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  • August 16, 2007

AM Inbox: The dark side of send to a friend

RetailEmail.Blogspot monitors the email marketing campaigns of more than 100 of the top online retailers. Here are highlights from our inbox this morning:

Sony — Want to know what's new and exciting at Sony?
A couple of weeks ago I received this email from Sony at an address where I’d never been a subscriber but had received a Sony email from a friend who used Sony’s send-to-a-friend (STAF) functionality. That forwarded email arrived more than 6 months ago. This email is asking my permission to send me emails and explains both the content and the frequency of their newsletter better than the vast majority of welcome emails and subscription forms. They also include links to sample newsletters, which is an emerging best practice. That’s the plus side.

On the negative side—and it’s a big negative—while the email starts off sounding like they are asking for my permission, toward the end it sounds like they’ve opted me in and now I have to opt out if I don’t want to give my permission. So they are assuming my permission. The email also indicates that I am an existing Sony customer and even says, “You are receiving this email because of your prior relationship with Sony Electronics”—which is completely false.

This is not a responsible use of the email addresses collected via STAF programs. If you’re going to offer STAF, you must resist the temptation to abuse the email addresses of your subscribers’ friends. I recommend that you don’t retain those addresses so you won’t be tempted. Instead of trying to loop back around months upon months later to try to pull in friends of subscribers, optimize the toppers on your STAF-sent emails so that they encourage the recipient to subscribe immediately. Less than half of major retailers do that, and it’s a key piece of advice in my Send to a Friend Benchmark Study.

RedEnvelope, 8/15 — Last Chance- First Glance.
In a rare text-only email, RedEnvelope tells subscribers that will be launching a new website and catalog, saying:

“In about 2 weeks, we will be launching our new website. In the first week of September, our new catalog will follow. We're thrilled about both. We know you will be, too. They represent a new approach to the art of giving. Through them, we believe we can become an even better partner to you, helping you celebrate the moments, occasions, and relationships central to your life.”

Neiman Marcus, 8/15 — FREE SHIPPING + The v.i.t.: The top fall trends you need now
My regular readers won’t be surprised to hear me say that I love coming up with interesting and unique names for stuff because I think it creates strong branding. In this email, Neiman Marcus coins the term “v.i.t.,” which stands for very important trends. The acronym certainly brings the acronym VIP to mind and that turns out to be a great association. And used in the subject line, v.i.t. is likely to spark curiosity and encourage folks to open the email. In the email itself, Neiman Marcus continues their regular use of video to supplement their message.

Lillian Vernon, 8/15 — Your Votes Are In! Shop 5-Star Rated Products
Three copy critiques: (1) It would be great to see the customer quotes in quotation marks to make it clear that they are indeed quotes. (2) Feel free to correct the grammar and punctuation of customer quotes. The first and last could have use an editor’s eye. And (3) the treatment of the location should be consistent—use either states alone or city plus state. And if you’re going to use postal abbreviations for the states be consistent with that as well.

Fingerhut, 8/15 — Shopper, make the most of college living with Fingerhut.com
Diamond.com, 8/15 — Back to School Essentials. Save 20% plus FREE Shipping
Bloomingdale’s, 8/15 — Introducing Gustto + Sneak A Peak At Fall's Hottest Trends
Norm Thompson, 8/15 — Choose from 136 NEW FALL LOOKS!
Costco, 8/15 — Verizon Wireless Products Available at Your Local Costco
Target, 8/15 — Chic and sleek offers in Furniture and Home, only through Saturday.
Drs. Foster & Smith, 8/15 — Dog Food on SALE at Target

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