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Email Marketing 101: How Strategic Email Campaigns Can Be Used To Accelerate Sales

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Email marketing campaigns are essential to every ecommerce shop’s arsenal.

When it comes to promotions, there’s really no better way to keep your current customers, rescue old ones, and gain new purchases.

The problem is that countless automated emails flood customers’ inboxes daily.

That’s why there are innumerable articles online all about how you can unsubscribe from all the noise and clean up your inbox.

So, unless you’re handling your email marketing smartly and creatively, it’s going to go unread and be a waste of your time.

But good newsletters can make all the difference, keeping your audience engaged, building strong customer relationships, and expanding your reach.

The key is crafting impactful messages and email marketing campaigns that your customers want to read. If you can do this, you’ll increase sales and promote your brand like never before.

In this deep dive article, we’ll cover:

  1. What email marketing is.

  2. Why it’s crucial for online shops.

  3. How email marketing can be beneficial (statistics).

  4. The steps to set up an email marketing program.

  5. How to build your email list.

  6. The best email tools to use for your next campaign.

  7. How to take your email marketing campaigns to the next level.

  8. Best practices for email marketing.

  9. Beautiful examples of email campaigns from B2C experts.

Let’s get started helping you create email marketing campaigns that are a slam dunk when it comes to boosting your sales.

What is Email Marketing?

Many online businesses rely on email marketing, which is the act of sending promotional materials through email. It’s an effective digital marketing strategy that reaches your customers via their inbox.

Emails for cart abandonment, sales, and product announcements are common, but they can be sent in almost any situation and to any customer or potential customer.

Recent customers and potential customers on a newsletter list can be nurtured and encouraged through email. It’s all about how you set up your email marketing campaign.

Why Email is Crucial for Online Shops

When you want to communicate something about your online shop, email marketing is one of the most effective ways to do so.

Your customers already spend a good portion of their day in their email. And when they’re ready to buy, they’ll often turn to their email to find information from their favorite stores.

Below are some of the benefits of email marketing for online shops.

1. Access to customers.

Most consumers have an email address, and they’ll use it on your site to check on their order status or to sign up for your newsletter.

Once you have a customer’s email, you have a direct channel to them; this is key for reaching out personally, which is far more effective marketing.

2. More conversions.

According to Barilliance’s study on email conversions, some 17.75% of clicked emails results in a purchase.

Email marketing offers a fantastic ROI (return on investment) that’s better than social media, blogging, and almost every other marketing tactic — depending on your business.

In particular, customers tend to love email offers.

3. Segmentation.

Email is easy to segment since you completely own the list. That means you can split up the emails you send by where your customers are in their journey or their demographics.

For example, you can send emails based on most recent purchases, age, gender, email domain provider, recent engagement, or abandoned shopping carts.

As long as you collect the right information alongside your leads, there’s no end to how you can refine and segment your marketing list.

4. More personal promotion.

Compared to social media, blogging, or website landing pages, emails can be personalized to the customer. You can add first and last names to the email greeting or link back to shopping cart items they abandoned.

If you have the information, you can use it to personalize your emails.

5 Email Marketing Statistics

Yes, email marketing really does work. It delivers exceptional results for ecommerce businesses of all sizes.

Let’s dig down into exactly why email marketing is so successful and what you can do to get the best results.

1. 99% of consumers check their email every day.

Your customers check their email every single day, according to the Data and Marketing Association. So, if you’re looking for a way to reach them where they live, email is it.

2. Email’s ROI Is $38 to $1 spent.

According to Email Monday, email marketers are seeing huge returns from their email spending dollars. For every $1 you spend on crafting a quality email marketing campaign, you can expect $38 in return via sales, conversions, etc.

3. Mobile users read emails.

According to Litmus, mobile opens accounted for 46% of all email opens. That means optimizing your emails for mobile gives you an even higher chance of success.

And that’s essential considering a 2018 Mobile Web study by Forrester found that smartphones will be used in over one-third—more than $1 trillion—of U.S. retail sales.

4. Personalize your emails (and add a discount).

Campaign Monitor reported that “consumers are just slightly more inclined to open an email offering a discount (72%) than one with a personalized subject line (62%).” 

Emails that are both personalized with your customer’s name and offer a coupon of some sort will get you the best results.

5. The average industry open rate is 20.81%.

One in every five emails will be opened, according to Mail Chimp. The key to being successful with your email marketing campaigns is to craft emails that don’t wind up as spam, but that get opened by expectant customers.

5 Steps to Set Up Your Email Program

Now that you know why email marketing is so effective, and you understand what makes it essential for your ecommerce business, it’s time to go in-depth about setting up your email program.

The good news is that it’s not as complicated as you think. In just five steps, you can begin sending effective emails to your online shop customers.

1. Start grabbing emails.

You can’t send emails without first developing an email list.

One of the best ways to do this is to add a signup form and popup form to your website. There are different ways to do this and different pros and cons to both, but in either case, the more comprehensive your list, the more potential and current customers you’ll reach with your marketing and promotional materials.

2. Segment your lists**.**

Once you have your list, you need to break it down into various segments depending on your marketing goals.

For example, you’ll want an email segment for:

  • New subscribers

  • Highly engaged subscribers

  • Returning customers

  • Abandoned carts

  • Customer interests

  • Demographics such as age, gender, and location

  • Lead magnets such as eBook downloads, webinars, free samples, etc.

3. Design your email.

No one wants to read a poorly designed email. It immediately goes into the trash bin.

Instead, using one of the email marketing integrations — which we’ll cover later — design a creative and attractive email using one of their templates.

Or if you have experience with HTML, code your own.

A few key design features to keep in mind:

  • An enticing subject line

  • A personalized greeting

  • A brief but helpful description

  • Gorgeous visuals

  • Compelling calls to action (CTAs)

4. A/B test.

In most cases, you won’t succeed in your email marketing on the first go-around. Like most things, it will take some practice and A/B testing.

A lot of email marketing software offers the ability to test which emails are most successful based on design, subject lines, segments, time sent, and more. The key is to A/B test one feature at a time before moving on to the next to ensure you are correctly understanding the impact from each variable.

5. Review results.

Once you’ve completed your A/B testing and you feel like you have the most optimized email marketing campaign possible, it’s time to review the results.

Take a look at things like your Click-Through Rate (CTR), Open Rate, Links Opened, Conversions, and more to see what you need to improve for next time.

How to Build Your Email List

So, how do you gain customer emails in the first place? It’s about giving your customers something in exchange for their email — that’s what makes it a compelling offer.

Below are a few of our favorite ideas for growing your email list organically and effectively.

1. Newsletters.

Create an opt-in form on your website that users can fill out to sign up for your shop’s newsletter. If you promise to provide your customers with value — discounts, resources or free items — that are only available via email, you’ll get customers to sign up left and right.

The key to an effective email opt-in is to make the signup a priority. We recommend placing it on a popup or at the bottom of your site for the best results.

2. Sweepstakes and giveaways.

Customers love to win things! Anything free is alright in their books.

That’s why many ecommerce shops host sweepstakes and giveaways to get more email subscribers signed up. If they have to submit their email in order to enter to win, they’ll do it, and you gain the benefit of a larger email list.

3. Cart abandonments.

You can set up cart abandonment software that will take a customer’s email information before they abandon your online shop at checkout. Then, send them a follow-up email to remind them of their cart, offer a discount on their purchase or provide reviews of their favorite products.

Cart abandonment emails are one of the best ways to get customers back to your shop to purchase.

4. Customer info.

Customers give email information to your site for order updates. You can take advantage of this by adding those emails to your marketing efforts.

Just make sure you have an opt-out field clearly labeled in this scenario. 

6 Email Integrations for Your Next Campaign

The integration platform you choose for your email marketing campaigns will be crucial to your success. The good news is that there are many options that can handle your needs, whether you’re a small or medium-sized business.

Below are a few of the top email integrations (in alphabetical order) you should consider:

1. Constant Contact.

Constant Contact can help you connect with customers, grow your business, and monitor your results in real-time. It delivers everything you need to keep your email list up to date, including the ability to easily sync and store contacts.

Some of our favorite features include:

  • 100+ mobile-optimized and customizable email templates.

  • Contact segmentation based on clicks.

  • Automatic welcome emails.

  • Subject line testing.

  • Real-time reporting and robust analytics.

2. Happy Email.

Happy Email automatically helps you send a welcome email to your customers from your store owner (you). The email is sent within 30 minutes of your customer making their first purchase or signing up for a new account.

The goal of Happy Email is to help you create a personal touch that gains trust from your customers.

It’s a great integration because:

  • It’s 100% free.

  • It takes one click to install, and then everything is automated.

  • It offers a friendly editor for customization.

  • It offers branding to build trust and authenticity.

3. Klaviyo.

Klaviyo helps you build real, quality relationships with your customers. It does this by allowing you to listen for and understand cues from your visitors, subscribers, and customers.

In this way, you can deliver on your marketing promises and turn valuable customer information into actionable items.

With Klaviyo, you can:

  • Automatically capture customer information from your website, including purchase history, browse behavior, cart information, product details, and more.

  • Set up abandoned cart emails and filter your email messages by target audience with advanced splits.

  • Use web popups and sign-up forms to create a customized customer experience on your website.

  • Gain high-level metrics all about how your email marketing is working and contributing to your bottom line.

4. Mailchimp.

Mailchimp helps you design beautiful, personalized emails so you can reach your customers and grow your business.

Some of our favorite features include:

  • The ability to organize your contacts by tags for easy segmentation of your emails.

  • Automated marketing emails based on abandoned carts, lapsed customers, product recommendations, and post-purchase follow-ups.

  • A/B testing so you can optimize your marketing campaigns.

  • Detailed email data, including growth, engagement, and revenue reports.

5. Omnisend.

Omnisend provides all of the email and marketing automation tools you need in one platform. It offers seamless usability all in one app that helps you convert visitors into repeat customers, so you sell 20-30% more.

From growing your email list to automated campaigns and abandoned cart recovery, Omnisend helps you master email marketing in minutes.

Some of the features that stand out include:

  • Single-click BigCommerce integration.

  • Ready-to-use email templates that you can customize as you wish.

  • Automatic product import for better newsletters and promotional campaigns.

  • Email and SMS automation, including browse and cart abandonment, welcome and confirmation emails, order follow-up, and more.

  • Sign-up forms, including sign-up boxes, popups, Wheel of Fortune, and landing pages.

  • Detailed segmentation and marketing report options based on your needs.

6. Privy.

Privy helps small and large businesses capture and convert website visitors into loyal customers.

Using popups, spin to win, unique coupon codes, and more, you can reduce cart abandonment, create high-converting messages, and run targeted promotions that work.

Some of the top features of Privy include:

  • The ability to trigger popups using exit intent, scroll, cart value, time on site, and more.

  • A/B testing of your campaigns to optimize performance.

  • The ability to sync contacts to all your email and marketing platforms as well as your BigCommerce store.

  • Automated email newsletters, order follow-up emails, coupon reminders, cart recovery emails, and more.

  • Robust on-site targeting and segmentation capabilities.

2 Next Steps to Elevate Your Email Marketing Campaigns

At this point, it’s time to start looking at how you can take your email marketing campaigns to the next level.

Different departments and stakeholders may have different priorities, but your goal should be to create and deliver cleverly written emails that attract your customers’ attention, increase sales, and build stronger relationships.

There are two key steps to get started.

1. Focus on deliverability.

If your email marketing campaigns don’t make it to your customers, there’s no point.

Of course, some spammy messages, bounces, and missed opportunities are inevitable. However, by focusing on the five key points below, you can hone your emails, so they get into your customers’ inboxes.

Monitor engagement by domain. It’s possible to have a weak domain reputation with one domain (e.g., Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) but a strong one with another.

Make sure to monitor each campaign to see how the open rates trend. Anything below 10% is a red flag and suggests that you might be hitting your recipients’ spam folders.

Segment lists based on domain performance. Based on the domain performance you’ve analyzed above, segment out non-engaged users, specifically in domains with poor engagement (below 15% open rates).

Don’t be afraid to go as narrow with your list as you need to start seeing stronger open rates. Only then should you begin widening your list.

In many instances when employing this strategy, you can see more total opens even after cutting your send list in half. This is because the low open rates don’t necessarily mean your subscribers aren’t interested, but could mean the domain providers aren’t allowing your emails to get through.

Avoid spammy subject lines. Email Service Providers will flag certain words as spammy. Avoiding these words (such as free, winner, and others), can help ensure that your company’s emails get delivered to your customers’ inboxes.

Sign up for Google Postmasters. Google Postmasters helps you monitor your reputation with Gmail, monitor your email performance, and route your messages correctly.

Write alt text. There will be instances where images don’t show up in your email, which can be an issue with emails that consist mainly of images. Email Providers often provide functionality where, in this case, you can provide alt text as an image replacement, so the recipient knows what’s missing.

Email Service Providers use alt text as a factor in determining sender reputation, which ultimately impacts email deliverability. Including alt text helps tick the box and can keep your reputation strong.

Ask your subscribers to whitelist your emails. Requesting that your subscribers save your email address or save the emails to the primary tab ensures the emails don’t go to the promotions or spam folders.

Enable double authentication. Requiring users to confirm their interest in joining your list ensures that the only people receiving your emails are ones that can be expected to open them.

2. Set Up Automatic Email Series.

Your main goal should be to drive more sales in less time, automatically. That’s why you need to focus on setting up automatic email series.

Below, we outline four email series ideas you can and should use.

Welcome series. Create an email welcome series with preferably three emails.

  • First, consider offering a promotion with a discount code for joining your list.

  • Then, automatically email the customer back in 1-2 days if they don’t purchase using the code.

  • Finally, email them noting that the promo code will expire shortly and they shouldn’t miss out. This creates urgency.

Abandoned cart series. Create a three-part abandoned cart email series.

  • First, email to offer a discount code to complete their checkout.

  • Second, send a follow-up email, reminding them to complete their order with the discount code.

  • Third, send a final follow-up email.

Re-engagement series. Create a re-engagement campaign series that targets unengaged users.

Email anyone who hasn’t engaged with your campaigns in a while. The exact timing you should follow depends on your industry. For example, ecommerce can be six months while daily newsletters can be a few weeks.

Then, if the customer continues not to engage, unsubscribe them from your list.

Triggered email series. You should also consider getting more creative with your triggered email series.

Below are a few examples:

  • Create a birthday series that sends a coupon code as a birthday gift.

  • Create a browse abandonment email, which sends to anyone who browsed a product.

  • Create a post-purchase email series asking purchasers for reviews of their recently purchased product. Include some suggestions of other products they might like.

  • Create a back-in-stock email series that lets subscribers know their product is back in stock.

8 Email Marketing Best Practices for Getting Higher Open Rates

Now that you have the designed emails and you’ve taken steps to ensure they can get through to the inbox, you need to focus on getting higher open rates due to the actual content.

Whether you’re sending out welcome emails or cart abandonment emails with a coupon code, you want your customers to read what you’re sending.

Below are eight things to consider when trying to improve your email open rates.

1. Include clear “Unsubscribe” buttons.

Don’t make your potential customers search for a way out. Clearly give them a way to unsubscribe to your email list if they are not interested.

2. Personalize with segmented lists.

Customers want to feel like the emails they receive are meant for them and them alone.

Segmenting lists allows you to send more personalized emails with segment-specific customer data.

3. Test your emails.

Always test your emails to make sure you’re sending them out at the right time and with the right subject line.

Many of the email integrations mentioned above offer A/B testing, so you can directly track your email performance based on minute changes.

4. Clean your lists regularly.

Don’t keep spamming inactive users with emails. Trim your lists when they have too many inactive users. 

A good place to start is by tracking domain performance, as mentioned above, and removing inactive users based on those open rates.

5. Write like a human.

Don’t sound overly robotic in your sales voice. Write to customers as if you’re giving them the inside scoop on something they want to hear.

Be a friend, not a robot.

6. Use emojis, numbers, and special characters (but not too much).

Make your subject line stand out with emojis, numbers, and special characters.

????Save On the Hottest Shades of 2020!

Just make sure you don’t go overboard and send something like this: CRAZY????GOOD????GLASSES????2020

7. Always include preview text.

Preview text is another tool you can use to entice users to engage with your content.

Tell them more about what your email contains and why they should open it.

If left blank, this text often appears meaningless (such as “view this email in your browser”), which wastes valuable space that could have been used to draw the recipient in.

8. Keep content quality high.

Make sure the email copy is engaging and promotes conversions. The better you write, the more likely your customers will want to open the email and keep reading. 

Beautiful Email Examples Used for Marketing and Promotions

Crafting a great email marketing campaign sounds simple at first, but can quickly become difficult and frustrating when you’re just starting out.

To help you create emails that your customers will love to read and engage with, we’ve collected a few of our favorite examples below.

Each of the following emails has something special that makes it stand out, and that you can use for ideas in your own upcoming campaigns.

1. Email Monk’s “2017 at a Glance”.

Bright colors, simple text, and lots of statistics make very attractive emails. Just check out this example from Email Monks.

They created an end-of-the-year email for their customers to tell them what happened over 2017.

Each key statistic was broken down into its own section. And they ended the email with a look ahead, telling their customers what they had to look forward to.

2. Tracksmith’s “Season’s Best”.

Everyone loves a good picture, and Tracksmith knows it. That’s why their email focuses on grabbing their customers’ attention with large, vibrant, candid-feeling pictures of their products in action.

In between the pictures, they offer some insight into their products with lots of CTAs and clickable links back to their website for purchasing.

3. Raden’s “When it rains, it pours.”

Simple and short is sometimes the best recipe. In Raden’s email, they use just a few clever words paired with fun images.

Then, they end the email with a specific call-to-action and a social media link.

4. Mod Pizza.

Mod Pizza’s clever giveaway announcement has a taste of everything: an introduction to a new pizza variety, a call-to-action to order, and a giveaway where readers can enter to win a trip to Hawaii and free pizza.

Tips From the Experts: 3 Professionals Share Their #1 Email Marketing Advice

1.  Quantity isn’t quality.

“I’d think heavily about how you attract people to sign up for your email list. It’s one thing to build a big list in terms of pure quantity – it’s easy to set “subscribers” as your north star metric, and the sheer quantity probably does correlate with the ROI of your email marketing program.

However, you want to make sure your email list is filled with qualified and engaged subscribers. That starts at the lead magnet and flows through to the content you write for your list.

It shouldn’t be a piecemeal approach; you should think from start to finish who you want to sign up for your list, how you’re going to nurture them, and what the first, second, and third goals are for your email subscribers.

Also, with any marketing activity I engage in, I try to make it either useful or entertaining (or in the best of worlds, both). If your email list is neither, you’re not doing it right.”  – Alex Birkett, Sr. Growth Marketing Manager, HubSpot

2. Don’t make it too complicated, at first.

“Start with something. Too many companies skip an email strategy altogether because they think that, in order to do it, they need a complex framework with multiple pathways and sequences. While that can be effective, it also stops most people before they begin.

Get an email onboarding strategy in place (yes, I mean beyond confirming the order and shipping notifications) and go from there. It’s one of the reasons I built The Dinner Party Strategy™. It’s as simple as a handful of emails that focus on building a relationship with your new customers that goes beyond the transaction. That is, in fact, the magic of email marketing.” – Val Geisler, Email Conversion Strategist

3. Use urgency.

“Think about customers who have come to your store, loaded up their shopping cart with your clothes or jewelry, but then bailed. With the aid of marketing automation technology, it’s never too late to win them back. There’s no reason to leave buyers hanging.

Does your brand have an abandoned cart email strategy? What about remarketing? How are you using automation to follow up with high intent buyers (in a value driven way) that persuades them to complete their purchase?

One automation tactic we often execute for our email marketing clients is to use urgency driven copy on all email follow ups. Phrases like, “Twenty four hours left until this is gone” and “Your discount ends tonight!” and ““Five more days left to register!” are effective ways to push high intent buyers over the edge. After all, people’s inboxes are competitive places, and you need to cut through the clutter with value.” – Scott Ginsberg, Head of Content, Metric Digital

Executive Summary: What Your Ecommerce Business Should Do Next

Email marketing is a crucial step for every ecommerce business.

It’s one of the best ways to communicate with your customers and offers some of the best conversion rates in marketing.

But if you want your email marketing campaigns to be successful, you need to learn what it takes to set up an email program, build an email list, and then craft, deliver, and execute on successful campaigns.

In a few simple steps, you can start grabbing customer emails, develop segmented lists, and start testing well-designed emails that bring in conversions.

Eric Samson avatar

Eric Samson is the founder of Group8A, a boutique digital marketing agency focused on developing and executing integrated marketing and digital solutions for companies of all sizes.