Ecommerce Email Marketing: 5 Ways To Use Email To Grow

Mitchel White
December 23, 2020

eCommerce email campaigns are what I call ‘marketing’s fishing line’. They’re often designed to reel customers back in when they have abandoned carts. You may be hooking them with a new sale, using coupon codes as your bait.

Before delivering your next email campaign, think about the last newsletter you received. Now think of all the promotions that invaded your inbox during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and during the lead-up to Christmas. You may have even received emails themed around the second national lockdown, little missives exploiting a global pandemic for a topical angle. I believe that email marketing is at its lowest when it makes a virus into a relevant hook to sell a product, when it makes suffering the latest call to action. Invasive and cynical ecommerce email marketing fails to stand out in a positive way. It makes for a jaded consumer. There’s only so many deals and offers a customer can take before they click delete and unsubscribe.

Try these 5 steps to use email to grow your business in 2021 and beyond. No fishing equipment necessary. Anglers need not read.

1. Make your Email Marketing Visually Engaging

What we see matters more than what we say. That’s because human beings are better at processing images than text.

According to Thermopylae Sciences, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.

What’s my point? It takes more than pithy copy to make for a captivating email campaign. It takes an email with strong visual design to engage a reader.

Contrary to its name, a newsletter isn’t a news story, it’s a visual narrative.

If your emails are an uninspiring rehash of the templates in your mass mailing service, you have work to do.

Remind yourself of your brand identity. Is your colour story bold and modern, made up of soothing pastels? What are the emotions you wish to evoke in your customer? Are you selling an invigorating energy drink? Maybe your ethos is about sustainability, and so your visual language is natural, centred on earth-tones? These core questions aren’t forgotten in effective ecommerce email marketing. A clever campaign is an extension of your brand identity and a shrewd way to reinforce your aesthetic. If you’re highlighting a new product, you may wish to pick an accent colour from the product to theme your email around.

The moving image is also a key weapon in your arsenal. Animated graphics and GIFs are a neat addition to any content, catching the eye, and a clever way to compel people to keep reading your email.

Make sure your email has been designed for all devices. Effective email marketing takes into account the display on all the devices in which users read their emails: desktop, tablet and mobile. Responsive design really counts. eCommerce is omni-channel and email marketing is one of those channels.

2. Compel with Subject Lines

Of course, with all this talk of aesthetics, it would be remiss to forget the importance of your subject line. It’s the point of entry, and the way you stand out in a crowded inbox. It doesn’t matter what your content looks like if people won’t even open the email to see it.  

There’s a fine line between compelling and trite wording. You want your subject line to urge your readers to click, but if you overdo it, then you’re at risk of being pushy. The key is to avoid dramatic calls to action. These beg your customer to click when it’s clear to everyone involved that you’re just trying to sell. Be sparing in your use of imperative words, particularly when the situation doesn’t call for them. You want to be instructive and encouraging. This isn’t achieved by demanding users to ‘ACT NOW.’ The cliche of an overzealous salesman, vomiting spiel, is best left to period films set in the 50s.

While you’re thinking of the 50s, picture the Golden Era of Hollywood. Its starlets were known to be alluring and enigmatic. With no candid social media posts, no desire to be relatable, they fostered an element of the unknown. The idea is that curiosity led to mystique. Curiosity also leads to clicks. If you’re able to pique your customer’s interest, gently encouraging them to open an email for valuable information, you’re going to boost your open rates. Of course, if you’re too obvious, you’re going to come across as spammy. Here, success is in restraint.

Strong content has a confident voice, establishing your authority within an industry. It’s no different for ecommerce email marketing. A clever campaign can react to a trending topic, with a subject line that hints at your take on timely news headlines.

3. Ask for Customer Feedback

I have a contentious relationship with Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. One of the tenets of his ideas is that you should always use people’s names when you talk to them. He believes that people are so riveted by the sound of their own name, that they’ll unconsciously feel closer to the person saying it. This to me, is a cynical approach. Email marketers seem to have all read Dale Carnegie. Brands will pepper their email campaigns with their subscribers names in an attempt to create a false sense of familiarity. Now, I’m not saying it’s bad to personalise your email. My issue comes when companies think that a ‘Hi Giorgio’ email opening is a stand-in for a relationship with the consumer.

Alternatively, you may try asking your customers for their feedback to learn what they’re looking for in their eCommerce experiences. Perhaps you’d like to use survey emails to get to know them? You may want to change the no-reply email address into one that enables them to respond? There’s something very stark and off-putting about an email that won’t receive incoming messages. They’re bad for digital marketing and terrible for customer relations.

4. Avoid Unethical Promotions

The products you feature are vital to your email. However, a word of warning, be unethical at the expense of your brand’s longterm message. It’s important to avoid temptation, dangling deals that may entice an occasional, low-value customer to buy. Do so and you may neglect a more loyal customer, who’s interested in your ethos, aesthetic and products.

One of my pet hates is the subscription box. They’re a study in effective yet devious marketing. Essentially, subscription boxes are leftover products that a company wants to offload by packaging them in a service: an addictive monthly experience. It’s a tactic for companies to ditch poorly selling items and a way consumers end up with products they don’t need, or even want. These subscription boxes, designed to delight the customer, dangerously fuel overconsumption. It’s difficult to reconcile an ethical, environmentally-friendly brand with this marketing strategy. Of course, an email is not a subscription box. However, an email campaign that aims to push unwanted stock with incentives such as promotional offer codes can be as equally transparent as one.

Instead, focus on quality products that are reflective of your ethos. Encourage the customer to curate their own online baskets. Use email campaigns to embolden your brand identity with personal newsbeats and product highlights that reflect the best of what your company stands for.

5. Have Some Self-Control

It can be tempting. You’ve released a new product that you’re proud of. You want to get the word out. Maybe you can squeeze in an additional email campaign in addition to your monthly newsletter, event invitations, re-engagement strategies, seasonal updates, company highlights? Maybe you think there’s little harm in it? The better your reach, the better for business, right?

According to Get Data, the number one reason people unsubscribe from emails is because they receive too many. Reason number two is that they look like spam.

If your emails are alienating your customers, they’re doing more harm than good. The revenue that you make from your campaign may pale in comparison to the revenue lost from unsubscribing customers. Shrinking your business with an alienated consumer-base is not quite how you want to grow it.

With the closing of the high street, 2020 saw many rely heavily on eCommerce. When delivered correctly, email campaigns can foster loyal relationships with your customer. If you’re going to reach out to the consumer, you may as well do so effectively, with thought. As an online retailer, you want to use ecommerce email marketing as standard practice to grow not only sales but relationships. There’s a fine line between an email that encourages and one that loses subscribers.

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