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  • January 27, 2012

Oopsy Hall of Fame: 2011 Inductees

This is the kind of fame that nobody wants, but highlighting the email marketing slips and gaffes by some of the world’s largest online retailers drives home the importance of being careful with your brand in a medium that’s high volume and lightning fast. 2011’s inductees should be a reminder that you need to be on your guard, temper speed with meticulousness, and be diligent with your pre-flight checklists. (Hopefully some of these oopsies will also make you feel better about some of the mistakes that you might have made last year.) Here’s an abridged selection of oopsies:

As usual, subject lines proved to be fertile ground for oopsies, which is unfortunate since they play such a strong role in determining whether the recipient opens and engages further with the email.

Linens ’n Things, 11/28 — Cyber Monday Deals + Free Shipping Sitewide
Linens ’n Things, 11/28 — Last Chance: Cyber Monday Deals End in 60 Minutes
And then 4 hours later they send this email:
Linens ’n Things, 11/28 — Last Chance: Cyber Monday Deals End in 60 Miutes
And then 2 hours later they send this email:
Linens ’n Things, 11/28 — Oops! Sorry for the Typo: Cyber Monday Deals End in Minutes!‏
Ignoring the credibility issues around when the sales was ending, there’s no reason to apologize for a simple typo, even if it’s in the subject line.

Kmart, 11/11 — KZ4FRIM123: Save $70 on a Panasonic HDTV + more offers inside
The code in the subject line appears to be a bizarre broken first name personalization, as there was not a custom discount code in this email matching this.

Toys “R” Us, 11/2 — A quick question, .
A lack of a default value led to a blank first name personalization in this subject line.

Cooking.com, 10/21 — TEST Butterscotch Dessert Recipes + Holiday Meal Planning
It looks like this subject line was a “TEST” that misfired or that the placeholder text simply wasn’t removed before the email was sent.

Macy’s, 12/20 — Last one before Christmas! Enjoy web busters + free guaranteed delivery
Per the preheader text and body copy, it appears this subject line was supposed to say, “Last one-day sale before Christmas!...”

Lands’ End, 12/18 — 8 days to Christmas, 2 fun ways to save: 40% off your order + free shipping
This email, which arrived in the morning, incorrectly counted the days till Christmas. It was 7 days till Christmas, not 8.

Cooking.com, 4/19 — Mother's Day is May 9th - Our Top Gift Ideas for Mom‏
Mother’s Day was on May 8 last year.

Costco, 9/21 — Safely Store Your Valuables And Save $200 On A Canon Safe At Costco.com
“Cannon” was misspelled in the subject line, but was correct in the body copy. Special attention should always be paid to getting proper nouns like brand names spelled correctly. (Hat tip to James Gardner for pointing this out to me.)

TigerDirect, 1/24 — HDTV Super Week Starts Now: 50" - 73" starting at $549...$100 Cashback from Paypal & Much More‏
“PayPal” is misspelled.

Babies “R” Us, 6/9 — Free $10 Gift Card with CARS 2 Kimberly Clark Purchase!
“Kimberly-Clark” is misspelled.

Spiegel, 2/19 — Outwear SALE, NEW MARKDOWNS! Wear-Now Styles From $29!‏
“Outerwear” is misspelled in the subject line, but is correct throughout the body of the email.

Musician’s Friend, 5/19 — Musician's Friend: Pre-Memorial Day Sale Is On--Save Up To $500 For A Limited Tim‏
“Time” is misspelled.

JCPenney, 2/1 — Click Til You Drop! Super Hot Buys Are Back‏
“Til” isn’t a word, but “until,” “till” and “’til” are.

Walmart, 6/6 — Shop Low Prices on Top-Selling Electronics + 97 Shipping on All Laptops‏
It’s missing “cent” (or a “c”) after “97.”

Ross-Simons, 7/26 — _Today's Super Deal - Italian Tri-Colored Multi-Strand Flex Necklace - From $325
There appears to be inadvertent underscore at beginning of this subject line.

B&H Photo Video, 5/11 — B&H Newsletter: Wednesday May, 11, 2011
There’s an unnecessary comma after “May.”

Chadwicks, 7/14 — 15% off from 12-3pm, ET only
There’s an unnecessary comma after “pm.”

J. Jill, 2/9 — Style. be mine: 20% off companion sweaters, plus $10 off jeans!‏
I think they intended it to say, “Style, be mine”—so it should be a comma instead of a period.

Buy.com, 4/10 — Get ready for Spring with big savings on bags, shoes, sandals and kid's toys.
It should be “kids’ toys.”

Babies “R” Us, 7/7 — Save 20% ANY High Chair, Swing, Bouncer & More Plus Our Biggest feeding Sale!
They probably intended to capitalize “feeding” since all the other words are at least initial caps.

Sports Authority, 2/4 — Congratulations Green Bay On Your 2010 Championship Win! - Championship Gear Now Available‏
There should be commas after “Congratulations” and “Bay” since the subject line is addressing Green Bay.

NFLshop, 10/9 — Summer Is Over New York- Get The NEW 2011 Cold Weather Gear And Avoid The Winter Blitz
There should be a comma after “Over” since it’s addressing New York.

Neiman Marcus, 9/8 — Happy Birthday Michael Kors!
There should be a comma after “Birthday” since it is addressing Michael Kors.

Ralph Lauren, 6/1 — Congratulations Luke Donald And Tom Watson‏
There should be a comma after “Congratulations” since this is addressing Luke Donald and Tom Watson.

Walgreens, 1/10 — Beauty Sale + New Years Resolution Savings | 20% OFF Contact Lenses‏
“New Year’s” should have an apostrophe.

Sam’s Club, 11/26 — A season of savings awaits! Check out TV's, electronics and more‏
Kmart, 10/19 — Save on featured TV's + 30% OFF Halloween greeters
Kmart, 10/5 — All TV's on sale + FREE SHIPPING on Halloween costumes
There’s no apostrophe in “TVs.”

Barnes & Noble, 9/19 — Tony Bennett's Latest! Plus Emmy Award Winning DVD's
The plural of “DVD” is “DVDs”—no apostrophe.

Lands’ End, 10/23 — New styles, big savings! 30% off all regularly-priced styles
“Regularly priced” shouldn’t be hyphenated (because of the -ly ending).

Sam’s Club, 7/18 — Study-up on great savings; Back to College done right
There shouldn’t be a hyphen in “study up.”

Bloomingdale’s, 9/30 — Enjoy 20% Off With Friends& Family – Now Online & In Store!
There needs to be a space before the ampersand.

J. Jill, 5/16 — Summer softness never felt so great. Plus,15% off!‏
It’s missing space after the comma.

Chadwicks, 9/6 — Buy a JACKET get PANTS half off!
It’s missing a comma after “Jacket.”

Northern Tool, 3/28 — Customer Top Rated Products Now On Sale‏
Northern Tool, 5/19 — Top Selling Outdoor Equipment Now On Sale‏
Dell, 7/12 — The reviews are in - shop our top rated products
“Top-rated” should be hyphenated.

Bloomingdale’s, 12/21 — Forgot to Buy Gifts? SAVE 25-50% + Last Minute Gift Ideas!
Sam’s Club, 6/13 — Last minute Father's Day gifts: Grills, electronics and more!
Sam’s Club, 5/2 — Great Last Minute Gift Ideas for Mother's Day‏
Sam’s Club, 2/7 — Last Minute Valentine's Day gifts from Sam's Club‏
“Last-Minute” should be hyphenated.

Buy.com, 9/1 — Last Minute Back to School PRICE DROPS!
“Last-Minute” and “Back-to-School” should be hyphenated.

Walgreens, 8/31 — Award Winning Mobile App | Refill Prescriptions, Order Prints & Browse Our Weekly Ad
“Award-Winning” should be hyphenated.

Neiman Marcus, 7/16 — Wants, needs, must haves! Our Fashion Director dishes
“Must-haves” should be hyphenated.

Finish Line, 1/28 — Cupid Approved Kicks for You & Yours!
“Cupid-Approved” should be hyphenated.

Oopsies in the deployment sphere ranged from duplicate emails to botched A/B tests to segmentation gone astray.

Lowe’s, 1/9 — Sorry we are a little late, but great values like these are worth waiting for.‏
Lowe’s has apparently uncovered a glitch that kept them from fulfilling some of their email sign-up requests. The account where I received this email was used to subscribe to Lowe’s emails more than two years ago. I signed up via their homepage with this account so my guess is that source was not properly integrated into the email system. Best Buy suffered a similar problem a couple of years ago (hopefully fixed now). The takeaway here is to take an inventory of all of your signup sources (homepage, checkout, etc.) and audit them regularly and in the wake of any major email system changes.

Jan. 9, 2011 Lowe’s email
View this email full-sized.

J&R, 2/27 — Weekend Sale -- Last Day to Save!‏
TigerDirect, 3/25 — March Black Friday...72-Hour Deal Event!‏
RitzCamera, 3/29 — Top 10 DSLR accessories: create your best outfit‏
TigerDirect, 4/26 — April Black Friday...72-Hour Deal Event!‏
The Company Store, 6/29 — Outdoor Living at its Best!
Spiegel, 6/30 — You're Invited... VIP Sale from $4‏
Lane Bryant, 8/22 — Get Your Shine On In Sequin Tops + BOGO 50% Jeans, $10 Bras And More
Chadwicks, 8/29 — Shhhh...Secret Clearance Web Sale, save up to 80%!
Montgomery Ward, 10/12 — Winter Wise: Classic Coats + 300 New Arrivals
TigerDirect, 12/18 — 50 Gifts Under $50...Perfect Stocking Stuffers
Each of these emails was sent twice to at least some subscribers.

Crate & Barrel, 11/25 — Top 10 gourmet items up to 30% off. This weekend only.
Crate & Barrel, 11/25 — Black Friday Deals: This weekend only up to 30% off our top 10 gourmet items.‏
I received this email twice with different subject lines, so apparently they were doing some A/B subject line testing and there was a glitch in the segmentation. I always look forward to these mistakes because it’s insightful to see which elements they are testing and how.

TigerDirect, 11/25 — 300+ BLACK FRIDAY Deals from TigerDirect!
TigerDirect, 11/25 — 300+ BLACK FRIDAY Deals from TigerDirect
It appears that this was a subject line A/B test that wasn’t segmented properly, since both of these emails had the same creative and were sent very close together.

ShopNBC, 4/8 — Yikes! Time is running out for our best deals‏
Looks like ShopNBC was doing some subject line A/B testing and didn’t set up their segments correctly as at least some subscribers got both emails.

Fingerhut, 9/20 — Fingerhut: Ahoy! What is Your Treasure? Find Out NOW!
Talk Like a Pirate Day is Sept. 19, not the 20th. Fingerhut was using a new sender address so it’s possible that the delivery of this email was delayed by ISPs.

Urban Outfitters, 5/5 — You're Invited to a Special Event at Your Local UO (Details Inside)
Urban Outfitters, which knows that I live on the East Coast, experienced a geo-segmentation misfire with this email. I received the correct version of the email later in the day.

May 5, 2011 Urban Outfitters email
View this email full-sized.

J. Jill, 2/8 — Important changes to your J. Jill credit card account.‏
Probably exciting subscribers’ fears that they were being phished, J. Jill erroneously sent this email about credit card changes to some non-cardholders, like me.

Click to view this Feb. 8, 2011 J. Jill email full-sized
View this email full-sized.

Mistakes in coding and image formatting made for some of the most spectacular errors of 2011. There’s no missing these.

Lane Bryant, 6/10 — $20 Off $40 This Weekend + Last Weekend For 30% Off Dresses And $15 Tees‏
Every year there seems to be a hiccup in a retailer’s email design that results in the preheader and footer text rendering in white text on a white background, which makes the mailing address invisible and the unsubscribe instructions confusing if not impossible to understand. Either one of those puts you in violation of CAN-SPAM. In 2008, Sports Authority made this mistake (see 2008 Oopsy Hall of Fame); in 2009, J&R (see 2009 Oopsy Hall of Fame); in 2010, Ralph Lauren (see 2010 Oopsy Hall of Fame); and in 2011, Lane Bryant with this email. In this case, Lane Bryant also had a problem with their header and logo. Here’s the email (left) next to the same email highlighted so you can see the white-on-white text:

Click to view this June 10, 2011 Lane Bryant email full-sized Click to view this highlighted June 10, 2011 Lane Bryant email full-sized

Cooking.com, 5/26 — You Voted For the Top 5 Summer Cookout Recipes!
Inexplicably, there’s the URL of video-sharing site http://www.dailymotion.com/us right above the No. 5 item.

May 26, 2011 Cooking.com
View this email full-sized.

Lands’ End, 11/16 — Limited time! Take 40% off any one item
Some of the code is showing in this email.

Nov. 16, 2011 Lands’ End email
View this email full-sized.

Crate & Barrel, 3/6 — Save big with Deals of the Week: exclusive luggage, new outdoor collections and more.‏
There’s code showing at top of this email.

Mar. 6, 2011 Crate & Barrel email
View this email full-sized.

Kmart, 3/11 — All patio furniture & gas grills on sale + save on outdoor playsets‏
In addition to the 150 pixels of fixed margin on either side of the design, there’s some code showing at the top of this email.

Mar. 11, 2011 Kmart email
View this email full-sized.

Home Depot, 10/27 — View Your Local Ad, Plus save up to 60% in Every Room with Overstock Values
There’s code showing at top of this email.

Oct. 27, 2011 Home Depot email
View this email full-sized.

Gilt Groupe, 6/27 — Highland, Fourth of July Style, Gilt MAN Essentials, Jiun Ho, Baron Wells, Mason's & John Smedley, Tailgate & Rxmance, Toy Watches and more Starts Today at Noon ET
Their mailing address is repeated outside of the frame of the email.

June 27, 2011 Gilt email
View this email full-sized.

Bluefly, 1/28 — Yes, We're on a MAN HUNT‏
The radio buttons in this email didn’t work, as support for them is inconsistent. A simpler design would have been to have a “Man” and a “Woman” button that the subscriber would click. It’s one fewer click for the subscriber and simpler to code. Of course, the more directly actionable question is, “What are you most interested in: men’s apparel or women’s apparel or both?” Bluefly used radio buttons again in Mar. 3 and July 14 emails.

Click to view this Jan. 28, 2011 Bluefly email full-sized
View this email full-sized.

Kmart, 4/20 — Save on ALL patio furniture & gas grills, plus $60 off an HDTV‏
The Easter-themed background image was accidently flipped so that “hop” is backward and reversed.

Apr. 20, 2011 Kmart email
View this email full-sized.

B&H Photo Video, 5/3 — Apple's New iMac - Available for Pre Order‏
The call-to-action buttons are out of alignment with the rest of the email.

May 3, 2011 B&H Photo Video
View this email full-sized.

Brookstone, 12/15 — ONLY HOURS LEFT to Save up to $50! Mystery Coupon Inside
There are image gaps around the HTML text unique discount code. As more and more retailers use unique discount codes to track subscriber activity, I’m seeing this issue more often each year.

Dec. 15, 2011 Brookstone email
View this email full-sized.

OfficeMax, 5/10 — Limited Time $30 Coupon + Free Shipping‏
There were image alignment issues caused by the HTML text discount code.

May 10, 2011 OfficeMax email
View this email full-sized.

Cabela’s, 6/29 — Cabelas.com ships your order for pocket change!
There were image alignment issues caused by the HTML text discount code.

June 29, 2011 Cabela’s email
View this email full-sized.

Buy.com, 3/6 — Did You Know We Sell Wine?
The images in this email should have been all left-justified like usual.

Mar. 6, 2011 Buy.com email
View this email full-sized.

Omaha Steaks, 4/20 — 48 HOURS ONLY - Try Omaha Steaks for $5 a steak!
There’s a vertical image alignment problem that’s most evident with the dot-whack text.

Coldwater Creek, 12/14 — An EXTRA 20% OFF Jackets & Sweaters in Outlet
The image alignment in this email was breaking up. I still see lots of retailers struggling with image alignment issues caused by Gmail (see Why are HTML emails suddenly breaking in FF/Safari/Chrome in Gmail?) and the combination of Hotmail-Firefox (see Majority of Retailers Fail Hotmail-Firefox Rendering Test).

Dec. 14, 2011 Coldwater Creek email
View this email full-sized.

TigerDirect, 3/14 — Lucky Deals: Save up to 40% Off‏
Extra space around the images in this email caused them to not fit on the width-defined rows.

Mar. 14, 2011 TigerDirect email
View this email full-sized.

B&H Photo Video, 3/8 — B&H Photo Newsletter: Tuesday March 8, 2011
When I opened this email, B&H was probably having image server issues or else a ton of wrong image URLs. But this oopsy illuminates the fantastic “defensive designing” that they’ve done, using lots of HTML text and alt text to maintain the integrity of the message when images are blocked. Truly impressive.

Mar. 3, 2011 B&H Photo Video email
View this email full-sized.

Musician’s Friend, 9/6 — Extended for One Day Only! Save Up to $100 On the Gear You Need + Free Shipping!
Image has wrong alt text.

Sept. 6, 2011 Musician’s Friend email
View this email full-sized.

A seamless transition from email to landing page will hugely benefit conversions. With these emails, something went wrong along the way:

Chadwick’s, 1/3 — We think you would really like these!
I fairly regularly run across product images that link to the retailer’s homepage or to the wrong product page, but this email from Chadwick’s wins the prize for most misguided links. All eight of the product images linked to the wrong products. And while a couple of the landing pages were for tops that were similar, the rest were items like scarves, mittens and leggings that were way off.

Jan. 3, 2011 Chadwick’s email
View this email full-sized.

Buy.com, 10/30 — WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
Clicking on the “East” call-to-action generated an otherwise blank page with an “Invalid URL” error message.

Oct. 30, 2011 Buy.com email
view this email full-sized.

Barnes & Noble, 2/14 — Save 45% and Make Staying Indoors Fun‏
All of the submessages (“Cookbooks,” etc.) has the same “Sorry. We did not find any results.” landing page.

Feb. 14, 2011 Barnes & Noble email
View this email full-sized.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, 3/31 — Introducing Koppen - Technology for Planet Earth‏
Three of the six product calls-to-action resulted in a “Your search for "" returned O results.” error.

Mar. 31, 2011 Dick’s Sporting Goods email
View this email full-sized.

Macy’s, 5/22 — New Rwanda baskets + Free Shipping!‏
The banner on Haitian products linked to the landing page for the Rwandan products.

May 22, 2011 Macy’s email
View this email full-sized.

Spiegel, 9/14 — Have The Last Fashion Hurrah! Lowest Markdowns Ever, from $4.
The leather satchel was nowhere to be found on the landing page (which made the headline of the email slightly ironic).

Sept. 14, 2011 Spiegel email
View this email full-sized.

Yoox, 9/15 — Top Picks - Free Shipping
The Dsquared2 shorts were nowhere to be found on the landing page.

Sept. 15, 2011 Yoox email
View this email full-sized.

Sam’s Club, 9/26 — Get ready for fall with savings on fall outdoor and décor
The Angry Birds costume highlighted in this email wasn’t anywhere to be found on the landing page.

Sept. 26, 2011 Sam’s Club email
View this email full-sized.

Including the wrong content, misspelling words and using poor grammar diminishes your credibility and distracts from what you’re trying to say.

J&R, 8/30 — The New MacBook Air - Starting at $999
There are lots of spelling, punctuation and style errors in the “at a glance” copy—at least 10 errors by my count.

Aug. 30, 2011 J&R email
View this email full-sized.

ShopNBC, 2/10 — 4+ ValuePay Jewelry Event‏
The Chinese New Year was on Feb. 3, not Feb. 10 as indicated in this email.

Feb. 10, 2011 ShopNBC email
View this email full-sized.

Fingerhut, 5/17 — Fingerhut: You Could WIN $25,000 + Get 5 Automatic Entries with Your Order!
Fingerhut was still promoting Mother’s Day gifts more than a full week after Mother’s Day, which as on May 8.

May 17, 2011 Fingerhut email
View this email full-sized.

Dell, 4/1 — March Super Sale! Up to 70% off top-brand electronics‏
Given the timing, it appears that it should have read “April Super Sale!”

Apr. 1, 2011 Dell email
View this email full-sized.

Ross-Simons, 4/25 — Chad, 30% Off Sitewide - Mother's Day Sale!
Misspelled “iPad” and “iPhone,” and mistakenly refers to iPod touch as “iTouch.”

Apr. 25, 2011 Ross-Simons email
View this email full-sized.

Costco, 9/7 — Online-Only Coupon Offers Ending Sunday, 9/11/11
“Pairs” should be “Pears.” The title in Costco Connections had it correct.

Sept. 7, 2011 Costco email
View this email full-sized.

Ann Taylor, 3/29 — THE SPRING SUIT GETS A PROMOTION: 30% Off Your Purchase Of A Full-Price Jacket & Matching Bottom!‏
“Limited” was misspelled in this banner.

Mar. 29, 2011 Ann Taylor email
View this email full-sized.

AbeBooks, 1/26 — Avid Reader Coupon – Save 10%
It should be “$15,” not “15$.”

Jan. 26, 2011 AbeBooks
View this email full-sized.

Mistakes are practically unavoidable in this industry, but you can put processes in place to minimize them and to respond appropriately when they occur. Some tips:

1. Avoid production processes that invite errors, such as using placeholder sender names or subject lines.
2. Develop a pre-flight checklist and follow it every time.
3. One word: Spell-check.
4. Check all the links in the email, especially key calls-to-action.
5. View a test send in accounts from all the major email clients and browser combinations, or use a rendering tool, to ensure consistent rendering across platforms.
6. Have someone else look over the email before it goes out. It’s difficult to catch your own errors.
7. If you make a mistake in an image, simply correct the source file.
8. If you make a mistake with a link, see if you can get it redirected to the correct page.
9. If the error is significant, see if you can halt the send. You may be able to reduce the number of intended recipients that receive the erroneous email.
10. Consider using social media to address confusion caused by email errors and to stress the correct information.
11. Don’t resend emails that contain minor mistakes. Only resend those where the mistake has significantly impaired the message or could cause significant brand damage. During 2011, of the more 18,000 retail emails I tracked, only 33 were apology emails—and most of those were for site outages, not email errors.
12. Develop a protocol for your apology emails so you can respond quickly when serious mistakes happen or your website suffers a substantial outage.
13. Consider holding periodic post-deployment debriefings to review what went right and wrong during the email development and deployment.

>>Check out the Oopsy Halls of Fame from past years: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006

>>Also check out the other Halls of Fame: Subject Line Halls of Fame and Design Halls of Fame.
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