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Mastering Email Marketing Segmentation: Unlocking the Power of Personalization


An Email Mishap Sheds Light on the State of Marketing

Popular across marketing forums this week is the news of Shutterfly’s big email oops. Did you hear about it?

An email of congratulations reached an unknown number of recipients Wednesday of last week – many of whom were not new parents.

For once I can say that I was a first-hand witness to the marketing mishap, having received the email myself. Funny story, though—I’m 9 months pregnant!

I’ll admit, I had a moment of disregard for the photo-printing website when I got the mistaken email; I’m at that point in my pregnancy where I’m itching for the arrival of my first little one, and so I jokingly huffed off Shutterfly’s email as a tease to my excitement.

Shutterfly Email Mishap Proves Importance of Targeted Marketing

Once I got past the slight jealousy, my next, more rational thought, was – how does Shutterfly know I’m due in two weeks?!

I then began to think back on interactions I’ve made through their site in the past and started to work out how they could’ve uncovered this bit of information. I had printed my save-the-dates for my wedding the previous summer, and am currently in the process of completing my wedding album on their site. But this just isn’t enough to have deduced my due date so closely, albeit inaccurately.

Not once did it occur to me that the message was sent as a mistake—until the headlines hit. Shutterfly Congratulates Everyone On Arrival of Nonexistent Babies. Shutterfly’s Mass Email Goes Terribly, Terribly Wrong.

The mistaken email was met with a broad spectrum of emotions from recipients. Some to whom the message struck a personal chord were furious at Shutterfly’s insensitive advertising strategies. Others replied to the company’s Twitter apology with well humored acceptance:

I got the email from @Shutterfly and took it as a sign that my baby ninja was going to be born VERY soon 🙂 #36weeks— Don’t Speak Whinese (@DontSpkWhinese) May 14, 2014

@Shutterfly I’m not offended, except that if you’re going to get me pregnant I’d at least like you to buy me dinner first. — Katie Kimball (@nyc_katie) May 14, 2014

@Shutterfly Some? Try *all*, Shutterfly…it’s all good though. Just offer a truly free item (no shipping fee) & all is forgiven 😉 jk lol— themerrywench (@themerrywench) May 14, 2014

@Shutterfly phew! good to know, I thought you knew something that I didn’t! — Kimberly Kahn (@kimberlykahn) May 14, 2014

The take-away: consumers expect targeted messages.

Segmented and Targeted Emails Greater Revenue

No matter how the mistaken email was received, the situation makes it clear to me we’ve reached a point in our media and data saturated world where consumers have come to expect targeted messages. Recipients like myself don’t even think twice about a marketer’s ability to uncover that level of personal information.

From where I’m sitting, the email could have been a hole-in-one without the obvious data issue. Pairing such a tightly targeted message to the correct data makes for a powerful marketing campaign.