Like anyone else, I get my fair share of newsletters and promotional emails from retailers that I have purchased from in the past. Based on what I have been getting in my inbox, I get the impression that too many online retailers are taking email marketing for granted. It's the "bread and butter" of most marketing budgets. It's cheap. The results are tangible, and most internal creative departments can knock them out fairly easily.
The problem that I see lately, is that marketers aren't reacting to one of the biggest roadblocks between their message and the consumer: image suppression. Over the past two years or so, most ISP's and email clients have made image suppression a default behavior in their fight to ward off spam, spyware and other nefarious tricks that the bad guys employ. Unfortunately, I'm seeing very few cases where marketers are adapting to this change.
A few examples that have recently hit my inbox:
(click on the images to enlarge)
In both cases here, the message is totally and utterly lost. At least in the case with the Borders email, there are a few footer links that I could possibly click if I felt compelled to do so. But, it hardly represents the "Big News" that they claim in their subject.
The Sam Ash email at least displays some copy that attempts to convey the promotion, but unfortunately the giant disclaimer in the footer dominates the email. I think I looked at this email 3 times before I noticed that there was indeed a promotion here.
This may be the worst offender that I've seen lately, and I'm surprised because Nike has been in this game long enough to know better.
Finally, I wanted to show an example of someone that understands the challenge:
Note that there are still images contained in the message that are being suppressed, but the message itself has been composed in HTML without relying on images. The message is clear, compelling, and a creative use of HTML to display it.
The "term" lazy might be a bit harsh here, but unfortunately I think it fits. This has been a growing issue in the email marketing world for the past two years, and I can't imagine that these retailers aren't seeing a decline in their open and response rates. In our current economic conditions, squeezing every bit of opportunity out of your marketing budget is paramount, and email marketing should be no different.