Jonathan Saipe

Airmiles: A Case Study In Poor Email Marketing

1 November 2010, Jonathan Saipe

Airmiles logoA few days ago, I received an HTML email from Airmiles with the subject line: “A little thank you from Airmiles and Lloyds TSB”. Given that I am an Airmiles account holder through my Lloyds TSB Airmiles Duo Credit Credit, I opened the email expecting to receive a freebie or an member-only offer of some kind.

I was however surprised to receive an email offering me the chance to receive two free flights if I apply for a Lloyds TSB credit card before the end of the 2010.

Airmiles email campaign

Simple mistakes

The mistake is simple and could have easily been avoided.

Firstly, I am an existing Airmiles customer (and a loyal one too – I accumulate lots of Airmiles each month), so why am I being emailed offers to apply for a credit card? My frustration was compounded by the fact that it was personalised indicating that they knew I was either a subscriber or account holder.

Secondly, the subject line “A little thank you from Airmiles and Lloyds TSB” was misleading.

My initial reaction was that I was being rewarded for loyalty. So, clearly I opened this email. No doubt, they recorded a reasonably good open rate as a result of this campaign. As you can imagine, I was rather annoyed to find out that I was effectively misled.

The moral of the story

So what should we conclude from this saga?

1. Understand your segments

A common mistake in email marketing is to blanket bomb your subscriber list without considering your segments. This demonstrates a blatant disregard to customer loyalty.

Whilst I doubt Airmiles are entirely arbitrary in their segmenting, they may well have had my name in a prospects segment which is why I received the wrong email.

2. Plan your retention strategy

When broadcasting emails as part of a retention strategy, it’s important to consider your long term strategy – be it 6, 12 or 18 months ahead.

Broadcast emails to your existing customer base or opt-in prospects that encourage greater engagement. And, the above case, broadcast content such as member-only offers and deals to your loyal customers that will delight them. Second guess what they are expecting and you will win loyalty. I often refer to this as adopting a “sense and respond” approach.

3. Test, test, test

Testing is an inherent part of email marketing. Testing comes in all sorts of flavours, but in the case of Airmiles, something clearly went wrong. Maybe they broadcast the wrong content to the wrong segment? Or maybe their subject line A/B test went a little pear shaped!

4. Don’t mislead

Be careful with your subject lines. It’s easy to write a subject line that will increase your open rates, but will your conversion rates improve?

By all means use a subject line to hook in the customer, but in the case of Airmiles, the hook was sent to the wrong subscriber who was expecting a reward for loyalty.

The final metrics?

Whatever the reasons for the above campaign, I’m curious to know how it performed. My hunch is that they had above average open rates with poorer than average conversion rates – not to mention unsubscribe rates. Unfortunately we will never know!