What you can learn from fashion chain Review’s email marketing blunder

Fashion chain Review has owned up to an embarrassing email marketing blunder, after it sent out an offer for “50% off dresses” that was supposed to read “$50 off dresses”.

Review, which is owned by fashion group PAS Group, operates 25 stand-alone stores and 36 concession outlets within Myer Stores.

In the early afternoon of November 12, the company’s first offer for 50% of dresses went out, followed a few hours later by a second email with the subject line “Oops… we made a mistake!”

“In our hurry to inform you of our latest offer at Review there was an error in our previous email,” the second email read.

“The offer that has started today is $50 off dresses, as per below. We apologise for any confusion.”

Review group merchandise planning manager Julian Paynter says the group realised the mistake immediately and sent out a correction email.

“Without the hour we had the story corrected, and all the merchandise in-store said $50 off. However, we did tell staff to honour any of those deals that said we were giving 50% off.”

The speed of email marketing was a factor here, with Paynter saying one customer received the deal on her iPhone and showed it to in-store staff, who acknowledged the offer.

“Mistakes happen. They are unfortunate but they do happen. But we tried to get a correction out there, and obviously if someone gets the email, we are obliged to honour that offer.”

“But I think that operates within a certain timeframe. If they’ve received the offer within a short frame of time, then I think that’s reasonable. But if gets beyond that, for the next couple of days or something, then I think that’s getting a bit beyond what is reasonable.”

Jen Storey, an email marketing expert from Outside Insights, says email and internet marketing mistakes will happen, but what consumers will judge is how a company responds.

“What Review has said in the second email is actually pretty honest,” Storey says.

“They’re not the first, and they’re won’t be the last.”

She also says that as Review does not operate an online store may have also lessened the damage from the offer, as shoppers would not have been making purchases on immediate receipt of the email.

Storey says the benchmark for reacting to online pricing mistakes was set earlier this year by US shoe retailer Zappos, which is owned by Amazon and is renowned for its customer service.

In May, an IT glitch resulted in all prices on Zappos’ subsidiary site 6pm being capped at $US49.95 for about six hours.

Zappos decided to honour every order placed during that period, as a loss of $US1.6 million.

“While we’re sure this was a great deal for customers, it was inadvertent, and we took a big loss (over $1.6 million – ouch) selling so many items so far under cost. However, it was our mistake. We will be honouring all purchases that took place on 6pm.com during our mess up. We apologise to anyone that was confused and/or frustrated during out little hiccup and thank you all for being such great customers,” Aaron Magness, Zappos’ director of brand marketing and business development, wrote in a blog post.

“That sort of reaction does really underline your customer service proposition,” Storey argues.

While Storey admits to a few or her own email marketing mistakes (including informing three people they’d won a competition where there was only supposed to be one winner) she says the key to avoiding issues is to have a process for checking and rechecking email marketing content.

As well as having the email’s content checked and cross-checked, she suggests preparing emails well in advance, such that they can be checked a few days before sending and then checked again – with fresh eyes – just before sending.

She says it’s also important to have an “outsider” – that is, someone not involved with the creation of the campaign – read over the email to try and pick up mistakes.

And if all else fails, try this old trick.

“Read them out aloud. If you have to say the words, it’s different to just scanning over something you’ve been working on for days.”

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