peepers ||

We’re begging you to stop using these 10 annoying email marketing tactics

“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”

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”

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.

Satechi

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

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”

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.

American Tall

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.

Office Oasis

4. “Welcome to the family”

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!”

Keymaster Games email

5. “TODAY ONLY: 20% OFF SITEWIDE!!”

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:

Papaya Reusables

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.

Supply

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

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”

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. 

Braxley Bands

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”

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:

Little Sleepies

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 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.

Tomlinson's Feed

9. “Ready to make your next move?”

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.

Magic Spoon

No answer needed. This subject from Magic Spoon simply teases fresh flavors of their low-carb cereal. 

Braxley Bands

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”

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.

Satchel and Page

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.

Kate Joseph

Kate Joseph

Kate Joseph is Fuel Made’s expert copywriter who’s on a mission to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe in the world. When she’s not in the mood for a romantic comedy, you can find her at the beach listening to broadway tunes and comedy podcasts.

Ready? Let’s Talk.