Ecommerce Email Marketing Best Practices to 3x Sales

14 min read

Ever walked into a store looking for something and walked out with absolutely nothing because you felt overwhelmed by choice? Or worse, walking in looking for something specific and walking out with bags of random stuff you don’t need or even really want, leaving you with a sinking feeling that makes it less likely you’ll ever shop there again?

Customers today are spoiled for choice. And although that sounds like a great thing, it can be horrible for business. In the world of ecommerce, cart abandonment rates can be as high as 70% because it’s just too hard to make a decision with all the noise (competitive emails & distracting pop-ups) getting in the way.

When 50 businesses are fighting for 10 seconds of your audiences’ attention, you need to find a way to fight the information overload to come out as the winner as often as possible. This is where email marketing can come in and save the day.

Email marketing might be a common tactic, but not everyone is doing it right. But if you can find a way to harness its power, you can exponentially increase your sales. We’re here to show you how with our handy list of best practices. So sit back and read on:

Build a Relevant Email List

Comprehensive, genuine email lists don’t sprout up overnight, Jack and the Beanstalk style. They have to be painstakingly curated over months or even years of effort. And with spam filters working overtime to filter out over 14 million spam emails every day, blasting generic messages at anyone with an inbox (as anyone who has purchased email lists would know) can be ineffective if not disastrous.

While it does seem tedious at first to put together an authentic email list, this article walks you through all steps required to grow your email list. Here’s a few highlights to get you started:

Use Segmented Pop-ups

The tried-and-true method to building an email list, pop-up forms, can increase your list’s growth rate by 50%. But segmented campaigns are decidedly more successful with a 14.37% higher open rate and 100% more clicks. By segmenting your email marketing list, you narrow your focus and send messages to targeted groups within your list. This way, your recipients will find your campaigns more relevant — and relevant campaigns, obviously, get better results.

Asos shows a simple, unobtrusive pop-up to new users encouraging them to sign up. It sweetens the deal by offering a discount in addition to its existing sale. As you can see, Asos did a smart segmentation. In this campaign, they show the pop-up to the most relevant audience—new users.

Offer Value in Exchange

Everyone loves freebies. Krispy Kreme customers score a free glazed donut and a free birthday gift on signing up for their rewards program. And most recently, for showing their vaccination cards. Have an extra 10% discount or ebook you’re willing to offer? Great! Give it out for free in exchange for an email address.

Offer Subscription Boxes

In 2010, Birchbox popularised the beauty subscription box by allowing customers to sample high-end beauty products at a fraction of their regular prices.

Subscription boxes are heavily curated to suit the distinct taste of the user. Selling subscriptions is a great way of securing recurring revenue for your business. By offering the first subscription box free or for a fixed percentage discount for a short initial period, you can build a solid email list for targeted marketing.

Use Opt-in Forms

Using unique opt-in forms for different pages on your website provides you with valuable insights into a customer’s preferences. You can then use them to send personalized emails on the basis of interest. This also helps keep your bounce rate in control and increases your email’s authority.

Note: Email addresses, unlike diamonds, don’t last forever. People change companies, lose their passwords, or simply give up on an email address that’s being spammed too often. Safeguard your mails from a high bounce rate (and your domain from low credibility) by verifying your email addresses.

Set up Segmentation

You wouldn’t buy the same birthday gift for your Pokemon-obsessed eight-year-old niece as your gardening-enthusiast army veteran neighbor or your cousin who only posts resin art and sunsets on her Instagram, would you?

Not everyone who visits your website has the same goal in mind. And although you can’t personalize every email you send, categorizing subscribers into smaller sets and subsets, or segmenting, will increase your revenue by as much as 760%.

Segmentation by demographic (age, gender, location) is the most common filter, but a better bet is to segment your users based on their occupation and interests, or their sign-up source (referrals, social media ads, etc.) For existing customers, you might want to consider their shopping history and spending habits.

Go for Automation

Automation makes your life and workflows easier, but is it self-sufficient? No, but it can be. With two things—targeting and segmentation.

A lot of effort and care has to go into making your emails feel less spammy (email sequence triggers to the rescue!) and robotic (quick shout-out to personalization variables).

You’ll also have to figure out whether Wednesday afternoons are really the best time to send an email to your subscribers. And which of your emails resonate best with your users. Analyze your marketing campaign data and then set up A/B tests to decide what stays and what goes.

Don’t Be Predictable

Stability is great, if we’re talking about a bookshelf or home security device. But your marketing campaigns aren’t fixtures, and the one thing they shouldn’t be is predictable. If the last five emails you’ve sent to your subscribers have been about offers and discounts, your sixth one might end up in their spam folder.

Instead, try to get them interested with something novel. The holidays are around the corner and everyone expects a “Merry Christmas” email from you with a promotional offer. But they might not be expecting a gift card (here are 22 ways you can up your sales during holiday season).

You can switch up your strategy by including a combination of:

  • Industry news and blogs:

    InVision does this well with their newsletter, as they update their designer subscriber base with the latest industry knowledge and developments.

  • Product or store updates:

    Give your customers a sneak-peek into new product or feature launches to make them feel involved in your brand, or a special behind-the-scenes coverage of your team to offer some organic connection to your store.

    Pitch keeps its users in the loop with this quarterly update email.

  • Try this killer trio: discounts, free shipping, and coupon codes:

    Yes, these emails are important. Which is why you’re not the only one sending them. So stand out from the crowd with some fresh and visually interesting sales email templates.

    Pizza Hut’s interactive email is a great way of keeping its massive customer base engaged.

  • Limited edition offers:

    Remember those sneakers Lil Nas X collaborated with art collective MSCHF to launch? The 666 pairs with a drop of the artist’s blood in them? They sold out in under a minute!

    The point being, FOMO is real. So, try out a limited edition product, or once-in-a-lifetime promotional offer. It might just be exactly what your customers are looking for.

  • Personalized “thank you” emails:
    Another common factor email marketers overlook during campaigns is the power of personalization.

    Last year, Johnny Cupcakes launched a special edition t-shirt with the proceeds going to charities helping victims and survivors of the Australian bushfires. They sent out this brief email to their customers thanking them for their donations and reminding them of the people behind the brand.

Use Engaging CTAs

The return rate of generic CTAs (calls to action) like “Buy Now” and “Sign Up” has plummeted over time. GQ gets around it with a suspenders-wearing, tea-drinking Ryan Gosling in a swimming pool and the promise of being the best-dressed guy in the room to overcome the tired-sounding “Sign Up For My Newsletter”.

The rest of us, like Walgreens, have to come up with an interesting alternative like “Show Me Around”. The point here is that it’s important to test out different CTAs that break from out of the mold to see if something different might work for you.

CTAs work best when they’re eye-catching and memorable, and don’t forget to remind them right before you end the email using the perfect closing statement!

Avoid Spam Traps

Email users and spam filters are getting better and better at weeding out unwanted emails. So if you want to write professional emails without getting flagged as spam, start by asking for permission.

Use double opt-in (through a website pop-up and then by a confirmation email) and always provide an opt-out option to users. Take a look at General Assembly’s tongue-in-cheek unsubscribe confirmation email.

Avoid attachments like the plague. Pictures and GIFs in your emails will set off spam alerts, as will suspicious subject lines and spam trigger words like “100% free” and “You are a winner!”.

Sending regular, relevant emails with thoughtful, well-crafted subject lines keeps your domain reputation clean and your users engaged.

Try Out a Responsive Design

Responsive emails, simply put, are emails that display well regardless of whether you’re using your laptop, your phone, or your tablet. With mobile devices accounting for 60% of total email engagement rates, shoddy email design is a no-go these days.

A simple test email will tell you if your subject line is too long, if your images don’t load, or if your CTA doesn’t stand out.

A great example is the Urban Outfitters email for inactive subscribers. Besides the catchy lingo, the mobile-friendly design and actionable buttons are more likely to resonate with the demographic they sell to.

Go for Multiple Strategies

With email marketing campaigns, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Regular testing will help you determine the perfect ratio and sequence of these emails for your business.

  • Welcome emails:
    A staple of most ecommerce marketing campaigns, a lot of companies combine a friendly tone with a special new user offer. Welcome emails tend to be short and sweet, mainly because most writers can’t figure out a way to say anything beyond, “Welcome”.

    Indeed’s welcome email has a clear CTA along with a plan of action for users who need extra guidance.

  • Seasonal emails:
    If you fear your email messaging is getting repetitive, you can send out seasonally appropriate emails like this one.
  • Cart abandonment:
    Nearly 70% of shoppers abandon their carts before making a purchase. So it might be a great idea to devote considerable time and energy towards enticing these bottom-of-funnel leads to convert. You could miss out on a bunch of leads if you don’t follow up.
  • Upsell, cross-sell:
    Upselling is the act of encouraging your customers to buy a more expensive product when they add a product to their cart, and cross-selling is offering a complimentary one. If you sell a service, encouraging users to switch to a premium plan, as Grammarly does here, is a great way to up-sell.
  • Re-engagement and customer loyalty emails:

    Kate Spade targets inactive users through this re-engagement email, segmented for users who receive the email in their Gmail Promotions tab.

Take a Test

Through A/B tests, you can measure campaign performance by tweaking a whole bunch of different factors (from subject lines to graphics) in order to perfect your marketing approach. 59% of companies perform A/B tests for emails because of the shared belief that testing yields results.

Not sure what to make your welcome email’s CTA? Put it to the test! Do your customers prefer special discounts over free shipping coupons? There’s an easy way to find out. Hubspot’s minor change for personalizing its email sender name generated an additional 131 leads. Test it out and see if it works for you too.

In Conclusion

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say email marketing is for everyone. Considering basically everyone who uses the internet has an email address, not making it a part of your strategy means wasting a huge opportunity to generate interest and make sales.

Email isn’t an old-school, out of date player in the marketing world. It’s also a consistent, sturdy presence and will very likely be with us for a long time. So that means email marketing will likely stick around as well. Think about it—when was the last time you checked your email?

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About the author

Head of Marketing at Hunter. She enjoys working on inbound and product marketing strategies. In spare time, she entertains her cat Persie and collects airline miles.

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