Ecommerce brands can use four different types of emails to develop great relationships and drive sales from their customers.
If you're growing an ecommerce business, you know that email marketing is crucial to driving sales. Great ecommerce stores can expect email to drive around 30% of their revenue (if not more). But all too often, marketers send emails without a cohesive strategy - a discount here, a sale there, maybe a couple of new product announcements.
Given how fierce competition is today, and how many ads everyone sees on a daily basis, brands need to build long-term relationships with their customers, and a proper email marketing strategy that includes multiple types of emails is the best way to do that. Ecommerce emails have gone beyond simply sending out a sale or discount every few weeks. Today's best brands grow connections with their customers to ensure they are able to more easily drive future sales from them.
In the rest of this post, we'll go over the four types of emails that you should incorporate into your marketing mix, providing you with examples of how to use them and how often you should be sending them out.
It's no secret that content is king for most businesses today. That's becoming especially true for consumer-facing retail businesses, and many ecommerce businesses are incorporating more and more content into their marketing campaigns.
In fact, we'd argue that the foundation of your email marketing strategy should be educational emails that provide high-value content to your customers. These emails should center on providing new information or interesting stories that your customers can learn from, be entertained by, or both. Because these emails aren't designed to promote a particular product or sale, customers will be more open to reading them, especially if you provide interesting material. Since customers will read these emails more often, it allows you to get your brand in front of them on a more frequent basis. The more they see your brand (in a non-pushy context), the more confidence and trust you'll build with your customers. That means that when you do send them a promotional email, they'll be more tolerant of those emails and may even be more willing to see if you have any offers that may interest them.
Here are a couple of examples that we like. The first one takes an informal tone with a Q&A approach and is very relatable to us as humans. The second one, while a bit more salesy than normal, shows the story of how the brand values sustainability and quality, and is something that all of us can relate to.
You should be sending content emails about once every month or two, but if you have a strong brand story, have a strong community around your brand or your brand's lifestyle, or have other cool things to pass along, don't be afraid to reach out more often than this.
The key goal here is to provide interesting and valuable information while reminding your customers that you can be trusted and there's a personality behind the brand.
Because you're trying to build a relationship with your customers, you can start to message them much like their friends would, again, as long as you keep things casual and don't try to sell them too much. Emails like "Merry Christmas", "Happy Birthday", "Happy Anniversary", etc, can go a long way to reminding customers about your brand and letting them know that you're still around. You can show a little bit of personality in this emails, don't be afraid to be witty or quirky, but make sure you keep things classy.
These emails are also a great opportunity to offer something to your customers. Perhaps a free gift, free shipping, or free content, something that shows them that you value them and their time.
Send these out like you would to a friend and you'll be able to build up your brand's social collateral with your customers.
Once you've had a chance to build up your relationship with your customers, it's a good time to start sending them a few emails for specific items in your store that you think they'll like. With product-specific emails, your goal is to reach out to your customers on an occasional basis with personalized products and collections that you think they'll want to buy. Since it will be pretty obvious that you're trying to sell them, you can be a bit more aggressive here with the sales copy, discounts, etc. Another good reason to send a product-specific email is when you've released a new product and you want everyone to know about it.
In both cases, it doesn't hurt to try to personalize your outreach as much as you can. We recommend referencing the last product that they bought and saying "because you bought X, we think you'll like these other items." Data platforms like Apteo can help you find these patterns and even automate using them in your existing email flows. We also recommend A/B testing the subject, header, and frequency of these emails. You can start with sending them out once a month and then start to get more frequent, keeping track of your unsubscribe rates. In general you probably don't want to send out more than once a week, but your mileage may vary.
Every brand needs to sell items to survive, and it's no secret that promotions drive sales. The key with promotional emails is to send them out to the right group of people at the right time with the right discounts. You'll know what works best for your store, but you can experiment with things like storewide discounts, product-specific discounts, special offers like free shipping or buy one get one free deals, etc. The trick here is to experiment with content, timing, and frequency. You don't want your customers to get used to expecting a discount, but you also want them to come back and keep purchasing. Once a week at most is probably a good rule of thumb with these emails.
Ultimately, email is one of the most effective channels to reach out to your customers. If you're innovative and creative, you can make it so that when your customers get an email from your brand, they'll feel excited and happy, like they would when they receive an email from a friend. But it does take a lot of work. Just because emails are easy to send out, it doesn't mean that coming up with a good email strategy is simple.
You'll need to experiment, test, personalize, create and edit copy, and analyze your stats to see what's working and what isn't. But if you stick with it, you'll see your sales grow over the course of 3-6 months. Not only that, you'll be able to build brand loyalty in your customers and you'll be able to gather invaluable data that you can use down the line to target them with other strategies and channels.
Shanif Dhanani is the co-founder & CEO of Apteo. Prior to Apteo, Shanif was a data scientist and software engineer at Twitter, and prior to that he was the lead engineer and head of analytics at TapCommerce, a NYC-based ad tech startup acquired by Twitter. He has a passion for all things data and analytics, loves adventure traveling, and generally loves living in New York City.