Only Influencers

Only Influencers is the Email Marketing Communities Oldest and Most Trusted Resource.

When Things Go Wrong: Handling Apology Emails

When Things Go Wrong: Handling Apology Emails

As email marketers, we cringe over what can possibly go wrong with our deployments - typos, broken images, broken links. And we lose sleep at night over the even bigger bloopers - missing or expired promo codes, products that sell out before the promotion is over, website glitches and more.

Let’s face it - it’s not the end of the world (although it could be the end of a job, depending on the severity of the error).

What resonates with customers, however, is how your company handles such “whoopses.” A sincere apology – especially when combined with an additional offer – can go a long way to restoring trust in a brand.

In this example from Rocawear, the company speaks its customers’ language with “Our Bad!” The subject line – We Apologize - Take An Additional 10% Off – gets right to the point. What I find interesting is that Rocawear did not remove its sharing link at the bottom of the email. (Of course, promo codes like this end up on sites like RetailMeNot anyway.)


Humor can help turn a negative into a positive. This Forever 21 email is the cat’s meow:Darcy2dec

And this Lily Pulitzer email combines humor with genuine appreciation of its customer base:


Sometimes an apology is expected/demanded, and sometimes it’s just a “nice to have,” as in this email from Bargain Catalog Outlet. When an item is unavailable, it’s more of an annoyance or inconvenience, so an apology email is simply a value-added gesture. The subject line draws you in: Ooops! Didn’t Get What You Wanted? … Please accept $10 OFF your order*. (However, not sure I’d include the asterisk in the subject line.)


Put “OOPS” in the subject line and you’re certain to attract attention, as in this one from OOPS - we didn't mean to send that last email


The use of a Post-It® note in the email design is a cute way to say “We screwed up.” does eventually apologize, inserting a bit of humor, but doesn’t include any special offer to make up for the mix-up. (I do wonder what the previous email said, though.)

From a public relations perspective, your mea culpas shouldn’t be limited to email alone. If the problem affected a majority of your customers, such as the site was down, an apology on the home page is probably a good idea. Your customers probably will take to the social networks to air their grievances, so you should moderate these and respond when appropriate.

Sorry if I got a bit long-winded here, but it’s an issue that I am passionate about. Forgive me?

Analytics and Easy, Actionable Tips for Email List...
Move Your Organization through the Process of Chan...

Related Posts

OI Survey Results: Do you use links in email copy and how do you style them.

Selling chocolate eggs to the general public at Easter isn’t exactly selling ice to the Eskimos. However, for the businesses who don’t have this delicious advantage, there are other ways of creating effective and fun campaigns to leverage this annual marketing opportunity. Fresh Relevance has collected a few great examples of chocolate-free brands who’ve been creative with their marketing in the last few years.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
Winston Churchill

Subject lines… the easiest thing to write, the hardest thing to get right. There is just no single best practice, rule or tactic that works every time.

If my six different inboxes are any indication, retailers and businesses of any type don’t use Halloween as the awesome opportunity it is. I received all of two Halloween inspired emails, which is rather pathetic. It’s a playful, fun, and joyously spooky time of year – why would retailers shy away from such a great opportunity? Are they worried they’ll offend? Seriously?

Welcome to the soft-launch of the Autumn season, hard launching September 23rd. Also known to yanks as Fall, it’s not simply a change of seasons, it marks the beginning of many things - The beginning of the end as Winter approaches. (This feeling is especially strong in Chicagoans.) For pagans and ghouls, the launch into the Samhain/Halloween/Harvest season and a spookfest for any reason. For others, likely who happen to be (suddlenly overjoyed) parents, it’s back to school for the kids (hoorah!). Then, there’s the Email Marketer. Back to School marks another sales season which makes us happy and provides an opportunity to send MORE EMAIL!

Subscribe to the Only Influencers Newsletter
  • Email Marketing News
  • Latest Email Tool Reviews
  • Email Marketing Jobs
  • Top Email Thought Leaders