“What kinds of things do you write?”
As an email marketing copywriter, I dread this question. Because when I clarify that I primarily write marketing emails, the person I’m speaking to will undoubtedly respond, “Ugh, I hate marketing emails!”
And, honestly, I don’t blame them.
We’ve all been bothered by brands bombarding our inboxes at some point. After all, no one is immune to the dramatic eye roll and scoff combo that follows a smartphone notification (that you expected to be the text you were awaiting) for a marketing email.
However, email is a crucial marketing tool for ecommerce businesses.
According to Litmus, “On average, email drives an ROI of $36 for every dollar spent, higher than any other channel.”
So, how do you leverage email marketing’s benefits while simultaneously staying on your shoppers’ good sides?
Engage users with valuable, entertaining content to build a relationship and positive brand associations.
And, avoid using overused marketing copy that gets on customers’ nerves.
I combed through Twitter to find 10 of the worst offenders. In this article, I’ll break each of these examples down and provide infinitely better alternatives to strengthen your email marketing strategy.
1. “You left this behind”
when stores email me “you left this behind…” literally 5 minutes after I close the page it just makes me never want to purchase the item lmao— kenn (@sleepykenn) December 9, 2021
Why it’s annoying: The “you forgot something” sentiment is the most basic abandoned cart message of all time. When a customer sees yet another brand use this wording, they’re likely to think of you as generic (and a nag).
Try this instead: Get your audience excited. Rather than implying they’re going to miss out, remind them of the value they could be getting. Oh, and give shoppers at least 30 minutes to potentially place their order before reaching out.
Kris Nations brings customers back to their abandoned carts by employing social proof in the form of product reviews and an affirming call to action: “I deserve nice jewelry.”
2. “We need to talk”
I hate getting marketing emails like "Enough is Enough!" or "I'm putting my foot down" or "Jessica, we need to talk" it stresses me out like I'm worried I pissed off someone I work with or something— 🐾🍃 jess 🍃🐾 (@jeccycka) August 28, 2020
Why it’s annoying: Clickbait subject lines like these can, at worst, scare customers, or, at best, coerce them to open the email only to realize it was a ploy (and like your brand all the less for it).
Try this instead: The key to a good subject line is intrigue. A little drama is alright, but it should be low stakes for the customer.
For example, take Satechi’s restock announcement campaign for their 165W USB-C 4-Port PD GaN Charger.
Rather than naming the newly available product, this subject line reels shoppers in by touting it as a best-seller and implies it may not be around for long. This strategy ultimately garnered a 61.4% open rate – not to mention the brand’s biggest placed-order rate since Black Friday.
Another option? Stir up some frustrating emotions (without actually frustrating the reader).
Naked Nutrition did this early on in 2022, acknowledging the struggle of reaching goals in the new year. For those striving to stick to their resolutions, this sentiment (plus the promise of helpful tips inside) resonates emotionally – proven by a nearly 60% open rate.
3. “No, I don’t want to save money”
In today's installment of Things I Hate: Pop-up prompts that force you to click the self-hating, negative statement in order to opt out of signing up, like, "No, I don't want a beach body" or "No, I don't want to save money" or "No, I'm not interested in saving the planet."— Tula Karras (@Tula_Karras) June 3, 2021
Why it’s annoying: Pop-ups are a fantastic way to share offers with new customers and build your email list, but, let’s be real – they can be irritating.
Oftentimes, customers are seeing your lead capture before they’ve even had a chance to really explore your site. Pushing them to immediately click on something negative and potentially untrue is not the best first impression.
Try this instead: Skip the whole “I want to pay full price” strategy and give site visitors an easy out.
American Tall offers customers 15% off their first order with an enticing “I’m in” call to action. However, shoppers can decline the offer without being shamed by clicking a simple “no thanks” button.
Another approach? Cut the “not today” CTA and simply include a clear “X” in the top right corner of the pop-up like The Office Oasis. This is where customers expect it to be, it’s easy to see, and minimizes aggravation.
4. “Welcome to the family”
I hate these marketing emails talkin bout some “welcome to the family” like Bitch, my family doesn’t charge me money for products. I’m not your family.— Ronni is the Thrilla from Manila (@LovesTheWords) January 4, 2022
Why it’s annoying: You’re a business talking to a customer. Implying that you’re a close family member or friend is disingenuous.
Plus, using the term “family” in business is quickly becoming synonymous with toxicity.
Try this instead: If you want to foster a close relationship with your customers, you must do so slowly, over time by earning their trust. Give shoppers a great product, solid support, and relatable content, and their respect will follow naturally.
But, before that, you need to start your welcome sequence off strong.
Rather than refer to your community as a “family,” you could greet new customers with “welcome to the team.” Or, perhaps you show your gratitude for their presence with a warm “we’re so happy to have you here.”
Keymaster Games kicks off their customer’s journey by building excitement with a header that reads, “Your adventure begins here!”
5. “TODAY ONLY: 20% OFF SITEWIDE!!”
I immediately delete emails with subject lines in all caps. It just feels like being yelled at no?— Anna Haines (@annarhaines) January 12, 2022
Why it’s annoying: Not only are subject lines in all capital letters aggressive, they don’t perform as well because they’re more likely to land in the spam folder.
Try this instead: Stand out in the inbox in other ways.
Here are a few subject lines that have caught my eye (and enticed me to click) recently:
Adding an emoji to your subject line is a great way to set yourself apart, but here’s the thing: users are conditioned to yellow emojis, like the wink face, the sun, the waving hand. Dare to be different with an uncommon, colorful selection – like Papaya Reusables’ neon green germ.
Me?! I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be in this email highlighting Supply customer reviews because, well, I’ve never left a review… but I still had to open and check. You know, just to be sure.
Fishwife is absolutely correct. I’ve never seen a fish in a cowboy hat, but I sure would like to. I immediately opened this email and was not disappointed by its contents.
6. “The items you viewed are selling fast”
Minding my business and here goes @Walmart sending an email talking about "the items you viewed are selling fast." 🤦🏾♂️🤷🏾♂️— Bruh man from the 5th flo (@mrmusic88) January 25, 2022
Why it’s annoying: It’s totally fine to generate FOMO in order to incentivize your customer to complete their order. However, phrases like this (as well as “almost gone” and “pretty popular”) are extremely overused and customers know they’re a manipulation tactic.
Try this instead: Rather than taunt customers with threats of low stock, use humor or leverage a discount to draw them back in.
Braxley Bands does both successfully with the second email in their abandoned cart series.
With an all-time 74.9% open rate, 14.1% click rate, and virtually zero unsubscribes, it’s safe to say this email isn’t agitating many customers.
7. “We’re sorry you unsubscribed”
FUCK YEAH 'WE'RE SORRY YOU UNSUBSCRIBED' EMAILS ARE THE MARKETING EQUIVALENT OF HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU— Nadine von Cohen (@nadinevoncohen) October 18, 2017
Why it’s annoying: We know it's difficult to accept, but if someone unsubscribes from your emails, they do not want to hear from you again. Don’t follow up.
Try this instead: Create a branded unsubscribe confirmation page where users will land after clicking “unsubscribe.” Here, they can remove themselves from your list as they originally intended, or update their preferences to stay a while longer.
Need a bit of inspiration? Just take a look at Little Sleepies’ unsubscribe landing page:
Even if the customer ultimately unsubscribes, this page offers a farewell message and a reminder that they can return any time.
8. “Happy birthday”
why tf do brands email you on your birthday and not give you a discount code? like silence, brand fr— sebo ☭ (@notsebo) June 24, 2021
Why it’s annoying: It’s like you’re presenting the birthday-haver with a big gift, only for them to open it and find a note that says “happy birthday!” It’s misleading and memorable (in a bad way) when their inbox is likely filled with B-day offers from other brands.
Try this instead: Give your customer something. Just about any discount or freebie will do, but creativity goes a long way.
For example, Tomlinson’s Feed celebrates customers’ pets’ big days by offering 15% off a toy, bed, or other non-food item.
9. “Ready to make your next move?”
I love when a marketing email makes it easy for me. Just got one with the subject line, "Ready for the ultimate abs challenge?" Nope. Not in the least. pic.twitter.com/FHH0S3EQz9— but this is my safe space. (@waste_of_tom) January 24, 2022
Why it’s annoying: Don’t ask questions that demand answers from the customer. There’s a good chance they won’t answer the way you want.
Try this instead: Switch to a statement if you want to play it safe.
Or, ask a rhetorical question – one that communicates value or has an objective.
No answer needed. This subject from Magic Spoon simply teases fresh flavors of their low-carb cereal.
In an effort to attract shoppers, Braxley Bands promoted a recent sale by openly asking themselves if such a deal is even financially viable. While meant to be taken lightly, not literally, just the implication of an unbelievably great deal got nearly half of all recipients to open this email.
10. “We haven’t seen you in a while”
The worst emails are the journey marketing ones. ‘ you left x in your cart’ or ‘we haven’t seen you in a while’. Just send me discounts without the guilt— Carol Kowalski (@carol_finn) December 11, 2021
Why it’s annoying: This is about as transparent of a guilt trip as your mom reminding you that she gave birth to you (after 28 hours, no less!).
Try this instead: Reengage customers with content that’s actually valuable and relevant to where they are in their shopping journey.
In lieu of rushing readers, Satchel & Page uses the final email in their welcome sequence to extend a helping hand.
This plain-text message is respectful, personal, and, most importantly, doesn’t include a guilt trip.
Marketing emails can be annoying, but they don’t have to be!
Here are a few actionable takeaways to help you serve your customers instead of irking them.
Mind your analytics: If your open and click rates are low (or your unsubscribe rates are high) according to ecommerce email marketing benchmarks, there’s likely a reason. Dissect your content and make improvements where needed.
Subscribe to every list you can: Set up a separate email address and use it to subscribe to marketing emails every time you’re asked. Take note of which brands’ emails are aggravatingly generic and which are actually valuable. Follow the lead of the latter.
A/B test copy: This is the most effective way to understand the kind of language that your audience responds to. Make small changes to isolate the elements that work well and those that don’t.
Want your subject lines to be better? We can help you get maximum value from Klaviyo, with minimal effort. And we have dedicated experts taking care of every step of the process. (Hi, I do copywriting!)
Get in touch with our team here to see how we can help.