Holiday Oops Emails: ‘Tis the Season to Be Prepared

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Author Bio

Greg Zakowicz is a senior commerce marketing analyst at Oracle + Bronto. With more than 10 years of experience in email, mobile and social media marketing, Zakowicz knows the retail industry and its challenges, staying on top of the latest trends by leveraging deep insight into the marketing spectrum. His subject matter expertise stems from his experience in providing commerce marketers — including numerous Internet Retailer Top 1000 clients — with in-depth analysis of their marketing programs, recommendations for improvement, best practice support and implementation guidance and execution.

Zakowicz is a frequent webinar speaker and presenter at ecommerce events, such as Fashion Digital New York, SIA Snow Show and ROI Revolution Summit. He has been published by top retail and marketing publications, including Power Retail and Inside Retail, and is a regular contributor to Bronto’s Commerce Marketing blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @WhatsGregDoing.

You’ve likely received them, probably sent them, and we have definitely written about them. No, I’m not talking about a letter to Santa. I’m talking about that “oops” email that’s sent when something goes wrong. And inevitably, it will.

At this busy time of the year, many companies fail to plan for those “uh-oh” moments. While typos or broken links can be avoided, other issues, such as a slow site or checkout processing errors, often can’t. You can try your best to avoid mistakes, but it’s imperative to recognize that they do happen and develop a plan for how to respond.

Some of the most common reasons for sending an oops email include:
●    Typos.
●    An incorrect subject line.
●    A slow site or checkout process.
●    Broken links or your site not working as it should.
●    The wrong promo code or a code that’s not working.

During this season of increased email sends, comparison shopping, and quick purchasing decisions, not being able to quickly respond to a mistake may drive your customers elsewhere. So what can you do about it?

Be Prepared

I recommend creating an oops message ahead of time. It’s also wise to create several messages that are specific to common issues. Include an editable section that can be customized without graphic resources, providing you the flexibility to customize it based on any issue that arises. You can even use some funny image or make it festive for the season. Here’s a great example from LinenSource:

LinenSource exampleIf you don’t have the graphic resources, or choose not to make light of the situation with a hero image, you can always send a text-only apology email. However, a text-only message can make it more difficult to incorporate your brand’s voice and personality into your apology.

In this next example, Christopher & Banks immediately sent an email (Subject Line: Oops! Our Bad…) to inform their customers that their site was having issues. They provided a next step (we will notify you) and invited people to shop other areas (email has been truncated). They even included a screenshot of the original email.

Christopher & Banks exampleIn the follow-up email, they used a playful subject line (Festive Friday is now Festive Saturday!), added a top banner stating the sale was back on, and extended the sale an extra day. This not only corrected the initial issue, but it also provided a value-add to the subscribers.
Christopher & Banks follow-up

Oops … It Happened! Now What?

When you identify an error, first determine whether an email is necessary, especially considering your increase in send cadence this time of year. Do you really need to send a dedicated email for a simple typo in a subject line? Maybe not. But if the typo causes confusion or conflicts with the brand, it may be worth it.

Regardless of the issue, be honest with your customers. If there were site issues, tell them. If it was a personal mistake, let them know. We’re all human, right? People understand that mistakes happen and are often quick to forgive, especially if it financially benefits them. In this example below from Whereoware, the seasonality of the text and the image really connect with the subscriber.

Whereoware exampleSay It With Your Subject Line

When creating your Oops messages, be sure to create very clear, direct subject lines. Using the word “oops” is most common, but “we’re sorry,” “our mistake” and other similar words all work well. If you can’t customize the creative to directly address the specific error, you can do so with the subject line itself. Otherwise, leave the subject line as a simple “oops” and allow the message itself to explain further. Here are a few examples of actual subject lines I’ve seen:

  • Oops, We Made a Mistake
  • Our Sincerest Apology
  • We Apologize
  • Oops, XYZ.com is Back Up
  • Oops, Take 15% off (with a working promo code this time)
  • We’re Sorry. Let Us Make It Up to You

Test, Test, Test

As tedious as it may be, it’s imperative to have a testing protocol in place to minimize mistakes, especially during your peak season. While it may not be fun, it may ultimately save you from needing to send a message like this. But should the time come for an oops message, be absolutely sure it’s error-free. Double- and even triple-check it. I once received an oops email with the “oops” spelled “opps.” Was it by design? I really don’t think so. They were in a rush to get the message out the door, and spellcheck wouldn’t necessarily catch something like that.

It’s not too late to create your messages for those “uh-oh” moments this holiday season. However, this preparation will also serve you well all year round. If you need some creative inspiration, here are some great examples for your reading pleasure.

For more tips on how to prepare for a successful holiday season, visit our Holiday Marketing Academy.

Happy holidays!