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  • August 4, 2008

AM Inbox: You can't rewrite consumer expectations

The Retail Email Blog monitors the email marketing campaigns of more than 100 top online retailers. Here are highlights from my inbox this morning:

Bluefly, 7/31 — Our Gift to You...
I received this email after participating in Bluefly’s “Caption This Contest” on July 16. The gist of the contest is that they present a picture from the latest episode of Project Runway (which Bluefly is a big sponsor of) and customers try to come up with the best caption for the picture. The twist here is that it’s run through their Flypaper blog; to enter you comment on the post with the picture so everyone can see everyone else’s suggested captions. That’s a great way to create interest in your blog and to drive engagement.

The worrisome thing about this blog-run contest is that a few days after receiving this email I received an email welcoming me to their email program and the day after that I received my first regular promotional email from Bluefly. Now the worrisome thing is not that they didn’t notify entrants that they would be opting in to their email program, because they did. It was noted on the individual post and on a previous blog post where they announced the rules for their “Caption This Contest.” What’s worrisome is that people aren’t used to commenting on a blog post and being opted into an email program. Those people that skipped over the rules probably did not respond favorably to receiving emails. It’s likely that they saw elevated spam complaints because on their most recent Caption This Contest post they dropped the language that explained that by commenting you were opting in to recent Bluefly emails.

Bluefly could have avoided trouble by using a confirmed opt-in and going one of these two routes:

1. Bluefly could send “Thank you” email on the day of the comment (the sooner the better). It would thank the person for their caption entry, offer a free shipping coupon to incent the person to start shopping, and ask me to confirm my subscription their email program in order to get more free shipping offers and exclusive discounts. In this case a subject line like “Here’s a Thank You Gift for entering Bluefly’s ‘Caption This Contest’” would likely be effective. Including Bluefly’s branding plus the name of the contest should maximize recognition and therefore minimize spam complaints from folks that didn’t read the contest rules closely.

2. An alternative to a pure “Thank you” email would be to send an email several days later notifying the person of the winner of the contest. That email could also thank them for participating, offer them a free shipping coupon and ask them to confirm their email subscription. In this case I’d recommend a subject line like “And the winner of Bluefly’s ‘Caption This Contest’ is…”

In both cases, I’d include a message at the very beginning of the preheader text explaining why they’re receiving the message to reinforce the subject line. For instance, in scenario #2, I’d say something like “Here’s a special ‘thank you’ gift for participating in our ‘Caption This Contest’.”

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SmartBargains, 8/1 — It's got to go. Take an extra 25% off Clearance.
In this email SmartBargains updates the source file for one of the images to create additional urgency for those subscribers that didn’t open the email on Friday or are looking at it again after having looked at in on Friday. TigerDirect has done this in the past, placing “SOLD OUT” sashes across particular products in their emails (see Oct. 8 AM Inbox).

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JC Whitney, 8/1 — Save Fuel, Cash And Up To 15% Off Your Order!
Several other online retailers have jumped on high gas prices as a hook to promote online shopping. But as an auto parts retailer JC Whitney sells products that can directly save you money on gas. This is a pretty eye-catching, humorous creative.

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SUBJECTIVITY SCANNER: Select noteworthy subject lines
Neiman Marcus, 8/1 — EXCLUSIVE DENIM VIDEOS + $2000 Contemporary sweepstakes + FREE SHIPPING
Buy.com, 8/1 — Back to School at Buy.com, HP Slimline Desktop = $399.99, HP Notebook = $489.95,..
Dell, 8/1 — Stay Stylish on Campus with a $499 Inspiron 1525 Laptop
Office Depot, 8/1 — The Back to School Sale You've Been Waiting...Starts Sunday
OfficeMax, 8/1 — In-Store Bag Event - Starts Sunday
Ross-Simons, 8/1 — Introducing Jewelry for Pets from Ross-Simons
Dell, 8/2 — Green is Going Small – Introducing the New Dell Studio Hybrid
Saks Fifth Avenue, 8/1 — Alice + Olivia Exclusive Video
Art.com, 8/1 — 25% Off the Entire Site + Top 5 Summer Best Sellers
Sephora, 8/2 — Primpin' made easy with these new picks
Sports Authority, 8/2 — NFL Preseason - Free Shipping on Orders $50 or More

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