Did Your Email Have A Wardrobe Malfunction?

It happens to the best of us (even A-list celebs): the dreaded wardrobe malfunction. You put something out there in the world that is best kept under wraps or to the confines of your private life. But, nonetheless, it is out there and needs to be dealt with. Some wardrobe malfunctions are bigger than others -- and the response will depend on just how egregious the offense happens to be. And to be clear, "oops!" isn't always the right answer.

The Plumber's Crack

At a recent work function, it happened. Sitting at a table on an open-backed chair, staring at me from across the room -- someone's pants slid down just a little too low. What would you do? Do you inform? Do you ignore? Do you laugh? It's the most innocent and often unavoidable wardrobe malfunction. The solution is to tug up those jeans when you feel cool air on your back. You don't announce it to the world; you adjust discreetly and move on. 

I liken this to sending an email to a subscriber who wasn't really part of the initial segmentation plan. Maybe you loaded the wrong list or established the wrong database query. It was not your intention, but more people got a peek than you intended. Could your relevance be affected? Sure. But does sending a cat offer to dog owners warrant a second email that says, "Hey, sorry, we just sent you an offer that had nothing to do with you"? This isn't such an egregious error that you need to offer a discount -- so perhaps instead you just let it go. It might not be the worst thing in the world.

The Janet Jackson

Ahhh, yes. We all remember that Super Bowl. It was the moment when the term "wardrobe malfunction" was born -- and boy, did Jackson malfunction. This level of mistake is like sending the wrong information for a deal or promotion, or even including a CTA that doesn't function in your email. These are moments that can really affect the recipients' experience and engagement with your brand.

If you sent the wrong offer, you first need to determine how you want to handle the situation. Do you want to honor the discount that was sent or the sales price you put out into the world? If "yes," there isn't really anything to do customer-facing. Internally you need to prep your organization for what has happened and inform them of what to expect. If "no," you need to communicate back to your recipients. Depending on how many people have opened the message, you may choose to re-message everyone or just those who opened. Whatever the strategy, you need to bring attention to it situationally.

The same holds true for an incorrect link; however, here you have a chance to be a little more specific in your prescription. Depending on your ESP, you may have the ability to correct the URL on the back-end after the message has deployed -- but that is not possible for everyone. If this is not an option, then consider setting up a triggered email communication that goes out to those who have clicked the link with a correction and possibly an offer for their inconvenience. If that isn't an option either, then make the correction, infuse some corporate personality into the message, and send it back out. 

You also need to consider just how effective the message is going to be. In noodling through eDataSource, I found two "oops" messages that went out this month -- one from Vitamin Shoppe and one from Target. According to their statistics, the open rates, respectively, were 15% and 4% -- and the deleted rates were 39% and 18%. So before you send that message, determine what you expect the response to be. Is it what you had hoped for? How would you respond? What you want to avoid with the dreaded wardrobe malfunction is becoming a habitual offender -- your oops messages will only lose credibility, and folks will begin to think you are doing it on purpose. Are you?

4 comments about "Did Your Email Have A Wardrobe Malfunction?".
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  1. Cam Yuill from AdTouch, August 30, 2012 at 10:06 a.m.

    I would always inform rather that ignore. It's the right thing to do, Kara :-)

  2. Kara Trivunovic from Epsilon, August 30, 2012 at 1:28 p.m.

    So we are clear Cam - - Inform the plumber or the email recipient :) ?

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 30, 2012 at 3:24 p.m.

    Sorry Kara that I am a bit off point. Jackson's thing was not a malfunction. It was a deliberate act of violence towards women and she condoned it. The clothing was supposed to be ripped off and that is not an accident.

  4. Kestrel Lemen from Bronto Software Inc., September 10, 2012 at 2:41 p.m.

    I go back and forth with peers on the "oops" message and when to send it out. I like to be pretty conservative and only use it when something has gone truly wrong, EX: people can't make a purchase. However I have had several peers tell that the "oops" message gets a great response and can be used to get more open and conversion rates. To go along with your analogie I would call this wardrobe malfunction The Showing Awkwardly Too Much, (or The Snooky) "Oops! Well now that I've got your attention..."

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