There are countless ways you can increase your e-commerce sales. From PPC ads to content marketing and SEO to social media marketing, the list is almost endless.
But every successful e-commerce store owner will tell you – without a second thought – that email marketing is the most profitable and consistent way to increase e-commerce conversions. It’s a proven method that gives the best bang for your buck – provided you use the right strategy!
Yes, it all comes down to employing the right email marketing strategy! Without a solid strategy in place, you can hardly see tangible results.
As an online retailer, you are probably using email marketing already to batch and blast out promotional emails to your customers. But is it yielding the results that you want to see? Or are you just getting few opens and clicks here and there?
Getting the desired result from email marketing can be hard. But let not the challenge bog you down and force you to give up this lucrative marketing channel!
According to a study conducted by Custora in 2013, email marketing is the second most effective marketing avenue for generating e-commerce sales, which accounted for more than 7% of the total customers acquired, right behind organic search traffic at 16%.
Now as we know that email marketing is potent, let me tell you how you can leverage this marketing avenue to maximize profits from your e-commerce site.
1. Start off by building your email list
Before you can put any email marketing strategy into action you need people on your list.
If your site already has some buyers, send them a quick email asking them to join your list. Most probably they will happily oblige.
But if your site is brand new, you can employ these below techniques to build the list.
1.1. A pop-up discount coupon
You can create and display a discount coupon that pops up when a visitor lands on your site, similar to this one used by GlassesUSA.com.
You can choose to be less pushy by not asking the email address right off the bat to a first-time visitor on a discount pop-up. This pop-up that I found at Build.com is a great example of that.
People love discounts and will be more than eager to grab the coupon anyway by purchasing from your site – generating sales and grabbing email addresses in the process.
This way you can be less aggressive, but increase leads and revenue at the same time, a proven method advocated by most e-commerce marketing experts.
Tools to create Pop-ups
Here are some of the popular tools that you can utilize to create discount pop-ups!
This is by far one of the best Pop-up creators that you can use for your e-commerce site. It comes as a WordPress plugin as well as a standalone version that can be integrated into any website. It offers a wide range of pre-built pop-up templates that you can use or build the pop-ups of your choice from the scratch with the design and behavior of your choice.
WisePops is yet another easy-to-use tool to build and deploy your discount pop-ups on your e-store. This tool can be easily integrated with several popular web-hosting platforms like WordPress, Drupal and more. This tool enables you to personalize pop-ups depending on the device, source, browser, and source of your visitors
1.2. Use content as ‘lead magnets’
Another smart and cost-effective way to get people on your list is by giving away free content.
For instance, if you run an e-commerce website that sells DIY tools, you can create a ‘How to’ guide on fixing a nagging plumbing or electrical issue as a giveaway. Or if you run a blog you can compile some of your best older posts into a small e-book and give it away as a gift to your email subscribers.
To collect emails, display an opt-in box on the sidebar of the site (usually works better for regular blogs or sites) or as a pop-up (highly recommended for e-stores) that tells your visitors to collect the freebie by signing up to your list.
Here’s an example of an incentivized pop-up opt-in form that offers a 10% discount on the first purchase after signing up!
You need not always offer a gift to get people onboard your email list provided you word them well and be polite, like this one at Corcovado.co.nz!
How to integrate a pop-up email opt-in to your e-commerce store?
Be it e-commerce or regular blog, I would highly recommend OptinMonster if you are serious about email list building on your site. With more than 300k websites using their opt-ins, OptinMonster works on almost all website and e-commerce platforms.
You can also use traditional email marketing platforms like Aweber, GetResponse, InfuisionSoft, MailChimp and the like to integrate decent-looking opt-in forms on your site.
1.3. Run a contest
Running contests is another intuitive way to build your list quickly. Although this is an efficient method to accumulate emails in a short time, you may end up collecting irrelevant email ids of customers that won’t convert into sales!
Although this method may not work for all e-commerce businesses, there’s no harm in testing out this method to grow your subscribers.
Take a look at this tempting contest idea from Whole Life (a pet products company) that offers their subscribers a chance to win a year’s worth of dog-food by signing up to their sweepstakes.( Every popular email marketing platform will allow you to create such contest forms).
1.4. Run ads
Ads can be used in two different ways.
It can be used to promote an offer (or lead magnet) that ultimately gets people to sign up to your list or it can be harnessed to sell a product, which generates both sales and leads at the same time.
The first option is generally used when you want to sell a high-valued product. Customers of such products usually need to be warmed up before being asked to hit the purchase button. Selling expensive items are much easier if you can first get prospective buyers on board your list and build trust and rapport with them by sending them promotional emails at certain intervals.
Two of the best platforms to run email list building ads are Facebook and Google Adwords. Both are paid platforms though.
If you want a free option, you can request your e-commerce buddies to promote your email list in their email marketing campaigns. They will most probably oblige if you maintain a good rapport with them.
Another powerful way to promote your email list is by running ads on a high-traffic blog in your niche. If you have friends running high-traffic blogs in your niche, they may even allow you to run ads on their blogs for free or at a nominal charge.
Now back to the paid options.
With over 2 billion active Facebook users as of June 2017, this is a serious platform to promote your e-commerce business.
Here’s a fantastic example of Facebook ad by Arizona Real Estate Company,
Google Adwords is another tried-and-tested platform that needs no introduction. In case you are unaware what a Google Adwords ad looks like, here are a few examples to get yourself acquainted.
To build your email list using Adwords ad platform, run ads (like the ones you see above) on Adwords platform to drive the traffic to your email opt-in page where your visitors will hopefully subscribe to your list. Incentivize the opt-in page (offer a giveaway or gift) to make the list-building process more effective and enticing to the visitors.
With these essential list building techniques under your belt, let’s now move on to some solid strategies to help increase your e-commerce conversions with email marketing!
2. Personalize emails sans recipient’s name
Gone are the days when personalization of emails only meant automatically inserting the name of a subscriber at the beginning of a promotional email.
Email personalization has evolved big time. Effective email personalization is much more than throwing in Dear [insert First Name] at the beginning of emails and expecting those email to build a long-lasting relationship with your customer.
A study at the Temple University Fox School of Business reveals that this mindless approach has not only proved ineffective but it can even drive your customers away let alone enticing them to your e-store.
To get an idea, take a look at these following examples,
Here’s the thing. Wouldn’t it tends to come across as dodgy if someone fake’s similarity even without knowing you? The same is true with email marketing as well. Especially in this age of identity thefts and phishing more and more customers have become wary of receiving personalized emails addressing them by their names.
Instead, create emails that recognize a customer’s past purchase history and demographics.
The above study also reveals that 98 percent of the customers responded positively with this personalization strategy.
So in a nutshell, email personalization strategy must be all about acknowledging your customer’s personality and catering to their needs and not just greeting them superficially by their names.
3. Offer Incentives for Product Reviews
Numerous case studies have underscored the fact that product reviews drastically improve e-commerce conversions!
For instance, Argos, a subsidiary of UK’s Sainsbury’s witnessed a 10% increase in the conversion rates on reviewed products after running an email review promotion campaign that invited reviews on 90,000 of their products.
Similarly, UK-based Figleaves reports that their reviewed products converted 12.5% more than their non-reviewed ones. Most importantly, the conversion rate of their products with more than 20 reviews soared to a whopping 83.9%!
Getting reviews on products can be harder than you actually think. But with the right approach, it’s achievable.
Incentivize your reviews. Yes, the best way to get your customers to leave product reviews is by offering them an incentive through an email.
Bayer offers a discount coupon to solicit product review from their customers in this email, take a look,
4. The Length of Email Subject-line Matters!
Alchemy Worx analyzed more than 600 subject lines from 200 million messages and found that subject lines with less than 60 characters increased the open rates and longer subject lines increased CTR (Click-Through-Rate) and CTOR (Click-To-Open-Rate). The study also identified a ‘dead zone’ of subject line length, may be greater than 60 and lesser than 70 characters, which had no effect on the open rates, CTR and CTOR.
Pinpointe.com also came up with similar findings from their case study that analyzed click and open rates on emails with varying lengths of subject lines.
Interestingly, one of the stats from this email stat compilation at salesforce.com points out that emails with subject line length below 10 characters saw an open rate of 58%. Super-short subject lines quickly became the hottest trend after Obama’s fundraising email with the subject line ‘Hey’ raked in millions of dollars during his last presidential campaign!
So essentially, if you want more click-through and click-to-open rates keep it long and create shorter subject lines for the best open rate.
But now you can pretty much take the guesswork out of the way and test whether your subject line is good to go or not thanks to these FREE subject line testing tools,
Tools to test subject lines
SubjectLine (Touts to be the #1 FREE subject line checker)
I took this tool on a test drive and tested out a subject line.
Here’s what you need to do to use this tool.
Enter your subject line (I keyed in a random subject line “Collect the free gift”) and click “Evaluate”
The tool then evaluates your subject line and comes up with a score between 1 and 100. My subject line scored 86 out of 100! Not bad!
Note: SubjectLine tool only allows one free evaluation, after that, you must sign up (which is also free), but you can only use a private domain email id to sign up, which means Gmail and Yahoo ids and other public domain ids won’t work.
But worry not! There are many other free tools that serve the same task. Here are a few more that you can try out.
- Headline Analyzer
- The Hemingway App
- Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer
- Email Subject Line Keyword Checker
- Subject Line Researcher
- Subject Line Gold by Touchstone
- Subject Lines That Work
Here’s a neat subject line analysis report by Adestra that will come in handy while creating a high-converting subject line for your email marketing campaign.
Just as it is vital to know the right words to use in your email subject line, it is also crucial to have a fair idea about what terms NOT to use in your email marketing campaign that can trigger the spam filter.
Here’s good resource that you can bookmark that has a compilation of the words that you need to avoid in an email subject line.
5. A/B test your emails to optimize results
This is highly relevant to the previous point.
A/B testing is nothing but creating different variations (subject line or body content or both) of the same email and sending it out to your subscribers and then analyzing which version brought in the highest conversion rate and engagement.
Every good email marketing service provider offers this feature. And here’s a pictorial representation of how a typical A/B testing mechanism works in most email marketing platforms.
Most email marketing applications also provide you with useful analytics data that helps you to analyze the results of your A/B test. Here’s one from GetResponse.
Obama campaign’s ‘Hey’ email is again the best example for A/B testing as well. During the campaign, his fund-raising team sent out several versions of the same email, but the ‘Hey’ email was the one that ‘clicked’ and brought in the maximum funds.
But while running an A/B test, you must only test out one of the variables in one campaign, say the subject line, from field, content or delivery time. This will offer valuable insights on those parameters that you can improve upon in the future.
The items that are most relevant for A/B testing from an e-commerce business perspective are testing out various different up-selling and cross-selling techniques in your transactional emails (that contains the receipt after a successful purchase) or experimenting with different newsletter campaigns during a holiday season.
6. Timing is the key
Of course, the best time to shoot out your promotional emails will vary by industry but Experian’s 2012 quarterly benchmark study reveals some vital facts about timing that are common across industries and brands.
These points are worth noting,
- The study found that emails sent out during the weekend (Saturdays and Sundays) received the highest open rates, unique click-through percentage, and the highest transaction and revenue per email rates.
- As for weekdays, the emails sent during Mondays generated the maximum revenue per email and Fridays saw an upsurge in open rates.
- The study also points out that the emails dispatched between 8 pm and 11:59 pm and 12:00 AM to 4 AM got the best response in all aspects.
But to figure out the most productive days and time-blocks suiting your brand and industry you need to test it out, which again takes us back to the good old A/B testing strategy.
7. Increase Conversion Rate with Abandoned-Cart Emails
There is serious revenue to be made (or recovered) with abandoned-cart emails – that would have otherwise been lost!
Abandoned-cart emails are sent to those e-commerce site customers who have added products to their shopping cart but not purchased it.
Many e-commerce companies have seen a dramatic increase in their bottom line by leveraging abandoned-cart email campaigns.
Bigcommerce.com was able to recover 15% of their abandoned sales revenue through this email marketing strategy. Using this strategy, the company was able to grow their profits by 50% at a certain point by salvaging sales revenue amounting to thousands of dollars.
Similarly, Enjuku racing, a Florida-based e-commerce site selling automobile parts was able to recover sales revenue to the tune of $425,000 using this email marketing approach.
The process of sending cart-abandonment email can be fully automated using good automation software. Such software can detect if a customer has left the site without completing the purchase and sends an email reminding the same. However, sending an abandoned-cart email is only possible if you are able to collect the email address of the customers before they leave.
Here’s a good example of a cart-abandonment email from Talking Shop,
Apart from recovering lost sales and increasing your revenue, abandoned cart emails also help you fix a bug on your site. Provide a support email or phone for the customer to get in touch and inform you what went wrong. This will help you uncover the glitch, fix it and make the whole browsing experience and checkout process on your site enjoyable and seamless.
Let me conclude
Hopefully, now you have a fair idea about how to create an email list and the strategies that you can employ to get your email marketing going.
But I must admit that this post only covers a subset of the ocean of email marketing knowledge on tap on various sources. Email marketing is vast and ever-evolving. So be always on the toes and feed yourself with new ideas to better this skill. Look out for more tips to streamline your email marketing campaigns and make the most out of this powerful online marketing strategy.
However, all the strategies discussed in this post are tried-and-tested and have helped numerous e-commerce businesses to increase conversions and bring about a dramatic impact on their bottom line. Hence, you need not reinvent the wheel. All you need to do is apply these strategies for your own email marketing campaigns and watch how they work.
If you have been using email marketing for while, please let us know which strategies have you used and what worked well for your brand and industry. Drop us a comment. We are eager to hear!