8 Steps All Retailers Should Follow To Perfect Email Marketing

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Did you know that promotional emails have an ROI of 4300% ? That’s $43 for every $1 spent. If not and you aren’t using email marketing already, you are missing a prime opportunity to expand your business and build a rapport with your customers. Email is the most direct and effective way of reaching your customer, introducing them to your new products and driving traffic to your store or website in order to secure a purchase.

Email marketing is not always easy, but by following these 8 key steps you are guaranteed to increase your reach to prospective customers and drive sales.

  1. Know Your Customer

As a retailer, you need to know as much about when and why your customers spend their money as possible. When you have a mailing list at your disposal, you have information at hand that can easily allow you to target your customers and encourage them to spend money in your store.

An easy strategy is to target consumers at the times when they are most likely to be spending money, such as a birthday. For example, Gourmet Burger Kitchen offer a buy-one-get-one-free burger to users of their exclusive app on their birthday to encourage them to celebrate at their restaurant.

Image via Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Similarly, if you see that a customer hasn’t bought anything from you recently, give them an incentive to come back. For example Gourmet Burger Kitchen offer a free burger if you haven’t visited for a designated period of time. This is a process that you can automate too, which will save you time and manpower. As a retailer, you have the chance to offer discounts and codes that can be redeemed in-store or online to drive business to your retail outlets.

Just as important as knowing your customer is knowing who isn’t your customer. List segmentation is integral to email marketing because it ensures you are targeting consumers who will want to buy what you are offering. For example, through email marketing platforms and CRM systems, you can filter the mailing list by a variety of variables; customers who are first time or repeated customers, who subscribed to the newsletter and who are high spending. Rather than irritating people who won’t be interested in your product, prove that you know your customer by sending only the content appropriate from them direct to their inbox.

  1. Make it Readable

The subject line of the email is the first thing your customer will see, so it needs to be brief and attention grabbing. A line with urgency and excitement along the lines of ‘Get it now!’, ‘Hurry only 4 left in stock!’ or  “only 4 hours left of the summer sale” suggests you have something important to say. By creating a sense of urgency you are guaranteed to secure more interest.

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Research for The PipelineDeals found that subject lines with 40-70 characters saw a significant drop in success rates. The email above is a prime example of this; it’s too long, offers too much information and doesn’t give any incentive to read on and find out more about the offer. Using something closer to “Read me for your unique discount code” is ideal as it is direct but encourages the customer to open the email. Therefore creating an effective email subject is vital to ensuring your contacts actually open the email. 

What works on a desktop doesn’t always work on a mobile or tablet. While most thinks this only applies to videos and photos, this applies to emails too. With two-thirds of emails now being read on smartphones or tablets it is more important than ever that your email marketing materials are not just readable but also accessible across all formats and devices.

There are few things more infuriating than having to squint to read an email, so make it easy for your target market and ensure any emails with more than a few (3) lines of text is clear, e.g.  black text set against a white background, to make the text as visible as possible. The font should be clear and professional (definitely avoid Comic Sans or anything that resembles it) and the font should be big enough to see clearly but not so big a few words consume the whole screen.

When sending email marketing materials, remember that people don’t want to wait around for their email to load, after all, your customer’s time is precious. Try not to overload your email with images (most email marketing tools have image resizing guidance included), videos and graphics that make your email impossible to open and read quickly, otherwise few will bother to read why you have got in touch.

  1. Keep Content Relevant and Concise

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Most customers will have a full inbox with limited time, so grab their attention while you can. Keep any descriptions of products short, snappy and memorable; no one wants to read a 2000 words essay about your new products, but they will want to hear about them. Use imagery that does the talking and ensure that your content is completely relevant to the subscribers and the send-date.

If you are trying to drive people to your online or physical store, ensure the products in any newsletters or included in any promotions are products that will be highly visible and available in both channels. Any new ranges or products that are getting a lot of traction definitely need to be in all your content, front and center. And if you have a sale, promote it. These are all ways to make sure your content is as useful and relevant as possible.

  1. Make it Personal

As a retailer, it is your responsibility to make your customer feel valued in every interaction, whether that’s in-store or online. By using their name in all email marketing, the customer feels cared about and remembered.

The example below from Moonpig uses the first name of the recipient and creates the idea of becoming part of the Moonpig family just by placing an order. Note the use of flattery with ‘you lucky thing’ to create the illusion they know the customer personally and a sense of exclusivity. It’s friendly, snappy and bright and with the ‘SHOP NOW’ button right below makes it easy for you to shop again.

Image via Moonpig

Research shows that emails with a personalized message had an open rate of 17.6% compared to 11.4% for emails which were not personalized to the customer. Higher open rates mean more people see what you have to offer and are more likely to visit your online or physical store. By failing to use names in either the subject line of the email or the email itself, you are risking losing vital customers and alienating prospective leads.

As well as personalizing your emails, make sure to say ‘thank you’. Emails that contain ‘thank you’ in the subject line have the highest engagement levels and thus greatly increase your chance of reaching your intended audience and building a relationship. Being polite and personalizing your emails really does pay off.

  1. Be Helpful – who’s more helpful than a fellow customer?

No retailer wants their product to go to waste after it has been purchased. By providing useful product advice, you generate a feeling of goodwill between your brand and your customer while also placing yourself at the forefront of their consciousness when they think of your industry or are approached by competitors.

If you don’t want to market the product yourself, who is better equipped to do it than a customer? A study by Nielsen Norman Group found that 92% of consumers believed word of mouth marketing from family and friends over advertising. Now while you can’t get everyone’s family and friends to talk about your products, getting ordinary customers to generate reviews and responses about your products will resonate better with your audience more than any marketing you create yourself.

Don’t be afraid to use influencers in your emails either. They can generate content that is more likely to resonate with fellow customers. With their extended reach, influencers can bring people to your newsletter who wouldn’t normally be interested by seeing their interactions with your products and brand. This way you promote your product and display satisfied customers at the same time.

  1. Be Unique

Email marketing is all about systematically targeting your market segment, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun or interesting. The Nielsen found that 80% of internet users only scan emails, hence why a strong headline, clear call to action and intriguing visual imagery are a necessity for every marketing email you send.

The use of videos in marketing materials can be vital to engaging with customers. eMarketer found that consumers were four times as likely to want to watch a video about a product rather than read a description. Video thus is far more likely to be consumed and should be vital to your email marketing campaign.

To add some ‘cultural’ relevance why not put some emojis in the subject lines of your emails? 56% of brands that used emojis in their email subject lines had a higher unique open rate, according to Experian. Emojis will help your subject line to stand out in a busy inbox, while saving characters to ensure you can communicate your message. They aren’t appropriate for every brand or occasion, but emojis can be really effective in drawing the customer’s attention and increasing your open rates.

Another interesting way to improve the quality of your email content is to use a sign-off from a real person. As a retailer, you want to try and replicate the personal service you provide in store in your online content. The example below from HubSpot tells you who’s writing to you, what their role is and even hints at their personality by telling you their music listening habits.

The HubSpot example also encourages interaction with the newsletter by providing three emojis to rate your satisfaction with the newsletter which can help you improve. Small, unique features like this will make your content more memorable and encourage people to look out for it in their inbox.

  1. Find Your Prime Time

CoSchedule established that the optimal posting time for emails is 10 a.m. local time, and sending your email on a Tuesday gives it the highest chance of being opened. Obviously this is a guide, but avoiding sending emails in the middle of the night or too early. can ensure your promotional emails are not lost in the early morning clutter, creating an automated schedule is an easy way to ensure your emails hit your customers inboxes at the right time.  

As there are no guarantees or one-size-fits-all method, the best way to track audience interaction is through A/B testing. For example, research for PipelineDeals pinpointed that marketing and advertising companies had the most effective open rates in the morning, whereas software companies have better open rates in the afternoon. This way you can compare your open rates between different days and times and establish the optimal time to send emails for your own business.

As a retailer, people expect set opening hours from you. So why not establish a set time for releasing your newsletter each week? For example Courier release their newsletter at 7am, every Friday morning. Your customer will then know when to expect the latest news and offers from your business and will be sure to look out for you in their inbox.

  1. Follow Up: Use Your Metrics

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After you have taken these steps and sent your email marketing content, make sure to review your metrics. If you have run A/B email testing, establish when your prime time to send emails is and remain consistent in order for your customer’s to know when to expect content from you.

Although statistics such as open rates are important, looking at more sophisticated data may be more effective at establishing how people engage with your emails. For example click through rates track if people use any of the links in your newsletter to find out more about your products, thus indicating whether people are actually interested in what you have to offer. Pair this with Google Analytics to see where they go and what they do on your site and you’ll be taking a deep-dive into your user’s behavior and make more informed decisions.

In contrast, looking at unsubscribe rates and the complaint/abuse rate will be a strong indication of whether you are targeting the right people with your emails and whether you are annoying them. Perhaps most important is churn rate, which takes into account all these rates and shows the extent to which your number of subscribers is changing.

By tracking these metrics, you can appropriately judge the effectiveness of your email marketing campaign and pinpoint your areas of strengths and weaknesses to pinpoint it further in future.


Follow these 8 key steps, and you are guaranteed to improve the quality of your email marketing content to drive traffic, engagement and of course, sales.