to intrigue them by reminding them of’s existence and array of product offerings.


I was intrigued that this online start-up is testing or experimenting with direct mail, and am curious what their return on investment for a piece like this is.  I’ve been impressed with throughout the year, particularly with the operational focus and gains they have made in reducing their delivery times.  While I didn’t expect to see a direct mail piece like this from them, it did catch my eye and stand out, felt true to the essence of quirkiness and sleek design, and likely achieved their goal of making them more top-of-mind for me as a shopper.

Seems that a handful of online-only sites are taking holiday season efforts to reach customers through non-online ways. One Kings Lane debuted television advertisements two weeks ago, and Piperlime and Shopbop have each had major print ads in fashion magazines like Vogue and InStyle recently.  All of these strike me as engagement plays trying to remind their current customers of their existence, rather than user acquisition moves.

I’ll be paying attention throughout the holiday season at who else in the online world is taking offline efforts to capture consumer attention.


Mystery Offers: What does your future hold?

E-tail trend of the week: “mystery offers”!  I received four emails the past week that focused on surprise offers. Only once you click through or purchase do you discover what your discount is:


Subject line: Take a peek to uncover your special offer



Rent The Runway:

Subject line: Your Mystery Offer Awaits…

rent_the_runway mystery offer



Subject line: Only Hours Left! Get a Surprise Gift with Purchase

Jewelmint offer


Banana Republic:

Subject line: A surprise offer awaits you.



I am curious as to the impact these mystery offers have on consumers.  A few guesses:

  • Roughly even click-through rates compared to usual — I’d guess some customers are intrigued by the mystery and eager to see what offer they get, while others want to be certain what their discount is or they don’t bother to click.  It probably nets out to be roughly the same click-through as other average emails with a distinct offer.
  • Conversion rates depend on how generous retailers are:
    • It’s most likely that the retailers are offering the majority of customers the lowest value discount or product (ie. 10% off).  In this case, conversion rates are probably lower than usual. Customers get their hopes up and think “well, I’ll check and if my discount is 40% then I’ll consider buying; otherwise I’ll pass”.  Guessing that just a tiny fraction of customers receive the offer for the max benefit, conversion rates are likely lower than usual.
      • Banana Republic addresses this challenge interestingly by not revealing the discount until you check out. By that point, you’ve invested time in finding the item so you likely go forward with your purchase regardless.
    • On the other hand, if retailers go the generous route, customers are probably happier than usual and think “I must take advantage of this offer immediately!”.  For instance, when I clicked through the Rent The Runway email, I was told I get a 30%-off discount code!  I was elated since I was one of the lucky ones to receive the highest offer possible, and felt a feeling of “winning” or accomplishment.  If retailers offer most of their customers the higher end of the discount spectrum, it likely plays out in their favor, not just in terms of conversions but also consumer sentiment.  In Shutterfly’s case, I received 25% (average discount) and it just felt lackluster.  I figured, “I’ll wait for something better”.

Has anyone else noticed or taken advantage of recent mystery offers?