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.


Exploring REI

Recreational Equipment, Inc., more commonly known as REI, was founded in Seattle, Washington in 1938 as a co-operative to help outdoor enthusiasts acquire quality climbing gear at reasonable prices. Today, REI is the nation’s largest consumer co-op, selling sporting goods, camping gear, travel equipment and clothing as well as their own brand of REI gear and clothing. REI operates 154 retail stores in 36 states as well as a catalog and REI.com.

The outdoor industry has tons of built-in influencers and REI does a great job of curating that user-generated content on social. Their Twitter and Instagram feeds are filled with an endless number of breathtaking outdoor photos taken by brand loyalists.

REI’s marketing strategy is all about inspiration. Not only do they use gorgeous photos of outdoor scenery, but a quick look at their display ads also shows that they are contributing to the activism space. One recent ad depicts a woman in a powerful stance on top of a boat with the copy “Rock a boat. Start a fire. Be a force of nature. #ForceOfNature.” We love that!

REI marketing 1024x311


The REI Purchase Experience

Are REI’s transactional emails as inspiring as their marketing efforts? The MailCharts data team found out by purchasing a pair of wool hiking socks for $6.83 plus shipping.

Today we’ll unbox not only the product, but the email purchase experience too. From the time of purchase through the first 30 days, REI sent us 21 emails, which is on par with other retailers in our unboxing series.

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

Now we’ll take a deep dive into three of REI’s transactional emails, starting with the order confirmation.  


A Thoughtfully Designed Order Confirmation

rei order confirmation email

First off, we love the design of this email. The color scheme is neutral beige with an interesting wood grain pattern in the header background. The consistent use of sky blue as their single action color for links and CTAs is super smart because it keeps this email, which is doing quite a lot, from looking too busy. This is a thoughtfully executed design.

While the “Thank you for your order” copy is a little bland, they are getting a lot of other things right.

We love that the arrival date in the order summary is estimated. This is great for setting customer expectations, especially if the customer needs to call support and expedite shipping for a special purpose (e.g. an upcoming hiking trip), or if there are delays.

Under the payment summary, we would like to have seen the last four digits of the card number used. This is really helpful, especially if you want to return an item in store — the original form of payment is required in order to receive a refund.

Below that we have sections for REI’s membership program, customer support, and their return policy. Again, this is a lot of information, but because of the neat layout and clean color scheme, we don’t feel overburdened by this email. Well done!

Now we’re going to skip over the shipping notification email and take a look instead at the welcome email, which arrived the next day.


Does REI’s Welcome Email Jump the Gun?

rei welcome email

Many retailers we’ve examined in this series include welcome emails with discount codes in their transactional email experiences. The problem that many brands have though, is timing. These emails have a tendency to go out right after an order has been placed.

One brand that we saw execute the discount email flawlessly was adidas. Their “hurry back” email very clearly asked “Didn’t snag everything you wanted? Hurry back and complete your next purchase with 15% off.” We love this hurry back concept.

One piece of feedback we have for this REI email is, rather than sending the discounted welcome email right after the shipping notification, why not wait a few more days to share the discount?

Let the product arrive, then send a coupon email with some messaging along the lines of “Get any other gear you might need”. This way the email is helpful and likely to drive a second purchase, rather than leading customers to think “Wow, I really wish I had that coupon four hours ago when I made my first purchase!”

Back to the positive: We also like the additional information that REI shares in this email. They let us know about their philanthropic work with a whimsical design. Then they have a section asking users to update their preferences, which helps REI better target their emails, and ultimately make more money. We love the honest execution here with the copy “Help us get it right.”

Same goes for the “Now get out there” section below that. Many brands include links to their site categories with “shop more” messaging in their email footers, but we’ve never seen it done as well as REI does it here. The image and copy work together for an aspirational and encouraging CTA.


“Learn with REI” Promotion

rei email

This next email is one of the big reasons we’re loving REI’s marketing.

We all know that REI sells products, but it’s very clear that they also want you to get the most out of your kayak, hiking equipment, or camping gear. This is why they offer “Learn with REI” educational classes and how-to content. Sure, you could buy the gear elsewhere and consume their content for free, but REI is all about empowerment. This is what’s earned them such a strong community of brand loyalists over the years and will help them continue to do so.

Another thing we really like in this email is the information about our nearest REI store. Notice that in the first two emails, they only included store locator links but here, it’s actually personalized with our closest store info. We’re not sure exactly how they pulled this information in, whether through processing our shipping address or using our IP address, but we love the outcome.


The REI Unboxing Experience

rei packaging, rei shipping

REI’s packaging is clean. It’s a large black logo on a white package. No question about where this shipment is from.

rei unboxing

Inside is a packing slip that’s seen better days and our product. Pretty cut and dry. (Get it?)


The Breakdown

We are loving REI’s transactional email experience. They are doing a lot of things well from a messaging and strategy standpoint, and although they could work on the timing of their welcome email, we love that they are consistently working to build a community of stronger, more informed outdoor enthusiasts. A+.

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


Post tags   Unboxing