Despite repeated attempts to declare its death, email continues to claim it’s not dead yet. In fact, it has not only avoided the fate that befell the old man in that infamous Monty Python sketch, but it has continued to thrive. In 2017, the planet had 3.7 billion email users, with 269 million emails sent for business and personal use each day.
As a result, email remains a key channel for e-commerce businesses that want to thrive. A survey by the Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric uncovered a 122% median ROI (return on investment) for email, which is four times the ROI from social media, direct mail, and paid search marketing.
With that in mind, it’s important to follow these best practices when planning, executing, measuring, and refining your e-commerce email marketing campaigns.
1. Optimize your emails for mobile
While 4Q17 smartphone sales dipped 6.3% year-over-year, according to IDC, more than 1.4 billion handsets were still shipped for the full year. Rather than abandoning the mobile life, consumers have likely gotten to the point where they feel that the hardware they have doesn’t require the kind of two-year upgrade cycle they used to follow.
That’s important because worldwide mobile email users will top 2.2 billion by the end of 2018, and 80.3% of them delete emails not optimized for mobile devices. If you’re making sure your marketing emails render beautifully on a desktop but you’re not even thinking about the smaller screen, you’d probably be better off not sending your messages.
Make sure you’re using a responsive email template that will ensure your message fits any screen someone reads it on. In addition, reduce your image file sizes to minimize the impact on your customers’ data plans, use CTA buttons rather than embedded links for better visibility, and keep your content short and to the point.
2. Craft a strategy that addresses shopping cart abandonment and other types of drop-outs
If you don’t have one already, you need to create a shopping cart abandonment (SCA) email, so you can capture sales from people who put items in their online carts but don’t complete the checkout process. The most direct approach is to simply offer someone a discount coupon for the item they didn’t buy – make sure you add a sense of urgency by putting an expiration date on the offer. And do so as soon as possible, even within an hour of the SCA event.
You may not want this to be a one-and-done process, though. Higher-priced items typically require a series of emails to finally close the sale. Have your team brainstorm all the possible objections a customer might have to an expensive item and address them in a series of emails. For example, highlight your return policy to make a customer feel more comfortable about the purchase, or educate them about the product’s features and benefits that they may not have considered.
It can also be helpful to think about abandonment beyond shopping carts. For example, do people start to fill out a form to receive your monthly newsletter but drop out of the process before clicking the “Submit” button? Or do they spend time browsing products without ever putting anything in their carts? Those are two other kinds of abandonment events that you can capitalize on.
3. Segment your email list in different ways and personalize your messages
Segmenting your customer list allows you to target the right person with the right offer at the right time. In addition to shopping cart abandonment and other ways that people have dropped out of flows on your site, consider such criteria as:
- First-time shoppers who didn’t make a purchase
- People who keep visiting your site but never buy anything
- Loyal customers who have made regular purchases for several years
- Customers who used to be loyal, or who made a couple purchases, but haven’t bought anything for a long period of time
- Shoppers who have created wish lists
- People who have purchased products that need to be replenished, such as shampoo
- Gender, age groups, and location
After you create those segments, you can target them in different ways and personalize the emails you send to them, beyond simply using their first names. For example, if you open a new store, you can target everyone on your list who lives in that location with a message that encourages them to visit your grand opening event. Or you could thank loyal customers with a special offer, or try to win back lapsed customers with a discount on the kinds of products they’ve purchased in the past.
If your store has wishlist functionality (and it should), you can use that to prompt shoppers to purchase those things, especially if an item was out of stock before and you now have more of it. You can also use renewable products, like shampoo, to let customers know that they’re probably running out and should buy some more (or, even better, get them onto some kind of subscription plan like Dollar Shave Club does).
4. Create triggered emails tied to the customer journey, including cross-sells and upsells
Customers appreciate being told when their orders have been received, when they ship, when a delay occurs, and so forth, but many of those messages aren’t personalized to their specific profiles. You may want to try creating some triggered emails that connect to the stages in your customer journey.
For example, you could send a customer a triggered email when they hit a specific lifetime spending amount. While you probably wouldn’t want to acknowledge how much they’ve spent, unless it was relevant to your message, you could use that opportunity to encourage a new purchase that ties into the kinds of things they’ve bought in the past. Try experimenting with different spending thresholds to see what produces the best results.
Another useful strategy is to cross-sell and up-sell customers when they make purchases, since notification emails tend to have high open rates. For example, you can go beyond the “just the facts” approach and include cross-sell nudges for related products. Did they just buy a dress? Here are some accessories, such as handbags and shoes, that would go well with it.
Upselling typically happens on the product or checkout page, where you can give the shopper an opportunity to upgrade to something better at a slightly higher cost, but you can also tie that strategy to shopping cart abandonment. Perhaps the would-be buyer missed the upsell on the page, or didn’t consider the better item’s advantages, and abandoned their cart. A follow-up email could be successful in convincing them to buy the other product.
Cross-selling and upselling can have a significant impact on revenue. Consultant firm CXL has an excellent blog post with many examples of those tactics in action.
5. Pay attention to the “from” name, subject line, and preview text, and test them all
During the fall 2017 Litmus email conference, one presentation offered some intriguing stats:
- 43% of email recipients click the Spam button based on the “from” name or email address in a message
- 24% of respondents look at the preview text first when deciding to open an email
- 56% of brands using subject line emojis had a higher unique open rate
While you may not pay a lot of attention to the “from” name in your emails, it’s clearly something that customers look at, so consider your message’s intent as well as the relationship between them and your business. One trick is to differentiate between transactional and commercial emails by using a unique “from” name for each one.
Subject lines are also important and are worthy of a blog post of their own, which is why we’ll refer you to our “5 Tips For Writing Email Notification Subject Lines That Stand Out” guide. The subject line should match the tone of the message and should entice the recipient to open the email without being overly spammy or sounding like click-bait.
Emojis in the subject line can help open rates, but they should be used sparingly and only if they make sense given the subject matter. Checkout this blog on when & when not to use emojis!
Your preview text should complement the subject line and give the reader an extra incentive to open your message. Since it’s supported by nearly all modern email clients, skipping that step could lead to alt text or other non-useful information ending up in the recipient’s preview text field.
Finally, it helps to A/B test subject lines, preview text, and emoji usage. You typically want to set aside 10% of your audience as a no-email control group and then split everyone else 50/50 between your standard message and the one you want to test, such as no emojis vs. emojis. Ideally, you should A/B test the inside of the email too, but don’t introduce too many variables in one test or you’ll end up with noisy results.