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I was inspired to write this post by a recent tweet I saw in reference to the iPad launch email stating that it was the “best email marketing ever," when the email was in fact pretty mediocre.

Then when I looked at some of the other Apple emails I had received, I realised they could also do with some improvements so of course I had to throw some suggestions into the pot..

So what can we learn from Apple emails?

From addresses:

Order emails are so often overlooked but they are absolutely critical to getting the next phase of your relationship off to the right start.

This is a screen grab from my phone:

This hardly speaks volumes about Apple's customer service. They’ve obviously done this because people were actually replying and they were unable to filter replies out from bounce messages, but that is no excuse. A simple auto reply could have been put in place instead, pointing people to the correct support/customer service contacts.

Also they have a typo: “we are please”, how many people have read that email and thought a little less of Apple as a result?

To compound the problem they’ve made the “friendly from” the same email address. Apple also uses a veritable plethora of from addresses across the business. They need a unifying naming convention, which sounds very dull but is actually very important to ensure recipients know who they are dealing with. 

donotreply@itunes.com

itunes_uk@new.itunes.com

donotreply@euro.apple.com

news_europe@insideapple.apple.com

news@insideapple.apple.com

Are these the email addresses of an engaging company?

Two simple takeaways: 

1. Use email addresses which encourage engagement as opposed to discouraging it. 

2. Check spelling, especially on transactional messages. 

Next up: images

Apple love their “hero” shots, big glossy pictures of tech. They are playing to their strengths here, since Apple products generally look great. It’s not like they are selling sewage equipment or anything dull.

The trouble with large images is if they don’t load, as above, you are presented with some pretty dull boxes. The traditional advice here is to use “alt tags” to describe what the images are, as they have done with the smaller images, the idea being that the recipient will then be inspired to download the images.

It would have been far more effective to put a call to action within the text, something like “click download images to see our iPad." This would have worked better here:

This, by the way was the 'best email marketing ever', as tweeted by some Apple disciple. Sure it has a call to action but it clearly wasn’t intended, since the image the text is attached to is the 'pre order' button. 

It is a good looking email once it’s downloaded, but why wasn’t the alt text the same as the header?

Takeaways:

1. If you are going to use big images, make sure you use alt tags and that they are more than just descriptions.

2. Focus on driving a click through either immediately or post an image view.

Personalisation

This is one area where I am routinely disappointed in the Californian tech giant. They know more about me than I do; they know what Apps and music I have, where I live, my age even! Using simple personalisation they could do an Amazon on me, inferring trends based on what people like me like, they could probably even out-do what Amazon does. 

But not once have I had a “dear Marc”, or a “we noticed you play Angry Birds once every 20 minutes so...” or “you’ve just downloaded the Lonely Planet guide to Paris – would you like a “learn French in two days podcast?” 

Even worse, they don’t seem to have worked out that I live in the UK, I keep getting emails from the USA with “call 1-800-APPLE”.Even a simple split based on domain name would make it obvious I’m not a US resident.

Takeaway:

Engaging with your customers and successfully upselling/cross-selling just has to be a core competency of any business, email marketing is just one place where this plays out.

The post-purchase email 

The short period after a purchase is made is the honeymoon period in any sale, the consumer/business will be excited by the purchase they have made and therefore highly susceptible to upselling.  Plus if you get this first post sale communication right you are buying yourself a lot of leeway moving forward.

Apple has the right idea here, with plenty of useful advice at your finger tips...

But...

Why oh why don’t they have a version of this email for each type of Mac bought? There are only six types of Macs, doing this would have enabled them to give far more tailored advice within the email and so maximised the impact made at this essential point in the customer lifecycle.

Takeaways

Send post sale emails. Whatever your business, there is enormous value in this. Check out this great example from an online turf retailer:

 Online Turf

I’d forgotten who I’d bought it off, now I know who it was I may buy some “lawn master” and I feel as if they actually care if my lawn looks good!

And if you are sending them, personalise them to the purchaser if at all possible.

Conclusions 

Apple have got some things very right, the imagery and brand consistency is spot on, but they are failing big time on engaging directly with their recipients and getting even simple spelling wrong. If you take on board the advice in this blog your email marketing could be more effective than Apple’s.

Marc Munier

Published 26 May, 2010 by Marc Munier

Marc Munier is commercial director at Pure360, and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can hook up with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

11 more posts from this author

Comments (14)

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Philip Storey

Philip Storey, Founder & Managing Director at EnchantSmall Business

I completely agree. Great Email Marketing and CRM is all about listening, and like you said, they have so much information about each customer. Sure, they have nice shiny products that look great in the inbox, but it's not enough. They should be speaking to their customers as individuals rather than just bulk mailing everyone. I bought a Macbook Pro a couple of months ago, through their website and they still send me emails solely promoting the Macbook Pro. Surely they don't think i like the one i bought so much that they think they might be able to convince me to part with £2000 for another?

about 6 years ago

Adam  Bambrough

Adam Bambrough, Product & Experience Manager at Pure360

Great post.

I have to agree, while Apple are completely on the money when it comes to products,  there are definitely some missed opportunities in their email marketing - especially when it comes to disconnected customer data.

Between registering each of the Macs I've owned personally, as well as associated apple software and services over the years they virtually have my life story, way more than age, gender and interests. Yet... my 'buy a loved one an iPod for valentines' email was still clearly generic, and suggesting I buy an iPod touch for my childrens university graduation was all too obviously a targeting stab in the dark. I'd of have to have fathered them while I was 13....

Come to think about it, I've not even been addressed by my name!

Apple, I don't feel as special as a brand advocate (ok, fanboi!) should.

about 6 years ago

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Internet Marketing Expert

Good article with some well made points in the takeaways. It has always amazed me how some of the larger consumer brands "get away" with making considerable errors like these. Apple is not alone in these mistakes

I would add though, that Apple relies a lot on the eye candy of its product (which is great I might add) - wonder what it could achieve if it paid as much attention to its marketing!

about 6 years ago

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Jeff Mills

Apple has one of the worst email programs that I know of. They do absolutely no segmentation, their timing of emails is pretty poor (all over the board) and the general adhered-to best practices are missing in their emails. I will say they only have one thing going for them, a bunch of mindless crony designers that will do anything that apple says. 

about 6 years ago

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Rachel Simeone

Thanks so much for this excellent analysis. It is so important that we all keep in mind that even the largest, most successful brands aren't perfect.

As a marketing coach/consultant for small businesses, my clients often tell me that they are doing something a certain way because Amazon or Apple does it that way. Good marketing is so much more that copying the big guys and your post really makes that point.

about 6 years ago

Marc Munier

Marc Munier, Commercial Director at Pure360

Totally agree with Paul, how on earth do they get away with not even having a social share button?

Thank you for all the comments and RT's, really glad you all found it useful - I must do more :-)

Marc

about 6 years ago

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Sandi

This is a terrific article and I agree with you whole-heartedly.  One very minor point, though--although typos drive us all bonkers, I wouldn't be so hard on Apple for it.  After all, you didn't really buy The Lonely Plant Guide to Paris, did you?

about 6 years ago

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Toto Toto

I agree with most of what you have pointed out here. In terms of Personalisation, most of what you are suggesting Apple should goes against privacy basic guidelines, and companies such as Apple have very strict ones.

about 6 years ago

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Mary Smith

Apple is not the only one with spelling issues. "Apple love their “hero” shots..."

about 6 years ago

Marc Munier

Marc Munier, Commercial Director at Pure360

Ok quite embarrassed about the typos - but you really should check out the lonely plant guide.....

To Toto's point I'm not sure thats the case, privacy policies are rarely there for the consumers benefit. anyway the point I was making is that there is NO personalisation where there could be tonnes.

about 6 years ago

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Naveen Thomas

Hey Marc,

Interesting post. What I'd like to know is how these should-be-typical marketing ideas and strategies apply to much smaller companies/brands ?

Would an equal amount of investment be required by smaller companies? Albeit investments of this nature may not neccesarily be a significant amount.

Another thing,

ROI. The typical response to online CRM initiatives and the data collected/ metrics employed - are that these are not of any real value.

about 6 years ago

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JFB

Agreed with Toto.  Nice in theory, but corporate PII data disclosure restrictions are hard to reconcile with good marketing practices. My own experience is that the databases are usually not congruent and it's hard to tie one identity on the marketing side with another identity on the sales or support side.

If the privacy legislation and similar threats settle down or at least cohere, you'll see some innovation here. Marketing departments are begging for this to be improved, but legal departments are pushing a Chinese Wall as the solution for the time being.

That's where a smaller businesses might have the advantage of keeping the data mapped with parallel uuids and out of silo'd platforms. I don't know enough about the legal side to know whether this is a non-starter altogether for any business.

Jason

over 5 years ago

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Rob Willox | WebMedia Optimisation

I don't really see the privacy and disclosure issue applying in the case of a communication with an existing customer. CRM applications are all the rage and promote the idea of integrating all the elements of a companies activities from marketing right the way through to customer service and support.

In the example the issues with the emails are basic errors and surprising for a company like Apple who are so paranoid about their product and company image.

It might just be the arrogance of such a large company and the almost fanatical following of their users so that they feel no need to follow good practice in their email marketing communications with such a captive audience.

over 5 years ago

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Hugh Billings

RELEVANCE. As a professional digital advertiser (who routinely enjoys 75%+ open rates, 50%+ click throughs and ) who lives by his results, the only concern for all emailers should be relevance.
Images, data, products, offers, colours, links, tone etc., etc. All are support criteria. If the email isn't relevant to the needs/dreams of the reader nothing else matters.

about 3 years ago

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