Accustomed as you are to voluminous and unwanted email, it might surprise you that email is the top marketing communication. Many studies have confirmed the effectiveness of email campaigns. Despite all the spam mail, people continue to check their mails.
The key to success is sending mail that recipients will open, read and act upon. In this post, we look at email marketing best practices and specifically, how email campaigns can help ecommerce ventures.
The volume of spam landing in your inbox would have made email marketing only too familiar. And you will know how annoying unwanted mail can be. The first task of email marketing is to eliminate that annoyance at the recipient’s end. Next, the recipients should open and read the email, and act upon it.
Email marketers eliminate recipient annoyance by reaching those people who are interested in what they offer and getting their permission to send emails. This is what list building means – creating a list of email addresses of people who are interested in what you offer. We look at the best practices for list building to start our discussion.
Once your list is in place, you start email campaigns. Again, this is not a simple task of sending out sales letters to everybody on your list. Even if those in the list have given you permission, they are not likely to welcome a stream of sales pitches. That could lead to revoking the permission they had given you.
Email List Building
You insert a Subscribe Form at your website inviting visitors to subscribe to your email communications. In the form, you ask for their name and email address. This is the essential start for list building.
However, such a bare-bones approach is not likely to get you any subscribers. Why should they subscribe? To persuade them to subscribe, you have to make them feel that the communications they receive will deliver a value that is important to them. For example, if your visitor is a collector of coins, you can promise newsletters that discuss rare coins.
Even more effective will be an immediate incentive. For example, you can offer the coin collector a PDF book on the history of coins. You say: Give us your name and email address and we will send you a book on the history of coins, free. The incentive can be anything provided it meets certain criteria, such as:
- Relevant to the visitor’s need or desire
- Immediately available through download or email
- Useful and actionable
- Usable, as in the case of a booklet that can be read quickly
It is usually something that does not cost you much to deliver. You might receive email addresses in ways other than through contact forms. For example, you could get a customer’s email address when that person buys something from you. All such email addresses are stored in a database and constitute your email list.
Email Campaign Best Practices
Segment the List
The addresses in the email list would have been added in different ways. For example:
- Some of these might be customers who purchased a product
- Others might be prospects who started the purchase process but abandoned the shopping cart midway
- Yet others might be visitors who signed up for the incentive
- A final group might be visitors who completed the contact us form after reading a blog post
By sending emails tailored to each group you can improve the response rate significantly. For example, you can send mails:
- Thanking the customer for the purchase and calling the person’s attention to related products, probably with a special offer
- Contacting the prospect who did not complete the purchase – reminding about the incomplete purchase and trying to persuade the person to complete it say, by providing a glowing testimonial from a past buyer of the same product
- Offering new and useful information to the visitor who signed up for the incentive
- Tailoring the copy to the content of the page in case a visitor signed up after reading a particular page
To tailor emails as above, you need to segment your list by relevant criteria. The segmentation would also make it possible to automate the sending of the mails. See this Optinmonster resource for the ways you can segment a list.
Improve Email Open Rates
Unless the emails you send are opened by recipients these will have absolutely no impact on your business. In this section, we look at the factors that lead to recipients, not opening emails, and how to manage these.
Many email programs have spam folders to which emails that look like spam are routed. Recipients rarely open these emails. So your first task is to minimize the chances of your mail landing in the spam folder. You do it by attending to a number of things. Here is a good blog post on how to escape the spam folder.
Avoiding the spam folder is only the first step. Recipients might be receiving so many emails that they open only those that look worth opening. How do you create that sense of worth?
- The segmentation mentioned in the last section is a key task. It helps you tailor your mail to the interests of each group of recipients
- The SUBJECT of the email is what recipients see immediately. Make it relevant, interesting, and enticing enough to make them want to open it.
- Send the mails at a time when recipients are most likely to open their emails. This is best done through some experimentation by sending emails at different times and on different days. Monitor which pattern leads to high open rates
- Create a reputation (in the minds of the recipient) for delivering value. If a recipient receives value regularly from your emails, that person is likely to open the mail on seeing your name as the sender
- Make sure the email is optimized for mobile – larger fonts, smaller images, image-independent messaging, clearly separated links and simple overall layout
Write Effective Email Copy
You send emails to achieve specific goals, like establishing a relationship with prospects. The content of your email should help you achieve this goal. How do you write such content? The key to effective content is to have a clear purpose and write to achieve that goal. The examples below illustrate how this can be done in an ecommerce context:
- Welcome Emails: These are emails sent to customers who have just joined your mailing list. Make the new member feel that they will enjoy being part of the community. Introduce yourself and how you could deliver value to them
- Helpful Information: Build a relationship with your list members by providing them information on value. If you are selling health products, you can send them periodical newsletters with health-related information
- Confirmation Emails: These are emails sent to customers confirming a purchase. In addition to thanking them for the purchase and offering any helpful tips for using what they bought, you can use these mails for up-selling (recommending an upgrade) or cross-selling (recommending a related product)
- Referral Requests: These are sent to satisfied customers requesting them for referrals. Ask them to refer you to their friends and offer them some kind of reward for any purchases resulting from such referrals
- Mails to Inactive Members: If a member has not engaged with you for say, six months, you can send them a mail mentioning a new product or development, and making an exclusive offer
- Bargain Offers: You should definitely mail announcement of any special offers – sales, discounts, coupons, promotions – to all members
- Abandoned Cart Reminders: If a prospect put some products into a shopping cart, but left without completing the purchase, you can send a mail reminding them about it. Design it in a way to arouse the recipient’s interest – a great product picture, a discount offer or something else
Have a clear objective for each mail, and try to find a way to provide value to the recipient with each.
The design of the mail is also extremely important. Even the best copy can get ignored if presented in a cluttered format. Use short sentences and paragraphs, have plenty of white space, include relevant and high-quality images and avoid grammar and spelling mistakes. Present the whole thing in a pleasing layout.
Email Marketing Platforms
The task of attending to many of the requirements discussed above is facilitated if you use a reputed email marketing platform. Trying to do everything yourself can become quite tiring and ineffective. Some reputed platforms:
By using these platforms, you get advice on how to attend to mailing success tasks, and also tools to attend to many of these. For example, you can design effective list building forms, store the data submitted by respondents and send out mass emails to your list. The platforms will also help you automate the mailing campaigns. Above all, they will help you monitor the results of your campaigns by reporting on:
- Percentage of delivered and bounced mails
- Percentage of emails that were opened
- Percentage of respondents who took action by clicking a link in the emails
Email marketing platforms will support you to set up autoresponders. Autoresponders consist of a series of emails that are triggered by specific events, such as signing up through a contact form or making a purchase.
You create the content to be used in response to each event. The software will then start a relevant series of mailings automatically on the happening of each event. In addition to saving huge amounts of time and effort, well-designed autoresponders can improve your relationship-building efforts and resultant business volumes.
Email Marketing: Summary
Email is still the most effective marketing communication. However, extreme care is needed to ensure that your emails do not go into spam folders and that your emails are opened, read and acted upon. We discussed the best practices to attend to these. The post also provided links to some reputed email marketing platforms and touched upon the practice of automating your email campaigns with the help of these platforms.