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Ken Magill

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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.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Reasonable Accommodation / Andy Levitin
Date: 2017-01-30 05:16:25
Subject: Agreeing with you

I couldn't agree with you more. I too have a website. It is called ibelieveintheada2013.blogspot .com

Please pinch yourself a few times if you decide to go there.
Posted by: Annika
Date: 2016-05-24 14:59:16
Subject: Sears/Shop Your Way

I have and continue to get the spam Sears Shop Your Way e-mails, I've called twice now and spoke with the joke of "customer service" people they have there and have been assured twice I WILL NOT receive the e-mails; I had to go through a supervisor the second time because they wouldn't opt me out until I gave them personal info to do so so that they could be assured it was me. I didn't sign up for anything, so finally I got tired of the run around, spoke with a supervisor and she also asked for my address and zip code so that she could do so. My answer to her - Fine. Then you give me a name, the title of that person, a phone number and an address and my attorney will be happy to take this up with Shop Your Way and Sears on my behalf because as a consumer I HAVE RIGHTS and this will be dealt with one way or another - and I assured her it wouldn't be my dime that pays the attorney when it's all said and done.

Her answer to me - I will be sure you are removed from all of our global e-mail lists. Her name is "Michelle" - we'll see if "Michelle" was lying or not in 7-10 working days which is what I was promised after that time I would no longer receive the e-mails.

Only time will tell.
Posted by: Richard
Date: 2015-07-02 18:15:46
Subject: Sear K-Mart desperate.

I agree with a post below which states not to give email information to KMART/Sears. (Of course, who will Google "KMART spam" and read this until they are already getting KMART spam.) Anyway, A year or more ago I did sign up for the Shop Your Way Rewards program at KMART and gave them my email address. It wasn't long before I was receiving 2, 3, 4, or more emails per day from KMART and/or Sears. Supposedly, I was to "hurry" to KMART (or Sears) every few hours to get some "points". I set my email account to automatically move this crap to "trash" as it came in. After a while, even just knowing all that stuff was there was irritating, so I unsubscribed from further emails. The emails continued to come well after two weeks. So, I signed on to my KMART account and changed my email address to one that I made up -- but, an email address indicative that I was doing this to stop the spam. After a few days, the emails did seem to stop, and after a couple of days more they started again (on my original email address). Sears/Kmart is a crazy and desperate company. I've received snail mail letters from Sears telling me that according to their records my vehicle is due for service. Since I've never taken a vehicle to Sears for service (or anything else), they would have no records on it. (I did purchase a garden tractor battery from them once, and I assume a record of that purchase is what they used to falsely tell me that my car was due for service.) When I was changing my email address to the dummy (as described above), their website made it "mandatory" to give them my phone number in order to change the email address -- so I made one up as I didn't want spam phone calls in addition to spam email. May Sears/Kmart deservedly go bankrupt.
Posted by: GRACIELA
Date: 2014-08-25 13:27:00
Subject: Shop your way Coupons

I have the same problem with Kmart and Sears. Called sears and they asked me verify my personal information first (which I refused). Instead I asked them to give ME the current info, so I could verify it. Sears had my email but my wrong phone number as well as mailing address. According to Sears, I gave them that info, which is impossible cause I never lived in that area. Under the E receipt they had advertisement for "Shop your way Coupons"
Posted by: Gabriela R
Date: 2014-06-22 09:54:13
Subject: Totally agree with you

Hi, i google this issue I received an email yesterday stating i just made. A purchase with Sears and i had a receipt and everything also another email from shop your way reward points the weird part of this is that I live outside the US in panama city, Panama!! I have no idea where did this people get my email or anything i'm
Posted by: Johnny Blockdem
Date: 2014-04-02 12:42:46
Subject: Kmart spam

my email address was given to kmart. I unsubscribed but to not avail was told it would take 7 to 10 days. It does not take 7 to 10 days. Another retailer removed me in one day after my request. Finally I blocked all kmart email and had it deleted off the server. Then I started getting spam from sears. Do not give your email address to kmart or sears for the reasons listed above.
Posted by: Paul
Date: 2014-03-02 05:54:42
Subject: Shop Your Way - Relentless emails

Your article is still relevant. I agree with your comment about meeting some sort of quota. I think the number of people this program is pissing off is exceeding any marketing benefits the company is getting from targeting customers who are happy with the program.
Posted by: Mark
Date: 2013-07-04 18:52:24
Subject: Kmart Spam

I get about 4 emails a day from Kmart. I consider it the Spam King to my email. Today I checked one off for Spam so I will see what happens in the future.
Posted by: Nate
Date: 2011-12-30 01:19:00
Subject: Kmart SPAM

Subject was "We Noticed You Were Browsing" - I was not. Email had no way to unsubscribe. This was unsolicited, therefore it is SPAM and reported as such to GMAIL
Posted by: Fernando
Date: 2011-12-02 11:46:57
Subject: want mu email address off

Ok so how do I get off Kmarts Emailing list? I am tired of getting so many Emails