Transactional emails see 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email — and can generate 6x more revenue — yet 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.


A Closer Look at Zulily

Today we’ll be analyzing Zulily, an online retailer that partners with thousands of brands to offer products like clothing, shoes, and home goods at deep discounts.

A quick look at their website and marketing collateral shows whimsical branding and design with a major focus on low prices (tunics for $16.99, handbags at 85% off). Their display ads are product forward and tend to target the style community, while their Facebook page is more cute and playful, with images and copy geared toward moms and families.

Zulily online presence

Their content might make you smile, but the main feelings they are trying to evoke are a sense of welcome, mixed with urgency to buy.


How Many Emails Did You Say? 37.

The MailCharts data team bought a black and red basting brush for $4.99 from From the time of purchase through the first 30 days, Zulily sent us a total of 37 emails. Sounds high? That’s because it is.

In the beginning of the journey, we were receiving two emails per day: one for the onboarding experience and one for the purchaser experience, while we should have only been receiving the latter.

Today we’ll take a look at three emails: the Order Confirmation, What to Expect, and the Shipping Notification. To see all the emails sent to a purchaser, as well as the timing and delay between emails, sign up for MailCharts.


It’s Order Confirmation Time

Zulily order confirmation

The Zulily Order Confirmation email is cohesive with their friendly tone and whimsical style. The “Get the App” CTA is a good early opportunity for upselling and we love the way they include an image of what we bought so that we have a clear visual reminder.

It would have been great if the “contact us” information was more prominently displayed by including, say, .a clear CTA and the customer service phone number. Right now, the only “Contact Us” is a nearly-hidden gray link in the upper right. Same goes for FAQs. It would have been helpful to address  FAQs about the purchase experience. It’s a win-win because it improves the customer experience while potentially cutting down on customer support requests.

Four days later we receive the next email.


A Much-Needed “What to Expect” Follows

Zulily how zulily works

We like the clear explanation of the Zulily process, but this message should have been sent much sooner. Rather than talking about the app and cross-selling products in the Order Confirmation email, Zulily should have clued us into their process. This is a missed opportunity especially since shipping is expected to take 8-12 days. In today’s world of online shopping, that’s an eternity.

Also, the “View Order Status” CTA gets a little lost., It blends in with the rest of the email.

Another point worth mentioning is the heavy emphasis on discounts under “Find more to love.” Notice the  focus on phrases like “up to 70% off.” This is pretty consistent with Zulily’s messaging and major focus on low prices.

Eight days later — twelve full days after receiving the Order Confirmation — we receive the Shipping Notification email.  

And Finally, the Shipping Notification

Zulily your order has shipped
By normal online shopping standards, 12 days is a really long time to go between Order Confirmation and Shipping Notification. Zulily’s ordering and shipping process is different than other retailers which is explained in the What to Expect email, but this could be outlined earlier in the purchasing process.One idea that came to mind is for Zulily to include a progress bar at the top of each transactional email showcasing what step of the process we’re in (place your order, items in transit to Zulily, preparing to ship, shipped, received).

And then, the product arrived. 👨🏻‍🍳


The Zulily Unboxing Experience

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The shipping package is branded with Zulily’s logo and “Something special every day” messaging which implies a vast product assortment, daily deals, and strong customer retention.

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The product is topped with a $30 gift card to HelloFresh, which is relevant given that we ordered a cooking utensil and is a fairly enticing offer, but it would have been smarter to put the Zulily material first. Curious to know how much Zulily makes from these types of cross-promotions.

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A simple and straightforward unboxing experience with a little extra something, always a nice touch.

Overall, Zulily’s email purchase experience does a lot of things well, especially on the creative front. Our biggest problems were the length of the full process (from order placed to product received), heavy email volume early on, and a lack of consistent explanation of their unique purchase and shipping processes.

To view the full Zulily email post-purchase experience and to gain unparalleled insights from thousands of other companies, join MailCharts and nerd out!