I work in marketing and feel no shame in admitting that ads work on me. This story starts with me signing up for Fabletics, the fashion-meets-fitness company, following a very effective social ad campaign. I’m the perfect target for them, both demographically and behaviorally: a woman in my early 30s who sometimes posts about workouts, and who likes to buy clothing and athletic gear online. So after weeks of Facebook and Instagram ads, I was sold.
The premise of Fabletics’ VIP membership is this: in the first 5 days of each month, you visit the site to see deals on new merchandise. If you “miss a month” —forget to visit the site and either buy or actively click to skip the month—you are charged a small membership fee that you can apply to future purchases.
This should be a happy story about how excited I am about my experience. I’m happy with my first purchase, so this could have been a story about an innovative approach to “athleisure.” But their email strategy has killed my goodwill. Instead of advocating the brand, I’m now writing a cautionary tale about email preferences. Here’s my advice from a frustrated customer on 4 ways to prevent email from ruining your customer experience:
1. Never make a daily email the default option.
Fabletics’ default email option is to send “a daily dose of fit”—that means they send an email a day. An email a day.
I already feel e-overwhelmed. The only people in my life who should be sending me a daily email are my colleagues; email lists whose entire value proposition is sending a daily email to make my life easier (e.g., The Skimm); and potentially my mother.
2. Ask your customer when and why they’d like to hear from you.
When I initially went to the site, Fabletics asked me my name and email, and a few questions about my lifestyle to help tailor my clothing recommendations. They could easily have included a question about email preferences without it feeling like an extra step, which would have avoided significant frustration later.
3. Provide options that make sense for your business AND customer.
Annoyed with the contact frequency, I went to the “Manage my preferences” link at the bottom of one of the emails. I was faced with two options: Unsubscribe completely, or Cancel my membership. Both are nuclear options, which is not ideal for either me or Fabletics.
I was expecting options by time, e.g., monthly, weekly, or daily. That would mean three templates for them to create, which is fairly efficient.
Another great alternative would have been options with a combination of subject matter, time, and need. For example:
- Monthly reminder to shop or skip
- Bi-weekly digest of new merchandise and workout tips
- Notifications if something I like is low-stock
- Order and shipment notifications
4. Consider the broader implications of email in your customer experience.
Ultimately, email could end this relationship. I see where this is going. I’ve stopped getting emails from Fabletics now, because in a choice between daily or none, I chose none. That means I’ve stopped getting the monthly reminder at the beginning of the month to buy or skip.
Despite putting a recurring reminder on my calendar, I’ll forget to go to the site at some point, and my credit card will be charged. I’ll be annoyed enough to cancel my membership. And this will be because Fabletics hasn’t thought about how their email practices impacts my perception of their brand, my overall experience, and my loyalty.
This relationship started off so promising—they did a terrific job with targeting to find me, they have a pleasant initial sign-up experience and smart limited-time-offers to drive me to a first purchase, and their product is great.
But now I’m telling everyone who asks (and you, who didn’t) about my sub-par experience. One bad decision about email preferences has turned a potential enthusiast into a frustrated detractor. This is an unfortunate waste of Fabletics’ resources—it likely costs significantly more to acquire a new customer than to retain one, and good word-of-mouth is priceless currency today.
Fabletics is still a young-ish brand, and this is an easy fix, so I’m hoping they can turn this around. But regardless, I hope other brands will learn from their mistakes.