The top 3 email fails

Atomic.io / Blog

The top 3 email fails

Nick Hearn
4 December 2020

Email is an ultra-high-stakes channel. Get it right, and it’s a powerful way to re-engage customers. Get it wrong, and customers will unsubscribe costing you all future opportunities to engage by email again.

Bad emails also burn customer trust. Your customers don’t exactly enjoy deciding whether “this last bad email” is the final straw, the one that makes them frustrated to the point where they’ll opt out altogether. No, your customers don’t want to unsubscribe, they want you to be better. They want you to do right by them.

Here are 3 of the most common email fails I see:

1 — “The long fail”

If you’re sending regularly scheduled emails with no pressing or specific focus, simply because you’ve committed to a cadence or hooked up a drip-campaign… you’re coaching customers to tune you out. Your customers are overloaded, and these emails aren’t helping. This technique is a relic of early-digital contact strategies that presents a nagging reminder to customers that you see them simply as an email address to hit up as part of a numbers-game. 

Here are three things you can do immediately to improve this experience for your customers:

Build a low-contact cohort

Create a control group to whom you don’t send routine or fluff updates, and track whether their response rates to your more personalised, high-value emails improve.
Effort: low.

Ask for feedback

Define a small contact group, and send them a simple email, two sentences or less, asking how you can make your scheduled emails better. If you’ve eroded your customers’ trust, they’ll ignore you. If they’re annoyed, you might hear back. If you’re doing well, you’ll hear about it.
Effort: low.

Look at the data

Audit regularly-scheduled emails and build a case to stop, continue, or improve. What is the direct cash cost to send? What is the staff time to prepare, deliver, and monitor? What is the other thing we could be doing if we weren’t investing in this? What is the specific business goal for this activity, and how well is it delivering? Use this data to start a tough conversation with your team.
Effort: low.

2 — “Bored to death”

Transactional email can be hard, even impossible, for your customers to unsubscribe from. With email being the wrong channel for sensitive information, and unable to provide seamless pathways to action, chances are many of your transactional emails are being ignored, or worse, sent to spam.

Here are two things you can do immediately to improve:

Take a hard look at the spam reports

How frequently are transactional emails getting sent to the sin-bin? Set a baseline with today’s “marked-as-spam” rate, then set an optimisation target, and start to test improvements. Every low-value transactional email adds weight to a customer’s inbox, and trains them to ignore you.
Effort: low.

Flip transactional emails into in-channel messages

If an email is delivering only a generic heads up, because it can’t contain sensitive information, flip to delivering that message first via your in-app messaging platform, and stop, or reframe the email as a supporting act. Instead of sending an email ‘every time’ move to a weekly, or monthly summary, and utilise your in-channel platform for real-time delivery. In-channel messages can contain sensitive information, be updated when data changes and unlike email, can expire or be retracted, not to mention the massive increase in analytics and visibility you’ll generate to further learn and improve.
Effort: low (especially if you’re using Atomic!)

3 — “The wall”

Your customers are battling to control their inbox. Before they got your message, they got 50 others. As soon as yours came in, a handful followed behind. Thankfully, your carefully crafted subject hooks them and they click to see the message. Then… they’re hit with a giant banner image, or a huge wall of words. Instantly, they know they’re going to have to slow down, commit some headspace, and focus if they’re going to digest this one. But they’re overloaded, so click – delete – gone. Or, back out, scroll on. Either way, you went in too heavy, and blew it.

Here are three things you can do immediately to improve:

Simplify and move comms in-channel

Take the core message and call-to-action, and deliver it in-channel the next time they log in. If it’s time sensitive, use a push-notification to cut through and bring your customer instantly back in-app, then present them with a cut back message and one-touch call to action.
Effort: low.

Test a minimalist template

Create a new template, without the big images, blocky branding header, or heavy layout. Run a bake off with two or three of your next emails comparing the old template with the new, then continue to test until you find the sweet spot.
Effort: medium.


Email is a powerful channel, but it also carries a heavy burden. As I’ve outlined above, there are lots of ways to get email back in good shape, but if your reliance on email as a customer engagement channel is too high, or your use of email is costing you permission to engage, then it’s probably time to leverage next-generation in-channel engagement platforms like Atomic.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Atomic can supercharge your existing digital channels, we’d love to talk. Only Atomic can help your customers get things done in one tap, increasing your customer response rates and engagement instantly.