How to leverage e-commerce email marketing to grow sales
As an online business owner at the beginning of your journey, you might be tempted to focus primarily on customer acquisition.
You might be tempted to spend a lot of effort and money to run paid ads or paid search to reach as many new potential clients as possible, all while forgetting about a crucial asset already in your possession: people who have bought from you in the past, that is, your existing customers.
While customer acquisition is important, it’s still five times more expensive than retaining an existing client. Besides, the success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new one is only 5-20%.
So, what is the best channel to make sure you retain your existing customers? You’ve probably guessed - it’s email. In fact, 56% of marketers say email is their top-performing channel for customer retention.
Why? Email is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to engage your past clients, have them come back to your store and purchase again, and ensure you stay on top of their minds.
When done right, email can yield astonishing results. We’re talking up to 760% increase in revenue. And the best part is – it can be easily automated.
After you’ve spent some time designing your first email templates and putting in place your first campaigns, the rest becomes a breeze. There are lots of email automation tools out there designed specifically for e-commerce. If you’re on Shopify, for instance, there’s Shopify Email.
And while we’re talking about designing your first templates and campaigns, let’s have a look at some guidelines and best practices for a great, sale increasing email strategy.
1. Define your audience
The first and most important question you must ask yourself before designing any campaign is “Who are my customers?”.
You must clearly define who your audience is because everything you do has to start from there, if you want to have any success. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, how’d you expect to be listened?
Answer these questions:
1. Where are your customers located?
2. What’s their income? Are your products high-end or not?
3. What’s their gender?
4. What’s their age?
5. Where do they work?
6. What are their interests? What do they like doing in their free time?
And any other questions you might believe fit for your brand and industry.
Some of these may be answered by capturing relevant info about your clients when they sign up to your website, or by using different kinds of analytics tools.
And answering them will help you build your buyer persona and tailor your content and interactions to their interests and needs.
2. Set your goal(s)
Email marketing strategy, like any strategy, first needs goals. You’ll need to be thinking of a goal for any campaign and even any email you send out. Like this, everything becomes easier, as any decision that you make should only answer one question: does it get me closer to achieving my goal?
A goal must be SMART:
- Specific – What exactly do you want to achieve?
- Measurable – How are we going to measure that you’re getting closer to your goal?
- Achievable – Be realistic.
- Relevant – Why are you setting this goal?
- Time-bound – When do you want to achieve it?
Ultimately, being clear about who you’re emailing, why you’re emailing them and what you want to achieve with it is the surest way to design successful campaigns.
3. Keep it brief & easy to skim
You might have a lot to say, but you must strive to keep it short. In fact, the ideal email copy length is between 50 to 125 words.
A great example from ASOS – short & straightforward – this is the promotion, this is when it ends, and here’s your CTA.
If you want to give your email a true chance at being read, only include information that brings value to the receiver. And convey it in a way that’s clear and to the point.
And if you do need to add a bit more text, paragraphs are your best friend. No one enjoys reading blocks of text, period.
And don’t forget, you should write casually. Your first instinct might be to seem as professional as possible, but young people nowadays don’t relate to this kind of approach anymore.
Be friendly, funny even if you can, and avoid complex language. Build a relationship with them, and ensure they enjoy reading your email from top to bottom.
4. Make it pretty and visual
Remember how we agreed people don’t like blocks of text? Well, what we do like, is visuals. But don’t overdo it. What’s too much is too much.
Make sure to include one-two visual elements in each email you send. It can be as simple as a colorful banner that has your logo and your campaign’s message on it.
Or, if you’re sending out a product promotion, abandoned cart, back-in-stock email, or any product-focused email, really, consider including a visually pleasing GIF of the products in question.
Don’t worry if you don’t got lots of designer skills. There are tools out there that help you make creatives like that in a matter of seconds, with very little input from your side.
5. Personalize. Personalize. Personalize.
Twenty years ago, being able to automatically include a receiver’s name in the email was an innovation. Today, it’s standard practice. Or at least it should be.
An email that starts with ‘Hi there’ has its death sentence settled. People nowadays expect personalized content. Internet taught us to expect it.
And I’m not solely talking about names here. Segmentation must also play a crucial role in your email strategy.
By sending out segmented campaigns, you can make sure your message will be of interest for your receiver, actually helping them make a (purchase) decision.
Besides, segmented campaigns have up to 100.95% higher clicks than non-segmented campaigns. This fact is great news in itself, as higher clicks will evidently translate into higher sales. But more clicks also mean more engagement, which ultimately means better deliverability, as we’ll see soon.
There are many ways in which you can segment your audience, based on basic info such as gender, age or location, if it makes sense for your business, or website activity. However, having lots of micro-targeted campaigns takes a lot of effort and resources, so, if you’re just getting started, a step-by-step approach is advisable.
Consider starting with only 2-3 segments first. For instance:
1. Discount customers – That is, customers that usually buy only when there’s a sale. For them, promotional emails including personalized (or not) discounts are best.
2. Full-price customers – These are customers that don’t need special offers to make a purchase. For them, a new arrivals awareness campaign will work great.
Or any other 2-3 segments that make the most sense for your brand.
6. Mobile vs Desktop
46% of all email opens nowadays occur on mobile.
Ignoring this device and solely focusing on desktop is a huge mistake. Instead, you must make sure that your content is optimized for mobile in any email you send out.
On mobile, the screen is smaller (obviously), so all important info must fit a small area – that means your main message, visual, and CTA, so the receiver can see everything that matters at first glance, without having to scroll down. With everything else still having to look right.
You might have to reverse the order of or make some visual elements smaller, center the text, and ensure that CTA buttons are big, but not too big.
Most email automation tools will allow you to preview and make changes to the mobile version of the email. What you can also do is send many test messages to your own and your colleagues addresses to make sure everything looks right on any device.
And while you’re testing out screens, watch out for different email clients as well. Apple and Gmail are currently the most used, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to take all the others into consideration.
Don’t use any crazy fonts or huge files and you should be ok.
7. A/B test and analyze
A/B testing has become a standard strategy in the marketing world, and it should be done for email marketing as well.
How it should work is: say you want to test two different subject lines. If you have 1000 recipients for your campaign, you should first send the emails only to 200 of them – 100 with a version of the subject line, and 100 with the other.
Then, analyze your Open rates, Click-through rates, and, if the case, Conversion rates.
See which one worked the best (that is, had the highest rates), and send that version to the rest of the 800 customers.
As with everything else, don’t overdo/overthink it, as A/B testing does take some time. A/B test only when it makes sense, and you’re really trying to decide between two different versions of the email.
And if you do, try to only test one thing at a time, i.e. only the subject line, or only the CTA. If you include multiple variables at once, you won’t be sure why one version was better than the other. Hence, the experiment becomes useless, to put it bluntly.
Last but not least, you should constantly be aware of where you stand in terms of deliverability.
Simply put, deliverability is the probability of your emails reaching your recipients’ inbox, rather than the dreadful spam folder. There are at least two things to consider here:
1. A clean and engaged email list
First of, your email list should be one you build yourself. Don’t give in to the temptation to buy an email list.
Unlike the recipients of a bought email list, the people who actively subscribe to your newsletter, either by purchasing something from your website or by giving their email address in exchange for a discount, for instance, are those who are actually interested in what you have to say and to offer.
That’s important for one main reason: these are the people who will engage with your emails – open them, read them, click the CTAs, and maybe even reply to them from time to time, thus positively impacting your deliverability.
Otherwise, if you send your emails to lots of uninterested people who will at best archive your email, and at worst mark it as spam, your engagement rate will drop, affecting your deliverability in a way in which your emails will never reach an inbox ever again.
And one more thing, when shopping online, lots of people use old email addresses that they never check. So, even for the list of people who actively subscribed on your website, make sure to or ganize a Spring and Winter cleaning. Look for those who never engage with your emails and either try to re-engage them or exclude them completely.
2. Non-spammy content and subject lines
As tempting as it might be, avoid using words such as ‘FREE’, ‘HOT’ or ‘ACT NOW’. In fact, there’s a whole list of phrases you should exclude both from your subject line and from your content body if you want to have a good chance at your email reaching the inbox folder.
Don’t overuse exclamation and question marks and try to sound as natural as possible. Trust me, give it a little thought, and you’ll see that there are ways to entice and make the reader curious without sounding spammy.
9. [Bonus tip] Use writing tools
Even by following the guidelines above, writing a good email copy might still be a difficult task.
As they say, practice makes perfect, so don’t despair. It’ll get easier and easier with time.
And the good news is, there are a few tools that can help with the e-commerce email writing process:
· Writesonic - an AI-powered writing tool that helps generate effective email subject lines and body copy that is personalized and optimized for conversions. It can also assist in creating automated email sequences, such as abandoned cart emails or product recommendation emails, to help drive sales and increase customer engagement.
· Hemingway – a powerful writing tool for streamlining your writing, the app will highlight your over-complex sentences, suggest word replacements for readability and help you easily format your text.
· Lavender.ai – if you’re using Chrome, Lavender will act as an extension that checks and grades your e-mails considering things like body length, question count, personalization, use of uncommon words etc.
· Phrasee - this tool uses AI to optimize email subject lines, body copy, and CTAs. It also provides a real-time performance report to help you track your email marketing metrics.
· Persado - Persado uses machine learning to create and optimize email marketing messages. It analyzes your audience and delivers personalized messages based on their preferences.
· QuillBot – out of all its features, QuillBot’s Grammar Checker is the most useful for e-commerce email marketing. Your readers will lose trust instantly if they spot any tiny grammar mistake, so it doesn’t hurt to always double check.
And that’s a wrap!
Consider yourself one step closer to mastering e-commerce email marketing to boost sales. Go ahead and start building your first campaigns.
Take it step by step and don’t be afraid to try out new things. Remember - be genuine with your subscribers and you’ll have nothing to be afraid of.