Commentary

The Forgotten Pages Of Email Marketing

Let's have a moment of silence for the forgotten pages of email marketing, those lonely and neglected pages that haven't been updated in two years or more or --gasp! -- haven't been altered from the default template set by the vendor.

These sad pages and trigger emails include:

· Subscription forms

· Double opt-in confirmation emails

· Welcome emails

· Preference pages

· Send-to-a-friend forms and emails

· Refer-a-friend forms and emails

· Opt-out pages

· Opt-out confirmation pages and emails

While doing past studies on retailers' email practices, I've come across many instances of this trend. For example, while examining retailers' send-to-a-friend (STAF) programs, I saw many pages with near-identical screen layouts and language that clearly hadn't been changed from the vendor's default. Only a few like Neiman Marcus took the time to brand its STAF form with graphics that were in line with its brand image.

In another instance, while doing research on retailers' subscription practices, I found that Best Buy hadn't updated its subscription preference page in quite some time -- or at least hadn't been thorough about it. In the video games preferences section it had the Xbox, PS2, GameCube and Game Boy Advanced listed, even though the next generation of each of those consoles had been out for at least seven months at the time.

And while working on my welcome email study, I discovered that Coach's welcome email carried a copyright date of 2005, indicating that the company probably hadn't updated the email in more than two years. I suppose that would be okay if the welcome email was fantastic, but it's middling.

I'm currently working on a study about retailers' unsubscribe practices and I've run into similarly neglected pages. For example, Art.com's email preferences page has been updated with the latest logo and style, but the opt-out confirmation page hasn't been.

Another example: JC Whitney's opt-out page and opt-out confirmation page are completely devoid of branding and any kind of store navigation. Musician's Friend's opt-out page and opt-out confirmation page are exactly the same -- which is to say that neither retailer took the time to change the vendor's default pages and that neither one has a schedule for reexamining the effectiveness of these pages.

In many of these cases you have the distinct impression that you've wandered off the store floor and into the backroom -- and, in some cases, out through the loading docks and out by the dumpsters.

Right now most marketers are full-tilt into the holiday season, but let's make it a New Year's resolution to revisit trigger emails, forms and other pages in January. Give your customers a consistent and well-branded experience throughout every email interaction that they have with you -- from opt-in to opt-out.

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