Some of my favorite emails come from ThinkGeek. The emails are funny and clever and engaging. But even they get it wrong once in a while.
I received this message yesterday afternoon regarding my customer loyalty points:
Received: 8/26 at 1:02 pm
Subject line: “ThinkGeek fetches you 8350 tennis balls”
I thought the message was engaging and clever because they tied it back to National Dog Day. I read the message and clicked-through, but didn’t buy anything.
Last night, I received this message from ThinkGeek:
Received: 8/26 at 7:53 pm
Subject line: “Oops! ThinkGeek’s in the doghouse!”
A very clever way of fixing the mistake in my loyalty points. Instead of just resending the same message with “oops, we corrected the points” in the subject line, ThinkGeek quickly came up with a new message that played off of the first one with the National Dog Day theme. It was funny, yet useful, and even though it delivered the bad news that I’m down nearly 5500 points, it was still well received!
Mistakes happen, but it is the way they are handled that makes a lasting impression.
Mick Jagger said, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” And while I agree with the premise, I don’t think it applies to everything.
For example, when I checked my email this morning, I found this:
While the characters in the subject line from ThinkFastToys stands out, the use of two different characters instead of just one looks odd. If they would have used one of the flowers at the beginning and end of the subject line, it would have worked. But adding the second icon in there throws it off.
Register now for webinar on Reaching Holiday Shoppers with Responsive Design
Busy holiday shoppers will be opening your emails and shopping on your website from desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones this holiday season. Will you by making it interesting, easy and enjoyable for them to engage with your brand?
Join Listrak and partner 03 World on Tuesday, August 27, as we present a free webinar on the important and timely topic of Reaching Holiday Shoppers with Responsive Design. Learn not only why it’s so important to have a responsively-designed website and email templates, but also helpful how-to tips.
I abandoned my online cart yesterday at Hale Groves and I received this cart recovery email this morning with the subject line “Megan, you forgot something…”
Sure enough, when I click the “checkout” button, I’m taken to my cart where I can view the products I left behind. However, in all the years I’ve been paying attention to cart recovery emails I have never seen an email like this before. My items and prices are blurred out of the email. And the small images of the items included in the email aren’t the products I left behind.
I abandoned a delicious looking crate of tangerines and a honey cake. Those images alone might have been enough to tempt me to go back and complete the purchase. I’m curious about this tactic of making customers click through to see what they left behind - and for only making the cart available for two days.
I was curious enough about this message to click the header link to see what it looks like on my mobile phone, and while the exact same message was displayed, the links changed. Instead of the email addresses being hyper-linked, the phone numbers were, which would make it super easy for me to call about the purchase while viewing the email on my phone.
But I still had to click through to see what was left in my cart. To me, that seems like an unnecessary step. The purpose of a cart recovery email should be to instantly engage and entice shoppers to complete the purchase. This email’s main call-to-action is to view the cart, not complete the sale. It doesn’t make me want to buy that crate of tangerines.
I ordered a couple of things from The Container Store a few days ago. And this morning I received this email with the subject line “We want to get to know you…”
I think the email is nicely done as it tells the customer what information The Container Store is looking for and offers a birthday reward for sharing the info. It also says it will only take a minute, so customers know up front they don’t have to invest too much time answering tons of questions.
And it’s true. The online preference center simply asks what product categories the customer wants to hear about, how the customer describes him- or herself, shopping preferences, birthday, and zip code. There is also an option to add a mobile phone number but it clearly states that it doesn’t currently have a mobile marketing program at this time.
The email and preference center are nicely organized. But what else would I expect from The Container Store, which specializes in organization!
What information do you ask for on list registration forms?
Marketing Sherpa just released its latest Marketing Research Chart -
It’s obvious that email marketers are following the best practice of requiring only basic information at sign-up, but further analysis of the marketers’ responses also shows how data is power and how important data is for sending more relevant email messages.
Recently I received a series of seven emails from J. Crew. The series started on Monday and I received one email a day for seven days. The promotion was fittingly called “7 Days of Summer”. There were a few things I really liked about this campaign. Each day the sale was different. The design of the email was also a little different each day yet had a nice consistent feel. Below the navigation there was a progress bar where the day of the week was highlighted with a hand drawn circle. The use of hand drawn text in the design was a nice touch as well.
Email series can be applied to almost any holiday or event throughout the year. With the holiday season quickly approaching it may be something worth thinking about. “12 Days of Christmas” or “Countdown to the New Year” are just a few examples that could make a nice email series.
I spent the weekend crossing items off my to-do list around the house. I cleaned out and painted my garage. I repainted the lamp posts and the trim around the garage doors. I organized my laundry room and went shopping to buy items to help me keep it organized, only I couldn’t find what I was looking for at Bed, Bath, and Beyond so I ordered a couple of things from The Container Store’s website. And I received this email confirmation:
I love the fact that it includes recommended products, but I’m surprised that it didn’t include any of the items that I actually added to my cart, but then removed before checking out. I spent a good amount of time on thecontainerstore.com and at one point I had seven items in my cart. I would add things, remove them, add something new, remove it and go back and re-add an item I had previously deleted. It took me a while to decide exactly what I wanted.
Thecontainerstore.com easily could have talked me into ordering some of the items I had removed from my cart simply by including them in the email confirmation. I didn’t look at shoe racks, garbage cans, cabinets or shower caddies, but I did look at other laundry room and closet organization items. Not just look, but I added them to my cart, which shows purchase intent.
I’m guessing that the recommended items in this email are hard-coded and that the same products are recommended to every shopper. They might be best sellers, or they might be items that they just want to move. But they aren’t items recommended for me based on my purchase intent or purchase history.
Back-to-school campaigns are in full swing and everyone is paying attention as consumer spending now helps set holiday spending expectations and forecasts.
"According to NRF’s 2013 Back-to-School Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, families with school-age children will spend an average of $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $688.62 last year. Total spending on back-to-school is expected to reach $26.7 billion. Total back-to-school and back-to-college spending combined will reach $72.5 billion." Source: National Retail Federation
Retailers have been engaging shoppers with back-to-school email campaigns for weeks. One of my favorite campaigns this year was sent by Lillian Vernon. Here are a few examples of the emails received:
Subject line: Back-to-School Values + Free Shipping - 3 Days Only
Subject Line: Expires Soon: 20% Off Your Order - Just In Time for Back-To-School
Subject Line: Get an A+ in Savings - but Hurry 25% Off Expires in 4 Days!
I especially like the email on August 2 and how it includes Pin It links so shoppers can pin - and share - their favorite backpacks on Pinterest.
Gmail tabs actually appear to be benefiting email marketers who send engaging emails, which is great news, but are having the opposite effect on lesser engaged subscribers. The takeaway is clear - whatever you’re doing right, do more of it!
So who’s already engaging with your emails and what are they responding to? It’s critical to know not just to maintain and grow engagement with Gmail subscribers, but to optimize your email campaigns overall. In fact, now is the perfect time to begin closely monitoring your results and testing what works best to maximize email engagement in preparation for the busy holiday sending season.
Another important finding from the Return Path survey is that the impact of Gmail tabs may not be as great as anticipated because of the growing number of emails being opened on mobile devices which are not affected by Gmail tabs, That speaks to the importance of responsive design, which is something you should also be considering if you haven’t already.
Much like it used to be necessary to heat up a car on a cold day before driving, email marketers must warm up their IP addresses to ensure smooth delivery of holiday emails. If like most merchants you’re gearing up to increase your email sending volume over the holidays, now is the time to begin the warming process in order to establish your sender reputation and ensure maximum delivery rates.
Basically, you must begin by sending to a smaller number of subscribers on a conservative schedule and gradually increase email volume and frequency as your sender reputation begins to be established. Much like respect, sender reputation must be earned, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
Below is a checklist to get you started. Together, these steps will help eliminate the major spam signals for IPs – heavy volume, high bounce-back and complaint rates and spam trap hits.
In case you need more proof why responsive email design is important, take a look at this non-responsive example and ask yourself a few simple questions. Is this email easy to read? What is the call to action? Is this email providing a good experience for the recipient? Odds are your answers are no, I’m not sure and no.
Registration open for free Listrak webinar: Hitting the Inbox this Holiday Season
On August 13, at 1 p.m. ET, Listrak’s Chief Privacy Officer James Koons and 250ok Founder and CEO Greg Kraios - deliverability experts - will present the webinar HItting the Inbox this Holiday Season.
The holiday season is perhaps the most challenging for getting your marketing messages into the inbox, and the webinar will cover why, what you must do to be considered a reputable sender by ISPs, what data you should be monitoring and what you should and should not be doing in your holiday email marketing strategy.
Questions will be taken throughout the webinar, and any not answered within the hour will be addressed on Listrak Insights.
His conclusion reflected what we recommend, and that is to offer the opportunity to opt down rather than to just opt out. After all, the email that prompts the user to begin the unsubscribe process may have simply caught her on a bad day or happened to highlight products for which she for some reason is no longer interested.
Without making the process too difficult (which is a bad reflection on your brand). when a subscriber attempts to opt out, why not take the opportunity to gently remind her of the benefits of being a subscriber and offer her the chance to update her preferences for receiving your emails (different products, different frequency) rather than never hearing from you again?
I recently decided to unsubscribe from Fab.com and loved the experience. First, I got the genius, “Is this the end? Is it over? That’s so not Fab!” and then the opportunity to opt down instead, “Okay, you still like us, just not as much.” Fabulous (pun intended)!
The experience actually made me consider changing my mind, and certainly left me with a very positive perception of Fab.
I received this email from Ann Taylor Factory Stores this morning. It has a really clever subject line - “trends with benefits” is fun and it has a nice offer to boot. It really stood out in my inbox, but not for those reasons.
It stood out because they called me Cindy, not Megan.
I opened the email and things got even more confusing:
The fine print states: Not valid in conjunction with any other offer or total store promotion. Offer is not valid at Ann Taylor Factory Stores, LOFT stores, LOFT.com, or LOFT Outlet Stores.
The email says that everything in-store and online is 40% this weekend and offers me an additional 15% off if I shop at an Ann Taylor Factory Outlet store, but it then says that I can’t use the coupon in conjunction with any other store promotion and it’s not valid at Ann Taylor Factory Stores.
It sounds like I might have to investigate this one in person over the weekend! I can’t pass up a good deal, even if I don’t fully understand what it is they’re offering me, I mean Cindy.
I sent a Harry and David gift tower to a friend for Christmas. And yesterday I received this email:
I sent this gift two years ago and had completely forgotten about it until I received this message. It did a good job of re-engaging me - a lapsed customer - and also got me thinking about Christmas gifts - something I haven’t done yet.
I love any email that will save me time and make the hectic holidays more convenient.
Email marketers face a conundrum during the holidays. They know they have to increase both list size and frequency but they also know that messages that aren’t relevant and over-mailing are the two biggest reasons people opt-out and/or submit spam complaints. And that can greatly damage their ability to reach the inbox, putting their holiday email strategy in jeopardy.
But, all will be well if ramp up your deployment schedule in a responsible and measured fashion and pay close attention to deliverability best practices. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:
One of the easiest ways for subscribers to opt-out of an email list is to click the “report spam” button. When a subscriber complains, he or she should be removed from your list immediately and automatically, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t monitor the abuse report after each send. Reviewing this information will help you quickly identify – and resolve – any issues. If you haven’t looked at your abuse report lately, you should do so before you begin your holiday campaigns.
Warm up your IP Address
ISPs closely monitor your sending routines over time, so a sudden increase in volume will look suspicious. Slowly increase your volume and deployment times leading up to the holidays and be sure to manage your IP addresses carefully, including closely monitoring reputation, setting up authentication, throttling deployment, list hygiene, etc. You can read more about it in Return Path’s “Email Deliverability Review.”
Let customers opt-down instead of out
To help mitigate complaints, be sure every message includes an opt-out button that is easy to find and use. After all, if a subscriber wants to unsubscribe, it’s better for them to click the unsub button than the spam button. Another best practice is to let subscribers opt-down instead of opting-out. This strategy will help you keep your subscribers engaged and happy with the emails they receive this holiday season.
The holiday frenzy doesn’t give you an excuse to throw all of your engagement best practices out the window. For example, if you usually suppress subscribers who haven’t opened one of your emails within a certain time frame, you shouldn’t start sending them daily holiday campaigns. Before the holidays, try to re-engage those lapsed subscribers with a fabulous offer. If that doesn’t work, be sure to keep them on a suppression list for most of your holiday campaigns. You can certainly send specific holiday re-engagement campaigns to them throughout the season in an attempt to recapture their attentions, like beau coup did last December, but don’t blast out every single one of your messages to inactive subscribers.
Today I opened an email on my desktop from YOOX.com that really piqued my interest. It didn’t show a single item of clothing, but instead offered an extra 15% off for purchasing from the Fall-Winter Collection via smartphone or tablet:
I immediately checked the email on my iPhone to see if it was optimized (it was) and then clicked through to the website to see if it was as well. It was:
Best Buy is wasting no time making sure their customers are thinking holiday already. Capitalizing on the Christmas in July that we all saw last week - from emails to store windows to Santa making an appearance at the local baseball game - I found this Black Friday messaging staring back at me in my inbox.
Let’s face it: humans aren’t perfect. And there is definitely a human element to email marketing. From the designer who creates the graphics, to the front-line associate that clicks “Send,” there is a risk of something going wrong. So, on occasion, an email makes it to the inbox that isn’t 100% right.
Unfortunately, it can be a highly visible mistake. After all, most executives of a brand receive their own emails, not to mention the thousands or millions of subscribers. And unlike a webpage that can be replaced with new code relatively quickly or a Facebook post that can be deleted and re-posted (or at least commented on to correct a mistake), once an email is sent, it’s sent. Like a print ad in a magazine, it’s there for everyone to see.
If you’re looking to beef up your email list before the holidays, an email sweepstakes is a great way to quickly grow your subscriber base. The concept is simple - you send out an email announcing the contest and let people enter to win some of your most popular products. And you reward them with extra entries for inviting friends. Your subscribers essentially do all of the acquisition work for you - and because you’re giving away your own products, the majority of the entrants will be your target audience. These campaigns can add thousands of new qualified subscribers in a few weeks. Win!
The awesomeness of this tactic doesn’t end there. The sweepstakes email also acts as a re-engagement campaign as it re-captures the attentions of lapsed subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked on one of your emails in a while. Leading into the holidays, you want as many active subscribers as possible on your list, and a sweepstakes campaign will certainly help. But that’s still only part of the equation.
More subscribers + increased engagement = more sales
The most amazing benefit of a sweepstakes campaign is the fact that it brings in revenue. Even though you’re not asking customers to buy anything - in fact, it’s the opposite - you’re trying to give products away - customers will shop and buy from your sweepstakes emails. And the new subscribers will continue to buy from you. One of our clients found that 80% of new subscribers that came in through a sweepstakes placed at least one purchase within six months.