Cringeworthy Ecommerce Marketing Automation Fails to Avoid

middle aged white balding male with glasses and goatee giving a thumbs down signal to denote marketing automation fails

We’ve all been there before. The moment after you send out any sort of marketing communication and realize you made a mistake. Yeah, that feeling of “Oh no. What have I done?”

As great as ecommerce marketing automation is, it still involves a person. And people make mistakes.
I’ve rounded up a few of our favorite stories of marketing automation fails in this post that we can all learn from. And laugh at.

Forgetting to proofread

Typos are the worst. Not only do they look sloppy, but one wrong keystroke could wreak havoc on your ecommerce store. Think I sound a tad dramatic? Listen to this nail-biting story from Daniel Passov of Greek U.
“One of the biggest mistakes we have made was a typo. I wouldn’t have been too concerned if it was a typo on a word, but it was a typo on the discount for a sale.”
Are you sweating yet?! I am.
“We sent out an email that was supposed to be 20% off. We accidentally made it for 50%. When using the numbers keypad on the right side of a keyboard, the 2 and the 5 are alarmingly close together!”
“Since the coupon code was only made for 20% off, customers started contacting us telling us that the coupon code was only taking 20% off, versus the 50% stated in the email. At first, we were going to tell them that it was a mistake, but we decided to take advantage of the insanely discounted sale and try and bring in customers by breaking even. So we honored it and updated the code to take 50% off.”
Surprisingly, Greek U came away somewhat unscathed. In fact, they ended up with a lot of repeat and first-time purchasers.
Now, Daniel reports that every single email they send goes through four team members.

Personalization takes a turn for the worse

It’s bad enough when marketing messages aren’t personalized at all, but it can go in a whole different direction when personalization isn’t even close. Having a typo in someone’s name is one thing, but this story from Bryan Clayton, CEO at GreenPal is something else.
“One of my favorite tools from a company called [name redacted] always greets me in the emails as ‘F**k’. I don’t know how they got their CRM messed up, but that’s what they have me as. I’ve emailed the CEO a couple of times asking him to change it, but they never do. I kind of chuckle every time I get an email from them.”
Lucky for those folks, Bryan finds this amusing. While it’s possible he could have entered the wrong thing in a form field, we doubt that’s the issue with Bryan.
A personalized, double opt-in would be a good way to not only ensure that Bryan wanted these emails, but that his information was correct.

Sending to the wrong segment of your database

Segmenting your database is a best practice for sure, just be sure you’re sending to the right segment. As an admissions counselor at one university found out, sending to the wrong list can have serious consequences.
The marketing department at a university that shall remain nameless sends out electronic invitations to “admitted student” days. The idea is to encourage students to visit and see what it would be like to be part of the university community.
According to a well-placed source, the marketing department didn’t double check which segment was to receive the invitation. They pressed “send…and delivered the accepted student day invitation to a batch of students who had not been admitted to the university.”
The university sent out a corrected email but the damage was already done.
“The admissions office is still wrangling with parents who contend that because of the mix-up, their child should be admitted to the university.”
The bottom line: double check everything before hitting send.

Set it and forget it, without testing

While automation is a huge time saver, skipping important details (like running a test) can cause major headaches. Max from Floor Heating Direct found this out first hand when his business got started with social media automation.

“In the early days of our adventures with social media automation, we managed to accidentally schedule an entire month’s worth of Facebook content to be posted on our Twitter profile. Because of the word limits on Twitter, not a single one of our posts displayed properly. We now make sure to periodically check our scheduled posts and never just assume that they’ve been set up properly.”

Using dirty data

Every database needs a good scrub. Take Shareef’s experience as evidence:

“Our client has a database of over 30K contacts. They weren’t doing a great job of keeping the info clean. An email went out to the database and apparently one of the sales reps had appended the words ‘bad debt’ to a client name to denote a delinquent balance. So the greeting on the email went out addressing the client “Dear Curtis Bad Debt.
The moral of the story here is, as difficult as it may be, it’s critical to periodically “scrub” your database to make sure all the fields are correct and, of course, the emails are still good.”

The bottom line

Humans make mistakes. Computers are operated by humans. When in doubt, grab another set of eyes to double check your work. And for goodness sake, CLEAN YOUR LIST. </End rant>


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