Apparel retailers, read the room

Why have I gotten more COVID-19 emails from Victoria’s Secret than my mortgage company?

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Photo credit: Nappy/Pexels

etailers who are not considered essential companies are in a strange place right now. While socially isolated Americans need food, water and a responsible medicine cabinet, consumers simply don’t need to know the latest in shoes and apparel. There’s a reason that Walmart, Target and Amazon are hiring in droves to assist with groceries and dry goods instead of the apparel department, and apparel companies are participating in drive-ups or online-only purchases. Even the tone of restaurant and grocery retailers has changed, with an increasing trend to include empathy and safety during the health outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Recommended Read: “Marketing Has Changed Its Message Due to COVID-19

But non-essential retailers are still figuring out how to let their customers know they’re still “open” for business without going over the limit of e-marketing. Some get it. Others don’t. And I’d put Victoria’s Secret in the box that simply doesn’t get how to read a (consumer) room. In the past three weeks, I’ve gotten more e-blasts from Victoria’s Secret about store closings, Angel credit card warnings, reward points and COVID-19 updates than my mortgage company, my clients, my electricity company and even my parents combined. And quite frankly, I simply don’t care about the latest updates on their store closings. I just want what I asked for — credit card statements. But what Victoria’s Secret (a retailer that is already losing funds and competing against major players like Savage x Fenty) has done is what other apparel companies should not do when it comes to email alerts: Blur the line.

Recommended Read: “What Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty show should’ve taught Victoria’s Secret ~ This Victoria’s Secret customer is reevaluating her shopping choices

E-blast writers and marketing teams in any retail industry should take note of what consumers want to know versus what you’re digitally forcing them to read. With Victoria’s Secret, this has been an ongoing issue. For example, in addition to there being no “Unsubscribe” button at the bottom of Victoria’s Secret’s e-blasts (Gmail can help you get around that), the lingerie retailer blurs the line between credit card statements and need-to-know information with marketing copy.

Notice within some alerts there is language stating, “This notification email has been sent to you as a part of your Victoria’s Secret Angel Credit Card benefits. You will continue to receive these benefit notification emails even if you have requested not to receive commercial emails for this account.

These are the kind of marketing tactics that can spoil an otherwise good business-to-consumer relationship. Other retailers have learned their lesson, even before COVID-19 concerns, regarding what is necessary content to be sent for financial purposes versus what is optional promo marketing. And right now, especially in a much larger state of unemployment and underemployment, there are consumers who just flat-out don’t care about Angel Card reward points or online-order options.

Recommended Read: “‘Essential’ Stores Become Questionable in Retail World

While it may hurt apparel companies, there’s a reason that clothing purchases have decreased 15 to 20 percent and beauty purchases have decreased 5 to 10 percent. Consumers are reevaluating what it is they need versus what they want, and — unless you’re looking to have a “social isolation baby” (or the cruder term, “coronavirus baby”) — owning the latest in boy shorts and push-up bras just isn’t making the cut. And for users who already have Angel Card points, chances are they have enough “free” bags and undergarments to spill out of a dresser drawer. Buying more is low on their priority list. (Read: I’m describing me.)

Recommended Read: “Boredom Buying: Why Impulse Shopping Is Becoming the New Norm

In all fairness, there will be a segment of the population who will engage in “boredom buying” because they’re already at home. But in order to successfully connect with this crowd, there will definitely need to be a different level of marketing and advertising to “connect.” Have a clear marketing list for those who want to receive this content and those who do not — and don’t slide marketing promotions into credit card statement email lists to get around it.

Or, find better ways to pull in a consumer audience that just isn’t interested in purchasing apparel right now. Know how to make cloth face masks out of old bras? Tell me more. Have tips to safely disinfect clothing and wash undergarments responsibly in shared washing machines? Share your advice! Would you rather talk about Angel Card points and lace undies? Count me out.

Consumers like myself don’t need an e-blast every single time Victoria’s Secret has something to say about COVID-19. I’d rather get that content from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But is there a way for apparel companies to stay above water? Sure, but they’re going to have to work smarter instead of electronically harder. Take notes from the likes of Burger King, Hyundai, Clorox and more — find ways to make your products relevant to a consumer who is finding it increasingly irrelevant.

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Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit to read about her.

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