This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Although email marketing for retailers has been practiced for decades, it is still one of the most effective marketing methods for building and nurturing customer relationships available today. In fact, 41.5% of brands stated that email marketing is very critical to success. Email marketing generates a $36 return on investment (ROI) for each dollar spent—highlighting how effective it can be if done properly.
In this guide, we discuss 10 retail email marketing tips to help boost the effectiveness of your campaigns.
1. Choose the Right Email Marketing Software
Choosing the right email software is important because different services have their specialties and unique selling points. Not only that, but you want to make sure your investment is worth it.
For example, many customer relationship management (CRM) software have built-in email marketing tools if you prefer an all-in-one solution. However, you might want to use more dedicated software with specific email tools and features to help you grow and manage your subscriber list.
These email-specific software options, such as Constant Contact, often offer similar features at a cheaper rate than full CRM solutions and use tiered pricing based on how many email subscribers you have. So, choosing the right email marketing software boils down to answering two main questions:
- Does my business need a whole CRM suite, or could we just use an email service provider (ESP)?
- Would using a platform with subscriber-based pricing be more cost-effective?
These two questions can help you significantly narrow your list of potential software providers to work with.
2. Always Build Your List
We can’t understate the importance of list-building in email marketing. After all, if you don’t have people on your list, then who are you going to email? And, the more email signups you get, the more opportunities you have to make sales.
Here are some ways you can build your list:
- Use email capture or a signup form on your website. You can place signup forms on pop-up windows, static pages, and blog posts.
Take, for example, mattress brand Casper’s email signup forms shown below. It displays a straightforward signup form in the footer of its website and makes it easy for the customer to sign up by requiring them to fill in just their email address. It also has an exit pop-up signup form that uses a limited-time offer for a headline. Its headline hits two birds with one stone in its copy. Even if you’re not interested in buying a mattress, you can still shop the sale as long as you join Casper’s email list.
- Use a POS system that captures emails. Even if you’re a brick-and-mortar store, the demand for digital receipts is on the rise, with 89% of respondents answering in a survey that they would like the option. POS systems like Square offer the digital receipt feature.
This method is actually the most natural way to collect customer emails in person. Have your sales associates casually ask customers, “We now offer digital receipts. Would you like your receipt emailed to you?”
You could even add a perk to choosing digital receipts, like sending content on how to set up their purchase. Your sales associate can say this to help encourage the customer to say yes. “The digital receipt contains a short video that will help you set up your new appliance.”
- Ask for emails at checkout. If nothing else, you can also simply ask customers if they’d like to join your email list at the point of purchase, both in-store and through online opt-in checkboxes.
For example, New York-based bra and undies retailer LIVELY uses the Shopify POS to capture customers’ email addresses. Michelle Cordeiro Grant, its owner, shares that they get customers’ contact information when they come in for a fitting. Then, she puts them in the same nurturing email sequence and sales funnel that they use for their online store.
Tip: If you make it easy for customers to subscribe to your email list, make sure it is also easy for them to unsubscribe. It’s an email marketing best practice—and legal regulation under the CAN-SPAM Act—to include in each email you send the option for people to unsubscribe from your list.
3. Design With a Mobile-first Mindset
As you slowly build your list, sending well-designed emails helps subscribers engage with your content and drive sales. Providing an aesthetically pleasing design and engaging content to your subscribers ultimately motivates them to read and take action.
To achieve this, you need to think about user experience—how and where your emails are being read from the viewpoint of your subscribers. According to GetResponse’s 2022 Email Marketing Benchmarks Report, data shows that people open emails on all types of devices (mobile, tablets, and desktops) with a strong trend toward mobile in terms of clicks (45.97%). Given that, you may have to consider a mobile-first mindset in creating your emails.
Designing with a mobile-first approach means structuring your email campaigns for mobile devices first. In doing so, emails provide an excellent user experience on all devices.
To master mobile-first email design, it is recommended that you stick to the following best practices:
- Keep your subject line to 30 characters or less (desktops show up to 60 characters). Here are a few examples of how long 30 characters look like:
- Want to sign up for my list?
- You can get 20% off ‘til tonight!
- Did you forget something?
- Take advantage of using the email preheader (text that shows after the subject line in email inboxes). If the subject line piques your subscriber’s interest, then they’re probably going to read your preheader before they open.
- Make the email design feel like an app—have clear branding, scannable copy, easy-to-click buttons, and above the fold image placements.
- Use small file sizes for images and files.
Take a look at Twining’s email below. You can clearly see how it applies all the best practices enumerated above. One thing notable about their email is how much information they were able to deliver with such a small space on mobile without making the entire email look cluttered. Plus, it has a clear and big call-to-action (CTA) button.
4. Segment Your Email List Subscribers
As a small business, you might think you’d be OK with having one big list and sending the same emails to everyone. However, if you’re looking to boost your conversion rates, then you’re going to need to use segmentation. Segmentation is when you group your list based on shared attributes.
There are two main ways of going about email list segmentation:
- Creating customer profiles and templates and manually organizing your lists
- Using behavior-based automatic segmentation
Customer profiles allow you to have more hands-on control around who you send certain emails and when. Automated segmentation, like that offered by Sendinblue, can create lists based on which landing page or CTA new subscribers used, which product category they purchased, etc.
Here’s a basic example of an automated segmentation flow:
In the above example, when people sign up through a specific form, they’re added to a list—this enables the marketer to send relevant messages to various groups of subscribers.
5. Personalize Your Messages
Segmenting your lists is part of a bigger element in your marketing strategy: personalization. In fact, 80% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences. And they expect personalization—with more than three-fourths (76%) of consumers expecting more personalized attention to be able to develop an intimate relationship with a brand.
Personalization comes in many forms, and your approach varies depending on your industry—but it’s particularly important in retail. Many businesses simply change the “Hey there!” or “Dear Customer” with the customer’s name, but effective personalization goes far beyond that.
While addressing people by name might inspire some customer loyalty, one way to boost retention is to include purchase behavior personalization, such as recommended products, in the email design. Take Crate and Barrel for example:
The “based on your recent purchase” block is one type of personalization that increased by 60% in 2020, compared to 38% in 2019. And for good reason—it works.
6. Leverage Marketing Automation
Manual email management is cumbersome—and near impossible if you have growth goals. That’s where marketing automation comes in.
Automating various email processes can help you save both time and money, as well as increase email effectiveness—single message autoresponder emails have seen 90% open rates and 27% click-through rates.
As a small business retailer, there are a few types of emails you can automate to build customer relationships and generate leads, including:
- A post-purchase email sequence to help upsell or cross-sell other products or gather feedback. See this email from Bellroy, for example:
- Transactional emails, such as order confirmation and shipping information, to help recover abandoned carts or re-invite inactive users. Most, if not all, ecommerce platforms provide automated transactional emails.
- Welcome emails to encourage product or brand engagement. Welcome emails get, on average, nearly a 70% open rate and around 24% click-through rate. Check out this example from Cat Caboodle:
7. Optimize Your Subject Lines
Beyond personalizing the body of the email, another key area to focus on is the subject line (and, by extension, the subject description). Optimizing your subject line is important because it can make or break your open rates—and with nearly 333 billion emails projected to be sent and received in 2022, it’s more important than ever to stand out.
There’s plenty of speculation about how many characters should be in your subject line, whether or not to use emojis, capitalize words, etc. However, research by GetResponse shows that those things don’t matter. What truly matters is knowing your customers and what’s more likely to compel them into opening your email.
Take these subject lines, for example:
The above subject lines are a mix of behavior-based personalization and general discount announcements and use the language of their (younger demographic) subscribers.
8. Integrate Other Platforms & Marketing Channels
As important as email is, you should still consider it just one small piece of the marketing puzzle. And while marketing existed in channel-inspired siloes, modern retailers are taking a more holistic and integrated approach. Customers don’t compartmentalize interactions with your brand based on channel—so neither should you.
According to research from Catalyst Digital, 66% of online purchasers’ pre-purchase touchpoints were online (spread across different channels), and 31% were offline. This spread of touchpoints means savvy retailers need to adopt an omnichannel approach by integrating email alongside other platforms and channels.
Here are a few ways you can get it all to work together:
- Connect your POS. Earlier, we mentioned using a POS system that captures emails—you can also use this method to register customers in loyalty programs.
- Sync with other advertising initiatives. Instead of promoting your products and services, your business could champion a nonprofit cause (or other types of partnerships) where you can cross-promote and capture new subscribers.
- Use your email list to build lookalike audiences on social media. When you run ads on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, you can refine your target audience using your email list to get the best chance of finding new customers.
Taking an omnichannel approach by considering your other platforms and channels is the best way to ensure you can meet the customer wherever they want to meet you.
9. Add Value
As you work on gaining new subscribers, don’t forget about the people already on your list. To keep them from unsubscribing, you’ll need to make sure you’re adding valuable content to their lives and not just sending out endless promotions.
Of course, value is subjective—some audiences would like some entertainment or humor as a value-add, while others prefer educational content. Check out this example from Judy:
While its CTA involves clicking through to its online shop, the email content itself is educational and, in this case, potentially life-saving.
The key to making sure your content is adding value is knowing your audience by going out of your way to find out what they want (not just assuming you already know). If you’re stuck, you can use a poll on social media or ask for feedback at the end of your emails. You can even send out an email survey to your list.
10. Track Engagement
One final tip is to always be open to making adjustments to your emails by reviewing your analytics and testing. Analyzing your email performance is essential; otherwise, you end up stumbling through your strategy blind and not making data-informed decisions.
Every email marketing platform will have analytics for each email or an overall performance dashboard:
From there, you can use metrics such as open rate, clicks, and opt-outs (unsubscribers) to help you understand what type of emails your customers engage with the most and iterate new variations.
Retail email marketing is still one of the most effective and affordable methods of engaging customers and boosting revenue. However, don’t forget that it is only one of several marketing channels that you should be adopting for a holistic, omnichannel presence.
The tips we’ve covered in this guide, from choosing the right email marketing platform to reviewing your performance, should help you not only get started on your email marketing strategy but also thrive.
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