The Ultimate Guide To eCommerce Email Marketing (Online Retailers, This One’s For You…)

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March 24,2016 by
John McIntyre

I’ll start this post with a warning.

This is a whopping 15,000+ word guide to eCommerce email marketing. Before you continue, bookmark this page now because you’ll want to return to it later.

Part 1 – The Tools of an eCommerce Email Marketing Strategy (Published December 9th, 2015)

Part 2 – eCommerce Email Marketing Campaign Roadmap – Stage 1 (Published January 19th, 2016)

Part 3 –  eCommerce Email Marketing Campaign Roadmap – Stage 2 (Published February 2nd, 2016)

Part 4 – How eCommerce Companies Like Amazon, Bonobos and Envelopes.com Drive Millions With Email Marketing (Published March 24th, 2016)

Imagine having email campaigns that trigger automatically — based on how someone interacts with your company and your website.

These “automated” campaigns then go out to do your bidding…

…they build relationships and trust… they indoctrinate subscribers into your brand (so they buy from you instead of your competitors)… they keep people engaged (so they never stop opening, clicking and buying)… and finally…

…they drive a predictable stream of sales, every day of every week of every year.

And that’s just the automated side of things.

Then you’ve got the manual side of things… and while it might be manual, it’s no less important than the automated side.

  • Regular promotions
  • Segmented blasts
  • Reengagement campaigns

… there’s a lot of money to be found.

This 3-part guide has everything you need to set up a full-scale eCommerce email marketing program without outside help.

So let’s get into it, but first…

What is eCommerce Email Marketing?

Ecommerce email marketing is the art and science of using email to generate sales for your store.

It can be simple, such as sending an email to people who abandon their shopping carts. Or complex, like having numerous campaigns that work together synergistically to multiply sales exponentially.

At the end of the day, when you look behind the promotions, offers, free shipping coupons and lead nurturing emails —email marketing is about building relationships.

…Nothing more, nothing less.

If you approach email marketing for online retailers with this perspective in mind, you’ll do much better:

  • You’ll create better promotions that sell more product.
  • You’ll nurture your subscribers better, which will lead to more long term sales.
  • You’ll segment your database more effectively, which will (once again) generate more sales.

Email marketing isn’t about blasting the crap out of your database any more than sales is about cold-calling people and screaming through the phone at them.

You’ll learn more about this when you read about lead nurture email campaigns in this guide.

There’s a lot more to email marketing for eCommerce stores and online retailers than simply sending a weekly email and one cart abandonment email.

But we’ll get to that in a moment.

First, let’s take a look at your tools, because like any good craftsman, we need the right tools.

eCommerce Email Marketing Tool #1: The Perfect eCommerce Email

When we get into the campaigns section, you’ll see specific examples of each type of email. Before we do that though, let’s dive into the pieces of the perfect ecommerce email.

The “From” Name

The “From” Name is the name that appears next to the email address when the email appears. It looks like this in the inbox:

ecommerce-email-guide-img1

…and this when the email is open:

ecommerce-email-guide-img2

Now, some companies like to get all fancy by using a personal name in the “From” field. They do this because they think it’s going to get them attention.

However, in our experience, if your brand doesn’t revolve around like a specific person, like Oprah or Dr Phil, you’re better off using your brand or company name, just like the example above.

From Email

This is where I see a lot of otherwise smart companies make a silly mistake.

They send emails from a “no reply” email address, such as noreply@google.com.

But if you force people to go find your contact form on your website, or your support area, do you really think you’re going to hear from them whenever they have something important to tell you?

Of course not.

Make it easy for people to contact you by using an email address that they can send emails to, such as hello@google.com. You’ll look more approachable, you’ll get more customer feedback, and you’ll be more successful as a result.

Plus, by using an email address people can actually reply to, you can ask people to reply to your emails in your various campaigns (which we’ll get to in just a moment).

Subject Line

Check this out:

Neil Patel, content marketer and founder of CrazyEgg, crunched some Experian data and created this incredible graph:

ecommerce-email-guide-img3

In other words, of everything listed above, spend most of your time focused on your subject line.

This reminds me of the famous quote from David Ogilvy:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

Don’t get caught up trying to perfect your…

  • from name
  • your design
  • time of the day
  • call to action

…Employ best practices, and invest your creative juices coming up with compelling subject lines and testing them. Because that’s where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.

Here are some tips for your subject lines:

Employ the “4 Second Test”

Litmus, an email marketing tool, discovered you have only 4 seconds to capture someone’s attention and get them to open and read your email. So when you’ve written your subject line, study it carefully and see if it gets you hooked in 4 seconds.

Ideally, you should get that down to 1 second.

Avoid Sales Words (and Other Overused Words)

Great marketing is about pattern interrupts, but if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else, you’ll blend into the furniture and no one will pay attention.

So don’t use words everyone else uses when selling something. Words like…

  • free,
  • help,
  • percent off,
  • reminder, and so on.

Personalize with Their City Name

When email first began, personalization with someone’s name was new and got people’s attention. But today, it’s easy and everyone’s doing it, so it doesn’t work anymore.

Instead, personalize with their city name. MailChimp research suggests it works even better.

Mix it Up

Most newsletters and email campaigns begin with high open rates, and then decline over time.

To mitigate this happening, don’t re-use subject lines, and don’t make your subject lines too similar to each other. Remember, great marketing is about interrupting someone’s pattern, and to do that, you need to keep it fresh.

Shorter is Better

As a general rule of thumb, stick to 50 characters or less.

Since most people scan their inbox, make it easy on them when figuring out whether to open your email. If you absolutely must have a longer subject line, make sure that the first 50 characters are the juiciest part.

Don’t save the punchline for the end of the subject line because most people will miss it.

Don’t be in a Rush to Promote Something

Yes, it’s fine to promote your products in the subject line, but no, it’s not ok (nor is it effective) to use promotional subject lines in every email you send.

That means…

  • avoid bombastic promotional phrases,
  • avoid ALL CAPS,
  • and go easy on the exclamation marks.

Geez!!!!!!!!!!!!

Have You Tried Asking Questions?

Subject lines framed as questions tend to perform better.

Don’t Mislead

The first time you trick a subscriber into opening your email by using a misleading email, they’ll be annoyed at you. The second time, they’ll ignore you.

Clarity trumps persuasion.

Be honest and direct about what your email contains, while also being compelling.

Use Urgency, but Don’t Over-do It

 Businesses use urgency (ie. 24 hours left!) because it works, but like any marketing strategy used too often, it loses it’s effectiveness if you over-do it. Use urgency when it makes sense, but don’t come to depend on it.

Always be Testing

I can’t mention this enough. Test, test, TEST. While I’ve described best practices here for email subject lines that will work for most companies, you’ll need to test, tweak and optimize to find the perfect subject lines that work for your company.

The topic of subject lines is way too big to cover entirely here, so I’ll point you to some fantastic DigitalMarketer posts you can take a look at (after finishing this post, of course). If you ever struggle to come up with ideas for subject lines, these posts will help:

Once you have your subject line written, use a free rating tool like SubjectLine.com to evaluate your subject line.

Alright. That’s it for subject lines.

Like I said, we could talk about subject lines all day, but we have to get moving.

Pre-Header

The pre-header text is the text that appears in your email next to your subject line. It’s what people see after they’ve read the subject line, and plays a role in determining whether they’ll open the email, so you want to get it right.

Think about your pre-header text as a continuation of your subject line. Use it to expand on your subject line, and dial up the curiosity and emotion that is already associated with the subject line.

Ramit Sethi does a great job with his pre-header text, beginning with a story:

ecommerce-email-guide-img4

DODOCASE, not so much:

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Don’t even get me started on Fitocracy:

ecommerce-email-guide-img6

It’s obvious what you need to do. Don’t let it go to waste. It’s valuable real estate, and it pays to take advantage of it.

Design

Generally speaking, when it comes to eCommerce email marketing, less is more.

Less images. Less fancy design elements. Less “pizazz”.

While the debate between what converts best — text emails or HTML emails — continues to rage (read about it here and here), you can be certain of two things:

  1. If your email is 100% text with no branding elements whatsoever, it will probably get marked as spam because people won’t know immediately who the email is from (this happened to a campaign we sent a few months back).
  2. If you go too heavy on the fancy design elements – like beautiful images, animated GIFs, and crazy layouts – your email is more likely to be picked up by email algorithms and sent to the promotions tab or folder.

You have to strike a balance; simple enough that your email feels at least somewhat personal, fancy enough that it gets attention but without triggering the promotions tab (or worse, the SPAM folder).

Email Copy

As with design, keep the copy simple and to the point. Avoid being clever or cutesy. Be clear and concise.

The magic of many of the campaigns we’ll be discussing below is due to the timing and behavioural nature of the emails, not a result of having the best copy.

Timing

I’m sorry, but I have to tell you that… when it comes to timing, the honest answer is:

It depends.

Despite what some companies will tell you, or what you probably want to believe, there is no “perfect” time for sending eCommerce emails that works for every company out there.

Instead of taking a cookie-cutter approach to timing emails, I encourage you to invest time and energy into thinking carefully about it.

Who are your customers and when do they like to read emails? You might already know this from historical data, or you might be able to figure it out based on your customer demographic.

Most emails are read within 4 hours of being sent, so think carefully about what people are likely to be doing in the few hours after sending your email. Are they likely to have some free time to read your email in the few hours after you send it? Are they going to be in the mood to buy?

Take a look at revenue and orders for time of the day. This will give you an idea of when people like to purchase, and these times will typically work best for sending emails (especially if you time your emails to go out just before buying spikes on a given day).

Lastly, hop on over to your competitors’ websites, sign up to their mailing lists, and see when they send their emails.

However, be careful about data gathered with this approach, as your competitor might have no idea what they’re doing with email. Be sure to test whatever you discover against your other preferred sending times.

Mobile-Compatibility

Interestingly, when considering mobile optimization, it pays to keep your emails simple. The simpler the content, the easier is it to design and optimize for mobile display.

Images

If images are disabled, does your email still make sense?

I’ll lead with an example from WhatCounts, a boutique email marketing agency:

ecommerce-email-guide-img7

Who is this email from? What’s it all about? Is this relevant TO ME?

If the value of your email isn’t crystal clear the SECOND someone opens it, you’ll lose them. In this email above from WhatCounts, the reader has to dig to see who it’s from and what it’s about. Don’t make someone dig for the value, or they’ll delete you.

Instead of leading with a large image, use HTML for the text and the image for the background. This way, if the image doesn’t appear, at least the reader will be able to read your headline.

This email improves towards the bottom, in the sense that I can read some text and figure out what they want me to do (click a link to view a blog post or ebook).

The lesson?

Always send a test email to an account that has images disabled and check to see if it makes any sense at all. If it looks like the WhatCounts email above, update the email so that it makes without the images.

Note how this email from Tony Robbins is easy to understand even if the images are disabled:

ecommerce-email-guide-img8

Now, let’s talk about Tool #2…

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eCommerce Email Marketing Tool #2: Email Marketing Software

Chances are, you already have email marketing software.

Most email marketing software isn’t ideal for eCommerce companies — usually because most email marketing software is simple.

In other words, using the right email marketing software for your store will go a long way to helping you capture the potential available revenue.

If you don’t have email marketing software yet (or if you’re prepared to switch platforms), use Klaviyo.

Klaviyo was designed specifically for eCommerce companies and online retailers, and powers some serious players. It’s what we use for our clients, and recommend to everyone we speak with. Also, I’m not affiliated with the company, and get nothing if you sign up with them (or for mentioning them here).

Klaviyo integrates with Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce and all the other platforms.

ecommerce-email-guide-img9

eCommerce Email Marketing Tool #3: Pop-Up Software

When people buy, you’ll capture their email address.

But to send campaigns to people who haven’t bought anything yet, you’ll need to capture their email address before they purchase.

While you could fork out $4,000 a month to deploy a pop-up service, you can get similar “exit intent” technology from Picreel and ExitMist at a fraction of the price (from $14/month and $19/month respectively).

You can find other software out there for regular pop-ups, sidebar pop-ups, slider pop-ups, and it’s probably worth testing all of them. However, you’ll tend to get the best mileage from an exit-intent pop-up, since this gives people the space to purchase if they want to — without distracting them with a regular pop-up. Then, when they go to leave your website, your exit-intent pop-up appears, and makes them an offer.

Here’s DODOCASE with their exit-intent pop-up. It’s simple, clean, and easy to understand – the key components of all good pop-ups. There’s no way you could be confused by this pop-up.

Sign up and get 10% off. Easy.

ecommerce-email-guide-img10

Here’s another simple example from Finch Goods, a men’s fashion and lifestyle company.

It’s almost identical to the DODOCASE pop-up, except instead of offering a percentage discount, it’s offer a specific cash discount ($5).

They could bump their opt-ins here by adding an attention-grabbing image of 5 x one-dollar bills, or 1 x five-dollar bill.

ecommerce-email-guide-img11

While Cloudways isn’t an eCommerce company, this example is still instructive.

Instead of offering a discount or credit, Cloudways reminds people of their “double your money back” guarantee.

I wanted to include this example, because it highlights the fact that you can make virtually any offer in your pop-up. In an ideal world, you’ll test this on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, and find the offer that leads to the best revenue over 30-90 days (or similar).

Instead of a discount, you could remind people about your guarantee, or offer them free shipping on orders above $40, or refer them to a specific product category, or feature a product that’s HOT right now.

ecommerce-email-guide-img12

In this example from Clearly, you can see that instead of getting people onto their email list, they’re using their pop-up to remind people about the discount and free shipping (as well as targeting it towards first time shoppers only).

ecommerce-email-guide-img13

In my opinion, this is a poorly designed pop-up.

First, they should be collecting emails. Second, they are distracting people from buying by sending them to their social profiles. You’ll see companies doing this a lot. Forsaking email and sending people to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. So sad.

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The Ultimate Guide To eCommerce Email Marketing [Part 2]: eCommerce Email Marketing Campaign Roadmap – Stage 1

Kudos to you for sticking with us for part 2! It’s time to start creating emails:

Your eCommerce Email Marketing Campaign Roadmap

This is where the real fun begins.

For the sake of simplicity, just like DigitalMarketer breaks down the funnel into different stages, each with their own goal, we’re going to break down the eCommerce email funnel into 3 stages:

  • Stage 1: Interested – People who have signed up for a coupon, guide, etc, but haven’t bought anything yet. The goal of stage 1 is to get them to make their first purchase.
  • Stage 2: Engaged – People who have bought one or several products. The goal of stage 2 is to get them to stay engaged, and buy again and again over time.
  • Stage 3: Lapsed – People who have stopped purchasing and stopped opening and clicking emails. The goal of stage 3 is to get people to reactivate by buying something, opening an email, or clicking a link.

Now, for each stage, there are specific email campaigns and email triggers we use to achieve the goal of that stage.

For example…

  • In stage 1, we’ll send a welcome email that is designed to welcome them to the family, indoctrinate them into our brand, and encourage them to make their first purchase.
  • In stage 2, we’ll optimize our transactional emails to provide product recommendations based on what they just bought.
  • In stage 3, we’ll send a reengagement campaign that unsubscribes people if they don’t respond.

You’ll hear more about these campaigns (and all the other wonderful campaigns you can create) in a moment.

First, here’s a handy image that lists all of the email campaigns we’ll be creating:

ecommerce-email-guide-img16

One of the best things about the campaigns listed here?

Almost all of them are automated, so once you’ve set them up, most of them will go on driving sales for you for, well…. forever.

Now, without further ado, let’s get into the actual campaigns!

Stage 1 – Interested: The Welcome Email

Did you know that 74.4% of consumers expect a welcome email when they subscribe to a company’s mailing list?

As a result of this expectation, subscribers who receive a welcome email show, on average, 33% higher engagement, than subscribers who don’t receive a welcome email.

This engagement translates to 4 times more opens and 5 times more clicks than standard bulk newsletter promotions.

Ultimately, this means that welcome emails see more than 3x the transactions and revenue per email compared with regular promotions.

Set Up

The welcome email has several components that make it effective. Let’s look at each one separately.

Subject Line

Our favorite subject line is “Welcome to the family (please read)”, however you can tweak this into variations like “Welcome to BRAND_NAME” and “Hello, (from BRAND_NAME)”.

The important thing is to acknowledge it’s a welcome email in the subject line.

Welcome

Before you do anything else, say hi to them. Welcome them to the family. You can do this by saying “Welcome” or “Hi”.

Brand Indoctrination and Unique Selling Proposition

After you have welcomed them, it’s time to begin the brand indoctrination process. There is no perfect way to do this. You can do it by listing a few bullet points on what makes you special, or by adding a few sentences or a paragraph of copy on the same thing.

This is the place to explain…

  • What makes you different?
  • What makes you special?
  • Why should I shop with you instead of your competitors?
  • What ideal result will shopping with you bring about?

You’ll see how other companies are doing this in the examples below.

What Happens Next

Once you’ve told them what makes you different, you need to explain what they should expect from your emails.

  • Will you be emailing them every day?
  • Weekly?
  • Will your emails include content?
  • Videos?
  • When do you have sales?

The details will vary from company to company, but the goal is the same: tell them what happens next so they know what to expect from you.

Make an Irresistible Offer

A surprising number of companies skip this step. They put in the hard work and effort to create a gorgeous welcome email, but they leave out the most profitable part — the offer.

Regardless of whether you offer anything in exchange for their email address, you should make them an offer in the welcome email. If you don’t want to give them a discount, give them free shipping, a free gift, or some amount of points.

Just give them something, and make sure you communicate it clearly in the email with big, bold text, and a button that stands out.

Promote Your Social Profiles

Finally, add links to your social profiles at the end of the email — whether this means social icons linked to your profiles on each social platform (think Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram…you get the point), or asking them to Like you/Follow You/Connect with you on [PLATFORM]. However, this should not be a key feature of your welcome email, and is probably best left to your lead nurture sequence (more on that soon).

Welcome Examples

Example: Aritzia

ecommerce-email-guide-img17

So, there are a few things going on.

First, there’s the big “Hi” top and to the left. Second, it acknowledges the subscriber as being new by saying “Since you’re new here, we’d love to…”. That’s when they begin the brand indoctrination process.

They’ve even thrown some personality into the mix by saying things like, “Customer service is our middle name”.

To top it off, the email is designed to look similar to a webpage (this is a recurring theme you’ll see in many of the emails). You’ve got the logo up top, a menu bar that leads to the main store categories, and then the content of the email.

How to improve it:

  • Double-check how it looks with images disabled (the text appears to be hard-coded into the image, and this is bad).
  • Offer some kind of incentive to encourage the first purchase (if they can’t offer a discount, they could offer free shipping on all orders over $100 – any incentive is better than no incentive)

Example: Art.com

ecommerce-email-guide-img18

Here’s Art.com with a great email.

Notice the pre-header “20% Off your entire order”? That would have appeared next to the subject line. Like the previous example, they make the “welcome” part of the email front and center. They’ve done well to offer the incentive “GET 20% OFF YOUR ENTIRE ORDER”.

How to improve it:

  • Add 1-2 sentences of brand indoctrination. Why is Art.com different? Why do I want to shop at Art.com instead of their competitors? Tell me.
  • Change the design of the incentive. Add a border around it. Maybe a dashed border, with a drop shadow to make it pop off the page. The goal is simply to make it stand out more.

Example: Bonobos

ecommerce-email-guide-img19

Bonobos create gorgeous emails — and effective.

In this welcome email from Bonobos, they’ve chosen to strip things down and keep it simple. You’ll see the same basic design – logo, menu with categories, then the content.

How to improve it:

  • Add 1-2 sentences of brand indoctrination. Personally, I don’t know much about Bonobos, so if I received this email, I’d be unexcited.
  • Tell me what makes them great, and why I should be excited about buying from them. The easy way to do this is to take a few lines from the about page.
  • Product suggestions. Unless I already knew what I wanted to buy, I probably wouldn’t click “Shop now” and browse their website. But if they showed me a picture of something I might love, like “a top of the line coat” (from their homepage), I’d be more interested.

Example: Fab

ecommerce-email-guide-img20

This is an excellent email from Fab.

It’s simple, clear and easy to understand. It highlights the benefits of Fab in the header (free shipping, free returns, guarantee). Plus, they squeeze a little brand indoctrination into the email.

How to improve it:

  • Instead of getting people to download the Fab Mobile App, test sending them to a product of some kind. Or, if the app turns out to produce better conversions, add some copy that explains the benefits of using the app.
  • Tweak the brand messaging to be more specific. Currently, it doesn’t mean anything. Try mentioning specific products, categories, or types of customers (ie. men and women over 40 love Fab!).

Example: Huckberry

ecommerce-email-guide-img21

Huckberry nails their welcome email.

It’s clear. It’s eye-catching with the image. And it explains the purpose of the emails, as well as the brand. After reading this email, you know exactly what to expect from Huckberry (sales on Tuesday and Thursday that last 7 days), and what makes them special.

How to improve it:

  • Instead of generic product icons (Grooming Essentials, etc), make specific product suggestions, with a small link to the category.
  • Add “(please read)” to the subject line

Example: JCREW.com

ecommerce-email-guide-img22

J.Crew is doing a lot right with this email. The big “HELLO THERE…” at the top. The explanation of what the emails are about.

How to improve it:

  • Where’s the incentive? There’s no offer in this email. Add some kind of offer. A discount. Free shipping on orders over $50. A free gift. Something is better than nothing.
  • The “See what’s happening on JCREW.com” call-to-action (CTA) is weak. That’s like telling me to go check your fridge for cookies. I feel weird doing that. Instead, get the plate of cookies yourself, put it in front of me, and ask me if I want one. In other words, instead of vague, boring CTAs, offer me a few specific things.

Example: Mack Weldon

ecommerce-email-guide-img23

This is a sexy email from Mack Weldon. Notice how the “YOU DON’T HAVE TO READ THIS” headline makes you want to read further. Then, when you continue to read, there’s some subtle brand indoctrination going on, with a dash of personality thrown in.

How to improve it:

By now, you probably know what I’m going to say…

  • This email needs an offer! The welcome emails that generate revenue make it easy, and exciting, for someone to buy. Brand messaging and indoctrination is only one part of the welcome email.

Example: Michaels

ecommerce-email-guide-img24

Most of the time, I love emails from Michaels, an art supplies store.

This is a solid email, with almost all of the key elements of a great welcome email. There’s the welcome. Some mild brand indoctrination. Easy-to-read design. And of course, a great offer towards the bottom.

How to improve it:

  • The only thing I’d change in this email is the brand indoctrination. I’d add 1-2 sentences which explain specifically why Michaels is different, and what that means for me as a potential customer.

Example: Tradesy

ecommerce-email-guide-img25

If you’d read this far, you can probably critique this email yourself. You might say that it’s a decent email. That it welcomes people. That it makes them an offer. That the design fits into our “ideal email”.

And you’d be right. Nice work, Tradesy.

How to improve it:

  • This email needs some brand indoctrination,. You can’t assume that someone who joins your mailing list knows everything about you. You want to use it as an opportunity to educate them.

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Stage 1 – Interested: Lead Nurture

When was the last time you received an email from your favorite brand that wasn’t trying to sell something?

If you’re like most people, it has probably been a while. Hell, maybe you’ve never received a nurture email.

While nurture emails comes in all shapes and sizes, the quality that they all have in common is that their primary goal is not to sell something. Sure, they might link to products, and even “soft sell”, but they’re not the typical promotional emails most companies send.

This is a shame, because nurture emails and campaigns work.

Set Up

Nurture emails all share one quality: their goal is not to sell.

If you keep that in mind, you’ll be a good “nurturer”.

Think about it this way…

Your customers have other problems in their lives aside from the problems that your product solves. Most companies focus solely on selling their products. They don’t care about the other problems their customer has.

And herein lies the opportunity.

Since most companies (including your competitors) aren’t nurturing subscribers and leads, if your company does nurture leads, who do you think customers are going to choose when it comes to buying products to solve their problem?

Here are some specific ideas for your nurture emails:

Brand Indoctrination

One of the best things you can do with nurture emails is to continue your brand indoctrination process. Ideally, all the following ideas should be designed to fit into and reinforce your brand.

Education

I speak to a lot of online retailers and eCommerce companies who don’t believe that it’s possible to educate their prospects and customers. They’re selling kitchen knives, or soap, or automotive parts. They can only write so many emails about their products… and then what? They run out of ideas.

But you don’t have to run out of ideas.

For example, take kitchen knives. You could write emails about:

  • The evolution of the kitchen knife (from 200 BC to now).
  • Why expensive kitchen knives matter.
  • Do high-quality kitchen knives affect how your food tastes?
  • How can you use different types of kitchen knives?
  • Here’s the knife that Jamie Oliver uses.
  • The trick is to think of all the related stories, ideas and questions that people would find interesting.

Let’s try something else… something boring… like bathroom soap:

  • 17 dangerous chemicals in household soaps (and 1 brand that doesn’t have these chemicals).
  • How soap has changed over the ages.
  • Did kings have soap 500 years ago?
  • How soap was invented.
  • The 5 best soaps for soft skin.
  • Does the soap you use matter, or is it all the same?

…you get the idea.

Did you notice how each of these ideas leads naturally into a pitch for a product?

If I write an email about the 5 best soaps for soft skin, I can link to 5 soaps on our store.

If I write about the knife that Jamie Oliver uses, I’ll make sure we link to it in the email.

Despite the opportunity for selling, it doesn’t feel like a pitch, and therefore doesn’t leave people with a sour taste in their mouth.

Entertainment

Funny cat videos, songs you’re listening to around the office, the latest joke you heard… it’s all fair game for entertainment in nurture emails.

Of course, what you can share will depend on your brand, but keep in mind that providing entertainment is a great way to stand out from the hordes of boring companies out there.

Stories

One of my favorite types of nurture emails are stories.

You can tell stories about your business, where and how it got started, and what drives you today. You can also tell stories about your employees, and your customers.

Customer stories are great; however, you need to be careful to avoid over-selling the testimonial or story.

Sequence Examples

Let’s put all of this together.

Here’s what a 5-email nurture campaign might look:

Email 1 – Welcome to the family (please read)
Email 2 – Brand indoctrination part 1 (100 word brand story, with open loop)
Email 3 – Brand indoctrination part 2 (100 word brand story, with open loop)
Email 4 – Educational email
Email 5 – Cool video

This is in addition to promotional emails (which should be going out on a regular basis, too.

The best frequency of emails will vary by company. Provided you’re sending promotional emails 1-2 times a month, send the nurture campaign to send every 7 days.

Lead Nurture Email Examples

Example: Citrix

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While Citrix isn’t an online retailer of physical goods, this is a good example of a nurture email.

In this email, Citrix is promoting a whitepaper — a free digital report on how to manage teams. Anyone who downloads this whitepaper and consumes it will be further sold on the benefits of Citrix.

While Citrix might not sell itself directly in the whitepaper, the whitepaper positions Citrix as an expert in the eyes of the reader.

How to improve it:

  • Add a section with the header “In this whitepaper, you’ll discover:” and 3 bullets on the 3 top outcomes the subscriber wants. This will make the email more scannable for people trying to get through their inbox as fast as possible.

Example: Exposure

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This email from Exposure, a photography company, is a great example of a nurture email.

Being a photography website, they’ve done well to incorporate beautiful imagery into the email. However, they’ve also maintained the mobile-compatibility, as well as the communication even if you get rid of the images.

How to improve it:

  • Change the “Read The Whole Story” buttons to orange, or some other color that stands out. The current grey buttons they’re using are difficult to see and blend into the background.

Example: Fandango

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This is a decent lead nurture email from Fandango.

Instead of selling their movie tickets, they’re emailing about The Academy Awards. They’ve done well to use the blue button on the dark red background as this makes it stand out.

How to improve it:

  • The headline may be hard to read for some people. Make the background dark, and the headline lighter, to increase readability.
  • I love movies, but I don’t particularly care about The Academy Awards. If I got this email, I wouldn’t click through to the website. So they could improve this by improving the targeting and only sending this to people who are interested in The Academy Awards.

Example: FiftyThree

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What a wonderful email from FiftyThree!

The design is top notch, with the important things featured front and center. The logo and menu are there, but they’re not overpowering the email.

What’s great about this email is that it sells the notebook, while also maintaining a “nurture-y” feel. It leads with a video, and instead of talking about the notebook, it leads with the inspiring “bring ideas to life”.

If I received this email, I would probably pause, scroll through it, and maybe even watch the video, just to see if I’d like to get one of these notebooks.

How to improve it:

  • The sort of person who would buy a notebook from FiftyThree is the sort of person who likes to read. So give them stuff to read. Throw in some bullets on who it’s for, on what it does for me, and how my writing experience will change.

Example: Harry’s

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This email from Harry’s, a company that makes face wash, is a great example of how simple nurture emails can be.

Harry’s sells face wash, a mostly boring product. Most people would throw up their hands and tell me that they have nothing to write about, if they had to write about face wash.

But here is Harry’s, making it work.

I don’t wash my face with face wash. But if Harry’s showed me why washing my face was worth it, and how I could do better, then I might sign up and grab some.

This is something to keep in mind with your nurture emails. Use your copy to create situations and trigger the pain that leads someone to buy your product.

For example, if you’re selling face wash like Harry’s, send nurture emails that educate people on why face wash is essential to a healthy lifestyle, and why most face wash products are dangerous. That leads naturally into a pitch for Harry’s.

How to improve it:

  • More teaser copy! To get more clicks on the content, Harry’s should tease people more about the content. In this article, you’ll discover… Then add 3 bullets on what they’ll discover.
  • The content landing pages should be optimized for conversions.

Example: Huckberry

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I’m always impressed by Huckberry emails.

In this email, Andy, one of the co-founders of Huckberry, introduces one of their partners. But instead of doing it in a boring, drab, salesy way, he does it by telling a story about how he met the founders of the company. Facts tell and stories sell!

In this case, the subscriber is brought into the story in a way that he or she will identify with the brand being introduced.

How to improve it:

  • This email would be better with a headline, but only if it fits with the Huckberry brand. My gut says it does, if done in a subtle way. The addition of a headline improves scannability.

Example: Michaels

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Michaels is back with another solid email.

In this email, they continue re-selling the subscriber on their emails, expand on some ideas from their welcome email, and provide links to the different areas of the website.

The headline at the top is a nice addition, and gives me a way to evaluate the contents of this email fast — while I’m scanning through my inbox.

How to improve it:

  • Like the Michaels welcome email above, Michaels should add more supporting copy in this email. While this email here does a great job of selling their email newsletter, it doesn’t do a great job of selling Michaels as a brand and company.

Stage 1 – Interested: Promotions for First Purchase

This is the easy part.

You’ve welcomed your subscribers into your tribe. You’ve warmed them up with content, brand indoctrination and more. You’ve even made a few “soft offers” to people in the content of your emails.

Now it’s time to sell and sell hard.

The goal?

Get people to make their first purchase.

Set Up

Creating promotions is relatively straightforward.

Pick an offer

Create an email

Send it out.

However, depending on the size of your database and operation, you may want to segment people.

For example, you could target people who have only visited specific categories on your website, thereby displaying their interest in a specific type of product.

Ideas for your offers:

  • Instead of a blanket discount, require people to purchase a certain amount, such as $100 – 20% off on all orders over $100.
  • Offer free shipping for a limited time, or only on orders over a certain amount.
  • Overstocked on a certain item? Offer it as a gift to customers who spend a certain amount.
  • Offer points, or some kind of reward-based system to encourage purchases.

Also, whenever you make some kind of special offer, include a reason for the offer. Don’t offer a discount with no reason. Instead, tell them it’s because you bought too many and now you need to clear space in your warehouse.

Your conversions will improve if you provide a reason for the special offer.

Finally, you can (and should) hit this on both automated and manual fronts.

Take the nurture sequence from the last section:

Email 1 – Welcome to the family (please read)
Email 2 – Brand indoctrination part 1 (100 word brand story, with open loop)
Email 3 – Brand indoctrination part 2 (100 word brand story, with open loop)
Email 4 – Educational email
Email 5 – Cool video

Each of these emails should have “soft offers” for products on your website, again, to encourage the first purchase.

And if you offered an incentive for the signup, your welcome email will contain the coupon code and a big, bright, shiny button for purchase.

The educational email should lead into a soft-sell. For example, tell the story of the origin of the kitchen knife, and finish the story by mentioning that you have the most modern and up-to-date kitchen knives, which retain the lessons of the past. Then add a link to purchase.

The cool video should relate to your products somehow — or it should be embedded on your website (in your blog) and be surrounded with links, images, and so on, that lead people to other sections of your website to make a purchase.

Next, add a timed promotion:

Email 6 – Limited time offer (ie. 48 hours)
Email 7 – Limited time offer (ie. 24 hours left)

Finally, depending on what email software you’re using, you can set up page triggers. So if a subscriber who hasn’t purchased yet visits a specific category but doesn’t buy, you can send them a quick discount offer (or just a reminder) to grab something from that category.

Promotional Email Examples

Example: Apple

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For the most part, Apple does a great job with their email marketing (though I’ve seen a few blank emails from them due to too many images).

In this email, the image is eye-catching, and the targeting is relevant (it’s Valentine’s day soon). The button is easy to find.

How to improve it:

  • The headline is too clever. It’s trying too hard. I have to think to understand it. They’d get better results by using something more direct, like “iPod Touch For Valentine’s Day?”.

Example: Bonobos

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Here’s a great example of a text-based email, that sells, and comes with personality. Bonobos nails it with this one. It stands out, precisely because it’s not what you’re expecting from a company like Bonobos. The call to action is clear. And everything is easy to read.

How to improve it:

  • This email is a drab mix of grey and white, and that means a bright orange or blue (or some other bright button) would stand out like nothing else. Change the buttons to orange or similar to highlight them and make them stand out. It’s a small change, but I can’t find anything else to dislike about this email.

Example: Jet

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Jet has come out of nowhere.

In this email, they lead with some personality and pop culture (do you know that song?), and make it dead obvious what they want you to do next. There’s plenty of whitespace. The text is easy to read. It’s easy to glance at this email and know if it matters to me or not.

How to improve it:

  • Add a menu below the logo that links to the most popular categories in store.
  • Add images and product suggestions below the button, in case I’m in the mood to browse through the email some more. Right now, it might be too short to catch my attention properly. It’s tough to say too much in an email (since I can leave at anytime), but it’s frustratingly easy to say too little.

Example: Julep

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Julep, a company that sells beauty products and nail polish, nails (pun intended) this promotional email.

They’ve got the elements that matter. Menu. Clear text. Obvious button. And they’re not trying to be clever or cutesy with it.

How to improve it:

  • The design makes you focus on the center circle. But this means some people won’t see that Julep is offering a free gift on orders over $50. This free gift offer should be featured in the white circle, above the button, so that more people can see it.
  • Product images and suggestions. If I’m in my inbox and I’m looking for distraction, I might open this email and want to read more. But if I have to click through to the website, I’m probably just going to hit “Archive” or “Delete”.

Example: Memebox

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Here’s an email after my own heart — I got my stripes in the copywriting world, so text emails always make me smile.

In this email, Memebox promotes their Korean beauty products using more text than most companies would. They’re doing a lot right with this email. Simple, clear offer. Big button. Supporting copy.

How to improve it:

  • While the use of text in this email is great, bunching it into one large paragraph isn’t. Memebox should add a few linebreaks to make their “wall of text” more readable.
  • Also, the addition of a blue text link to the paragraph might bump the CTR by a few points.

Example: Twist

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Twist. Epic product. Epic emails. What is it, you ask? Simply the coolest thing ever. LED lightbulbs that double as speakers, so you can “play music in every room of your house”.

See that headline at the top? That’s a great example of a simple, straightforward headline. It’s not trying to be cutesy or clever. It tells you exactly what you get from Twist: the ability to “play all of your music in every room of the house”.

What else is this email right?

It contains a nice promotion ($50 off a speaker 3-pack – normally $149). It includes supporting copy (A speaker system without the pesky wires) and brand indoctrination (Our bulbs are rated to last over 35,000 hours).

How to improve it:

  • The only thing I would change with this email is perhaps add more supporting copy, or a testimonial. The premise seems a little unbelievable and gimmicky, so adding a proof element like a testimonial might add considerable trust.

We’ve reached the end… Part 3!

The Ultimate Guide To eCommerce Email Marketing [Part 3]: eCommerce Email Marketing Campaign Roadmap – Stage 2 & 3

Stage 2 & 3 is where email marketing to eCommerce customers gets really interesting.

Here’s a short recap of the stages:

  • Stage 1: Interested – People who have signed up for a coupon, guide, etc, but haven’t bought anything yet. The goal of stage 1 is to get them to make their first purchase.
  • Stage 2: Engaged – People who have bought one or several products. The goal of stage 2 is to get them to stay engaged, and buy again and again over time.
  • Stage 3: Lapsed – People who have stopped purchasing and stopped opening and clicking emails. The goal of stage 3 is to get people to reactivate by buying something, opening an email, or clicking a link.

Let’s dive in…

Stage 2 – Engaged: Transactional Emails / Email Receipts

It’s amazing how many stores overlook their customer base as a fantastic source of sales and revenue.

Did you know that it’s 10x more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to sell something to an existing customer?

In this section, we’re talking about transactional emails… and we’ll talk about just how you can use these as an opportunity to sell to your existing customers.

These are the first emails customers receive. They’re your shipping and order confirmations.

Now, because they’re “transactional” — related to a purchase — instead of “commercial” — trying to get a purchase — they get extremely high engagement scores.

In fact, email receipts (another word for them) get an average open rate of 70.9%, compared with the typical eCommerce promo email average or 17.9%.

And that means, there’s an opportunity to sell. Here’s a great graph from CrazyEgg that illustrates this opportunity:

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In this graph, you’ll notice that order confirmations, shipping confirmations and return confirmations all had higher transaction rates and orders if the emails had cross-sells included.

Set Up

Optimizing your transactional emails is easy.

Take your default email receipts — your shipping and order confirmations — and add the following:

Up-sells and Cross-sells

Add up-sells and cross-sells for other products you sell. If possible, customize these recommendations like Amazon does (ie. people who bought this also bought…)

Brand Indoctrination

The brand indoctrination should never really end. Every moment you have your customer’s attention is another moment to reinforce your brand’s message and what makes you different.

Benefits

Free shipping, your return policy, how and where to get in contact with support. Never stop selling people on the benefits of doing business with you.

Transactional Email Examples

Example: Athleta

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Here’s a great first example of a transactional email from Athleta. Order information, plus brand indoctrination, benefits (return policy, free shipping, free returns), and links to related brands (Banana Republic, GAP, Old Navy).

How to improve it:

  • Make specific product recommendations based on what people have just bought, instead of selling ad placements to similar companies.

Example: Dollar Shave Club

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Dollar Shave Club are known for creating amazing marketing assets (like their famous video), and this email is no exception.

This email is a reminder that they’re about to ship the next box. But before they do, they’d like to know if you want to add anything in. Unlike other companies, they actually show you images of what you might want.

Shave butter? Hair styling products? Or perhaps one wipe charlies?

It’s simple, easy-to-understand, and leads easily into increasing their customer’s lifetime value.

How to improve it:

There’s little to improve on this email.

  • Perhaps add “From Dollar Shave Club” next to the headline. Some people might open this email and get confused about who it’s from.

Example: Etsy

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Here’s an email from Etsy. It’s decent, but could be improved.

How to improve it:

  • The shop owner advises 3 weeks for shipping, but in the days of Amazon Prime and 1 day delivery, 3 weeks will frustrate people. So cut the delivery time in half or more.
  • I’m not sure how much the shop owner can personalize this email. If possible, he or she should add a link to a related product in the “Note from Shop Owner” section.

Example: GoDaddy

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I’ve always been impressed by GoDaddy’s transactional emails. This email has all the information a customer needs. Plus, it comes with a promotional code for the next purchase, and links to “Go Daddy Deals”.

How to improve it:

  • Remind people about the Go Daddy Deals and the discount at the bottom of the email.

Example: Social Print Studio

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Social Print Studio (formerly Prinstagram) nails the text-based transactional email. Instead of the boring copy in most transactional emails, they’ve opted for something more fun.

Glorious news… Peace & Love… I am a robot…

All of these things are a component of brand indoctrination — cultivating the idea in the customer’s brain that Social Print Studio is fun and awesome.

How to improve it:

  • This email needs some kind of product recommendations — related or otherwise.

Example: Walmart

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Walmart, like GoDaddy, crushes the transactional email. Notice the related product recommendations on the right, tailored to the purchase of a student desk. If someone buys a desk, maybe they’d like a chair too?

This email also explains what’s happening next, so the shopper knows exactly what to expect.

How to improve it:

No suggestions. Walmart nails this one.

Stage 2 – Engaged: Cart Abandonment Email Campaign

According to the Baymard Institute, an independent web research company, 67% of online shopping carts are abandoned. This means online retailers lost as much as $4 TRILLION (with a “T”) to cart abandonment in 2015, says Business Insider.

Cart abandonment is a BIG problem for online retailers and eCommerce stores.

Shoppers abandon their shopping carts for many reasons, including:

  • Getting distracted by funny cat videos.
  • Worrying about payment security
  • Not seeing their preferred payment options.
  • Extra fees once they get to their checkout.
  • Bad user experience.

While a cart abandonment email campaign won’t overcome every reason people abandon their shopping cart, it can still deliver a substantial boost in revenue:

  • Radley London, a designer leather handbag retailer, created a cart abandonment email campaign and recovered 7.9% of lost sales.
  • BootBarn, a seller of cowboy boots and western wear, recovered 12% of lost sales with their shopping cart abandonment email campaign.

Let’s be conservative and say that cart abandonment emails typically recover 5-15% of lost sales.

For a small online retailer doing $3 million in online sales…

  • Two-thirds abandon (which means one-third completes purchase).
  • One-third equals $3 million.
  • Two-thirds — the cart abandoners — amounts of $6 million in lost sales.

If this store creates a cart abandonment email campaign and recovers 5% of lost sales, they’ll add $300,000 to their top line. If they recover 15% (still a conservative estimate), they’ll add $900,000 to their top line.

$300,000 to $900,000 in the bank thanks to 3 simple emails.

Set Up

Don’t do what most companies do.

Don’t use the default cart abandonment email that comes with your eCommerce platform or email marketing provider.

You’ll get much better results if you customize the emails, and send more than one. We like to send 3 emails.

Email 1: Reminder

The first email is just a reminder.

Unfortunately, most companies offer a discount in their first email. This eats into revenue unnecessarily, as some people just need a simple reminder.

Show them a photo of the product that’s in their shopping cart, and give them a link to return to your website and complete their purchase.

Email 2: Objection

No discounts yet.

In this email, we attack one or several objections.

The objections might come from simple common-sense thinking (ie. maybe they don’t know we offer free shipping), or research and data (ie. based on survey responses and support requests).

  • Did they know you offer free shipping?
  • Do they know why you’re the best in the market?
  • Do they know what makes your products different and unique?
  • Do they know why you’re more expensive or cheaper than the competition?

Email 3: Discount

If they haven’t bought yet, after an email reminder and an email about why you’re awesome, maybe they’re just price-sensitive and a discount would push them over the edge.

Email 4 onwards…

We generally don’t send a fourth email, but if you’d like to be aggressive with your cart abandonment, you can continue sending emails until people stop buying.

If sales haven’t dropped off by email three, keep emailing until they do drop off.

Cart Abandonment Email Examples

Example: Fab

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Fab here with another great email. Notice how they’ve added the abandoned product to the subject line. This email is simple, clean and direct.

I like how they aren’t using a discount in this email either.

How to improve it:

  • Auto-populate the email with one of the top reviews on the product to add social proof.

Example: FiftyThree

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I love how simple this email from FiftyThree is. There’s something in your cart. It’s hard to get more direct than that.

How to improve it:

  • Add the product title to the subject line.
  • Dial up the urgency by saying that they’re are only 3 left.

Example: Doggyloot

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This email from DoggyLoot is a great example of how to get someone’s attention when they open the email. There’s a cute image of a dog, with the big headline “Wait A Second”.

How to improve it:

  • “Restore My Cart” seems like an odd call-to-action for an email. Test more common variations like “Complete Purchase” and “Continue Shopping”.

Example: Bonobos

Bonobos is back with another email.

They’ve nailed the general layout of a good eCommerce email, but there are some improvements to make.

How to improve it:

  • Include the products they abandoned in the email, with photos.
  • The suitcase up the top is irrelevant and doesn’t capture attention. Replace it with a sad animal, or an image of the product they abandoned.

Stage 2 – Engaged: Online Retail Customer Email Campaigns

Someone has purchased.

Maybe for the first time. This is an important moment!

If you get this right, your new customer will stay for life. Get it wrong, and you’ll be another shoddy company your customer avoids forever.

Email and Campaign Ideas

Welcome

The first thing you want to do when someone purchases for the first time is welcome them into your family.

Just like the welcome email for new subscribers, this email is designed to welcome them, explain what’s next and continue the brand indoctrination process.

Brand Indoctrination

Never stop selling. Continue the brand indoctrination process in the welcome email, and in every other email you send.

You should make it a priority. Always be subtly reminding people about what makes you special, and why they made a good decision in purchasing from you.

Nurture

You should never stop nurturing your customers either. Remember, it’s 10x more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to sell to someone who has bought before.

Continue sending emails with the primary goal of helping them.

Yes, you can sell — in these emails and in your more direct promotional emails — but do spend some time nurturing people.

Surveys and Product Reviews

Your customers will provide you with a wealth of insights about your products, your marketing, your operations… if only you ask them.

Remind people to leave product reviews. Send them surveys to find out what products they’d like to see more of, and to discover why they decided to buy from you instead of your competitors.

Promotions

Did you notice how promotions are just one of the strategies I suggested you use with your customers?

The reason why is because far too many companies think that email marketing is just a matter blasting the crap out of their databases. Don’t be one of those companies.

Remember to use ALL of the email campaign ideas included here.

New Customer Campaign

Here’s an example of a new customer campaign:

Welcome to the BRAND_NAME family (send immediately)

Is everything ok? (send 3 days later)

Did your product arrive? (send 2 days after product should have arrived)

Request a product review (send 3 days later)

Time-sensitive promotion (send 3 days later)

Time-sensitive promotion (send 1 day later)

Repeat Customer Campaign

People who have bought multiple times are more exposed to your brand, so you can go into promotional mode faster.

Thanks for purchasing again!

Request a product review (send 2 days after product should have arrived)

Time-sensitive promotion (send 3 days later)

Time-sensitive promotion (send 1 day later)

Triggered Campaign Ideas

Win Back Occasional Customers

Suppose your typical customer buys once a month.

Send a promotion to your occasional customers — the people who buy less than once every three months. Like I’ve been saying throughout this guide, make them a “no brainer” offer, and be sure to tell them that it’s only for people order less than once every three months.

Special Promotions for Top Customers

Just as you want to create specific promotions for people who buy less than average, you want to create specific promotions for people who buy more than average.

These are your top customers. Treat them like royalty, and make sure they know how thankful you are for their business. Create exclusive deals that are only available for your top customers. Depending on your market, you can consider things like events too.

Page Triggers

Depending on what email software you’re using, you may be able to create campaigns that trigger based on what pages someone visits.

So for example, if someone visits your best selling product and doesn’t buy, you can add them to a custom 3-email campaign that focused on selling that specific product.

Or if someone visits your Careers page but doesn’t submit an application, you can follow up with them via email.

Or if they visit a specific category…

…well, you get the idea.

Birthday

Collect birthday on your check out and email customers a gift or birthday promotion when their birthday arrives.

Manual Email Campaigns For Customers

Generic Blasts

When most companies think of “email marketing”, this is what they think of. This is a promotion that you “blast” out to the entire list.

Segmented Offers

Instead of sending the promotion to the entire list, send it to a specific segment, such as…

  • Only men or women.
  • Only people who have bought products in a specific category.
  • Only people who have visited your website in the last 30 days.

Service Alerts

  • Updates about the company.
  • Password changes.
  • Product updates.
  • Privacy setting updates.
  • Feature updates.
  • Maintenance updates causing the site to be offline or delayed during peak shopping hours.
  • New reviews on a product they’re following or purchased in the past.

In other words, any changes to anything that might interest them about your company is fodder for emails

Reminders of Upcoming Events

If you organize events, email your subscribers with the information and benefits of attending.

Rewards Program

Consider implementing a rewards program for frequent shoppers. This is a great way to reward and incentivize your best customers to purchase more often.

Plus, it gives you an alternative to discounting. Instead of “get 20% off”, you might say something like “we’ll double your points on all purchases until May 22”.

Ultimately…

Almost anything you do in your business can be a reason to email your subscribers to promote something, nurture them, or further indoctrinate them into your brand.

The only limitation is your imagination.

Customer Email Campaign Examples

You should be intimately familiar with eCommerce emails by now, so I won’t go overboard on the examples here. At the end of the day, you want to fit the ideas into the ideal eCommerce email template we discussed in the beginning.

Example: Facebook

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Here’s a quick example of a birthday email from Facebook. A simple email like this can make people’s day and further indoctrinate them into your brand.

Example: Boden

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This is a simple review request email from Boden, a UK clothing retailer. Notice how the email is from “Johnnie Boden”, a person instead of a company. Nice touch.

How to improve it:

  • The links to leave a review should be in the body of the email, not after the signature.

Example: Emma

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Emma, an email marketing provider, is promoting one of their events in this email. I wanted to include this to show you how to use email to promote events. It’s relatively simple and straightforward.

How to improve it:

  • Add a testimonial
  • Include a few speakers
  • More copy so I can figure out whether I care about reading more on the website or watching the video

The Ultimate Guide To eCommerce Email Marketing [Part 3]: eCommerce Email Marketing Campaign Roadmap – Stage 3

We have arrived at our final stage! You’ve made it this far, so let’s recap just how far we’ve come…

  • Stage 1: Interested – People who have signed up for a coupon, guide, etc, but haven’t bought anything yet. The goal of stage 1 is to get them to make their first purchase.
  • Stage 2: Engaged – People who have bought one or several products. The goal of stage 2 is to get them to stay engaged, and buy again and again over time.
  • Stage 3: Lapsed – People who have stopped purchasing and stopped opening and clicking emails. The goal of stage 3 is to get people to reactivate by buying something, opening an email, or clicking a link.

Ready to own this final stage? Let’s dive in…

Stage 3 – Lapsed: Reengagement Campaigns

I have some bad news.

Over time, people are going to begin ignoring you. They’ll stop opening your emails. They’ll stop clicking your links. And ultimately, that means they’ll stop buying your products.

Fortunately, there’s a nifty category of email marketing campaigns we can use to reactivate and reengage people.

That’s where reengagement emails come in.

Set Up

The idea with reengagement campaigns is simple:

Set up strategic email marketing campaigns to go out to people who haven’t opened or clicked an email in 60 days. We can also target people who haven’t bought products within a specific time period.

Once you’ve chosen your segment, use one or all of the following ideas to reactivate and reengage.

Send Surveys

Find out why they’ve stopped buying or responding.

People disengage for a reason. Send them an email and ask them why they stopped responding to your emails (whether opening, clicking or buying).

Offer an incentive incentive for completing the survey to increase the number of responses you receive.

And speaking of incentives…

Offer Incentives for Visits

Get people clicking on links to get to your website.

Link to a blog post, create a simple game which gives them a coupon if they win (great for sweepstakes-style businesses) or create a video and give people something if they watch the video until the end.

“No brainer” Promotions

If someone has stopped responding, there’s a good chance you’re just not making the right kind of offers. Maybe they want bigger discounts. Maybe they want products they can’t find anywhere else. Maybe they want additional benefits, like a rewards program.

For example, instead of your normal discount of 10% off, try offering 50% off, or 75% off, in order to encourage the person to repurchase.

Example Reengagement Campaign

The following is an example of a reengagement campaign that we run for ReEngager clients.

Email 1:  We’ve missed you

:sadface:

Yes, it’s time to make them feel guilty. Explain that you’re upset because they’ve stopped responding to your emails.

Include a cute animal or baby with a sad face, and encourage people to reply with their reason for disengaging.

Email 2: Holy kamoley – did you just say 50% off?

If they haven’t reengaged yet, we bring out the big guns. This is a big discount — much bigger than usual — or some other kind of “no brainer” offer.

You want someone to read this email and think “holy crap, are they serious? There’s no way I can miss out on this…”.

Consider losing money on this sale, or at least breaking even, because once you’ve got them buying again, there’s a good chance they’ll buy again at full price.

To stay on the list, they have to click a link (include the link in the email) or make a purchase.

Email 3: We’re sorry but we’re deleting you in 7 days

Uh oh.

They still haven’t responded, so it’s time we informed them that if they aren’t going to respond, then we’re going to unsubscribe them and stop sending them emails.

To stay on the list, they have to click a link (include the link in the email).

Remind them of the mega discount (the “no brainer” offer from the last email).

Email 4: You have been unsubscribed

Aw!

They never responded to you, and you’ve finally unsubscribed them. Be direct but playful in this email, and remember to give them a link to re-activate their subscription in case they want to.

Reengagement Email Examples

Example: True Citrus

Here’s a 3-email reengagement from True Citrus. It’s a great example of how you can reactivate and reengage shoppers based on the ideas above.

Email 1…

ecommerce-email-guide-img53

Email 2…

ecommerce-email-guide-img54

Email 3…

ecommerce-email-guide-img55

For more eCommerce email marketing examples, check out the amazing website from MailChimp called Really Good Emails. You can search for specific campaigns and categories on the left-hand side of the website.

Another way to find examples is a trusty old Google search. Try search queries like:

  • Cart abandonment email examples
  • Black Friday email campaigns
  • Email receipt examples
  • Cart abandonment case study
  • eCommerce email reengagement campaign

And so on.

How To Optimize Your Email Marketing Operation

Always be testing.

Always. Be. Testing.

If you’ve been in the direct response world for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard about the benefits of testing. It’s no different with email marketing.

Test and then test some more.

Test your welcome emails. Test different cart abandonment emails and sequences. Test everything else.

However, don’t test stuff that doesn’t matter. Check out this graph from Neil Patel’s findings

email-studies-2

 

When it comes to email marketing, subject lines count for the most — so test them the most.

(Check out this post from DigitalMarketer — they just released their 101 best email subject lines from 2015 AND their 3 best email split tests!)

Integrate the results of your tests into your campaigns, and iterate your way to an rabidly-hungry email marketing machine.

Surveys and customer reviews should also be used to improve your products, marketing materials and funnels.

BONUS: Retarget People Who Open Your Emails (And Are On Your List)

DigitalMarketer is all about retargeting. If you’ve been following DM for a while, you’d know all about it. You’re probably already aware that you can upload your email list to Facebook and target it what way.

But what you might not know is that you can retarget people who open your emails.

Most people and most companies aren’t doing this, despite it being relatively straightforward.

Here’s how it works:

ecommerce-email-guide-img57

When someone opens your email, the pixel fires and people who opened will see your ads as they browse the web.

Email retargeting could be the topic of another long post, so I won’t go deep on it here.

It’s an advanced strategy, and is suited more to companies doing considerable volume. If you’d like to learn more, this post from ConversionXL is a good primer.

Before you do anything else…

Before you check email, look at Facebook, or watch movie trailers on YouTube…

Make a game plan using the ideas in this post.

If you’re an online retailer and you haven’t implemented the email campaigns outlined here, you could be missing out on 30% of your sales… every single day.

Set a reminder to review this. Send an email now to your team and assign someone to the project. Or make a note to hire an agency to set everything up for you.

In Part 4 of this guide, I’ll show you exactly how massive retailers are utilizing an eCommerce email strategy in their game plan. The best part?

You don’t need to be a massive retailer to reap the same benefits.

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The Ultimate Guide To eCommerce Email Marketing [Part 4]: How eCommerce Companies Like Amazon, Bonobos and Envelopes.com Drive Millions With Email Marketing (…Millions You’re Missing Out On)

“Email beats just about everything for ROI.” – eMarketer, September 18, 2015

Isn’t that amazing?

Like I’ve said, email marketing is not dead. It’s alive and well. That quote from eMarketer is from September 2015, not 1999. Email STILL works.

So you’d better be sending emails.

In the same post, they said that “According To The Relevancy Group’s findings email alone drives the same amount of revenue as their social media, website and display ad efforts combined”.

How much revenue does email drive?

“Just under one in four respondents (23%) said that email marketing drove at least 25.1% of their overall revenues.”

Is email marketing 25% of YOUR sales?

See, here’s the thing…

I’ve spoke to all sorts of eCommerce companies and online retailers — from tiny companies selling pest-cleaning sprays, to huge companies selling millions of dollars worth of car parts every month — and you know what I discovered?

Most eCommerce companies and online retailers suck at email marketing.

For example, here’s a typical blast from an eCommerce company:

Black Friday eCommerce Email

What’s wrong with this email?

  • It’s “one too many” (i.e. they’re sending the same email to everyone)
  • It features a boring discount (the same thing that EVERY other company is offering)

There’s nothing in this email to differentiate the company, or to make the customers and subscribers feel cared for and understood.

They’re doing this…

eCommerce Email Marketing

Instead of this:

eCommerce Email Marketing

They’re “blasting” their entire database with the same offer that every other company is “blasting”. There is zero personalization.

The problem is…

If you want to increase your sales by 10-25% or more within 90 days with eCommerce email marketing, you’re going to have to get a wee bit more advanced with how you do things.

That’s what I taught attendees to do at at Traffic & Conversion Summit 2016 (get the slides), and that’s what Part 4 of this ultimate guide is all about.

Let’s get into it.

Case Study #1: Envelopes.com (This Cart Abandonment Strategy Gets More Than Double The Typical Improvement of Cart Abandonment Email Campaigns)

Like I mentioned earlier in the post, it’s estimated that 67% of online shopping carts are abandoned (two-thirds of checkouts).

If you’re doing $1M in annual, you’re losing $2M to shopping cart abandonment.

Now, if you’re somewhat savvy with how you do things, you probably already have some kind of cart abandonment email.

Maybe you’ve got 1 email (bad).

Maybe you’ve got 3 emails (better).

But there’s no way you have 7+ emails (great).

In most cart abandonment case studies, including the case studies I mentioned in the cart abandonment section of this post, the average improvement is 5-15%.

In the original examples:

  • Radley London, a designer leather handbag retailer, created a cart abandonment email campaign and recovered 7.9% of lost sales.
  • BootBarn, a seller of cowboy boots and western wear, recovered 12% of lost sales with their shopping cart abandonment email campaign.

That’s better than nothing, but it’s nothing compared with Envelopes.com:

Cart Abandonment vs Cart Recovery

In the image above, notice how Envelopes.com is almost 4X better than the typical improvement due to cart abandonment emails.

How Did Envelopes.com SMASH The Industry Average For Shopping Cart Abandonment?

One word:

Personalization.

Instead of one lousy abandonment sequence for people who visited the checkout — but left without purchasing — they created 3 abandonment email campaigns:

  1. Category abandonment
  2. Shopping cart abandonment
  3. Checkout abandonment (what most companies think of when it comes to “cart abandonment”

Let’s look at each one in turn.

1. Category Abandonment

Category abandonment happens when someone visits a specific category on your website, but leaves without even adding anything to the cart.

Here’s what Envelopes.com did for category abandonment:

Subject: Thanks for visiting Envelopes.com

Envelopes.com Cart Abandonment Email

Here’s what’s great about this email:

  • relevant subject line
  • relevant headline (“THANKS FOR SHOPPING”)
  • personalize copy based on category (“Thank you for visiting Envelopes.com and for your interest in: Square Envelopes.”)
  • big call-to-action button that’s easy to see (“SHOP NOW!”)
  • relevant images (with different colors to demonstrate the actual different colors)
  • other ways to shop and end up on the website (You can shop by Size, Color or Style)

They sent 1 category abandonment email.

2. Shopping Cart Abandonment

Shopping cart abandonment happens when someone adds something to their cart but DOES NOT visit the checkout to complete the purchase.

They never actually get there.

Here’s what Envelopes.com did for shopping cart abandonment:

Subject: Shopping Cart Reminder: Don’t Miss Out On PRODUCT

Envelopes.com Shopping Cart Reminder

Here’s what’s great about this email:

  • relevant subject line that MENTIONS the product (“Shopping Cart Reminder: Don’t Miss Out On PRODUCT”)
  • relevant headline and copy
  • call-to-action button that’s easy to see
  • relevant image to remind them (empty shopping cart)
  • personalized product section (that shows you what product/s you abandoned)

They sent 3 cart abandonment emails, and they were all similar.

3. Checkout Abandonment

Checkout abandonment is what most people know of as “cart abandonment”.

It happens when someone visits your website, adds a product or two to their shopping cart, and actually GOES to the checkout to complete their purchase. They begin the checkout process, entering their personal information, such as their name, email and address, but they leave before they complete payment and finish the checkout.

Here’s what Envelopes.com did for checkout abandonment:

Subject: A friendly reminder from Envelopes.com

Envelopes.com Cart Abandonment Email

By now, you can probably tell me what’s great about this email. Nonetheless, let’s make the list:

  • relevant subject line
  • relevant copy
  • big button that’s easy to see
  • relevant image
  • items you left in your cart

They sent 3 checkout abandonment emails, and they were all similar.

Steal This From Envelopes.com:

  • 1 email for category abandonment
  • 3 emails for shopping cart abandonment
  • 3 emails for checkout abandonment

That’s 7 emails in total. Great, remember?

Click here for the full case study.

How many emails are in YOUR abandonment strategy?

Ultimately, it’s about buyer intent.

Whether you’re emailing people based on the buyer intent they demonstrated when they visited a category or added a product to your cart, or some other trigger that specifically applies to your business, you want to use triggered email to capitalize on that buyer intent.

Find the buyer intent on the customer journey. Then email hard and fast.

(DigitalMarketer Lab Member Extra: What’s Working Now – The Customer Journey)

Customer Journey

Now let’s take a look at how Bonobos sends LESS emails but generates MORE sales.

Case Study #2: Bonobos (How To Send Less Emails But Generate More Sales)

If you want to see great email marketing in the wild, pay attention to Bonobos. ReallyGoodEmails.com is a fantastic resource for checking out other companies’ email campaigns, including Bonobos.

The second case study I shared at Traffic and Conversion 2016 was a simple case study about one email that Bonobos sent to two groups about their daily grind shirts.

The first group they targeted was a random collection of people from their database.

Zero targeting.

The second group they targeted was a specific collection of people that were targeted based on their likelihood to buy (according to an algorithm).

eCommerce Email Groups

Which Group Generated The Most Revenue?

If you said “Group 2” because you know that using specific targeting works, I’m sorry but in this case study with Bonobos, you’d be…

RIGHT!

Can you guess how much Group 2 won the test by?

Group 2 produced a revenue lift FOUR times greater than Group 1.

Group 2 Revenue

If that doesn’t get you excited about segmenting your list, I don’t know what will.

Steal This From Bonobos:

Instead of emailing everyone, focus on people who are most likely to buy.

You’ll make more money, and your database will be healthier (which will lead to more money and increased brand value over the long run).

Click here to read the full article about Bonobos “secret” to email marketing.

You can segment your database in countless ways, including by gender, age, algorithm and interest:

eCommerce Email Segments

Once again, we come back to the idea of personalization.

The “secret” to generating 10-25% or more in sales via eCommerce email marketing is improving your targeting and personalization.

In the next case study, you’ll discover how to world’s largest online retailer drives BILLIONS of dollars in sales with advanced eCommerce email marketing.

Case Study #3: How Amazon Drives BILLIONS Of Dollars In Sales By Focusing On Personalization In Their Email Marketing

Instead of broadcasts and “blasting” (*shudder*) their list, Amazon focused on personalizing the crap out of every email they send.

Here are just some of the emails that Amazon sends to customers:

Amazon Welcome Email

Let’s talk about the welcome email.

Like I mentioned earlier in the post, welcome emails generate three times the transactions and revenue per email compared with regular promotional emails.

(DigitalMarketer Lab Member Extra: Office Hours – The Perfect Welcome Email)

Amazon’s Welcome Emails

Amazon Welcome Mail

Pay attention to:

  • the subject line (includes “welcome” and instructions “take a tour”)
  • the headline (includes a name – I’ve blanked it out for privacy)
  • the links (to relevant places on Amazon.com that someone might be looking for)

Other ideas for your welcome email include:

  • make an offer (it could be a coupon, discount, free shipping, free gift, or something else)
  • indoctrinate them (what’s your brand story?)
  • direct them to all the important places on your website
  • invite them to follow you on social media

Here’s how Huckberry welcomes people:

Huckberry welcome email

If you want more ideas for your welcome email, please see the welcome email section above in the original post.

More Emails Amazon Uses to Drive Billions in Sales

Amazon Emails

Want 75% more profits?

Increase customer retention by just 5%.

It’s true.

If you focus your energy on keeping customers, your profits will shoot way up.

Remember the old sales adage:

When’s the best time to make a sale? Right after you made one.

What does this mean for Amazon and email marketing?

It means adding related product recommendations to your receipts and transactional emails:

Amazon receipt

You can even send product recommendations at random intervals, and in your automated customer sequences:

Amazon product recommendations

And if they don’t get you with their relentless related product recommendations, they’ll get you with their browse abandonment:

Amazon browse abandonment

Like I said…

…they are relentless (and you should be too).

Steal This From Amazon:

The primary thing you should steal from Amazon is the mindset of personalizing as many touch points as possible.

I’ve listed some of the possibilities here, but there’ll be other possibilities that are unique to your business, product and market.

Specifically:

  1. Create a welcome email (and make sure it’s awesome)
  2. Create a customer sequence (that includes product recommendations based on what they bought)
  3. Browse abandonment (as soon as you know they’re interested in pet food, engagement rings, or what have you, send them an email about it)

Click here to read the original post from GetVero.

Remember…

  1. Find the buyer intent
  2. Send emails to each touchpoint

eCommerce Email Marketing Roadmap

To recap what we’ve been talking about all along here, THIS is what your email marketing plan should look like:

ecommerce email marketing plan

If you’ve gotten this far, are fully convinced to implement now that you’ve seen the success in about 137 different ways, but you’re still concerned your software isn’t up to snuff — I’m going to encourage diving into Klavivo again.

We talked about this tool in Part 1, and now it’s time to make the leap.

Here’s a screenshot from one of our client accounts:

Klavivo dashboard

This is the Klaviyo dashboard. It’s the first screen you see when you log in.

My favorite part of the dashboard is the green box on the top right that says “Placed Order Value”.

I’ve blurred out the number for client confidentiality reasons. If it wasn’t blurred out, you’d see exactly how much money the various email marketing campaigns had generated in the last 30 days.

If you’ve ever wondered how much revenue your emails drive, and you’ve wasted time trying to integrate with Google Analytics or some other platform, you’ll love Klaviyo because it makes the revenue tracking dead simple. Simply integrate with your shopping cart and you’re done.

You’ll also notice on the dashboard the total emails sent, the open rate, and the click rate. The average is in red above the boxes. I’ve added green numbers below the boxes to indicate how well we’re doing with this account.

Our open rate is 61% above the eCommerce average of 16.8%, and our click rate is 160% higher than the average.

So, where do you go from here…

You take action:

  1. Plug your abandonment holes (ALL of it – category, shopping cart and checkout abandonment)
  2. Focus on people who are most likely to buy (segment your database by gender, age, hobbies or algorithm)
  3. Send a welcome email (and build out your customer sequence with related product recommendations)

Grab a pen and paper (or Evernote), write these 3 action down, and put a time on your calendar to start executing!

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About John McIntyre

John McIntyre is the CEO and founder of ReEngager, a company that helps ecommerce stores and online retailers increase sales by 30% with email marketing (without touching software or writing a word of copy). Download ReEngager’s 7 HTML email templates to jump start your eCommerce email marketing program.

View all Posts by John McIntyre