Online retailers can bet on two facts. First, every customer has an email account. Second, they receive hundreds of marketing emails every week, most of which go unread. The first fact makes email a perfect marketing channel for eCommerce. The second fact means retailers have to work hard to get their customers to open marketing emails, read them, and take action.
There are over 3 billion email users in the world. According to Marketing Week, email generates almost $40 billion of retail sales each year. Three-quarters of marketers think email is the marketing channel with the most significant ROI. Over half of millennials prefer to receive marketing messages by email. Email should be central to your eCommerce marketing strategy.
Effective email marketing isn’t sending a monthly newsletter with a random promotion — although that might work to increase sales a little. The best email marketers build a coherent strategy, create content that meshes with that strategy, and relentlessly test the performance of content to discover opportunities for optimization.
Email Marketing: What Is It Good For?
Before embarking on an email marketing, ask yourself what you want to achieve. Increased sales throughout your store are the ultimate goal, but the aim of a marketing campaign should be more specific. You might consider:
- Introducing customers to a new line of products.
- Increasing sales of a subset of products.
- Promoting discounts, product bundles, or cross-sells.
- Asking shoppers to leave a review.
- Informing customers about events, promotions, special occasions.
- Increasing mindshare for your brand and advertising its unique selling points.
- Promoting content, such as blog posts or white papers.
- Asking customers to take part in a survey.
All of these are good uses of an email marketing campaign. Once you have decided what you want to achieve, it’s time to think about the best way to achieve it.
Types of Marketing Emails
There are several types of marketing email you might send a customer, each with a specific purpose and type of content.
The newsletter. The role of an email newsletter is to provide useful and engaging content to customers. The content should relate to products, but it should not be primarily focused on sales. Typical content for email newsletters includes news about the company, promotion for blog posts, product guides and introductions, original content (like a blog post but delivered over email).
Newsletters are all about engaging customers without the hard sell. If you push sales too vigorously, people are likely to unsubscribe. The email newsletter is the heart of your email marketing campaign.
Welcome emails. When a customer gives you their email or makes their first purchase, send them a brief welcome note, highlighting information about your brand, products, and services that may be useful to them.
Abandoned cart emails. Around 70% of carts are abandoned. Some customers fill carts as the online equivalent of window shopping — they had no intention of making a purchase. But a small percentage welcome a reminder of their incomplete shopping trip and will complete the transaction if prompted.
Leading eCommerce platforms, including Magento and WooCommerce, provide tools to automatically send emails to users who abandon their carts.
Promotional emails. Promotional emails, as the name suggests, promote products, events, sales, and special occasions. For example, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to send users promotional emails that focus on products relevant to the holiday, along with other related content.
Devise An Email Marketing Strategy
A coherent strategy will help you to focus on what you want to achieve and the best way to achieve it. There are several frameworks around which you might design an email marketing strategy. One of the most common is the purchase funnel — an idealized journey that moves customers ever closer to making a purchase.
The purchase funnel is divided into stages: awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and purchase. Content is created to move customers from one stage to the next. To put customers in at the top of the funnel — the awareness phase — a retailer might create interesting and valuable email content about a topic related to their products, but they wouldn’t target customers at this stage with hard-sell content about specific products.
The purchase funnel concept is handy when building an email marketing strategy. Track Maven has an excellent blog post that examines in detail each of the stages.
Time To Write
Once you have a goal, a strategy, and have decided what sort of email you want to create, it’s time to start writing. It is difficult to offer concrete advice because every retailer is different, but the following will prove useful:
- Focus on the subject line. The subject line determines the success or failure of a marketing email. It is as — if not more — important than the content of an email. An unopened email is a waste of marketing money, and it’s the subject that influences customers to open. The subject line should be short, concise, and attention-grabbing. Good subject lines make customers curious about the content of the email.
- Don’t forget about the preview text. The preview text is a snippet drawn from the body of your email, usually the first few words. It is displayed adjacent to the subject line in email clients. The preview text should support, expand, or respond to the subject line, strengthening the curiosity of the recipient.
- Keep it simple. You have a fraction of a second to grab the recipient’s attention. Don’t try to be overly elaborate, funny, or clever.
- Limit the sales patter. If your subject line reads “SUPER CHEAP CUPCAKES. BEST YOU’VE EVER TASTED!!!!” recipients will reject your email as spam. We all know what spammy subject lines look like, and you want to avoid pattern matching for spam at all costs.
We started this article with some statistics that showed why every retailer should invest in eCommerce email marketing. But we left the best until last: every dollar spent on email generates a $38 return — making it three times more effective than social media marketing.