Even though transactional emails see 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email — and can generate 6x more revenue — it’s shocking to see how many companies fall short. In our unboxing blog series we take a look at the transactional emails of the biggest and most popular retailers. Join us to see what’s working, what’s not, and apply these learnings to your own transactional emails.


What’s the Deal with Big Lots?

Big Lots is an American discount retailer, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, with more than 1,400 stores in 48 states.

Big Lots traces its roots back to 1967 when Consolidated Stores Corporation (CSC) was formed in Ohio by Sol Shenk. Big Lots sells furniture, toys, home goods, select food products, clothing and small electronics, much of which is closed out or overstocked merchandise.

Big Lots social feeds are filled with pretty run-of-the-mill content. Video tips on decorating for the holidays, DIY recipes and projects promoted from their site that involve Big Lots products, and retweets/shares from Big Lots customers. Nothing too out-there. We do like their clean and modern design schemes, though.

Ads and email are where Big Lots focuses its heavy hitters, i.e. discounts and offers. Take the graphic below, for example. There’s a buy-one-get-one-50%-off ad for linens and an email offering deep in-store and online discounts based on how much you spend. Big Lots obviously knows its audience, which is bargain hunters, the kind of people that wait for the weekly ad to come out so they can plan their shopping around special sales and couponing.

Saving money is the name of the game and Big Lots knows it.

Big Lots marketing 1024x498


The Big Lots Purchase Experience

Do Big Lots’ transactional emails promote the same heavy discounts that their ads and marketing emails do? The MailCharts data team took a look by purchasing a decorative dinner plate for $2.00 plus tax and shipping.

Today we’ll unbox the product along with the email purchase experience. From the time of purchase through the first 30 days, Big Lots sent us 22 emails, which is much less than Target, another big box discount retailer we’ve studied, who sent us a whopping 34 emails in that same period

To see all the emails Big Lots sends to a purchaser, as well as the timing and delay between emails, sign up for MailCharts.

Let’s examine the Big Lots’ purchase email experience, starting with the Order Confirmation email.


A Great Order Confirmation Email

big lots order confirmation email

There are a lot of things that we love about this email. First there’s a very clearly branded progress bar at the top of the email that lets us know visually where we’re at with our order. The header copy is clear: “Your order has been placed.” They answer a couple of FAQs right off the bat with their intro copy. We have a link to manage our order, a picture of our item, a clear date range for delivery (which though somewhat wide is still helpful). We also love seeing the last four digits of the card number we used.

Notice how many times in the order summary Big Lots points out in red the savings and the total discount at the bottom. It’s very clear that they want savings to be a big part of their messaging.

One small nitpicky thing is that since our order was just for one item, they could have changed the “Item(s)” copy to just “Item.” Again, very small.

And our final larger critique for the email is that we do get all of our necessary info, which is awesome, but it doesn’t really drive us to any action. For example, Big Lots could have included recommended products based on our purchase, or a more detailed CTA to check out their rewards program. So, somewhat of a missed opportunity.

Two days later, we received our next transactional email from Big Lots.


An Oddly Positioned Welcome Offer

big lots welcome email

As we’ve seen with other retailers, like REI, many companies seem to be having difficulties with the timing, positioning, and messaging of their welcome offer emails.

Emma & Chloe and REI, like many other brands, are sending their welcome offers too soon, as in shortly after the order confirmation email, which can lead customers to wish they had that discount code or coupon sooner.

For Big Lots though, this email was sent 2 days after our purchase. We recommend revisiting the triggered logic of this email to exclude purchasers or shifting the positioning so that the email comes after the first order has been delivered by saying something like “Save on your next purchase.” Adidas did this really well with their “Hurry Back” email.

Other than that, the design of the email is really great. Simple, to the point, and very much on brand.


The Shipping Notification

big lots shipping email

The Big Lots order confirmation email and their shipping notification email are very similar and we like that. They hit the nail on the head the first time, so why mess with success?

Notice the clear progress bar and headline, the standout orange link with the tracking info, and the green “shipped” notice letting us know that our product is on its way. We also like the blue copy mentioning that multiple pieces may ship separately. That helps prevent unnecessary support tickets.

Big Lots uses color and layout very nicely in this email.

Again, though, same feedback we had for the order confirmation email. It’s great to see all must-have information but Big Lots doesn’t inspire us to our next course of action. There’s always a tasteful, clean, way to upsell, cross-promote content, an app, or any number of things.


The Big Lots Unboxing Experience

big lots shipping package

Big Lots box is branded with their logo. As if you weren’t already excited about receiving your package, there’s that nice big exclamation point to drive the feeling home.

big lots packaging

big lots

Here we have our plate along with a special little gift of single serve coffee samples and some friendly copy. This is a great way to delight customers shopping your brand, and is not something we’ve seen in this unboxing series very often. Well done, Big Lots!

big lots


Parting Words

Big Lots is doing a great job with their order and shipping confirmation emails — we love their clean design and friendly approach. Our biggest recommendation would be to re-evaluate their “what’s next” strategy. Sure, your customer has all the info needed in the transactional emails, but now what do you want them to do?

As the field for online shopping gets more and more competitive with Amazon boxing out other retailers, companies really need to play their A game. Some delightful coffee samples and clean emails are a great start.

To see more emails from this purchase experience and to find detailed email insights from 30,000+ other companies, join MailCharts today!

Post tags   Ecommerce Insights