The Advanced Guide to Email Marketing for Ecommerce - Sellbrite

The Advanced Guide to Email Marketing for Ecommerce

To grow your ecommerce business in 2018, you have to be willing to invest in email marketing. As industries become more saturated and competition heats up, you have to work harder and harder to establish and nurture real relationships with your leads and customers.

Email is one of the most powerful channels you can leverage when it comes to communicating with and persuading the people who are ultimately going to buy products from you. Consider the following statistics about the power and value of email marketing for ecommerce:

  • The number of email users worldwide is forecasted to rise to 2.9 billion by 2019 (WordStream).
  • 73% of millennials identify email as their preferred means of business communication (WordStream).
  • Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter (Campaign Monitor).
  • Every dollar spent on email marketing generates a $38 return and delivers a three-fold increase in purchases compared to spend on social (Content Magazine).

As an ecommerce business owner or marketer, you’re likely already sending the occasional email campaign to your list, but you might not have a clear or proactive strategy in place.

This guide will provide you with 6 tips that you can use to build a clear strategy and start getting more ROI from your email marketing efforts now and in the months ahead:

1. Know Your Audience

To build an effective email strategy for your ecommerce business, one of the first things you need to do is make sure you have a firm grasp of who it is that you’re actually trying to reach. Taking time to know and understand your audience is crucial to your success now and in the future.

Every time you send an email out to your list (or a segment of your list), you’re creating the opportunity to connect directly and personally with your prospective customers in ways that you just can’t do on Facebook or Twitter. If you’re sending messages that don’t resonate with your subscribers or motivate them to take action, you’re wasting your time and potentially damaging your reputation in the process.

Your email marketing strategy needs to be built upon a foundation of knowledge about your audience.

To get to know your audience better, consider these three tips:

  • Tip #1: Dig into Your Customer Data – If you haven’t already, spend time digging into your existing customer data in order to get to know your customers better. Look for trends relating to age, location, and purchasing habits. You probably have a good amount of subscribers on your list who have never purchased from you. Use the data you can collect from past customers to inform how you communicate with your future customers.
  • Tip #2: Build Audience Personas – If you want to think more broadly about who your target audience is, spend time working with your team to build a few audience personas that you can reference and refine over time. Need help getting started? HubSpot has a great template that you can download and customize for your business.
  • Tip #3: Check Data from Your Social Pages – You can also find a wealth of data from your social media page analytics about your audience. Dig into demographic and engagement data to get ideas about what kind of content to send to your email subscribers and when to send it to them. Not sure where to start? Click here to go through some of the resources Facebook has built for page managers like you.

Once you are confident that you know who your audience is, you can start thinking more about how you want to interact with them through future email campaigns.  

2. Build an Actual Strategy

When you’re new to ecommerce, it’s easy to fly by the seat of your pants for a while until the dust finally settles. If you’re like a lot of other ecommerce business owners, you might not have ever really had the time to sit down and work on an actual email marketing strategy for your business. But building a specific strategy that you can work against is important. Here’s why:

  • A strategy can help you focus. There are a lot of directions you can go with email marketing. A strategy can help ensure that you are not getting too distracted. It can help you prioritize efforts and focus on the ideas that matter most.
  • A strategy can help you understand what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t have a clear strategy in place, it’s hard to know what’s working and what isn’t.
  • A strategy can keep you and your team accountable. A strategy can help you and your team stick to deadlines, priorities, and goals.
  • A strategy can help you set clear goals. A strategy forces you to think about the why. It forces you to think about why you want to send emails to your list, and what you’re hoping to get out of it.
  • A strategy can be built upon and evolved over time. Without a clear strategy in place, it can feel like you’re starting over every 6 months. You don’t remember what worked, what didn’t, or why you tested one campaign over another. With a strategy in place, it’s easier to learn from the past and think about what you need to do differently in the future.
  • A strategy can be handed to someone else. As an ecommerce business owner, you have to be able to delegate tasks in order to grow your business. When you take the time to build a clear strategy for email, it’s much easier to give the responsibilities and tasks to someone else on your team.

Email marketing should never be an afterthought. It needs the same amount of attention that other areas of your business are getting from you on a regular basis. You shouldn’t approach it as a one-off tactic that you can use whenever you need an uptick in sales. To get the most value possible out of the channel, you need to think strategically, proactively, and often about the communication that people on your list are getting from your brand. You need to see the bigger picture. That’s where mapping the customer journey comes into play.

3. Map The Customer Journey

When it comes to investing in email marketing for ecommerce, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to only send sales and promotional emails to your leads. When you’re new to ecommerce, it’s sometimes hard to think about what kind of emails you should be sending outside of the ones that offer discounts and free shipping notifications, but there are a lot of other types of campaigns you can and should be sending in order to nurture relationships and build loyalty.

To go beyond the sales email and understand where the opportunities lie, it can be helpful to work on mapping out the actual journey that a typical customer navigates through who buys from you.

The customer journey, or buyer journey as it’s also called, looks different for every business, but here is a helpful example of what they typically look like:


Image Source

As you can see, there are a few primary phases that your prospective customers will enter in and out of as they navigate through their journey toward buying. The phases are: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention (or Loyalty), and Advocacy.

As an email marketer, your job is to determine how to leverage email to help move people along in the process toward conversion and eventually advocacy.

Here are some examples of email campaigns you could send during each phase of the customer journey:

  • Awareness: Welcome Emails, Product Education Emails, Blog Post Emails, Company Origin Story Emails
  • Consideration: Product Feature Emails, Video Emails, Customer Story Emails, Abandoned Cart Emails, Promotion Emails
  • Purchase: Promotion Emails, Order Confirmation Emails, Shipping Confirmation Emails
  • Retention: Feedback Emails, Thank You Emails, Promotion Emails, Recommended Product Emails, Video Emails
  • Loyalty: Special VIP Offer Emails, New Product Emails, Blog Post Emails
  • Advocacy: Referral Offer Emails, Customer Story Emails, Customer Delight Emails

To learn more about customer journey mapping as it relates to ecommerce, read through this helpful blog post from Shopify.

4. Write Like a Human

In order to convince your email subscribers to take the action you ultimately want them to take, you need to connect with them on a personal level. You can’t just send the right types of email campaigns—to be successful, you need to make sure that the messaging you’re including in your campaigns actually resonate with your audience. Words and writing style matter a great deal with email marketing. The wrong message or positioning can not only lead to low CTRs, low open rates, and a lack of sales, it can also drive people to unsubscribe from your list altogether.

To ensure that you’re crafting messages that will resonate with your audience, focus on writing like an actual human being with a unique and distinct personality. No one wants to be sold to anymore—they want to feel connected to the brands they shop from on a personal and authentic level.

To ensure that you’re adding personality, style, and voice to your email marketing campaigns, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Tip #1: Don’t try to be overly clever or funny. When you try too hard to be clever or funny in email copy, it can sometimes come across as inauthentic or forceful to recipients.
  • Tip #2: Use active voice. Instead of saying, “the product will be shipped to you,” consider saying something like, “we’re shipping your product to you very soon!”
  • Tip #3: Write like you would speak. Before sending an email campaign to subscribers, read your copy out loud. If something sounds funny or unnatural to you, it will sound odd to your subscribers too.
  • Tip #4: Make sure your emails are coming from an actual person. Don’t use no-reply email addresses or leave your emails unsigned at the bottom. Instead, add personality and a human component to your email campaigns by having them come from a real person who can sign their name at the bottom of the copy.
  • Tip #5: Don’t be afraid of exclamation points, emojis, or even ALL-CAPS. Your goal isn’t to write the perfect business email—it’s to write an email that connects with your audience, nurtures them, and convinces them to ultimately try one of your products. For some brands, that might mean going out of the traditional box and using exclamation points, emojis, or CAPS freely in emails.

Your subscribers are getting a lot of emails from a lot of brands every single day. By humanizing your email campaigns, you can cut through the noise and develop stronger relationships with the people you’re ultimately hoping to convert.

5. Look for Personalization Opportunities

Another important aspect of effective email campaigns in ecommerce is personalization. If you want to get the people on your list to visit your product pages and purchase, you have to make them feel like they have a personal connection with you. Personalized emails can help you establish and nurture relationships, build trust, remove fear, create excitement, and drive action.

Consider the following statistics shared by SmartrMail that illustrate the power of personalization in email campaigns:

  • The open rate for emails with a personalized message is more than 30% higher than those without any personalization.
  • Personalized emails delivery 6 times higher transaction rates.
  • 80% of consumers like when emails from retailers recommend products based on their previous purchases.

Here are a few additional statistics shared by Campaign Monitor that further illustrate the value of personalization in email:

  • Personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%.
  • Marketers see an average increase of 20% in sales when using personalized experiences.
  • 53% of marketers say ongoing, personalized communication with existing customers results in moderate to significant revenue impact.

There are a number of ways you can personalize your ecommerce emails. Here are a handful of ideas:

  • first names in subject lines and greetings
  • product recommendation blocks that cater to each subscriber
  • email campaigns based on seasonality or holiday
  • Abandoned cart emails
  • Viewing history emails
  • special offers for specific geographic locations

To see more ideas and to learn how to start using personalization more in all your marketing campaigns, read through this blog post from Shopify.

6. Ask for Feedback

The final way to get more ROI from your email marketing efforts is by asking for regular feedback from your subscribers and customers about their experience interacting with your brand. This type of feedback allows you and your team to work off of more than just assumptions or quantitative data. It adds a qualitative perspective that you can’t get without the help of your subscribers.

Ideally, you should be asking for feedback throughout the customer journey process. For example, you should be asking subscribers if:

  • They have any questions about your products (before conversion)
  • They are comfortable with the frequency of emails you’re sending
  • They enjoy the type of content you send to them
  • They think the offers and promotions you send are compelling and relevant
  • They are enjoying the products you shipped to them (after conversion)
  • They would be willing to tell their friends about your products and brand
  • They had any problems or concerns about their shopping experience

Sending regular feedback request emails will not only help you build trust and strengthen relationships with subscribers and customers, it will also arm you with information you need to improve and grow your business over time.

Over to You

What’s working well for you when it comes to email marketing? Share your ideas and learnings with me in the comments below.