So, while there may be a tendency to think that email marketing becomes less relevant as social media channels take over, nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s simply changed. Gone are the days when email was used as the first point of contact in untargeted, ‘cold’ campaigns: spam rightly earned a terrible name. However, email marketing has morphed into an amazing tool for laser targeting an audience and promoting click-throughs from potential customers, who you have already met and engaged on social media, or elsewhere.
When used successfully, email marketing campaigns are excellent relationship builders and highly influential sales tools; when used poorly they are either still seen as spam or a waste of time.
So the secret is in the way you use it; your skill at crafting emails that hit the right spots with your audience. And like all skills, this can be improved with know-how and practice.
This is what this post is about: how to apply email marketing to convert more sales, increase profits, and grow your business.
Below are 25 ways to use email marketing in the sales cycle, and here’s what you will learn:
- Ecommerce email marketing best practices and tips
- Which types of emails to use in different parts of the sales cycle
- Tips for increasing email marketing automation using software and templates
Ecommerce email marketing best practices
Start with a plan
You probably know this already but it still needs to be said. Nothing in marketing (or life?) works unless you have a plan. Don’t try to fluke it; that may work one percent of the time, but what happens the rest of the time? Go with the odds – start with the end in mind and work out how you are going to get there.
Writing it down will help you formulate in your own mind the steps you need to take; it can be flexible but start out with a strategy and adjust as necessary.
Amongst the types of questions you should be asking here are:
- Exactly who am I targeting?
- What do I hope to achieve with these emails?
- What does a good result look like?
- What happens after the customer takes the requested action?
- Is the back-end of my business prepared for these expected new customers?
- How do I make it as easy as possible for them to buy – from this email onwards?
- Have I automated it and made it seamless?
Focus on a single call to action
Another of the first ecommerce email marketing tips to learn is to keep emails focused on a single action.
Taking a ‘scattergun’ approach can confuse your audience; each email should be clear, simple, and directed towards a single response via one call to action – this will generally be the action that moves the customer one step along the sales funnel and closer to making a purchase. Perhaps a click-through to a landing page; don’t try to make the sale there and then.
Some campaigns may be focused more on longer-term goals – like building customer loyalty for instance – but you can still base each email around a single action, such as clicking through to see the benefits of a loyalty or rewards program.
All the data and tools exist for you to create email campaigns once and then repeat them automatically. Ecommerce email marketing wouldn’t work unless it was automated, because most ecommerce stores are targeting hundreds or thousands of customers at a time. You can’t spend all your time writing emails…there’s more important things to do.
This automation allows you to reach many without it being too painful: craft the right emails once and some of the process can be ‘set and forget’. I say ‘some’ because little in ecommerce marketing is really ‘set and forget’ – it always needs measuring, adjusting, and improving.
Make it personal
Another best practice with ecommerce email marketing is to make everything personal. Again, the software is available to help you do this (detailed more below).
There is no bigger ‘turn off’ for a customer than to be treated as one of the crowd. In designing a successful email campaign then, it’s vital for your customer to feel recognized and special. How can you do that?
It goes beyond referring to them by name in ‘thank you’ and confirmation emails. Depending on the nature of the email, you can make personalization a powerful sales or upselling tool, referring to a customer’s profile details, buying preferences, or running a promotion for their birthday. This is now relatively easily done with the right software.
Keep it original, to the point, and engaging
Original and engaging content can help you build relationships and become more influential with your target audience. Try not to churn out the same old stuff as this will be met by the same old results – poor click-through rates.
Humor can work well – if you’re funny! Gifs and memes might be an option if you’re trying to raise a chuckle, but don’t waste people’s time.
A general point for every type of email you send out is to keep it to the point. Every word counts…it pays to get them professionally written. People do not want to read through waffle or irrelevant information to find what they’re really after.
Use the language of your target audience
This goes beyond simply using English, French, or Spanish (though, by all means, translate emails into multiple languages if you have a global market).
I am really referring to the type of language you use. This will depend on who you are talking to – an audience of 16-21 year olds interested in skateboarding and snowboarding gear use different phrases and terms to an audience of 30-50 year olds interested in well-made hiking boots. Make sure your emails reflect the language of your target market.
Think mobile first
Sick of this one yet? There’s a reason why it comes up in almost every post: because it’s so damned important!
Over 50 percent of your customers will be reading your emails on mobile devices so make sure that they are optimized to be read and clicked from tablets and smartphones. Short subject lines, easily scrollable content, clear and easy-to-read fonts, good spacing, and clear call to action buttons are minimum requirements. Think mobile-first every step of the way.
Test and measure everything
I touched on this already, but it bears repeating. In ecommerce email marketing, like with all marketing, success rates need to be tested and measured. It may be email open rates, click-through-rates to your store or arrivals at a particular landing page; it all needs to be measured to see what’s working and what’s not.
For instance, if you are getting poor opening rates for your emails you may need to work on a different subject line or sending time. You can use A/B testing to see which works best.
Also test for mobile effectiveness –could another design deliver better open or click-through rates?
Use image and video
The success of many ecommerce brands on Instagram shows the potential of visual-based content marketing. If you can use video and/or compelling images in your email campaigns, it can create more impact and be more convincing than just plain text.
Even linking to video content and encouraging people to click through to see how a product works or to a tutorial can help to move the customer a step along the sales cycle to increase conversions.
Use cheeky hacks like overlaying video play buttons on images to increase click through rate too.
Create click-worthy subject lines
The subject line of any email is probably the most important part. If you can make it interesting enough for the email to be opened, you have won the first battle.
Some industry figures indicate that 21 percent of people will open your email, but this partly depends on who you’re targeting, how well the database is segmented, and how good your subject line is. You should generally be aiming much higher than this – 40 percent or more.
Questions that speak to the wants, needs, or desires of your target audience are a good place to start…and if you can show that your email is going to answer one of the customer’s main questions then they are more likely to open it.
Learn how to get past spam filters
I mentioned that getting your emails opened is the first battle. Actually, perhaps I should say getting them seen is the first battle.
It’s impossible for your emails to be read if they end up in spam folders, so learn about the spam filters your customers use and how to stay out of them. Make sure your emails are seen, to give them a fighting chance.
Ecommerce email marketing strategy tips
Create effective opt-ins
The process of gathering email addresses and growing your database is a skill in itself. Create opt-ins that your target audience feels that it cannot miss and make it easy to access the information/freebie/gift. Acknowledge when they opt-in with a ‘thank you’ email and a link to download the resource, if applicable.
Keep opt-in boxes user-friendly and make sure that you avoid the ‘annoyance factor’ that can upset visitors and send them running from your site. Test various options and see what’s most effective for your target audience.
Segment your email list
Your email list can be the most powerful tool in your armory; but only if you segment it so that you are targeting the right people with the right offers and keep it up-to-date. In short, segmentation = relevance. Knowing your customers well and segmenting your database accordingly is what separates winners from losers in ecommerce email marketing.
There are many ways to segment your audience – it can be based on the actions that customers have so far taken on your site, by personal characteristics, or stated preferences.
Some examples include:
- First-time visitors
- Repeat visitors with no orders
- Repeat visitors with one order
- Customers with multiple orders
- Cart abandoners
- Customers who have been with you for years
- Dormant customers
- Age group
Think email sequences
Before looking at the types of emails you need to use, get into the right mindset for success with ecommerce email marketing.
Think in terms of series or sequences with emails…not simply isolated ‘welcome’ and ‘thank you’ emails but sequences that help to build the customer relationship and move them along the sales process.
There are two main ones to focus on at first – and these will both help you increase conversions almost overnight, if done well: a welcome series when a customer signs up and an email abandoned cart series to remarket to customers who have shown interest but not followed through with a purchase yet…
Design a ‘welcome’ email series for new subscribers
It’s best to create a welcome series for visitors who have opted in, aimed at taking them from brand new visitor to hot prospect. How can you move them along the sales funnel once they are in it?
They should receive an email immediately after signing up, and then a series of follow-up emails targeting a specific action. Provide some compelling content and/or tips to help them, while demonstrating authority and building trust. In these emails you will entice them to click through to a landing page that sells a product. The series may culminate in an offer.
Be sure to have this series professionally written if you are not a copy writer yourself.
Develop an ‘abandoned cart’ email sequence
Up to 70 percent of users on ecommerce sites abandon their cart before completing a purchase. While people will always abandon shopping carts, there are effective strategies to reduce the rate (see my previous post) and the real skill is in reconnecting with and remarketing to these people, convincing them to come back to your store again to buy.
What difference could it make to your profits to convert even one in ten of 70 percent of abandoned shopping cart customers? Recent research from Bluecore shows that cart abandonment emails have the highest average conversion rate of any triggered ecommerce email.
Capturing email addresses before a customer is gone is essential; you can then send highly targeted emails that use the other data gathered from their visit (the products chosen etc.) and then remarket effectively. These emails should contain images of the products they were interested in and convince them to click through to a new landing page that converts them second (or third) time around. They may or may not contain special offers.
The key here is to strike while the fire’s hot – firstly within 24 hours of abandonment, and then multiple times over the next 1-7 days.
Remind about ‘wishlists’
Do you have customers who compile wishlists on your site but never make it through to checkout? If so, this is valuable data that you can use to remarket to these visitors.
It’s a great strategy to follow-up with such customers and remind them what they included on their wishlists – especially if those items are now in stock.
Don’t miss this important touch point with a potential customer and be sure to custom-design a landing page to greet them when they click through from the email.
Up-sell and cross-sell in your email series
It’s much easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to find new customers to sell to. Based on this well-established fact, you should be using almost every email to existing customers to upsell or to cross-sell products.
Providing you delivered on your promises when the customer clicked BUY NOW previously, you have already demonstrated trust and credibility. It should be relatively easy to go back to these customers and see if you can help with anything else.
You can approach this in one of a few ways:
- Send an email after purchase with info on accessories or products from the same category: they bought a pair of shoes; do they have the right cleaning liquid? Think of Amazon’s “Frequently Bought Together” section.
- Use a sales receipt to up-sell: sales receipts have high open rates, so it’s easy to get in front of an interested pair of eyes with an offer or promotion, a free gift for referring friends, or an incentive for leaving a review (more about this below).
Create promotional and offer emails
Whether one-off promotions or a series of offers for new products, email is an excellent medium for incentivizing your target audience to come back to your store.
Offers should be time-sensitive (“today only!”), which creates a sense of urgency; you might also like to introduce an element of scarcity (“only 10 left”) to encourage quick action. Bear in mind that the highest conversion rates and click-to-conversion rates are associated with those that offer a price discount.
Another powerful idea is to surprise customers with some credit to use in-store (like the gambling websites do to hook you in). This can be even more effective than offering a percentage discount.
Offers and promotions can be included as part of most emails you write – for instance, if you are asking customers for reviews you can incentivize that with a 20 percent discount off a product you know they are interested in. But be careful not to confuse customers with too many calls to action (focus each offer on one particular action) and be sure you have segmented your audience before doing this.
Develop customer loyalty & re-engagement autoresponders
Some ecommerce email marketing emails are not designed to immediately sell something. They are focused on building loyalty or re-building a customer relationship that has gone quiet or has been broken. These are just as valuable as you look to creating long-term customer relationships.
Such emails can take several forms, but personalization is key to all of them. A few examples include:
- Offering birthday wishes – this may be tied to a freebie, an offer or discount, but doesn’t have to be.
- ‘We’ve missed you’ emails – create an autoresponder email that automatically goes out when a customer hasn’t purchased from you in ‘x’ amount of days or months.
- Product renewal or replenishment – letting customers know how they can re-order products that may have run out.
- Newsletter emails with original and interesting content – more about this below.
It’s important that you KNOW who your most loyal customers are – maybe the top 10 percent – and reward them (example: send them a gift card on their birthday).
Actively ask for reviews
Email is the best medium for reconnecting immediately with customers who have bought from you and asking them to leave a review. This may be incentivized. For instance, a discount off the next purchase or a chance to use tools like Yotpo. Each review is providing valuable social proof that should help you grow your business so you can afford to incentivize it.
Argos reviewed a promotion on 90,000 products and found that those with reviews had a 10% higher conversion rate than those without: a good example of the power of reviews. Other ecommerce businesses have noted that the more reviews the higher the conversion rate.
Make it as easy as possible for customers to leave positive reviews – include a link to where you would like a review left and why not prompt them to start thinking positively with a few questions, such as:
- What did you especially like about our product or service?
- How did it help you in your life?
- Why did you buy from us?
Deliver regular content with newsletter emails
Newsletters are a valuable marketing tool both for building long-term relationships and for passing on special offers, discounts, and promotions.
High-quality content that answers the key questions of your target audience, the latest industry news, or changes within your business (new products, team members etc) serve multiple purposes in the important work of relationship-building.
These emails should not be too sales-oriented, though informing about special promotions is an effective strategy – especially if you can take advantage of seasonality and retail holidays.
By segmenting your audience you can even send newsletters with different, targeted content to each segment, making the information even more relevant. ‘Batch and blast’ approaches are to be avoided.
Keep your newsletters regular to demonstrate that you are active and open for business to customers, and you will stay top of mind with them.
Ecommerce email marketing software, automation tools and templates
A wealth of tools is available to help make your ecommerce email marketing campaigns run smoothly without too much input from you.
Once you have the emails written and set up in your chosen software, then all that’s left for you to do is test, measure, and tweak… and make sure that your back-end of your business is set up to handle the increase in sales!
Main ecommerce email marketing software options
I use email marketing software regularly, either for myself or for my clients. The following three tools are all highly recommended…
Tailored for Shopify, Klaviyo is a great tool for marketers looking to use advanced segmentation. It is trusted by brands such as Chubbies, Huckberry, and more.
Yotpo offers a suite of tools for Instagram marketing and allows you to send transactional emails that request reviews with incetives offered for doing so. The tool even allows users to leave picture reviews.
ConvertKit is the best way to create drip email series and autoresponder campaigns for your ecommerce business.
Once you’ve got the right tools, you need to integrate them with each other.
Segment.io is a great way to collect your customer data in one place. You can also use the company’s own APIs, if you have the tech talent. Alternatively you can use IFTTT or Zapier to connect most marketing apps.
The new kid on the block for integrating customer data is Hull.io.
Make use of other automation tools
Other useful tools exist to help automate certain processes outside of the scheduling and auto-sending of marketing emails.
For instance, Receiptful can automate the process of sending receipts to customers who have purchased from you. Choose from a range of templates that can also be used to up-sell or cross-sell products after a sale.
Use the available testing and measurement tools
Much of the tracking and testing can be done within the email software itself. The main platforms identified long ago that their customers need to be able to track emails and see where they can be improved.
A/B testing your most important emails should be basic practice; you will probably need to do this for the subject line and the body content to identify which one has the highest engagement or conversion rate; but you may want to A/B test different offers, promotions, up-sells and cross-sells too.
You may also find help within Google Analytics. For instance, you can create a campaign tagging framework that tracks which links in your emails are the most popular. This information can be used to tweak campaigns and adjust the way you use URLs in your emails.
This post has only really touched the surface of what you can do with ecommerce email marketing, but it’s enough to get you thinking about the possibilities and applying some immediate tweaks to your present strategy.
Capturing email addresses early on in the visitor journey helps you build a large database quickly. Keep this up-to-date, segmented, and topped up, and you will have at your fingertips one of the most powerful marketing resources available.
Running ecommerce email marketing campaigns to this group of ready-made prospects, using your chosen software, helps you automate the processes and reduce time and resource commitments.
Provide great personalised content, and keep testing, measuring, and tweaking until it’s working optimally. Then the campaigns start to look after themselves, as you nurture customers along the sales funnel until purchase.
That’s the power of ecommerce email marketing – and if you’re not using this effectively you’re leaving a LOT of money on the table.