Email marketing is vital to every ecommerce store. It’s also deceptively difficult to get just right. Whether you are just starting your online business, or have operated a successful ecommerce shop for years, you are no doubt keenly aware of how big an impact email marketing has on your bottom line—and how small adjustments can bring outsized results.
But what are those adjustments, and how do you make them? These best practices outline an easy and cost-effective approach.
Growing sales and making your online store perform better is the primary aim of every ecommerce shop owner. Email offers one of the most efficient and cost-effective channels to boost customer conversion.
However, strategy is essential in order for email marketing to be effective. Just sending emails in bunches and promoting random products will not do. You need to make prospects want to click, visit the website, and then actually spend money there.
Luckily, there are a handful of effective ways to do just that. Broadly speaking, the most fundamental email marketing tactics include:
Adopt and implement these strategies, and you will quickly transform your ecommerce revenue. Let’s dive in!
The first way to make email marketing more effective is by automating it. Most ecommerce stores will quickly lose the ability to scale all the emails they need to send to their prospects. As the number of customers and the size of the email list increases, sending emails to all of them grows beyond the ability of any one human or even a team of people to scale. In order to make it possible to send emails without the need for a person to constantly monitor the process, automation is necessary.
You can set up automated tools to create templates and rules for sending relevant emails automatically to the appropriate subscribers. Welcome emails, abandoned cart emails, post-purchase emails, and engagement emails can all be automated.
In order to automate your emails, you will need to segment your lists of visitors. Narrow your lists down by separating people who quit the transaction at different stages of the purchase process funnel—such as at shipping, payment, or immediately after adding a product to the cart.
You can address each of these groups with personalized emails presenting relevant offers at just the right moment.
Abandoned cart emails are one of the most effective types of email marketing an ecommerce store can use. In fact, around 35% of people who receive a cart abandonment reminder email end up buying something.
To be effective, a cart abandonment email needs to be timely and contain an offer that will entice a prospect to complete the transaction. This could be a benefit (like a discount or free shipping) plus additional trust indicators, such as links to reviews and authentic peer ratings of the product.
As email marketing expert Lianna Patch notes in her blog post for Business2Community:
Send up to two more emails before accepting the fact that the cart is well and truly abandoned. Why? Think about a prospective customer who’s on the go. She adds a product to her cart, gets distracted, and abandons it.
Another category of emails that increase customer lifetime value and loyalty is post-purchase emails. Engage customers after they have completed a purchase with an email containing additional information about the product they have bought. These messages will motivate customers to return to the website and spend more.
Maximize the impact of a post-purchase email by including upsell or cross-sell offers related to the product the customer just bought. These tactics show related products that the visitor will be likely to buy.
As we can see, Mr. Porter’s email offers products related to the visitor’s last purchase, such as a belt, shirt, or shoes.
Here, segmentation is critical. Personalize emails and increase conversion rate by segmenting visitors according to data on factors like the products they have purchased in the past, their last orders, the average amount spent, and so forth.
The more data you have to work with, the more personalized you can make your emails. You can segment lists using geolocation, gender, age, or even climate conditions at the prospect’s location. Then you can set emails to send to these visitors automatically.
Once you have mastered the art of automating emails, you can start to get really creative. How about sending a personalized offer for a prospect’s birthday, for example? Post-purchase emails that do not directly promote products are great for maintaining a relationship with loyal customers and reminding them about your store.
Email open rate is one of the important indicators of email campaign performance. There are several effective ways you can increase open rates and create more opportunities for prospects to see your message and give it a read.
In order to get prospects to open your email, make sure to include an immediately clear message in the subject. The subject is the first line a prospect sees when they receive the email. It’s the part of the copy that plays the largest role in a reader’s decision to click and open the email. An effective subject line can have several important characteristics:
A subject line that addresses prospects directly by their first name will stand out. Prospects will naturally identify with the email and be much more likely to click it. You can also add the prospect’s location to the subject line. When a prospect believes you are speaking to them directly, they will be more likely to open the mail.
For example, Chubbies uses this tactic for their emails:
Most email platforms will show both the subject line and the first line of the email. These two components can work together for stronger results. When a visitor is able to read the first line and it matches and expands on the subject, they will be more likely to open the email and read the rest.
Urgency and scarcity are powerful motivators that can be deployed in the subject line. If a prospect understands the offer is limited and any delay will cause them to miss it, they will be much more likely to open the email. This tactic is especially effective if you manage to segment prospects so that they will receive personalized offers they will like.
Curiosity is another powerful incentive. A subject line that makes a prospect curious to learn more is almost guaranteed to make them open the email.
A subject that conveys an immediate payoff can cause prospects to open the email, especially if it specifically demonstrates how the offer in the email will be useful to the prospect.
Even if the email is not opened, resending it is still an option. Most estimates tell us that the average user receives over 100 emails a day. Getting through to particular subscribers with a campaign can be hard.
Before giving up, try varying the times of delivery or using different subject lines. Fortunately, there is a method for trying out different subjects, layouts, or delivery times: It is a statistical method called A/B testing.
No matter how much effort you spend on designing and writing email templates, there will always be things to improve. Would some other subject line cause a higher open rate? Probably.
Should you test it? Of course! Any element of the email that can be tested, should be. Most tools for automating email campaigns come with a built-in A/B testing capability.
A/B testing is the simple act of changing elements of an email and comparing the resulting performances. The two best factors to experiment with are subject lines and send times.
Sometimes, if emails are sent at a time of the day when a subscriber is busy, the prospect will not open it when they first see it, and then forget about the email as the day goes by. By experimenting with delivery time, you can discover what delivery times are more appropriate for certain subscribers.
There are many other parts of an email that you can analyze using A/B testing. The blog A/B Tasty gives a good summary:
You need to increase the open rate: In this case, you should mainly focus on your subject lines and preheaders: these are the two main elements that will affect this metric [...] If you want to increase engagement, then test all body-related content such as the copy, the tone, the visuals, and the call-to-actions as they may all trigger an increase in clicks, subscriptions or purchases.
Email is also a great way to quickly and efficiently survey customers. Improving your website and user experience is a proven way to increase conversions. However, figuring out what to change is not easy. The best way is to actually ask visitors. By using email, the process of collecting customer opinions can be completed quickly and at minimum cost.
Gather opinions and impressions of visitors to improve the website and remove friction points that hinder prospects from buying. You can ask visitors to describe what stopped them from completing purchases, what part of the website they struggled with, and similar questions.
To entice visitors to take the survey, ecommerce websites often offer discounts, free shipping, or prizes. This way, surveys not only allow you to get to know your visitors, but can also increase revenue—both directly (by enticing visitors with benefits) and indirectly (by improving the website).
Similarly, email surveys can ask customers to review the products they have bought. Collect the results of these reviews to improve your website and strengthen trust. You can also repurpose survey results as product reviews, showing visitors that products are popular and useful to others.
As ecommerce expert Kaleigh Moore points out in a Shopify blog post:
Gathering reviews doesn’t have to be a manual, time-consuming process. With the help of an automated email that’s triggered to send 5-7 days after delivery, you can reach out to each and every customer and ask them to leave a review if they’re satisfied with the purchase.
No matter how good a website is and how loyal the customers are, there will be some customers that become inactive over time. Re-engaging inactive customers and getting them to purchase again is another beneficial way to use email marketing.
Activation campaigns need to be conducted regularly to address customers who have not logged in on the website for an extended period of time. By using an emotional subject or headline such as “We miss you,” customers can be enticed to return.
Consider adding enticements, such as the 25% off that Carter’s offers, along with wording that promises the newest and cutest styles for kids. Of course, when you run a reactivation campaign, you need to take into account the nature of your business. In Carter’s case, the reason for customer inactivity may just be that the recipients’ kids grew up and they will no longer be buying clothes for kids.
To avoid addressing customers who are not likely to buy your products anymore, it is necessary to study the behavior and habits of visitors. Collect data to ascertain the longest period of engagement after which the customer is no longer likely to be reactivated.
If you need any additional reason to run a reactivation campaign, just read this Marketingland research for inspiration.
Email is your best option for establishing lasting relationships with customers and growing your ecommerce business. Small changes will radically increase your open rates, while attractive content will convert visitors into loyal customers.
Automation is key. There is no way to make email campaigns work manually, except on a very small scale. Automation allows you to efficiently send relevant and personalized emails to large numbers of prospects and customers in a targeted way. Having said that, you can consider sending a personal email for especially valuable customers, such as high spenders or influencers who can bring publicity to the brand or a product.
Once a customer has bought a product, you can use post-purchase emails to engage them further. Collect as much information as possible about your visitors and use this data to send personalized offers. Post-purchase emails are especially effective when they don’t conform to the norms of ordinary promotional emails, and don’t directly promote products. They will rather serve to remind customers of the store and engage them to come and see what is new.
Try experimenting with subject lines, send times, and other parts of your email marketing. A/B testing is a simple statistical method that allows you to improve the performance of a campaign with scientific accuracy.
Email is also terrific for running surveys and making it easy for prospects and customers to provide feedback. Timing is important, as you don’t want to ask a customer to review a product before they have an opportunity to try it.
For another boost to your business, use email to reactivate previous customers. Remind contacts about your brand with helpful and entertaining content in order to bring them back to the website.
Follow all of these easy email marketing principles to grow sales and increase customer lifetime value. You will see immediate revenue results, and each beneficial adjustment will continue to build and maintain your customer base, year over year.