Last week I published the 6th annual Oopsy Hall of Fame, which highlights email errors from top retailers. Pretty much every retailer I track contributed to the list, so it’s less about the names and much more about the kinds of errors being made. Every year the hotspots for errors shift; my hope is that marketers will continually refocus on where errors are costing them the most.
Here are three error-prone areas that were hotspots during 2011:
Landing page disconnects. An email marketer’s responsibilities don’t end with writing, designing and coding emails. A smooth transition from email to landing page is critical to generating conversions, which is the ultimate goal of most email marketing efforts. It’s difficult to gauge the true state of landing pages without extensive research, but anecdotally I’m deeply concerned.
For instance, in a Jan. 3, 2011 Chadwick’s email, all eight of the product images linked to the wrong products. And while a couple of the landing pages were for tops that were similar, the rest were items like scarves, mittens and leggings that were way off. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen many cases where products link to “0 search results found” pages. I also routinely see product images in emails but then can’t find that product on the landing page assortment.
There seems to be a serious breakdown in QAing of links. That should be a top priority of all quality assurance team members this year.
Image alignment eyesores. Back in 2009 and early 2010, there was a lot of talk about Gmail and Hotmail/Firefox adding 1 pixel borders around images, which messed up email designs -- sometimes rather spectacularly. A few years later, image alignment problems are still prevalent due to a lack of "display:block" styling. And the issue is now more urgent because both Gmail and Firefox usage have increased over the past couple of years, so these coding issues are affecting more subscribers.
With the number of email reading platforms proliferating -- with the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet being two of the more recent ones -- platform-specific coding issues will surely grow. If you’re doing your own coding in-house, having an agency or ESP do a coding audit of your email template will help clear up these kinds of rendering issues.
A related issue that’s also been on the increase is image alignment of HTML text discount codes, particularly unique or personalized discount codes, which allows for better tracking and attribution. If you’re inserting HTML text in between images, be sure to check how it renders on all the major email client and browser combinations.
More spelling and grammar errors. Retailers sent 16% more emails per subscriber last year than in 2010, and 51% more than they did in 2008. More emails equals more chances to make small mistakes like misspellings, misplaced punctuation, and poor grammar.
Some argue that small mistakes like these don’t matter, but they can distract readers from your message and can definitely have an additive negative effect -- either across multiple emails or even within a single email. For instance, in this Aug. 30, 2011 J&R email,, there are at least 10 spelling, punctuation and style errors in the “at a glance” copy. That many errors all lumped together is definitely not a good reflection on the brand.
But even with a good QA process, it’s hard to eliminate the occasional serious mistake. Look for ways to minimize the impact of those mistakes post-send by halting sends, updating image files and redirecting links, as Liz Ryan of Threadless recommended in her recent Email Insider column. And although your website team will likely want to send apology emails for site outages more often than truly warranted, it’s good to have an apology email template ready in case it’s needed.