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5 Email Fails You Need to Avoid

19 min read

More than half of small businesses treat email as their most effective and most frequently used marketing tool. Email is a trendy way to send out vouchers, discounts, or two-for-one deals. There are many marketing and sales events that can serve as a reason to target customers with your offer throughout the year. People are more likely to shop on holidays, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day, just to mention a few.

So, now your holiday calendar is packed, and you’re rushing to plan your next email move. You want something that will hit your customer’s inbox and blow their minds with a great deal. If you’re planning an email campaign, you don’t want to disappoint. Unfortunately, no matter how well you plan, Slip-ups can happen, especially when running a business and having lots of other things on your mind.

Learn from the mistakes of others when it comes to email communication. Check out some of the most common fails in emails and use them as cautionary tales to prevent an email fail of your own.

1. Unfriendly Email Experience

Have you ever opened an email and felt overwhelmed by how it looks? Maybe the colors were too bright, or the graphics too flashy. Unsuitable aesthetics and layout can discourage anyone from reading an email. But that’s not all. Sometimes an unreadable email comes down to the content itself.

Common email mistakes include:

  • Sentences that are too long or complicated
  • Poor use of color
  • Graphics that don’t match the content
  • Using a font that is too small or overdesigned
  • The lack of text formatting elements, such as bolding, italicizing, or underlining

A poor user experience in an email can ruin all the hard work you’ve done for your campaign.

Take a look at the example below.

poor user experience in email

Example of an email with a bad user experience. Source.

It doesn’t take more than a glance to see all the mistakes at play here. The call-to-action (CTA) is vague, and there’s way too much going on with the images. Also, the yellow background makes the text hard to read, drawing a customer’s eye away from your deal. Only an email daredevil desperate for a deal would venture a prolonged glance in this email’s direction.


Guide your user smoothly through your email message. Be straightforward, and write in a simple way, just like you would talk to the recipient in real life. Also, make sure your color palette attracts the eye and makes your text easier, not harder, to read.

good email example

Example of an email with a good user experience

When running a successful email campaign, it’s important to highlight the email’s values, both pragmatic and emotional. When email offers pragmatic values, it addresses a customer’s desire to have his problem solved in the most efficient (usually in terms of money, time, and effort) way. For example, a successful email shows the usability and utility of products being offered. The pragmatic part of an email is created with the recipient’s wants and needs in mind.

When it comes to emotional values in the email, it’s all about using your email to appeal to a customer’s emotional needs for identification and self-fulfillment. The best way to do this is to find some graphics and copy elements that have a mood to them, whether that mood is outgoing, playful, or useful. This mood should match your brand’s overall mood and how it might intersect with your intended audience.

Use available text tools to grab the email recipient’s attention. Split text into chunks, add white space, use styling to show hierarchy (font size, weight, color, position), use visuals, highlight the most important parts, and include a clear CTA. You can use the Hemingway App to see if your email is understandable and make sure it’s not bogged down with wordiness.

Up to 60% of emails that are opened are on mobile. So, it’s also important to test your email across multiple devices and make it mobile-friendly. A bad mobile experience for your audience will likely spell an unsuccessful campaign for you.

2. Sloppiness in Content Creation

Email typos and mistakes are still very common, despite easy access to the internet and spell-check.

Imagine meeting someone who introduces themselves as an expert. As you talk, you notice that this person is making lots of simple grammar mistakes as they speak with you. It doesn’t matter what industry this expert represents. What does matter is that this person claims to have authority in their field, and we are more likely to believe them if they can back that up with some formal conventions. The same logic applies to you and your email campaigns.

If there are spelling or grammar mistakes in an email, it isn’t easy to read. Even a small mistake can seriously degrade the effectiveness of your message. What’s more, it may affect your brand’s overall image negatively.

During one of my chats with marketing specialists, I found out about the Solitaires case. They spoke to me about a newly created email campaign announcing the game of the day but mentioned that their opening rate (the percentage of people who open an email sent to their inbox) was alarmingly low. So, an investigation began. Fortunately, they quickly found the guilty party — a misspelled word in their email’s subject line. They fixed the error and saw the open rate increase by 12%.

Mistakes show your target audience that you haven’t paid enough attention to the details. This may not be true in all cases, but the appearance of sloppiness means a lot to a potential customer who is looking for excellence in the products and services they invest in.


This problem can be avoided by proofreading before pressing the send button. Look up any words you’re not sure about. Ensure that you’ve used them correctly and in the right context. You can use tools like TrustMyPaper, WritingJudge, Quillbot, or Grammarly to help with editing.

grammarly dashboard

Grammarly dashboard: Here, you can remove grammatical mistakes and enhance the clarity of your content

Another problem with creating content is using broken elements within the message. The content can be outstanding and attract customers, but if the links you’ve included are incorrect or broken, the content won’t be effective. If a bad link takes its recipients to the wrong landing page or shows them, well, nothing, they’ll be unlikely to follow additional links to your store.

A similar tragedy: when you place voucher codes that don’t work in an email. If that happens, your customer service team will have to deal with many complaint emails, and you’ll likely lose customers because of it.

So, instead of making new sales or getting a few inquiries, your marketing failure might actually drive customers away from your brand. Something to avoid at all costs!


These mistakes should be a high priority because they have a direct impact on the campaign’s effectiveness. Solve them as soon as you see them. Better yet, make sure you’ve thoroughly tested all links and coupon codes beforehand to avoid these pitfalls.

Send a test email to several of your teammates. Ensure that the links you’re going to use are functional and that your customers will visit the right website.

If you make an embarrassing mistake, it’s in your best interest to send out an apology message. Apologize for the confusion, and give your recipients something to make up for the confusion it may have caused. Depending on the recipient type, this could be a free ebook, a future discount, a gift card, or an extra service.

apology email example

Example of an apology email for customers. Source.

You can always have a pre-drafted “Oops” message on hand with an email template or canned responses in your ticketing software. If you have access to an automation tool, you can create a dedicated apology campaign and send messages this way.

You can integrate your Ecwid store with Mailchimp and use the collected customer data to send the best apology gift based on their preferences. Compensate your audience for the inconvenience, and you’ll still be able to achieve your overall selling goals.

3. Overlapping of Different Goals in the Message

For every dollar you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $51, but only if the campaign is well thought out.

In the campaign, you can plan a few separate email messages that will accomplish different goals. Actually, we recommend this for keeping your messaging clear and direct. Problems can arise when you want to achieve your marketing goals at once with a single message.

This leads to a situation where your email message is unclear and distracts your audience. When you communicate too much in one email, you make it difficult for your recipients to understand what you are trying to give them (remember, many people will be opening your email on their mobile device, which means they’re likely on the go, or just easily distracted). A vague or crowded email messaging experience can cause a significant drop in your campaign’s performance.

Imagine an email sent during one of your campaigns where you give the customer a product discount and access to a free ebook. Additionally, you ask the customer to join the exclusive webinar, check out the latest brand news, and answer a contest question about the best shopping experience with your brand. Wow, that’s a lot!

Behind the email’s strategy are good intentions and a real ambition to satisfy your customers. You’re in a festive mood and feeling gratitude. But sometimes, the old adage really is true: less is more.


Before you start writing, think about your email marketing strategy to keep your messages consistent, customer journey-related, and easy to understand.

Data shows that 87% of marketers use email campaigns to nurture their audiences. Your recipients are at different stages of the customer journey. You should consider this when planning your email campaign. Depending on how well your recipients know you and your marketing strategies, different kinds of emails will appeal to them and convince them to take action.

Think about what you want to say in the message. Is it supposed to be a sales email or an image-building one? Map out the customer journey, market to your recipients, and create personalized content.

These actions are the most effective when it comes to email campaign optimization. You can try customer-journey map templates like this one from Miro.

Miro dashboard

Miro dashboard: Here, you can use templates to create your customer journey for email marketing

Use your Ecwid data and the analytics section to adapt your email to the buyer’s lifecycle stage. Highlight the elements in the content that are closely related to the objective of the email. Gift your customers with something extraordinary that they can’t say No to. Go above and beyond their expectations of what you usually offer in order to make them take notice.

4. Segmentation and Personalization Fails

Sending emails to a specific group of recipients that you’ve identified through segmentation sounds like a great idea, right? But sometimes, audience segmentation can go terribly wrong. Specifically, it can backfire when you create segments that are inconsistent with your business objectives or are based on outdated data and/or your personal feelings.

One of the main negative effects of failed segmentation is inadequate personalization. It’s not just about sending an email with the wrong recipient’s name (though obviously, don’t do that!). It’s about something more.

Poor personalization is when you send an email that doesn’t contain information that interests a particular recipient. For example: imagine you have a pet store and you’ve arranged a sales campaign on World Animal Day. The plan is to email your customers and give them a discount on pet food. However, due to unordered or obsolete data, you send a discount voucher for cat food to a dog owner.

This might sound a little ridiculous, but this example perfectly illustrates how you can lose sales due to improper segmentation. This could be just a single case, or it could show that there are other vulnerable points on your customer list.


Grow your list of prospective customers with creative sign-up forms. Once the recipient fills them out, the real challenge — segmentation — begins.

Customer segmentation criteria

Example of customer segmentation criteria for better email marketing

Professionals who used segmented campaigns recorded a 760% increase in revenue. Identify all of the main and secondary segments of your target audience. Organize your recipients into smaller, more targeted groups. Decide what customer data you need to prepare your email campaigns.

Perform an in-depth analysis based on the purchasing history and underline key segments, such as:

  • New
  • Promising
  • Loyal
  • Dangling/Undecided
  • Inactive

Work out different solutions for your email campaign for each group. Give new customers a discount on their next purchase. Ask loyal customers to complete a satisfaction survey to get access to early bird deals. Your undecided or inactive customers can be motivated by a special offer for the products they viewed the last time they visited your site.

You can connect your Ecwid store to Mailchimp for easier audience segmentation. With that, you’ll be able to recommend products directly from the product catalog. You can also cross-sell or upsell easily.

Separate your email list into subcategories, and send messages that carry value to your recipients. Think about what information and deals will be the most useful to them, and give them something tailored to their interests or needs. The rule is simple. The more your emails are personalized and relevant, the more likely your recipient will stay subscribed to your list, open your emails, and visit your site to make purchases.

5. Being Heavily Influenced by the Holidays

Every holiday has its own special set of traditions and meanings. You know that Valentine’s Day is approaching when you see heart-shaped lollipops in store windows or that it’s Halloween because a big orange jack-o’-lantern is staring you down at every opportunity.

During such events, lots of companies are thinking about incorporating some festivity for the sake of their bottom line. Businesses will often make changes in communication and try to fill every channel with elements specific to a holiday or event to show that they are getting into the spirit of the day. That’s especially true with email.

Sometimes companies don’t know how to express their holiday mood in line with their tone of voice and brand values. Most often, they end up using ready-made templates. They copy overused texts available online and use holiday graphics that don’t match their image at all. For customers, this can come off as, at best, forgettable, and at worst, downright lazy.


Your messages should always look like they’re coming from you, holiday or not. It’s fun to celebrate and show your engagement, but there’s no need to go overboard at the expense of time and energy better spent elsewhere. When adding festive touches to your communication, always work according to your true brand values.

If you’re having trouble coming up with something creative in a holiday-themed promotional email, check out some related Pinterest boards for inspiration. Try to create something beautiful and unique with your logo, brand colors, and other brand identity elements.

Email templates on Pinterest

Pinterest dashboard: Here, you can find inspirations for your graphics projects

Luckily, many customers often forgive and forget minor email slipups. However, like the proverb says: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Make a list of the mistakes you make most often and include them in your email campaign creation procedures and strategies as you move forward. Stick with them so that during the next email campaign, you’ll be prepared for past slipups before they happen. This way, by the time you click “send,” your email campaign will be a mistake-proof masterpiece that will give your customers only the most positive feelings.

Further reading: How to Write a Welcome Email that Sells

Do you want to learn more about e-mail marketing?

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About the author

Weronika is a content marketer at HelpDesk. She has a deep passion for telling stories to educate and engage her audience. In her free time, she goes mountain hiking, cooks desserts, and reads books related to guerrilla marketing, branding, or sociology.

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