Email showdown: Postmates vs. Grubhub

As far as I’m concerned, one of the greatest marvels of modern human existence is the fact that almost anywhere, whenever I want, I can click a few buttons and have a cheeseburger delivered to my exact location.

It’s a game-changing state of affairs, and it’s the reason SO many different brands (OrderUp, Favor, and Seamless, to name a few) have gotten in on the action, promising to bring you food for just a small delivery fee.

But for the purpose of this showdown, I decided to look at two brands that are particularly good at this whole email marketing thing: Postmates and Grubhub. Let’s see who delivers in the inbox.


My inbox relationship with Postmates begins with a PSL.

I don’t even like pumpkin spice lattes, to be completely honest (I’m usually a black coffee drinker). But one day, someone announces on Slack that you can get one for free if you order through Postmates, and I’m definitely not above free coffee in any form.

When I go to order my latte, I’m served this lightbox.

Normally, I’d be lazy and use the “Connect with Facebook" option, but I like to get brand emails delivered to my work address for this very reason. So I fill out the form and order my latte.

I have to hand it to these guys: They absolutely nail their transactional emails. Soon after ordering, I receive this email.

Subject line: Your delivery from Pumpkin Spice Lattes On-Demand has been accepted (1:29pm)
Preheader text: N/A

It conveys all the information you usually get in an email receipt, but it does it in a much more compelling way. I’m not bogged down by the details and can easily access the bit I’m most interested in (tracking my order). Kudos to the team on an A+ inbox experience.

A couple of days later, I receive this welcome note.

Subject line: Welcome to Postmates
Preheader text: The entire city is now within reach from your phone or computer.

Much to my chagrin, there’s no web view (an issue only for the purposes of my email geekery, so no points docked there). But it’s a lovely email with big, bold CTA buttons that look stellar on mobile. It’s a nice mix of live text and images, and everything within it makes the case for downloading their mobile app – a clear, focused message. They do a fantastic job on this one.

Interestingly, the next email I get from them is a MacMail-style send about a week and a half later.

Subject line: You have $10.00 in Postmates credit
Preheader text: use with Postmates. We’re pretty sure once you use the app, you’ll love it.

There’s just a small problem: I don’t understand why I have $10.00 in Postmates credit. Does it have something to do with downloading the app? Are they trying to get me to do that by dangling an offer in front of me?

I’m left confused more than anything else, so no – I don’t use the credit.

Next, I get this email about a Terms of Service update. Nothing thrilling, of course, but they do a good job of sharing essential information in an attractive and easily digestible way.


Since then, I’ve purely received promotional campaigns. This one stood out because the marketer in me was curious if every recipient got 100% off their delivery fee like I did.

Subject line: Your Mystery Discount Is…
Preheader text: N/A

Thankfully, nearly every other member of my department is subscribed to their list, so I was able to investigate. 

Turns out, power users of the app (like our VP of Marketing, Cynthia) only got 75% off their delivery fees, while inactive users got the 100% off “JACKPOT” promo code. It was a smart use of segmentation by their marketing team.

They showed off their smarts again with my co-worker Greg: When we were all trapped at home after a heavy snowfall, he got this “BLIZZARD” promo for 100% off delivery fees.

This is how it’s done, friends: Pay attention to what’s going on in your subscribers’ lives, and deliver targeted messaging that speaks to those events.

Overall, the Postmates team delivers a top-notch inbox experience to their subscribers…but how does GrubHub stack up?


My inbox relationship with GrubHub begins when my co-worker Jamie forwards me this email.

Subject line: Oh, Hello. Happy National Redesigned Website Day!
Preheader text: N/A

The copy made me genuinely laugh out loud, the CTA is fantastic, and they even have cute opt-out language. (It didn’t make it into my screenshot, but it says, “If you no longer wish to receive this email, it’s cool – you can unsubscribe. But don’t think we won’t miss you.)

So of course, I immediately signed up for their list.

The signup process

Unlike Postmates, you can sign up for GrubHub’s email list without downloading their app or becoming a customer. Their signup form lives on the footer of their website and fairly easy to find and fill out.

However, with high expectations set after seeing that first, brilliant email, I was a little disappointed when I immediately started receiving email after email like this.

Subject line: Enjoy $7 off delivery from your favorite local restaurants
Preheader text: N/A

Don’t get me wrong: There’s nothing inherently wrong with this email. It offers a great new customer discount, has a singular, focused CTA, and looks great.

But… I got the same offer four more times in the course of 9 days.

And they didn’t stop there: They bumped my new customer offer up to TEN DOLLARS OFF and continued to blast me with promotions.

Here’s the thing, guys: If I haven’t used the new customer promo code at this point, using ALL CAPS in the subject line probably isn’t going to convince me otherwise.

This isn’t to say that they don’t send other, better emails. On occasion, I’ve gotten sends like this.

Subject line: Sink into Shark Week for a chance to win $1,000 toward GrubHub
Preheader text: N/A

It’s good on so many levels: First of all, who doesn’t love Shark Week? Second, this is an adorable way to tie something timely to their offerings. Rather than just saying “buy, buy, buy,” they give me a reason to actually pay attention with funny copy, a special giveaway, and compelling design.

And this Super Bowl send featured a gorgeous GIF I couldn’t help but pay attention to.

Subject line: Our quiz answers the question: What should be on your menu this Sunday?
Preheader text: N/A

But as they continue to bombard me with that damned new customer offer (5 months in and I’m still getting them at least twice a week), my brand loyalty continues to dwindle.

Will I ever order from them? Probably not.
Will I get fed up eventually and unsubscribe? Most likely.

Here’s the main takeaway from this showdown: Based on first impressions and that amazing copy in the first email I saw from them, GrubHub could have won this one.

But blasting your subscribers with the same offer over and over isn’t going to win you business – it’s probably just going to annoy them. And Postmates has consistently proven that they’re actually paying attention to their subscribers’ needs and interests by sending only relevant, targeted offers.

So this one? It’s going to Postmates, hands-down.

WINNER: Postmates

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