noreply = no engagement

I recently received an email from Air Canada to remind me about an upcoming flight (and to try to upsell me on those dubious extra legroom seats).  

While upsells are annoyances and end up in my inbox a lot (thanks to the new Google Inbox filters this happens less often, but that's a different story), some of the other content in the email got me thinking:

For a few years, I worked at CakeMail - an email marketing provider based out of Montreal - and the Director of Deliverability (who is in charge of making sure emails get from A to B with a minimum of fuss and a lot of following strict rules) and I would often talk about the value of never using a noreply@ address, an address that's not checked by anyone. I'd say that my awareness of email marketing best practices is pretty high, with a few years of writing and talking about it under my belt, and it's left me easily annoyed about easy to fix email campaign faux-pas.

Air Canada is hardly the only organization committing this email marketing bad-practice - many companies big and small do the same thing everyday - but they happened to hit my inbox at a time when I was working on some email campaigns of my own. As a result, they get to be my example. (Hey AC - it's nothing personal! We're still friends, and I'll see you next week for that flight!)

An email like the one above has very few points of interaction. You can click that "Select your seat" button (and follow the CTA to conversion city -- i.e. seat upgrades), view Air Canada's privacy policy, or unsubscribe. All good things. 

But what if I have a question? Or want to tell them how great (and perfectly timed) their email was? Or to resolve an issue because I'd actually already selected my seat and they got it wrong? They'd rather you didn't hit that reply button, and actually don't give you any information in this email about how to contact them at all. So 'It's ok for us to write to you, but not for you to write to us.' Well then.  

Connecting with customers builds trust

Telling people not to bother replying to your email because no one will receive your well-crafted, thoughtful response sends a very clear message to your customers that you don't want to make it easy for them to reach out to you. While this MAY have been acceptable ten years ago, in the pre-marketing-automation world, it certainly makes no sense in today's era of customer engagement and social media, where organizations and consumers can be so easily and effectively connected with a simple @reply on twitter or a facebook post. Letting customers connect with you in whatever way is the easiest for them is not just good business practice - it builds trust. And with trust comes loyalty.

Email isn't going anywhere yet

People have talked for a long time about "the death of email" (reference: every SXSW panel-picker for the last five years), but email - and especially email marketing - is not going anywhere anytime soon. It's a stable, reliable medium that you can use to reach customers with unique, personalized, private communications that take into account rich data like context, timing, and behavioural cues. I cringe to see email marketers not stepping up their strategy to drive engagement, make it easy for readers to reach out, and connect email to their social and other online strategies as well. 

Include email in your social mix

If this email were to have been awesome, they would have outlined ways to connect with them that weren't just online and made the reply-to email address one that directed responses to their social media or customer engagement team (don't get me started on how the "Select Your Seats" button was only 1/3 clickable). Empowering the team that connects with users on other digital platforms ensures that you'll have a consistency in responses, and they'll have insight into customer issues, feedback on a campaign's effectiveness, and the ability to triage or solve customer issues in no time flat. 

Long story short, good things will happen if you encourage interaction with your customers, even if there are a million of them. Not everyone has a question, and until you actually do this, you have no idea what any of those million customers might be thinking.