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Crossing the Boundary of Permission E-Mail Marketing – Cross Brand Promotion

I don’t usually like to feature articles and posts that are not original, but I will make an exception in this case.  I ran across an interesting article by Simms Jenkins titled When a Rose Isn't a Rose in Permission-Based Marketing.

This discusses the authors experience when he received an email marketing message from a sister company of a brand that he was subscribed to. He had not opted in to the sister companies email.  Is this spamming?  You be the judge.

One afternoon, I was minding my own business when an e-mail landed in my inbox and prompted me to do a double take. Not in a "wow that is something uniquely cool" kind of way. But in a "legitimate brand just spammed me" kind of way.

Some may shrug their head and say "duh." Still, I was surprised, frustrated, and wanted to try to make sense of this.

Here's what happened: I received two e-mails from two different brands within two minutes - RedEnvelope and ProFlowers. I sensed something was wrong.

I had previously opted in to receive e-mail messages from RedEnvelope. While I rarely buy from RedEnvelope, its e-mails are generally well done. On the other hand, I haven't had any contact with or purchased anything from ProFlowers in years. I unsubscribed from e-mail marketing lists for ProFlowers and other florists because they were sending out too many e-mail messages.

As an e-mail marketing purist and true believer in permission-based e-mail marketing, I replied to RedEnvelope, asking why it transferred my e-mail address to ProFlowers. I also replied to ProFlowers asking exactly how, when, and where I opted in to this list.

The good news? Each quickly replied to my queries, which is often a surprise. The bad news? Representatives at both companies didn't fully understand the concept of permission marketing.
RedEnvelope responded:
"I apologize for the confusion, however Proflowers is our sister company which is why you have received an email from them."
I hope you, dear reader, find this as unsettling as I did. After about 10 exchanges with customer service, one rep from RedEnvelope, Stephen S., provided the following explanation about how and why I was added to ProFlowers' database.
"Basically Proflowers owns RedEnvelope. We are one in the same company operating in the same offices. No information was sold/given to any third party affiliate.

...RedEnvelope and Proflowers are the same company. We operate in the same database with the same customer base. Our customers know that RedEnvelope and Proflowers are the same company because of the logo's that are displayed on each website. If you go to, you can clearly see proflowers at the bottom where it reads, "Our Family of Brands". We even offer proflowers and Shari's berries items on the redenvelope site. Because we operate in the same building under the same management, no information has been given to any third party affiliate."
Indeed, San Diego-based Provide Commerce owns RedEnvelope and ProFlowers. However, none of that matters to me. Nor does it automatically transfer my permission from one company to the other. I didn't sign up with Provide Commerce (the parent) or ProFlowers (the sister), so the background family noise is irrelevant to me. I would assume 99 percent of their customers feel the same way.

The official response from Grace Lee in its PR department is:
"Through our emails we offer a wide range of gifting options, and great savings and deals that consumers might not otherwise receive. In our privacy policy we state that we may offer free electronic newsletters and promotional e-mails for products and/or services offered on any one or more of our sites, such as the email you received from a sister company of RedEnvelope. If anyone wishes to unsubscribe to our emails, there is an unsubscribe link at the top of the page, or they can call our Customer Service Department at anytime."
When I asked Lee if she thought this practice of non-permission was generally acceptable and in the customers' best interest, she replied:
"Consumers give permission to receive emails from our family of brands through our privacy policy."

The Plight of the Abandoned Cart

We have all been guilty at one time or another of abandoning our shopping carts. Maybe we couldn’t find our credit card, or the shipping costs shocked us, or we simply lost interest in our purchase.

Whatever the reason for the abandonment, the simple fact is that the vendor has let untapped revenue slip between their fingers.

Experian CheetahMail’s new white paper, The remarketing report: Benchmark data and analysis for connecting web behavior to email marketing explains the value in marketing to abandoners, reporting that sending reminder emails to abandoners who do not convert after the first abandoned cart email can boost campaign revenue by up to 33 percent.

But why do website visitors abandon their carts in the first place? A study by PayPal and comScore found that 45% of US online shoppers had abandoned shopping carts multiple times in just three weeks. The average cost of abandoned goods in those shopping carts was $109. In the same study, 46% of online shoppers said high shipping charges was a “very important reason for ditching their carts.

Other reasons for abandonment included:
Wanted to comparison shop: 37%
Lack of money:
Wanted to look for a coupon:
Wanted to shop offline:
Couldn’t find preferred pay option:
Item unavailable at checkout:
Couldn’t find customer support:
Security concerns:

What can online retailers do about curbing abandoned carts and making the sale?
  1. Optimize the checkout process. Make the purchase process as simple and seamless as possible. This includes providing estimated shipping costs, delivery dates, and total costs early and obviously in the checkout process. Make it clear that the transaction is safe and secure. Offer an easy way to contact customer service. Post the return policy in an obvious location. Have a clear and easy to read progress bar throughout checkout. Pre-populate saved customer information. Provide multiple payment options.
  3. Run an abandoned cart (remarketing) program. Abandoned cart programs are a great way to convert abandoners into purchasers. Remarketing programs send emails to abandoners enticing them to complete the purchase.
  5. Consider providing an incentive to buy. This could be a frequent buyers program, wishlists, online coupons, free shipping offers, a "save your cart" feature, or special buyers clubs, to name a few. The incentive does not always have to be monetary, though, and our recent study has shown that not all businesses should offer incentives within their remarketing messages.

For more information on how to create successful remarketing campaigns, be sure to read the latest research, The remarketing report: Benchmark data and analysis for connecting web behavior to email marketing.

Please Pause My Email

We have all been here.  We go on vacation or on a trip off the grid and can't check email for an extended amount of time.  When we return our in box looks like a wasteland of outdated offers, now irrelevant messages, and other cyber waste.   DailyCandy has a pretty cool feature to help clean up, or rather avoid, this mess.  They offer a feature where subscribers can pause his or her subscription.   This is kind of like putting your newspaper delivery on hold while you are on vacation (for those who still get a newspaper) or stopping your snail mail for a set period of time with the good old USPS.

This looks to be a win-win.  Subscribers have more control over their email and will have a more clean inbox.   DailyCandy has a way to please their subscribers, send less  emails that will not be viewed, and can mitigate potential bounce removes. Nice!

When Your From is Done: Updating Your 'From' Address

There comes a time in most email marketers' lives when the email address he or she sends from needs to be changed. This change might be warranted because of an IP update, a change to a new email marketing service provider, a hosting update, aesthetic concerns or other reasons.

When a change like this must be made, what should be done? Two of the most critical goals are:
  • Do your best to ensure that deliverability does not suffer when you begin sending from the new email address.
  • Make sure subscribers recognize that the new 'from' address is you and do not hit the spam or unsubscribe button in error.
After a thorough whitelisting process, what’s next? Do you alert your subscribers about the new email address, if so how?

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (MFA) recently tackled this issue. In their case they are updating their ‘from’ email address, ', to The reason for the switch is not made clear in the email creative — nor does it need to be. However, the new email address does contain some similar characteristics as the original but uses 'info' before the '@' instead of 'mfamail.' The 'info@' handle is more accurate and widely recognized than 'mfamail@.'

MFA sent this email prior to using the new email address. This is smart for a variety of reasons:   
  • This allows time for subscribers to update their contact list with the new email address prior to the new address going live.
  • Sending information about the new email address while still using the old email address should help with deliverability once the new address is used. It is less effective to send a change-of-address email using the new email address because there is a chance that some recipients never see the email due to spam filtering.
  • MFA is also following a best practice by asking their subscribers to add their email address to their safe senders list (i.e. address book) in the header of the email.  Adding this to the footer text would also be a good idea.
  • MFA is also wise to limit the creative message to just the email address change — this eliminates the possibility of such vital information getting lost among clutter.
Here is the creative from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  The subject line is: "Our e-mail address is changing"