The Winner Of The Most Counterproductive E-Mail Marketing Idea Is ….

Written by Evan Schuman
August 10th, 2007

The folks at ExactTarget discovered a few bits of space in E-Commerce land that weren’t already supporting advertisements. Such blatant examples of straight communication could not be tolerated. Their target: transactional E-mails.

Here’s how they described their plan in a message sent to reporters: “Transactional E-mails, as defined by CAN-SPAM, are those sent after a purchase, confirming a subscription or sharing product update news. In the past, transactional E-mails have been limited to IT systems that used a server to generate an automatic confirmation message. There was no marketing messaging, or up-selling possibilities included in the messages. This was a huge missed opportunity.”

Maybe. Or maybe it was intentional, as they didn’t want critical confirmation messages to be ignored or deleted. My favorite part is where they bring up the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003—which was intended to prevent unsolicited ads from being sent to consumers—as though it supports this action.


3 Comments | Read The Winner Of The Most Counterproductive E-Mail Marketing Idea Is ….

  1. Al Iverson Says:

    Hi there. I run ET’s deliverability and policy compliance department. The new transactional tools are definitely NOT a license to spam, and we’d definitely be taking action against anybody who misuses them to send spam. As always, the ongoing efforts from my team involve educating clients to do the right thing (NOT spam), and policing clients to take the right action if they do the wrong thing (send spam). I’m a long time anti-spammer myself (run my own sites at and tracking and reporting on spam issues), and I’m in full agreement that CAN-SPAM has little to do with actual permission — our policies go far above and beyond.

  2. Rob M. Says:

    I DON’T WANT ADS in my Confirmation Emails! Period. Stop.
    I’ve already bought something, please just send me a small email with my order details! Send me other ‘up-selling’ email I can delete later. Your web site should already have done it’s ‘up-selling’ magic when I was ordering!

  3. RetailConsultant Says:

    Let’s talk about what a transactional email is, and what it is not. Most seasoned merchants understand that they won’t be imbedding “ads” in transactional emails…however they also know that any chance to communicate with a customer in a personal and relevant manner should be taken advantage of – hence the power of transactional email being driven through an ESP (eMail Solutions Provider).
    That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t imbed cross sells into transactional email. Relevant cross sells, such as memory sticks for your new Sony Camera, a protective case, or extended life battery – lend value to both the customer and the merchant. Especially when discounted to the value of that customer (high value customer – here is an extra 5% off). Cross selling in email CAN be customer service oriented, and SUCCSEFULL cross selling generally is.
    Blend that with the level of INTELLIGENCE available through an ESP, and you can have lifetime value messaging in the email – allowing the merchant to welcome back high value customers who’ve been away, greet first time customers – in addition to providing cross channel data such as loyalty programs information.
    AL – I loved your point about the technology simply being a tool – it’s up to the merchant to determine how to use it – based on their market, their business goals, and the ability to derive value from their transactional program by creating value for their customers
    ROB – remember that you, as a consumer, have the ULTIMATE power by selecting who you spend with…you find a merchant abusing this new found ability, send them an email and never shop from them again – you won’t be alone, your impact will be FELT, and your message will be heard. In the end – your dollar will be what determines proper application for “next generation” transactional email solution.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.