​​​​​​​Please Stop Scaring My Wife

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​​​​​​​Please Stop Scaring My Wife

By Bill Schober - 12/15/2017

I’m not much of a “holidays” guy. I think that’s because my late mother wasn’t much of a holidays gal. Back in the 1960s, my family’s Advent calendar tradition was watching her get progressively overwhelmed by the decorating and shopping and cooking and social obligations until she snapped. “Who ruined Christmas?” became a running joke in the family. Sort of.

I can’t imagine what my mother would’ve done if expected to line up in front of a store on a Thanksgiving Thursday, fight crowds on a Black Friday and then glue herself to a mouse on a Cyber Monday. Well, actually, I can: She’d channel her inner Nancy Reagan and “Just Say No.” And as I get older, I understand her a little better every day.

Luckily, my wife has a healthier relationship with the holidays and her mother. She is hyper-organized, technologically adept and price conscious. And while she’d never line up, fight crowds or cyber-stalk for your products, she does read your damn’d emails. I’m looking at you retailers, e-tailers, brand marketers and all types in-between – because some of you are scaring her.

Lest anyone dismiss email marketing as hopelessly retro, according to analytics company Divvit, over this most recent Black Friday weekend, “email marketing had more than five times the impact for Divvit’s merchants than social organic and paid channels.” Google organic and paid had the biggest impact on retailer sales – no real surprise there – but email came in second.

The reason my wife got scared – and yes, she’s making me write this – is that one morning in late September she received an email from a retailer thanking her for her “recent purchase” (which is nice) and offering her $25 off on a next purchase (which is even nicer).

The not-so-nice bit was that, a) the email appeared on her phone at 5:37 a.m.; b) she hadn’t bought anything from that retailer in ages; and c) this was just three weeks after news of the Equifax data breach – a breach, you’ll no doubt recall, that gave hackers the credit information of an estimated 145 million Americans.

As you can imagine, the entire household went to DEFCON 2. After many anxious minutes on various holds waiting for various customer-service creatures to explain things, she was able to learn that:

  • yes, there had been no purchases made on her account;
  • no, the email was not an accident but part of a marketing campaign; and
  • maybe, just maybe, you, the customer, are correct – using the phrase “recent purchase” for something bought almost a year ago was less than ideal, especially after Equifax.

Gee, ya think?

A few days later, she logged onto her Citi card account to check her statement, but the site unexpectedly blocked her from one of its most relentlessly marketed features – FICO scores. Instead, a popup message said something like this: “You are unable to access this information because …  you recently opened another card in someone else’s or your name.”

DEFCON 1. After multiple calls to Citi’s multiple customer service bots, she finally got to the truth. The site had been having technical issues, but rather than simply state “down for maintenance,” a web development technician used language that shifted blame to the customer. Nice messaging coordination there, folks.

Aligning your online and offline marketing efforts is a thread running through this year’s Trends report. One of my favorite questions asked brand marketers how engaged their e-commerce and shopper marketing teams are. One out of 10 confessed, “It’s like we’ve never met.” I suspect it’s worse than that, but at least you now have a common goal: Keeping a closer eye on your web techs.


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