mCommerce Insights

6 Best Practices in Email Marketing for eCommerce


To us marketers, digital marketing can often feel like an ever-moving target with an invisible bullseye. Between email, social, SEO, PPC, display advertising, mobile marketing, etc., there are so many ways to interact with customers that it becomes difficult to determine which channel will yield the most bang for your buck.

However, despite the rapidly evolving digital marketing space, one channel has consistently remained atop the ROI food chain: Email marketing. While it may seem like an relatively ancient practice, companies are attributing 23% of their total sales to email marketing channels on average. And thanks to all of the capabilities that today’s top automation platforms offer, that number has only been going up in recent years.

So, you could say email marketing is like a fine wine: it only gets better with age.

As effective as email is as a marketing channel, not all industries are created equal. As of April 2016, the retail/eCommerce industry is sitting at an 18.3% average open rate and a 14.3% click-to-open rate, which is bumping up against the education industry for DEAD LAST. Not good.

Luckily, there are a number of underutilized best practices and tips that can not only jump your business’s engagement rates far above the industry average, but also significantly increase sales.

Email Marketing for eCommerce

When you consider the amount of customer data that you have and the advanced capabilities that most email automation tools provide, there is an incredible amount of opportunity that retailers have when it comes to email marketing.

#1 Cart Abandonment Emails

Like reviews, this is another type of email that can be automated. Sending out an email to a customer who didn’t complete the check-out process is an incredibly efficient way to not only discover ways to improve the process, but also give the customer another chance to finish what they started.

Most automation platforms will allow you to create rules based on specific page visits. For example, you could set up a rule that says, “show me all the people who visited the checkout page, but did not visit the confirmation page.” You can then automatically send out an email to those who meet that criteria, asking them what went wrong. This is a great way to continuously assess and improve cart abandonment, without even having to think about it once it’s set up.

#2 Segmentation and Personalization!

If I’m a male and have a history of buying men’s clothing, I probably don’t need to know about your current sale on women’s dress shoes. You have the data – use it!

According to MailChimp, segmented campaigns have a 63.75% higher click rate compared to non-segmented campaigns. For retailers, there are a number of ways to segment customer lists. Traditionally, segmenting by gender, age, engagement and location is a strong start. But going back to the amount of useful consumer data you have at your disposal, why not dive a little deeper into segmentation, such as by shipping habits, review submissions or birthdays by month?

Separating your customers and then designing personalized email messages based on these segmented lists is a sure way to increase engagement. It does take a bit more work upfront, but the work will pay off when your engagement rates skyrocket.

#3 Incentivize Loyal Customers, Re-engage Dormant Ones

Similarly, create lists of customers based on their purchase history (in terms of frequency, amount spent per transaction and last transaction occurrence). This will allow you to identify and incentivize your most loyal customers to come back and do what they do best - buy from you. For example, why not offer a small “Thank You” gift card to those who have a history of spending 30% above your average order value?

On the flip side, create a list of customers who haven’t shopped with you in the last 12 months. Email them, tell them you miss them and invite them to come back via a special promo code. As a consumer, I received a similar email from a retailer I used to frequent when I lived in Boston. As it turns out, I missed them too, by about $200.

Additional Best Practices

While these aren’t necessarily specific to eCommerce, these email marketing best practices are automatic wins and are easy to implement immediately. There’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be doing these, unless you hate increasing your revenue.

#4 - A/B Testing

This is something that should be applied to each and every marketing email that is sent out. It is GUARANTEED to improve your open/click rates, and is incredibly easy to set up on almost any email/automation platform.

Basically, A/B testing for email is taking two versions of a given variable, such as subject line, from name, content or send time, testing to see which of the two is most effective among a small sample of your distribution list, and then sending the winning version out to the rest of the list after a predetermined amount of time. So basically, you get two chances to make a good first impression for the price of one.

To start, I’d suggest A/B testing at least your subject line for every email, and periodically testing your send times if you find your open rates declining. And since we’re on the subject of subject lines, emojis are now supported on most email clients and devices, so throw one in there when applicable. I bet it will win in your A/B test!

#5 - Optimize for all devices and clients

Did you know 53% of emails are opened on mobile? Sure - it goes without saying that your emails should be mobile-optimized, but there are an alarming number of devices that your customers are reading your emails on. Furthermore, for each device, there are a number of different email clients that your customers are using as well. Chances are, if you’re not checking, your email probably looks much different in Outlook than it does in Gmail.

I know this sounds like a difficult problem to solve, but there are a number of tools out there that will offer previews of your email for each device or provider. Litmus is your best bet by far. Not only does it preview your email for over 50 email clients and any device you can think of, but it will also check your links, images, subject lines, load times, etc.

#6 - Reviews

Products with reviews have a 10% higher conversion rate than those without, and email is one of the best ways to capture new reviews from your customers. The best time to ask for reviews is shortly after a customer receives their product, while it’s still top-of-mind. So you can set up an automated email that goes out based on that timing criteria, essentially creating an automatic, ongoing feed of new reviews without having to even think about it.

To increase the likelihood of actually getting a review, offer store credit as an incentive. This will get you both a review and a repeat customer! Also, be sure to emphasize how quick and easy it is to actually submit the review.

Time to step up your email marketing game.

Email marketing isn’t dead by a long-shot. In fact, it still prevails as the #1 digital marketing channel in terms of ROI. Still, the eCommerce industry isn’t doing so hot in the email marketing game compared to almost every other industry out there.

The good news is that there are a number of easy-to-implement best practices that will help turn your email channel into an automated, money-making machine. To recap:

  • Use A/B testing with subject lines
  • Ensure your email is optimized for all email clients on all devices
  • Use your consumer data to implement automated emails that are personalized and designed to incentivize action
  • Use your email channel to ask for product reviews and feedback from abandoned checkouts

Even if you only implement one or two of these strategies, you’ll be well on your way toward higher conversion rates and more revenue for your business. Let’s get back on the email engagement leaderboard, eCommerce!


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Andrew Chase

Written by Andrew Chase

Marketing Communications Manager | Andrew is an experienced ecommerce marketing professional, with a background in content writing, event management and social media. Andrew is passionate about fitness training, live music, and Boston sports.


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