Stupid Marketer Watch: Kmart Engages in Some Very Risky Email Shenanigans
I started getting email from Kmart a few weeks back and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how the retailer got my address.
I haven’t spent a nickel with Kmart since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2003 and wiped out the value of some stock I had purchased.
Or so I thought.
Several weeks ago, I bought a piece of exercise equipment from Sears. Yeah, yeah, I know: “Magill? Exercise? HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa!”
I am going to try and install a beer tap.
In any case, I had forgotten that Kmart and Sears merged in 2004. During the exercise-machine purchase, I certainly did give my email address to the Sears rep, and expected email from Sears.
Instead, I have been getting email from Kmart. Even worse, the from line in the latest Kmart message was: “Shop Your Way Rewards.”
When I saw the Shop-Your-Way-Rewards from line, I assumed it was from some as-seen-on-TV-type marketer.
But no, it was from Kmart.
Study after study has shown that people decide whether or not to open an email based on who is in the from line and what their previous experience with the sender has been.
Moreover, people who receive commercial email from a brand they didn’t give permission to send them messages are more likely to report the messages as spam, resulting in possible delivery troubles.
By sending email from the Kmart brand—when Sears collected the address—with an unknown name in the from line, Kmart is putting its email program in serious jeopardy.
Many of Kmart’s messages are probably being shunted off into people’s spam folders and the retailer’s marketing executives don’t even know it because the program is probably still profitable.
But make no mistake, under Kmart’s current list-building practices, the company is risking getting its messages blocked altogether.
Folks, none of this is new. In fact, I’ve probably lost about half my readers by now.
But when brands as big as Kmart continue to engage in email-marketing idiocy, clearly the message that email is not electronic direct mail has not sunk in for too many marketers.
This is not a moral argument. And, no, I’m not mad at Kmart. In fact, I’m happy they gave me column fodder. Deadline just got a little easier to hit.
But what’s most disappointing is Kmart’s email idiocy could be so easily rectified by offering an incentive (you know, an offer?) and making it clear what I could expect to arrive in my inbox. On a recent visit to Kohl’s, for example, there were cards at checkout offering $5 off my next purchase if I gave my email address.
The local Pizzeria Uno Chicago Grill offered a free appetizer. A couple days after I supplied my address, an email arrived in my inbox from Uno’s with the subject line: “You’re in!”
The message offered me the free appetizer if I visited my local Uno’s within a specified period of time.
This is solid direct email marketing. Ask for permission, acknowledge the new subscriber quickly, make an offer in the “thank you” email and give it some urgency by putting an expiration date on it.
Moreover, the marketing folks at Uno were smart to reference the local restaurant in the subject line to remind me where I had supplied my address.
What is probably happening at Kmart is someone’s been given a list-size benchmark to hit. And that someone is hitting it. But Kmart is likely going to find out soon that the days of tonnage email are drawing to a close—and for some, a very painful one.