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Shutterfly Mistakenly Congratulates Non-Parents on Their New Arrivals
By: Jennifer Graber
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Having a child is said to be one of the most joyous life events. Parents spend months prepping and planning for the perfect arrival. Furniture and décor are chosen. Onesies purchased. What-to-expect books are read. And then the day finally arrives and you give birth to your little bundle of joy. Of course you want to shout it from the rooftops, so you do. Gifts arrive in celebration of this new little human. Saying thank you follows the gifts, of course. You will need thank-you notes to send out and Shutterfly wanted to be there for you and supply those cards. What better way to reach out to a big chunk of customers who need thank-you cards than through email? And that is just what Shutterfly did. Only one small problem — the email that Shutterfly sent went out to a ton of people who do not have a child nor had given birth recently. Oops.
Shutterfly’s email featured a child holding her newborn sibling, and a portion of the text read “there’s nothing more amazing than bringing a new life into the world.” The email then went on to gently remind readers that it was time to send thank-you cards, and that they could even purchase cards that matched their birth announcements. The email was meant to be sent to Shutterfly users who recently purchased birth announcements but that clearly did not happen. This is one email campaign gone awry.
Shutterly has since apologized for the gaffe. The photo company stated that the email was meant to be more precisely targeted but was instead sent to a larger mass of customers. Shutterfly also said it was “deeply” sorry “for this intrusion and any offense” the email may have caused.
It may seem like a simple mistake, and Shutterfly likely did not intend to cause harm. But the fact of the matter is, children and birth and two very sensitive topics. This email was a painful reminder to women and families who have experienced infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss. This is especially true for those currently facing those situations or those who have recently faced them. It is a deep wound that does not heal quickly. Unfortunately, Shutterfly may have re-opened that wound for many.
Customers, particularly women, have been quite vocal online about the snafu. And while the consensus is that Shutterfly did not mean to upset anyone facing those issues — it did. The email caused sadness, anger, confusion, and recollection of painful memories. There is nothing like an email to remind someone that they still have not been able to experience one of life’s greatest joys.
This incident does call into question the reliability of Shutterfly’s data mining and campaigns. How valid and reliable is a database of customers if it causes this type of snafu? Can we trust data for other campaigns if it goes so wrong in this instance? And why did it go wrong? Simple human error? Even if the data mining is solid, there will be questions about its accuracy for a long time. The data is meant to assist in better targeting, and Shutterfly missed the mark. Though some customers did find humor in Shutterfly’s mistake, many others will be feeling the sting of it for quite some time. This was a big oops; a cringe-worthy blunder.


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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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