If you sell products or services online, effective eCommerce emailing marketing will be a critical component of your success. It’s not surprising—the distance between interest and a decision to purchase is shortest when a potential customer is already online, whether they’re on your site or in their inbox.
What’s more, email marketing works across four phases of the customer life cycle—Acquisition, Sales, Retention, Advocacy. In other words, it can capture new buyers, prompt a purchase, and retain connections to customers for future sales.
Alexander Kehoe, Co-Founder & Operations Director at Caveni SEO, says, “For our own business, email marketing has always been very important and it makes up roughly 12% of our overall sales. This includes both our outreach and additional factors like abandoned cart emails. Throughout our tenure working in eCommerce, we have seen these numbers vary wildly, but email marketing is very much essential for the early stages of business profitability.”
But not all ecommerce email marketing is equal. Done well, it produces great results. But when it’s mediocre, it fails to reward the time invested in it. And done badly, it can even push buyers and potential customers away.
How do you improve your open rates? And your conversion rates? How do you reconnect and get people completing purchases? And what can you do to build trust and win over customers?
There is no one-size-fits-all magic formula for ecommerce businesses. Chances are, you’re already juggling a bunch of work and email marketing might have to compete for your attention. But following some simple rules can set you up for great results. Here’s a quick guide to best practices that will help you make ecommerce email a valuable component of your marketing strategy.
Capture Email Addresses
We’ll start with the blindingly obvious—even the most creative, thoughtful email marketing campaign won’t succeed if the subscriber list is small or untargeted. If you’re just starting an ecommerce operation or email marketing is a new effort, you need to capture email addresses.
Sure, you can buy a list of email addresses. But purchasing contact information, no matter what a provider may say, has many drawbacks. Among other issues, these lists usually aren’t truly opt-in, many email services won’t send to addresses on these lists, and your account can be flagged for sending spam. Building your subscriber base organically will result in an audience that is not only targeted, but more engaged.
What’s the most effective way to build your list? On-site email capture. After all that you’ve invested in generating traffic, it’s time to build more value by connecting with customers.
When people visit your ecommerce store, offer them a first-time buyer discount, a special deal, a contest entry—as long as they provide their email address. The reality is that most people will visit a site just once, and having a way to reconnect with them is your best tactic to engage and encourage a return. Pop-ups, sliders, header bars—there are numerous features you can build into your site that will attract the attention of a visitor and encourage them to share their email address with you. Test different approaches and see what prompts the most action from your audience.
Whether you’ve recently launched your own Shopify store or you’ve been selling online for years, your email subscriber list needs steady attention and constant cultivation.
Follow up to Prompt Action
Now that you’ve captured email addresses, you need to use them well. Think of your ecommerce email marketing like news about your company—you never want to underwhelm with information that the person is unlikely to find interesting.
Follow-up emails, also called triggered emails or transactional emails, have a clear call-to-action and are valuable for any online retailer. You can use marketing automation to make this process simpler—emails will be sent whenever a potential buyer visits your online shop and fails to make a purchase.
Triggered emails can include:
- Abandoned Cart email. When a customer puts things in their cart but fails to check out, following up with a thoughtful message can remind them to spend some time completing their purchases.
- Browse Abandonment email. With pre-submit tracking on your site, you’ll know when customers look at items in your ecommerce store but leave without buying. Guess what? That makes them prime targets for a friendly nudge in their email Inbox. Keep the email simple and direct—use an image of the items they viewed, link to reviews, maybe offer suggestions for similar products that you also sell. This is another opportunity to test different approaches and see what proves most effective with your prospects. Don’t be afraid to borrow from the marketplace leaders—reviewing what Amazon does will definitely help you.
- Replenishment email. If you sell a product that buyers will need on a regular basis, use marketing automation to follow with a reminder email when enough time has passed that it’s time for them to restock.
- Cross selling email. Analyze sales patterns to see what items are frequently bought with other items in your inventory. Then follow up with an email to a customer after they have made a purchase to suggest other products that would be complementary. This tactic has been an important element of Amazon’s success.
- Price drop email. If you’re having a sale on a particular item, don’t let it happen in a vacuum. News of a price drop is usually welcomed by the people on your email subscriber list.
- Win back/defection or reactivation email. It’s not just an existing customer you want to target with your email marketing strategy. Your subscriber list provides an opportunity to reconnect with people who may not be buying from you anymore. Invite them back into the fold with a special offer or discount on their next purchase.
Alistair Dodds, Marketing Director and Co-Founder of Ever Increasing Circles, suggests that the goal of this kind of email is, “…to make them an offer they can’t turn down in order to get them back into a more frequent remarketing and upselling segment list…they are often loss leader style campaigns as the future upside of sales more than compensates for offering products at a slight loss or break-even price point.”
Improve Open Rates
If you’re sending emails but your subscribers are sending them straight to Trash, it’s time to rethink your ecommerce email marketing. Pay careful attention to your Open rates—and your conversion rates.
What kind of open and conversion rates should you be looking for? Every industry and category is different, but establishing your own benchmarks will help you make good decisions.
Becky Beach, the owner of MomBeach.com, says, “The open rate I am getting is 19% on average. The best email campaign I had sent out was when I did a promotion where you got a product for free plus shipping. That open rate was 33% and I had about 500 people take advantage of it.”
Whenever possible, use A/B testing to compare creative approaches. Try the same message with different graphic elements—or no graphic elements—to see which email secures a higher open rate.
Track sales of specific items in your email marketing to evaluate conversation rates, and don’t be afraid to make changes when the results are unsatisfactory. Remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. Sending emails that don’t deliver is a waste of your valuable time and energy.
Hit Send at the Right Time
Don’t forget about the customer life cycle stages that email marketing helps—Acquisition, Sales, Retention, Advocacy—and make sure you’re sending the right message at the moment when it will be most effective. During Acquisition, your email will need to work harder to demonstrate the appeal or value of your brand, and create awareness with a potential buyer. If they are in Sales, you need to close the deal—this is the time for a discount or a promotion. And when it comes to Retention, make sure the tone of your email reflects the fact that the person getting the email is a valued customer. Finally, turn loyal customers into ambassadors for your brand. Email incentives that encourage them to share your brand with friends, family, and their own online followings by using referral bonuses or special discount codes they can share.
Make it Personal
No, we’re not talking about sending thousands of messages from your personal account— that’s a very bad idea. But leveraging the data you have gathered about your subscriber list, and tailoring your message appropriately, can make a huge difference in your Open Rates, Click Through Rates, and actual sales. Whenever possible, segment your list so you’re sending emails that will resonate and be considered useful by the people receiving them. Develop profiles of your customers—what do they buy, which styles do they favor, when do they make purchases—and use that information well. It’s a good practice for both you and your customers. After all, the woman who loves the shoes on your ecommerce isn’t going to be excited to get an email that touts a special sale on men’s neckties.
You can’t expect successful ecommerce email marketing without building trust. Your subscribers need to be confident that you’re not sharing their information, and that the emails you’re sending have value.
Being consistent matters, but don’t send email marketing messages that don’t have real value—a discount, real news, information that will improve the connection between your subscribers and your brand.
To make consistency easier, establish an email template so you’re not forced to reinvent the wheel every time you send an email. Use marketing automation so certain emails are automatically sent—the Cart Abandonment email is a prime candidate for this solution.
Use Ecommerce Email Marketing to Build Online Sales
Whether you’re just launching your online shop or an established brand, ecommerce email should be a vital component of your marketing efforts. By following established guidelines and measuring your success through some key metrics—opens, conversions, growth of subscriber list—you can count on email marketing to prompt purchases and increase revenue.