Email marketing is very crucial for the success of eCommerce businesses. I’d go as far as to say you can’t have one without the other. Ecommerce giants heavily rely on email marketing as a tool to pull customers back to their websites. It’s one of the few marketing channels where you own your audience since they’ve already opted in to hear from you and it didn’t cost you to reach them. Although we’ve been using email for ages, it is still considered the most effective form of marketing.
Now, because email is so widespread it takes a substantial amount of creativity to stand out inside the email inbox. Getting a customer to open an email is difficult enough, let alone getting them to click through on an offer.
Great email marketing is timely, relevant, and personalized, so a good place to begin is understanding the core types of emails you can send to customers.
Focusing solely on the body of a marketing email is a common mistake. What you write inside your emails is important, but before any of your subscribers see it, you have to convince them to open it in the first place.
Getting subscribers to open your email comes down to three big things:
- What you write in the subject line and preheader text
- When your email hits their inbox
- How you segment your subscriber list to send relevant emails to the right people
Designing an email strategy for an eCommerce business is a big subject. There are some aspects that are generally applicable to all businesses and others that are extremely specific. Do you want an eCommerce email marketing strategy that’s guaranteed to increase your bottom line?
10 recommendations to build your email marketing strategy
Create a Subscription Form
Building a good quality subscriber database is going to be high on the priority list, and one of the best ways to gain permission is to use an online subscription form.
Make your subscription as easy as possible for your subscribers to find and complete. Even though you may want to collect all sorts of useful information about your new customer, resist the temptation to add lots of additional data capture fields to your form. Keeping it simple will encourage users to quickly complete it and you can always go back and collect further information as your relationship develops later.
Once the form is completed the data you collect will automatically populate your associated subscriber list which will be ready for your next email campaign. Just as an aside – for people who are not subscribed but who may still order from your eCommerce store you’ll want to capture their email address early on in their shopping journey. That way if they abandon their cart you’ll be able to send them a recovery email.
Best Time to Send An Email
In some cases, when you send an email is just as important as what you send in the email. Finding the right time to send email campaigns starts with knowing your customers and testing to see what works.
For eCommerce stores, the best starting point for marketing emails is to find out when your peak purchase times are. That information gives you a window into your customer’s habits and schedules, so it can help your email marketing strategy. Also, understanding the purchasing frequency of your customers will allow you to design an appropriate communication strategy – one that suits their needs rather than your resources. Not surprisingly many eCommerce businesses design their promotional schedules to take advantage of this. Planning extra campaigns and the extra resources needed at times like Christmas Eve, Black Fridays and other unusually busy periods is a valuable strategy. Automation also becomes increasingly important at these times making sure that responses and fulfillment are executed at the normal or even elevated levels of service.
At a more granular level, the day and even the daily timing of campaigns can have an important effect. If you specifically want to catch your audience as they leave work (for example to offer happy-hour drinks) then understanding and exploiting this behavior may be a valuable strategy.
Implement an Abandoned Cart Process
About 3 out of every 4 products put in an eCommerce shopping cart is abandoned which can be one of the most frustrating things in online sales. The thing is, cart abandonment emails have become table stakes for growing an eCommerce store. So, the big question is, how can you squeeze as many conversions as possible from your shopping cart abandonment campaign and increase sales?
The answer might be as simple as sending more reminders. Abandoned cart emails can recover 15% of what would have otherwise been counted as your lost revenue. In some cases, implementing an abandoned cart email has increased online business revenue by 50% and recovered hundreds of thousands in sales.
One of the most valuable aspects of running an independent online store is your ability to build an email list.
This is proprietary data no one else on the web has access to but you. It is a key mechanism for how you increase customer lifetime value and successfully predict the trajectory of your business.
The strategies you deploy with your email list are important, in the same way how you talk to and interact with your customers on social media or in forums is important. You are building a relationship. You are sharing information. You are providing opportunities and touch points beyond what someone not on that email list would get.
These people are VIPs after all, they have already purchased with your brand. Of course, your brand doesn’t have to settle for benchmark standards.
According to recent research from Bluecore, cart abandonment emails have the highest average conversion rate (2.63%) and click-to-conversion rate (21.78%) of any triggered eCommerce email.
There are two types of abandoned cart email options:
- Abandoned Cart Email: Encourage customers to complete their purchase if they leave items in their cart. This is an email that reminds customers of the items they left behind. This usually sends within 1 day of the abandoned cart.
- Abandoned Cart Series: Encourage customers to complete their purchase with a series of reminders if they leave items in their cart. This is an extension of the first abandoned cart email.
These email campaigns tend to run continuously and rely on segmentation. So, running continuous cart abandonment email campaigns is something to definitely consider as part of your overall strategy.
Mobile Optimization & Responsive layout
With over 50% of emails being opened on a smartphone or tablet, it’s highly likely that your email campaigns will be read whilst your subscribers are mobile. Now, it may not be the only time that they read it but many will use their mobile device to preview and screen incoming emails to come back to later. If your email campaigns are not suitably optimized and easy to read on a small screen then it’s likely that your message will be deleted.
Vertical scrolling of content on a mobile device is OK, but the need to pinch and zoom or maneuver through complex navigation is likely to exceed the patience of your reader resulting in exit or loss of user interest.
Multi-column layouts with lots of product images tend to work particularly well for the catalog style campaigns favored by eCommerce businesses. They encourage browsing and offer lots of opportunities to link through to your website for additional details. However, purely scaling your multi-column desktop layout for a small screen doesn’t work well. Responsive email design for mobile devices is now table stakes.
Ask For Reviews
When you have customers that are buying from your store and clicking on your emails, you should feel confident to reach out to them and ask for a review. For eCommerce businesses where products, and especially services, are sold as unseen or on merit/trust, then reassurance from existing customers is a powerful influencer.
Post-purchase emails are easy to add to your marketing automation process arrival a few days after delivery is a common timing strategy and integration with an eCommerce application like Shopify will enable pre-populating your email directly with the specific products that the customer has purchased.
Satisfied customers will generally be happy to submit a review – especially if you make it easy for them with the automated inclusion of their relevant products and direct links to the review sites or applications.
Email segmentation may sound tricky, but it comes down to segmenting your email subscribers into smaller, more targeted groups. Segmentation enables you to send more personalized emails to the right people at the right time so each email has a better chance of converting that subsection of your customers. You can segment your email list based on several factors, including:
- Customer type
- Interest in certain topics or products
- Level of engagement
You might create an email segment for brand new subscribers who haven’t made a purchase yet. Your goal for that segment is to build trust and get the new subscriber to buy for the first time, so you might include first-time discounts in these emails.
You can have another segment for the opposite end of the spectrum—long-term, loyal customers who buy frequently and spend a lot of money with your store. You don’t need discounts to get those customers to buy, so you can focus on showcasing your appreciation for them and promoting products they may be interested in.
Use engagement to Re-engage and Reward
Another useful marketing strategy is to use what you know about your subscriber’s interest to target campaigns based on their engagement. Most email systems return post-campaign information on opens and clicks but true engagement profiling provides a much more granular measure. Common applications of this intelligence would be to target re-engagement campaigns to dormant subscribers. These typically include return incentives or come-back offers to those at the edge of gaining interest. At the other end of the scale, you can target your loyal engagers with exclusive VIP offers, loyalty schemes, refer friend incentives and other rewards.
Engagement profiling acts as an additional delivery filter on top of your usual email list, those who fit the required engagement criteria will automatically be included or excluded.
Using Effective CTA’s
Make it easy for your users to navigate to the department they’re interested in by having a single primary CTA (call to action). CTA explicitly suggests the next step you want the reader to take after reading your email, along with the means to take it (usually a link or button). The CTA represents the driving goal of each website campaign. It’s what your emails are wanting subscribers to do, whether that’s purchasing a particular item, reviewing a recent purchase, or something else totally.
Here are our tips for email CTAs:
- Prioritize one CTA per email: Every campaign should focus on one central action. Each additional call to action runs the risk of distracting or confusing the reader by diverting his attention.
- Use action-oriented words: Like anything else, getting customers to act is all about creating a sense of urgency. That could mean emphasizing the “limited time” of a specific sale, the “limited number” of stock for a product, and phrases like “Buy now”.
- Use a noticeable button image: Using a button image (instead of a text link) and bright, contrasting colors can keep it from getting lost. It’s also good practice to place the button in an area with plenty of white space where it can stand out amongst the rest of the email, and preferably not at the very bottom of an email.
Despite your best efforts to send beautifully designed emails with relevant curated content, your customers are swamped with a lot more emails, hence why your call to action is so important. You have around 3 seconds to get a person to notice your call to action. Have one action, above the fold, that’s instantly readable on any screen. Talking about CTAs, a big no-no is having many calls to action in the same email. Knowing that you’re fighting for your customers’ attention, you want to be clear from the very start. An effective way to be clear from the beginning is to use your subject line as a call to action preview that boosts the reader to open the email and get value out of it.
Create Targeted Upsell Campaigns
Most salespeople will tell you that selling to existing customers is easier and more cost-effective than to new prospects. Returning customers are less influenced by your competition, more independent in their decision making, have shorter buying cycles, are less price-sensitive and are more likely to spend more on each visit. Satisfied customers are also potential brand advocates, recommending your products to their friends, family, colleagues and social networks.
At the first purchase confirmation, email might be just a little too soon but the opportunity to upsell to an existing happy customer subsists. Providing you’re promoting similar products and services.
There’s lots of evidence to support that consumers are more than happy to sign-up to marketing messages from brands that they trust and have already completed their purchase with. You can continue to promote your entire range to existing purchasers but knowing even a little about previous purchase history is a powerful intelligence that can be used to your advantage this is where upsell comes back to targeting.
The first step is to capture the purchase information and make it potentially available to future email campaigns. Targeting of following campaigns can be done manually by segmenting subscribers into groups according to their previous purchase history and creating and delivering promotions that are more likely to be accustomed to their particular interest.
A very neat alternative is to use a technique called Dynamic Content, to create much more highly personalized messages. Dynamic content automatically adapts the content of a campaign according to a number of pre-set rules. It can be used to display similar or matching items to those already purchased. Behavioral targeting allows you to follow your individual subscriber’s online journey beyond their engagement with your email campaigns on to interaction with your website. This allows areas of potential interest to be identified and captured merely by observing their behavior – no direct data capture is required.
Send Out an Automated Welcome Email
A ‘welcome’ email is one of the best ways to acknowledge a new subscriber and to begin to develop your budding relationship. You can do it manually but automating this process means that you’ll never miss the chance and that your response will always be timely and consistent.
Simply set up a marketing automation rule so that when a new subscriber is added to your list they automatically receive a pre-written welcome note – immediately is good, but you’ll certainly want to do this in a bat of an eye. Make sure your welcome email directs your subscriber back to your site. You can include a special introductory discount as well. You can also use it to start collecting additional data – date of birth is a common next step, allowing you to subsequently target personalized birthday offers. Online shoppers are suspicious, so if you do ask for additional information, make it clear why this is being asked and the value that your subscriber will receive in return.
As a business owner, you might send all kinds of email marketing campaigns, each with their own unique goals and methods. But the tips and best practices above are near-universal—you can apply them to just about any email campaign to supercharge your performance. That means better emails, smarter campaigns, and more sales.
But, don’t forget that the basic offer email marketing campaigns are equally important. Start implementing now and you’ll soon see what’s possible when it comes to email marketing.