Preference Centers

I’m back, and buried under a pile of emails. Time to unsubscribe.

I’m back from a lovely week of vacation. I didn’t bring a computer at all, and only used my iPad for social media and reading articles. My promotions tab for Email Snarketing looks like this right now:

inbox300

I’ve dealt with this before, sure. But I also have a Gmail label for posts I’ve planned to write on emails I’ve already gone through – and it has 30 emails in it (which probably works out to about 17 posts). For this blog, I really intended to read every email, every day, and write about a few every day. Of COURSE they piled up. That would have happened even if I hadn’t ignored my inbox for a week, because there’s really no way I’m going to ever write about 20-30 emails in a day, unless someone wants to pay me to do this as a full-time job (any takers?). I thought if I subscribed to everything I could find (and really, I’ve only scratched the surface there), I’d see new and exciting emails every day, and have a steady stream of content. And I do.

But some brands don’t send emails that are new and exciting every day. Some brands just make their print ad an image-mapped PDF and call it an email. (At least, that’s what it looks like). And some brands have a nice simple template that they use every day to plug in new content. Which is totally fine. I get it. It’s the exact opposite of what my brand does from a process standpoint, and I can definitely see why that would be beneficial for a brand to do.

I teach a Gmail organization class at my company (because I’m super nutty about Gmail), and one of the first things I have everyone do is go through their inboxes, cut out all the clutter and unsubscribe from emails that they never read and don’t really need/want. Then I have them do a search for old emails of from that brand and delete them.

It’s time to take my own advice. Here are some of the emails I’m breaking up with. I wish them the best, and this is not necessarily a reflection on how I feel about these brands in general. Mostly.

1. Best Buy Daily Deals

best buy subject lines_05182014

These emails feature a few products that happen to be on sale. The subject line is the same formula almost every day (but they did spice it up for Star Wars day), and the bottom of the email always has a “message clipped” note. For some of the deals, when you click on them, you can’t even see the “deal” price until you get to checkout. Best Buy? More like Best BYE.

2. Refinery29

Click bait subject line? Check. Formulaic template? Check? Click bait article? Big time check.

I actually enjoy this newsletter – when I have a chance to skim through it. I usually end up reading at least one of the articles in it, but it felt like something I could cut out for the sake of my inbox sanity, since I get this email daily and don’t usually have time to look at it. So I clicked unsubscribe, and it went to a nice opt-down page where I could pick a location (so I switched from “Everywhere” to “NYC”). THEN, it had the answer to all of my problems with these emails. At the bottom of this page, it had: “Change to Weekly.” DONE!

ref29 opt down

 

After clicking “Change to Weekly”:

ref29optdown2

Well played, Refinery29! You kept me as a subscriber. Refinery29? We’re fine.


3. Macy*s

This is one of those brands that seems to just re-purpose its print ads for email. Every time I look at them, I get a headache. The emails are much like walking into their flagship store on 34th Street: it starts out exciting (oooh! A one day sale! look at all the pretty things!), but quickly turns into overwhelming sensory overload:

macys1macys2macys3Macy*s? Go away before I pull out the mace. (Sorry, that one was a stretch…)

 

4. GameStop

First off, I never subscribed to this. I honestly have NO idea how I started getting it. I looked around on the internet to try to find out if they had a parent company I may have subscribed to at some point, and they used to be owned by Barnes and Noble, but that was years ago. And the emails were somehow going into my Primary tab.

They mostly send weekly ads, monthly newsletters, and occasional one-offs in between. And honestly, they’re not even really trying. Their weekly ad email looks like this. I have no idea who can actually read any of it.

gamestop1gamestop2

Their unsubscribe language says that I’m receiving the email because I opted to receive emails from GameStop (NUH UH!!!!!). I clicked on “Manage my preferences,” and it took me to a page to create an account. Their unsubscribe language says: “Click here to unsubscribe that email.”  WHAT? Who even wrote that? Time to STOP, GameStop.

 

I’m going to keep going through emails and maybe even unsubscribe from more. Just clearing out these brands and all that they’ve sent ever/the last week brought my inbox down to 284.

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For Mother’s day, I got you an unsubscribe link from Proflowers emails

Yesterday morning while I was in the waiting room for an eye exam, my best friend texted me:

proflowerstext1

Uh oh. I had a ton of emails from Proflowers in my “to write about” label in my Gmail account, because they had been pretty persistent with their Mother’s Day emails. They’ve been trying a bunch of weird tactics with icons in their from name and going pretty over the top with their urgency messaging. So I was already planning a post about them for next week when I do my Mother’s day roundups.

proflowers from name

But a CAN-SPAM violation? Now THAT gives me a sense of urgency.

I checked the link from my phone to be sure, and there it wasn’t. I could SUBSCRIBE to their emails, but the only thing remotely resembling an unsub was a preference center. I clicked on that, and the link didn’t work.

(I was planning on putting a screenshot of their footer here, but the font was such a light shade of grey that it’s almost impossible to read. But that could be due to me testing out a new contacts prescription).

So like any modern email subscriber activist (Is that a thing? Can we make that a thing? Hashtag #emaillorax), I took to Twitter to see what’s up. Mind you, I never asked to unsubscribe.

proflowers twitter

This isn’t my first online run-in with this company. A few years ago, my boyfriend (now husband!) sweetly ordered me flowers for Valentine’s day to be sent to my office. He gchatted me around 5 PM and asked if I got them. They never came. So, trying to be a good boyfriend, he just went to a local florist and got me other flowers. There were a few missed deliveries over the next few days. I was mad at Proflowers for making him worry about it (and for me not getting flowers at work on Valentine’s day), so I wrote a post on my blog at the time, and eventually people from their customer service team contacted me, gave him a refund and sent me free flowers in March. (Which was awkward when my coworkers asked about them. “Oh, they’re for Valentine’s day! I just got them!”). So, yes, they screw up sometimes, but they do try to make it right.

Yesterday afternoon, hours after all the twitter action, I got this email:

proflowers oops email

They didn’t exactly acknowledge that it was the unsubscribe link that was broken (but for all I know, there were others), but they at least had in fact fixed the preference center link. And they had an opportunity to have another touchpoint with their subscribers. Not that they’ve been remotely conservative in that department – I’ve gotten nearly daily emails from them in the last few weeks, and they’re all pretty “urgent.” They keep saying that it’s the last chance to get a certain discount, and then sending a better discount 2 days later. I’ll look at all of them after Mother’s day and see when the best discount actually happened.

Once I got to the preference center, it was actually pretty nice – it lets you opt-down for email frequency, and you can check if you want promotions for holidays (which is what I’ve been getting). It even allows you to select to receive reminders based on previous purchases, which seems like a great idea for birthdays and anniversaries.

So, Proflowers – we’re okay now. But I’ll be watching you.

 

 

 

Email signups: The good, the bad, and the MIA

In starting this blog, I created an email address specifically for it. Then I found a list of the top 100 retail brands, and set out to subscribe to as many of their emails as I could. That in itself was an interesting experience.  I’m going to continue to subscribe to more emails all the time, but here was my initial deep dive. It was really eye-opening to go through the process for a bunch of emails all at once and compare the experiences across different brands. It was especially useful for the brands whose websites I don’t normally visit, since I had to figure out how to navigate everything as a completely new visitor.

The Good
Gap had an email signup pop up a few seconds after I went to the website. Which, for my purposes, was actually kind of helpful. I didn’t want to spend that much time digging around most of these sites anyway. But normally, most people would find that annoying, because I’d imagine very few people go to an eCommerce site with the intention of signing up for emails. They also had an email signup at the bottom of their home page. Immediately after entering my email address, it went straight to a VERY detailed preference center, which asked me to select what categories I was interested in (Men’s, Women’s, Children’s? Maternity? Plus size?- I picked them all!). Then, it had a checkbox for “Would you like to hear from our other brands?” which led to a wormhole of signing up for Old Navy, Piperlime, Athleta, and Banana Republic – and then individual preferences for each of these brands as well.

I totally love this. As a consumer, I can ensure that I’m getting very specific content (assuming that they’re actually segmenting emails based on these preferences). As a marketer, Gap can reach customers who come in through any of their brands, and they don’t have to guess the subscriber’s gender or family status to send them targeted content.

Similarly, Ikea had a great preference center immediately following email signup. The actual email signup (for the US site) was small and subtle in the top right-hand corner, but easy to find. The email signup offered mobile text alerts and physical catalogs in addition to emails, and then just asked for First Name, Last Name, and Zip (in order to target content about the nearest store). After filling that out, the preference center asked a few yes/no questions that seemed a bit personal at first – “Are you engaged to be married?” “Do you have children?” “Are you a renter or a homeowner?” etc. I clicked engaged and put in a fake upcoming wedding date. I’m expecting to see emails about wedding registries and home remodeling. Let’s see what happens!

The Bad

When I signed up for Bed Bath and Beyond emails, this guy popped up:

bbbsignup

Sooooo many required fields (including mailing address)! Bed Bath and Beyond – I am signing up for EMAILS. I am showing interest in your brand, and I am telling you how I would like your brand to communicate with me. And guess what? My way costs you less money. If you email me those weekly 20% off coupons (with a promo code I can use in store), you don’t have to spend money mailing them to me, and I’m more likely to have them available on my phone when I’m shopping at your store. NEXT.

So, Kohl’s. First, I had to scroll to the bottom of a very cluttered home page to even find the signup, and it wasn’t 100% that that’s what it even was: kohls email signup Once I typed in my email address (with a “+kohls” in the middle because I ❤ gmail filters), I was told that it was an invalid email address. Well played, Kohl’s. But you’re wrong. Let me enter my email the way I want. (Toys R Us did the same thing). NEXT.

Oh, Amazon. Don’t worry, we’re cool. Except that I had to create an account to sign up for emails. (I obviously have an actual account because I order from Amazon at least once a week, but I wanted to see how they market to people who haven’t shared a ton of purchase behavior info already. It appears that they don’t.) NEXT.

The MIA

This one kind of surprised me.  I thought that Target MUST be doing something cool with emails. Articles have been written about their impressive use of data to target marketing. And yet…

I couldn’t find a place on Target’s website to sign up for their emails.

Some stores labeled their email sign-up as “Weekly Ads,” but Target actually had a digital version of its weekly ad there. They had a page called “all the deals” (which made me think of Hyperbole and a Half), but it still didn’t have an email signup. Eventually, I found a section that said “New Guest?,” which led to an account creation page.

But once I created an account, there wasn’t a way to give any preferences (and weirdly, the only personal info they asked for was first and last name, and birth month). There was a link on the sidebar for “Manage Subscriptions” (and maybe this is where my disadvantage as an email marketer comes in), which I assumed was about email preferences, but it wasn’t. I’m still not really sure what it was, because there was no copy explaining it. NEXT.

targetsubscriptions

Best Buy had a similar setup. It required creating an account to sign up for anything. It took a lot more tries than normal to come up with a password, because they required a lot of different characters. (Normally, that’s fine for a password – for things that need to be secure. I just want to sign up for your emails). Then it required a phone number to “look up your account” in stores. And after begrudgingly filling that in, it looks like all I did was create an account with Best Buy (and there wasn’t a way to sign up for emails there, either). I browsed around on the site a little more, and found an email signup on their “Deal of the Day” page, but it took some digging to get there.

Huge missed opportunity, Best Buy. You sell tons of different types of products, and I guarantee I’m only interested in a small percentage of them. Please get a preference center ASAP.

What’s your email sign-up process like?