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Finding the right balance for email frequency is crucial for retailers, but some get it badly wrong and run the risk of annoying customers by sending far too many promotional emails.

Having already put me off the purchase with way too much cross selling during the checkout process, VistaPrint has now compounded the problem by sending my 10 emails in the space of 11 days.

Emailing checkout dropouts

The first email I received was titled 'Oops! Did you forget?' and was sent three days after I abandoned the checkout process. This is something all retailers should be doing, as customers may simply need a reminder to prompt them to go back and complete their purchase.

The email also included a 25% discount if I ordered that day, which is a good way to entice customers back to the checkout. Also, clicking the link on the email sent me straight to my shopping basket ready, to complete the purchase. Both good ideas, though it could be argued that waiting three days to send the email is too long.

In last year's Email Marketing Industry Census, we found that 69% of companies were not emailing customers who abandoned shopping baskets, a missed opportunity, so VistaPrint should be congratulated for this at least.

Subscribing

I didn't actually remember signing up for emails in the first place, though I did submit my email as part of the registration process. Looking back at the site again, I can see that I had subscribed by default, as I hadn't unchecked this box which tells VistaPrint that I'm interested in receiving special offers. Even if I refuse here, the question is posed twice more in the process:

Email sign up

This is not the best way to get email subscribers, and VistaPrint risks having their emails labelled as spam by customers who don't remember giving permission.

Email frequency

For me, ten emails in eleven days is too many, and this frequency simply encourages customers to ignore emails or hit the spam button. Also, they were all variations of the same offer. For example,  I was told I had 24 hours left to save 100% and get free delivery, then received the same offer 48 hours later.

Deciding how many emails you should send is not an exact science, and retailers need to be smart about this, monitoring customer response, unsubscribe rates and other factors to find the right balance for each customer, or simply ask customers this question when they sign up in the first place.

Also, emails should be sent often enough so that customers don't forget they signed up in the first place. Perhaps 2 or 3 emails a month, or once a week is acceptable, but 5 or 6 a week is definitely too many. This level of frequency will almost certainly lead to high unsubscribe rates, or having your emails reported as spam, which can have an effect on your sender reputation with ISPs.

Unsubscribing

After so many emails, I decided to unsubscribe. Apart from the tiny unsubscribe link in the email, the unsubscribe process was easy enough, and contained some useful features. 

First I am directed to this page which, as well as offering me the unsubscribe link, gives me the option of reducing the frequency of emails.

VistaPrint unsubscribe options

This is a good idea, but should really have been offered when I signed up, as this may have avoided the need to unsubscribe in the first place. It also suggests that VistaPrint knows it may be sending too many emails out.

After selecting the middle option, I am asked why I chose to stop the emails and what the company can do better in future, as well as offering a 25% off voucher to shop again at the site. 

This is a good idea, but VistaPrint should be using this feedback to tailor their email campaigns more effectively in future, unless only a few customers object to the frequency of emails.

VistaPrint email unsubscribe feedback

Graham Charlton

Published 28 January, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Graham,

Interesting article. I think Vistaprint have got the mechanics right but in the wrong order, so the good techniques are actually creating bad will which is the worst possible scenario.

Few retailers offer frequency options, so this is a big plus. However, as you argue, this should be offered before the deluge.

I'm also a little bit hesitant about the automatic basket abandon emails - some customers will create a basket but not commit to purchase that day (maybe waiting for pay day) but do then come back and buy knowing how much it will cost. Sending a discount offer immediately might sacrifice margin. Then again, you could lose them to a competitor in the meantime. That's where the analytics comes in handy, if there was a 100% right answer everyone would do it the same way.

I've noticed that even after Christmas email frequency is high - i've been getting a lot of Staples emails (2 in 4 days), repeating the same offer which is really quite dull and gets my delete trigger finger twitching.

Thanks for the article.

james

almost 8 years ago

Anna Penrose

Anna Penrose, Email Marketing Specialist at MailAway

I experienced exactly the same treatment by Vistaprint and thought too that they should be listening to the customer feedback of Way too often!  Agreed, basket abandoning follow up emails are great, especially with an offer BUT if everyone does it, surely the consumer is going to one day get wise... I'd certainly wait a day before finalising my purchase on something if I thought I'd get 25% off for doing so.

about 6 years ago

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