Many online sellers underestimate the impact that email marketing can have on their business. The success of an eCommerce store lies not just in enabling a successful transaction, but in building a valuable relationship with the client. Email campaigns are the best way to do this.
Not only are you able to promote your brand and pitch the latest deals direct to your customer, but you can also do it in a personalized way. This is way more effective than random ads.
It is worth noting that email campaigns are also a space to give customers a look at a more human, personal, and relatable side of your brand. This is essential to keep you grounded and improve your customer’s perception of your business as a whole.
In this blog, we cover some of the most helpful tips and practices that can enrich your email marketing campaigns for the better.
Why do emails work better for marketing?
Store owners upsell products all the time. What’s different with email is you get to package your sales pitch in a more attractive and visually appealing EDM, as opposed to a dry monologue where it’s difficult to retain interest. Emails succeed in cross-selling products precisely because they are better avenues for marketing and convincing customers through crisp data and persuasive copy.
Proven strategies to improve your email marketing
Get your mailing list in order
Building your list of targetable leads is the first step to any email campaign. From active users to casual visitors, ensure that you have access to a wide database of customers who are willing to subscribe and receive email correspondence and promotional content from your end.
There are several ways to do this. You could set up an opt-in form on your landing page, or request users to subscribe to your mailing list before they avail of your services. Another way is to allow them to volunteer contact information when they register as a customer.
Just be sure to give them the option of “opting out” whenever they wish to. It keeps your brand from gaining a bad reputation and is fair to accidental subscribers.
Start early, way early.
Many store owners have the misconception that email marketing only happens after you’ve actively sold a number of products. That isn’t true. Sorry to burst your bubble, but your sales are enriched and marketing is well-informed when you have access to a database of prospects. Even if they don’t convert instantly, or at all, communicating about your product and brand to potential is the first step towards understanding them better.
We’re basically talking about starting your email campaigns early, well ahead of your store’s launch. It is a great opportunity for you to inform leads about what’s exciting about your product and serves as a space to build up hype around what you’re selling.
Piecemeal informational content in the form of EDMs can work wonders at this stage. Your challenge at this phase is collecting a live database of email addresses. One way to solve that is by setting up a landing page where your customers can get to know more about what’s about to come. Re-direct them from socials to your opt-in page where they can volunteer email information to stay updated. Most importantly, motivate them to join ahead of launch with early bird offers.
The right way to request email info
Here’s a dilemma. How do you balance offering your customers a seamless shopping experience with asking them for personal contact information?
As we mentioned in previous blogs, it is often better to let your customers freely browse your store, place their order, and actually finalize a purchase before you go requesting them for vital contact information. However, this isn’t a rule set in stone. You can try approaching them ahead but only if you’re not being intrusive or disrupting the actual buying process, which, after all, is the end goal.
This is more common in sites like Shopify, where the customer can directly buy the product and only have to sign up if they want to.
Guidelines for placing your opt-in forms
Here’s a common challenge: where do you place those opt-in forms so that customers can voluntarily offer up their email information?
- It obviously needs to be visible, but in a way that doesn’t detract them from engaging with your website in the first place. You wouldn’t want to prioritize future possibilities over an active purchase that’s happening right now.
- The best place to add the opt-in form would be the least intrusive spots such as way above the fold as your header, or somewhere down towards the footer. The pop-up form generally works but is not nearly as effective as a dedicated landing page that’s built to convert leads into email recipients. Moreover, pop-ups are best used as a last resort, triggered as soon as your customer clicks on the exit button. You can find plenty of plug-ins that offer this kind of feature.
This way, you’ll only be using it as one final bid to retain the attention of an already lost customer. Using pop-ups amid their scrolling experience can be annoying and disruptive to the entire website experience.
- The key is to keep your messaging simple, clear, and persuasive. Offer a discount, incentive, or free access to exclusive content. Anything along the lines of making it seem less like an actual sale and more like an exchange of value. Your prospect needs to sense that they’ll be getting something in return from you when they share their email address, without being forced to go beyond that if they don’t want to.
Drive new subscribers with proper value
If you currently use “newsletters” as a pitch to get customers interested in sharing their email information, please don’t take this the wrong way.
The most practical way to get users to sign up or share their email information is by offering them real value in return. The following are a few incentives that make more sense and are persuasive enough to trigger rapid conversions. In ecommerce parlance, they are called lead magnets.
- As a rule, you shouldn’t encourage customers to bid lesser than what the product is worth. Ideally, make your offers rare enough so that your customers don’t always expect a discount. But at the same time, don’t give them a deal that’s a hard sell. At the very least, it should be convincing. Like pop-ups, they can also be used as a last resort, to retain customers you are about to lose.
- Giveaway contests are a great way to spark engagement and live interest in your brand. This is a short-term strategy that’s bound to fetch you enough of an audience to get your email campaign started.
- Turn your brand into the end-all-be-all for the product you’re selling. There are a ton of content resources you can share with your customers to help them use your product better. If you’re a grocery retailer, publishing blogs, email tips, and social media posts related to household maintenance, cooking, and other areas can prove beneficial.
- If you’re retailing in something more complex like a camera or a smartphone, it is more practical to highlight all the ways your customers can actively “use” the product. Demonstrable use cases and video tutorials are great for not only generating interest but also establishing your brand as authoritative and trustworthy.
In-person trumps online requests
Make the best of your physical stores to collect contact information from customers you meet and interact with every day. You’ll also get a real-time idea of the demographic and audience segments you cater to, without having to ask too many questions.
Online requests for email may not go over as well as they do in the real world. Asking a customer to fill out their contact details during checkout as they pack their product has more success rates. Customers generally wouldn’t want to refuse an actual person at a physical store the way they’d turn down a social media request.
Don’t underestimate abandoned cart emails
We’ll be dedicating an entire post to how to turn abandoned cart-ers into shoppers again. The abandoned cart email is a great strategy to both remind customers that they have an unfinished purchase, and also get a gauge on why they left in the first place. Following up gives them a chance to offer feedback, and also an opportunity for you to redirect them to what they’re looking for.
Abandoned cart emails are not only about recovering customers. It is also a great way to test what elements of your website are encouraging a sale, and which ones are deterring your customers. Even if you don’t end up recovering most of your cart droppers, you’ll still be able to find out what needs to change – because your customers will tell you when you follow up on them.
Follow up with recommendations
Product follow-up emails are suggestive. They give your customer a slight nudge towards a complementary or better product that they may have overlooked.
The genius of recommendation emails lies in being able to suggest a product that’s either complementary to what they’ve already bought, or is worth having as an add-on. The fashion retail industry thrives on successful recommendation emails, especially ones that inculcate personalization into their approach.
Promote your deals better through email
Promotional emails are the bread and butter of all marketing emails. From the latest discounts and deals to upcoming product launches and holiday offers, a promotional email keeps your customer database updated on news from your brand that they can’t miss.
In this category, emails that communicate a price drop are leading in conversions. This is understandable, as the price is often what most customers are concerned about. FOMO triggers, such as an email that effectively states that your stock is about to run out, can also bring about great results. In general, customers may express curiosity about a new product but are usually skeptical about buying it early.
Reward loyalty with life event emails.
Keep track of when a customer has been using your service for a long time. Reward them and their loyalty with personal and exclusive experiences, both to make them feel special and validated in choosing your brand.
Loyalty emails are all about engaging with your customer. Congratulate them on a life accomplishment, wish them on their birthday or any work milestone, and greet them occasionally to follow up on how they feel about your product.
The goal of a loyalty email isn’t to directly influence a purchase, but rather to build and strengthen your relationship with the customer.
You’d normally target these to the prospect that hasn’t responded to your brand in a long time, as a follow-up.
In general, it is better to use customer life event emails as a tool to offer them a discount or a deal on a special occasion. This makes for a personalized experience and makes your brand all the more memorable for going the extra mile to tailor your messaging to each customer.
Products that have a determined lifecycle will require repurchases. Let’s say you sell an electronic product, like a grinder, or a light bulb, with a specific expiry date. You can keep track of customers who’ve purchased it and remind them that it’s time to re-order. The best way to ensure your customer stays loyal to your brand is through incentivizing repeat purchases. Reward your customer’s loyalty through special membership discounts. You can automate a reorder reminder email to inform your customer on time.
Begin with a welcome series
Craft a templatized welcome email for your new customers. Automate it so that every time someone new joins, they get a clear picture of what your brand is and what it offers.
Your new subscribers may be confused at first. Reaching out and assuring them that you’re there to respond to any queries they may have is a great move, from a customer relationship angle. Remember, you need their feedback to inform your campaigns just as much as they turn to you for product information.
Don’t overdo your welcome message with too much information. If you have a separate mobile app, you could invite them to download it for a better experience shopping. Apart from that, the goal of a welcome campaign is to get your customers to feel comfortable with their choice.
Keep your CTAs simple and singular
Every good email marketing campaign has a clearly defined goal. You aren’t engaging your customers to waste their time, or yours either. So there is an expectation of reciprocity that comes with marketing emails. The challenge lies in communicating this to your customers in a way that drives them to action.
When we talk about CTAs, we aren’t referring to a purchase option, at least not exclusively.
Sometimes your email may feature your recent blog post, a video link, or a new customer membership club you’re starting. All you need to do is clarify what you expect your customer to do and make it easy for them to act out the next step.
Electronic Direct Mail (EDM) are a great medium if you’re looking for creative ways to highlight your CTA prompt. Redirecting your customers to your desired page or video shouldn’t be a difficult task. The key lies in promising them the value they can expect from the content you’re offering, and then delivering on that promise.
If you suggest that a certain blog page contains “10 great ways to use X product”, ensure that your customers won’t be wasting their time scrolling through the article.
Keep your email message conversational but brief, direct but creatively engaging, and simple without being too derivative. Try a few different mail variations and see how they respond. The test results can inform your future campaigns as well.
More importantly, pay special attention to keeping the message unambiguous and the value offering clear, well-defined, and unambiguous.
Let’s say you’re selling noise-canceling headphones. Instead of saying something vague like “Join the noiseless revolution in headphones”, go with a value proposition that’s more straightforward like “Buy X. Enjoy listening to your music undisturbed”.
Bring personalization into your planning
A single email template for all audiences no longer works. It is doubtful if it ever did. The change in this approach has come about with the shift towards more personalization. Crafting tailor-made email messaging for each audience segment is more effective.
We’ve emphasized this several times across this series. Personalization is the new norm for eCommerce. Emails that seem to address the customer directly, and are tailor-made to their interests, have a better chance of connecting with them on a deeper level.
Sometimes your email message will be informed by what your customer is looking for next. Eg: if you’ve been tracking the customer’s search pattern at your store and notice that they’re checking out the latest version of cooking pots, you’ll be able to realize that they are actively searching for products and researching prices at this stage. Naturally, your email should help direct them toward making a well-informed buying decision. If you have resources related to the product, now would be a great time to share them.
Other factors that inform your email’s message is more personal and fixed. It takes into account things like the customer’s age, gender, place of residence, etc. to make recommendations.
If you have access to huge datasets of your customer, and an efficient CDP program, you can use past browsing and buying history to make more precise recommendations, based on their preferences.
What’s worth noting here is that you aren’t just segmenting your audience to decide what times are best to target them. You’re segmenting them to decide what message would cater to them best. This way, the email you send to a millennial who’s open to the prospect of a shopping spree, becomes widely different from that of a 45-year-old who frequently cashes in on discount deals. Their worldviews are different. Therefore, what you market to them, and the way you market it also has to be different.
Automate to save hours of email planning
We can’t stress this enough. It is a great idea to get started with an automated email marketing setup. It’ll save you plenty of time down the line and expose your business to multiple revenue channels that you may never have even imagined in the first place.
Automating emails across the buyer’s journey can be a huge time-saver. It becomes easier for you to manage interactions and takes a load off your shoulders when you have an extensive client list.
Furthermore, it gives your marketing team more leeway to simply focus on the message they’ll be using to create templates for each customer event email. They wouldn’t have to unnecessarily concern themselves too much with every customer specifically, which can be time-consuming in itself.
Test to attest. Go with a proven copy for better results.
Every solid email marketing strategy has to include split testing as an approach. It is the idea of experimenting with different elements across your email to see which version or combination drives the most conversions.
The premise of split testing is this: you have two competent versions of an email template. You send one version to a certain group of customers and the other version to another group of customers. Based on factors such as click and conversion rates, you get to decide which email is better suited and why. The elements you used in each fall under scrutiny, and inform your future campaigns.
Eg: Let’s say your subject line in Email A is: “Win home special gifts this holiday season” and for Email, B is “Shop and win holiday gifts”. Now, based on the results you got, Email A fares a bit better than Email B in click rates. This gives you an indication to refrain from mentioning purchases and shopping when you craft future emails.
Marketing teams generally try different design prototypes and content variants for their email, from CTA texts to introductory sections, right down to the nitty-gritty details contained in the email.
Subject lines are crucial in this regard. You’d have to ensure that they are promising enough to persuade customers to click and open the email.
Leverage customer data with in-stock alerts
What’s great about tracking your customer’s purchase history and activity on your website is you get to know what they’re interested in. When they search for a product that’s run out of stock, you can know and alert them through an automated email as soon as it is back. The central idea is to ensure your updates match their activity and actual preferences. This is an effective way to drive results.
Make the most of every season
Many store owners underestimate the importance of seasonal promotions. What’s worth noting here is that a great share of your yearly revenue is derived during holiday seasons, when shoppers are actively looking for and expecting to find discounts and deals.
It makes perfect sense to use the seasonal rush and shopping frenzy as the occasion to run a particular email marketing campaign to push forward your promotions. Customers are more responsive during this time and you can gain a lot of insights into buying choices that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to access to such an extent.
Measure your metrics
There are several key metrics you need to always keep tabs on regardless of how well your sales are doing. Email unsubscribe rates are a great indicator of whether your campaigns are intrusive, negatively received, or simply under-delivering. Open rates help you measure the success of your subject lines and timing.
Click-through rates are great for gauging how compelling your email copy and overall presentation are. The conversion rate gives you a window of insight into how persuasive and attractive your actual deal or offer is. As you can notice, each metric helps you measure different things. Sometimes you don’t have to change your entire email marketing strategy from top-to-bottom. It’s just a few elements that might need tweaking.
Dedicate a series of emails to onboarding
Older members are usually more used to your brand and the way shopping at your store works. You must dedicate special emails and assistance to new customers who have only recently joined. They’re usually more excited to hear about the latest offers, and also might not be sure how to proceed, in which case, you must reach out early to help.
A series of onboarding emails that give your customer a brief, quick, and short overview of how shopping works at your store can be helpful. It is an initiative that’s rewarding when done right. This is also a point of exchange where you can direct them to your social media profiles, and encourage them to download your app if you have one.
Use campaigns over one-off emails
Rather than go with a one-off attempt, give your customers the benefit of the doubt. Set your campaigns in a sequence of initial mail, follow-up, and so on. This way, you give them a chance to respond and catch up in case they missed your first mail. It also allows you to re-frame your approach.
Remind and reach out to inactive customers
First, figure out what a reasonable period of inactivity is. For some sellers, this could be three months. For others, this may take up to half a year. Either way, feel free to automate an email to your disinterested customers if they stop logging in for course too long. Once their account surpasses the timeline you’ve set, you’ll be automatically reaching out to them.
Subject lines like “We’ve missed you” or “Just catching up” normally work. But try to step your game up a little bit. Most customers are used to brands sending them personalized messages that seem to indicate an emotional bond.
Dedicated landing pages do the trick
Brands might feel comfortable investing in well-designed email copy and art. Customers, now hooked, might even click on the link out of curiosity, only to find the same old website layout that they’re familiar with.
Sometimes, it is worth creating a separate landing page that’s dedicated to what you’re pitching to the client through email. It can be a standalone page that may not even match the website’s theme but is perfectly in sync with the fresh email campaign you’re running. Putting a little bit of effort into standalone landing pages dedicated to seasonal deals is a great way to sustain your customer’s interest.
Guidelines for making your email clickable
Here are a few general pointers on crafting a clickable email that’s designed to convert:
Make it skimmable
Put more thought into visual attractiveness and readability. We aren’t talking solely about your choice of images, but also about formatting. Your header copy should be compelling. But it should also be visible. Make sure all the important, unmissable details are highlighted either through color variation or by adjusting the text size. These are portions that should stand out.
We won’t encourage adding filler content anywhere, especially to your emails. If your copy gets a bit lengthy, make sure that you’ve at least highlighted the portions that render it easier for a user to skim through and still retain the core message.
Optimize for every device
Work with EDM types that adjust to the device screen. Most of your customers will be scrolling through their mail on their phones. Test-run it a couple of times on different mobile devices to get a glimpse of what it looks like.
Don’t confuse your audience
Emails, where the focus is all over the place, can be hard to follow. This is why you need to plan what your core message is well ahead and stick to a single CTA.
Asking your customers to subscribe for membership and informing them about the latest discounts you offer in the same email can be confusing. Try not to dump or overload your email with too much information, or multiple instructions. Decide what your objective is first and craft your copy after.
Maintain a lively and consistent tone
Keep your tone consistent throughout the correspondence. This is especially difficult to do when you have multiple users responding to the same customer across their timelines. Maintain a guideline of professional tone and writing that you’ll be using. Brands can get into trouble when they respond in an immature or inappropriate manner.
Don’t forget to keep growing your crowd
A common mistake that online sellers make is getting too comfortable with their existing subscriber list. At some point or the other, a stagnant and inactive email marketing strategy leads to either customers dropping out, or a lack of engagement.
As you gain more loyal and engaged customers, you need to shift your focus toward building your email list to accommodate new subscribers. An active growth-oriented strategy is precisely the way to go when you deal in online retail. No business can afford to be static, especially in today’s world of super-competent industries. It is worth putting more thought into where your opt-in forms should go, how you can get more customers to subscribe, and how you can get those leads to engage with your campaigns.
Make the most of reviews
The good thing about reviews is that it serves a dual function. On the one hand, they give you a good idea of how your brand is perceived among your customer base. Secondly, it also gives you more social proof in the form of testimonials that you can leverage in your email campaigns and landing pages.
Wrapping it up
Email marketing is certainly something your online store can’t do without, regardless of industry or business size. One thing to note is that the real challenge isn’t in acquiring leads to target with your email campaigns. That’s easily done.
The difficulty lies in identifying pain points and personalized touches for each type of customer. This takes a great deal of trial and error to perfect. But the more you persist and learn as you go, the more rewarding the results will be.