Email promotions are a great way to drive business to your ecommerce site. You can create blanket promotions for all of your customers or highly segmented ones to specific customers based on their specific needs. Unfortunately, ill-crafted email promotions can frustrate your customer and do more harm than good. I experienced just such an email promotion this morning.

I recently mentioned that I’ve taken up a new hobby in art journaling, a sort of odd combination of fine art techniques, irreverent uses of fine art supplies, journaling and scrapbooking. A recent purchase of adhesive from a major scrapbook supply store landed me squarely on the retailer’s mailing list and it’s been interesting to thumb through their emails looking at projects that are exceptionally cool but far surpass my ability to follow the “rules” in any creative endeavor.

Today, I received one of their weekly emails and was scrolling down the page when I saw a holiday project that I thought I could complete as a gift for my sweetheart. Scrapping is not my forte, but this project looked doable. Here’s the project that caught my eye:

E Commerce  Email Promotion Failure

I clicked on the project idea image, hoping to be taken to the product page on the scrapbook supplier’s ecommerce site.

No dice. The image wasn’t linked to their web store.


The ecommerce professional in me was stumped by why the image wasn’t linked to the product they were, by default, asking me to buy by promoting it. The consumer in me was a little bit annoyed by not redirecting me right to what I needed, but since the project appeared to be at my level, I opened my web browser and headed to their ecommerce site.

When I arrived at their site, I decided to search for “memory display stand” since that was a more unique search term than “Heidi Swapp” which was likely to return a bunch of results as there are a number of products under that brand name. Here’s what came back:

E Commerce  Email Promotion Failure

No results found. Weird. I double-checked the spelling of my search and it was fine. I made sure that I was searching “all products,” which I was. So, I decided that I would search on “Heidi Swapp” and sift through the results. I got two pages of results, but there was no Memory Display Stand available!

All I could think to myself was, “Can they be SERIOUS right now? The item isn’t even available on their site?” Promoting an item that they don’t even carry in what I am pretty sure was a countrywide email campaign was not the smartest promotional move I’ve ever seen from a retailer of this size and influence. I was stunned and very annoyed. Promoting a product you don’t have available is pretty much the first big no-no for any retailer—online or in a physical store. I totally expected more from this retailer and was incredibly disappointed by my experience.

A little searching on the web reveals that the product is available from the manufacturer for wholesale orders and other retailers had the memory stand available for purchase—so what gives with my preferred retailer?

The Take Away

Regardless of the reason why the featured product was not on the retailer’s website, the reality is that it should not have been promoted if it wasn’t available. In today’s digital world, disgruntled customers can quickly search for an alternative source and sever their previous buying relationship with the original retailer. Likewise, if a product is going to be featured in a promotional email, it should be linked directly to the product page on an ecommerce site so that excited recipients can immediately buy before they lose the urge.

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