Smart email: If I stop buying, ask me why!

Ocardo Box

Two clever companies noticed I was doing something that was not making them money recently and emailed me to let me know they’d noticed. And then they tried selling me more stuff. As though I must have just got bored or forgot what I was doing when I was supposed to be spending money. As though it couldn’t have been a problem with their product or their processes.

Neither of them ever asked me why I stopped buying. Although I was eager to tell them both.

The first example was Three which I discussed in an earlier post and just this morning Ocardo emailed me saying they’d noticed I’ve not been buying their organic boxes lately. You can tell from their email (above) that they assume that I’ve just forgotten about this great service they’re offering and that a reminder and maybe a special offer will trigger my buying behaviour again.

They’re totally wrong of course. I stopped buying their product deliberately because I think it’s a rip off. They send me boring fruit and vegetables, ones that I don’t really use, and they charge a whole lot of money for it. I don’t buy their product because I can get better organic boxes elsewhere.

If I was running Ocardo (or, at least, in charge of sending out this email), I’d definitely be finding a way not just to remind people about my product, but also to initiate a conversation, a dialogue. Don’t assume I’m just a dumb user who forgot or got distracted… ask me.

If you’re smart enough to look for customer intelligence (who’s stopped buying what), then be smart enough to respect a customer’s intelligence. You’ll end up with a much more more clever company… and maybe even an organic box that I’d want to buy from you again.


  1. Tim Beadle December 7, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    But that would involve marketers embracing the Cluetrain Manifesto and actually having a conversation. That (as far as they see it) is risky, not to mention a challenge to the received wisdom and training of marketing people whose experience is a mixture of pre and post-internet, on- and offline.

    It’ll be a brave (but clueful) company that does it first in any given market.

  2. Eric December 10, 2006 at 3:08 am

    To be fair though they are probably thinking that you did get distracted … by a competitor’s better offer. Customer churn generally accounts for more lost customers than lifestyle changes (eg. no longer buys organic produce).

  3. Leisa Reichelt December 12, 2006 at 12:02 am

    Ah yes, but why do people ‘churn’? (Ok, I’m no expert on churn, but I know that it’s only partially to do with price).

    I frequently ‘churn’ for reasons other than price. Perhaps if there was more of this conversation going on, companies would get better at managing (that is, reducing) churn.

    Seriously tho, I’m not suggesting that they start blogging or anything outrageous like that (although, interestingly, Three XSeries is blogging), maybe just give me a little form and a few options as to why I might not have stopped buying. That’s hardly difficult to implement or manage… providing that you’re willing to recognise that your overall offering might be flawed.

  4. Patrick December 12, 2006 at 3:13 am

    Having worked on similar integrated email campaigns, the reason why feedback isn’t gathered is that it would end up in a black hole.
    To their credit, those marketers have made the right choice. If there is currently no process for making use of the feedback then they shouldn’t capture it in the first place (many times the decision goes the other way).
    Ideally it would be possible to collect customer feedback and use it to improve the customer experience (like fix problems with the purchase process), but usually marketing is set aside from actual business operations. Even worse, email marketing is usually estranged from the mainstream marketing. So there’s quite a chasm between the email which arrives in your inbox and the underlying business processes that need to be effected.
    OK enough defending email marketing :)

  5. leisa.reichelt December 12, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    Having worked on similar integrated email campaigns, the reason why feedback isn’t gathered is that it would end up in a black hole.

    Hey Patrick, I tend to agree that this is what would likely happen at the moment, but I guess what I’m trying to get at here is not just the email itself as a mechanic, but how companies can use email to improve the overall user experience, which would mean changing processes so that marketing people DO listen to this kind of feedback, and so that there was a way to refactor the product offering in response to this feedback.

    Agile product development perhaps? :)

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