Anyone who has run a successful eCommerce site knows that an email list is one of your most valuable marketing assets. Your list represents a direct line to high-value prospects who have given you permission to market to them via their inbox, allowing you to generate immediate sales with a new promotion.
In this article, I’ll cover the ways we manage email marketing at our e-commerce business as well as offer some tips on how to grow and increase the effectiveness of your list so that you can learn how to use email marketing to increase eCommerce sales.
Types of Lists
Public newsletter list
This is our main newsletter list that includes all people who have opted in to receive our emails – both people who have already purchased our products, and those who have not yet made a purchase but have signed up to be advised of offers and discounts through the site.
Depending on the type of communication, we might further segment this list. Using ConvertKit, our newsletter management provider, we can apply segmenting criteria on a case-by-case basis. I’ll get into this further when I discuss the types of different emails we send below
Retailer newsletter list
We also maintain an entirely different list for the retail store owners that purchase our products in bulk at wholesale prices. We send a monthly update to our retailers outlining new product information, special offers, awards, and press coverage we’ve received as well as trade show attendance.
Every retailer email broadcast also includes a link to our wholesale site and links to assets like photography and videos that they can use to promote our e-commerce business brand. Sending retailers consistent updates has made a huge difference in them feeling a connection to the band and keeping us top of mind for further future purchases
Types of Emails
The Automation Sequence
An Automation sequence is a specific series of emails that are sent on an individual basis when triggered by a specific user action. The beauty of an automation sequence is that once you set it up, it runs by itself while delivering substantial value to your business. Research shows that subscribers are much more engaged and receptive to emails when they first join a list, so sending out an initial sequence of 3-5 email is a great opportunity to deepen affinity for your brand.
We have four distinct email automation sequences that are triggered 1) when someone initially joins our email list 2) when someone abandons a cart after entering their contact information 3) when someone purchases a product from our linen bag line, 4) when someone purchases a diaper bag product.
We distinguish between our lifestyle/lunch bags and our diaper bags since they tend to appeal to slightly different audiences. As you become more sophisticated with your automation sequences you can even build sequences catering to each individual product in your catalog. User guides, feedback requests, and social media references make great subjects for automated follow-up sequences.
For an example of a specific sequence we’ve used see
The Broadcast Email
A broadcast email is a one-time communication that is typically sent to your entire list. Every broadcast email you send should deliver some sort of value to your prospect and should be actionable. In other words, there is a specific action or outcome that the email is designed to trigger. Typically this is the sale of a product or increasing a recipient’s intent to purchase but getting them to view a product, which you can then retarget.
In my experience, the best reason to send a broadcast email is to announce either a new product offering or a discount offer on an existing product. Today’s consumer is overwhelmed with choice and very transactional, so generally, people are best motivated by a sale or offer.
The Content Update
Many savvy brands now position themselves as a subject matter expert by publishing frequent content around a specific topic that is relevant to your audience (For instance, a cosmetics line creating how-to makeup videos) This can be a very effective way to maintain engagement with your audience – but it is difficult to do well.
Content update emails should be used as part of a larger content strategy that includes your social media channels and your website. These emails can be sent at a set frequency, such as once a month, and are typically not intended to promote specific products. They are more about deepening your relationship with your audience with value-added content that shows you are aligned with their values and needs.
We do send blog updates to our email list but we also offer an easy way for people to unsubscribe from blog updates but still receive sale offers and product updates. In general, the engagement and open rates for Content update emails that we send are much lower than product or price offers.
One of the easiest ways to increase your email newsletter engagement is the resend. People today receive a lot of promotional emails, so don’t take it personally if your latest product release doesn’t rank high on their list of priorities. Typically if they don’t open your email upon initial view they’ll just forget about it, since it does not require an action or response.
I feel it is perfectly justifiable to resend an email the day after its initial broadcast to anyone who did not open it the first time around.
Mailchimp makes it very easy to create a custom segment of people who did not open your last broadcast so that you can ensure you are not pestering those who have already engaged with your email. While the open rate for a resend is typically lower than the original, it is all net new viewers and can increase overall open rates by 20-30%.
Subject line testing
If you have a decent size list – I’d say anything over 5000 subscribers I would say – it behooves you to ensure that your subject line is optimized for maximum open rates.
This can be easily done by taking a few hundred of your list and sending them one subject line, then taking a group of 300 others and sending them a different subject line. Once you determine which gets the best open rates, send it to the remaining people on your list
Growing your list
The Pop-up Opt-in
Many people find pop-ups annoying. So Why do you still see them everywhere, particularly on eCommerce sites? Because they work.
The standard opt-in offer is a percentage discount off a purchase in exchange for your email address. We have used his approach, but I find it is losing its effectiveness as it becomes more commonplace.
Website visitors who may be checking out your brand out for the first time and are not yet committed to making a purchase are not likely to be persuaded by a 10% off offer.
An offer that we’ve found to be much more effective is what I call the “win all this” offer, whereby a visitor is offered the chance to win a sizeable prize package of your products by submitting their email address. This is much more likely to capture the attention of a first-time visitor and generates an opt-in rate many times better than the percentage discount.
And to make this offer even more effective, we use something called exit intent technology to trigger our pop-up. Using a service like Opt-in monster, a pop-up will be triggered when a user’s mouse moves to the top left area of the screen – the action people typically take when they are about to hit the back button or enter A new URL.
Another effective way to grow your email list is to run promotions in partnership with other brands. Essentially you’re offering to share your audience with them and their audience with you. Again, this typically revolves around a giveaway whereby people can win a basket of products from all sponsoring brands. You each promote the contest to your existing audience
You can use a widget like www.gleam.io to quickly set up a contest entry widget that can be shared amongst the participating brands. You can then easily import entries into your email management system at the end of the contest.
The downside of this approach is that you may end up with many emails from people who are not familiar with your brand and will boost unsubscribe rates with your first outreach. But even though attrition rates are higher, there’s typically a significant segment that will stay with your list giving you a quick and easy boost.
We’ve run successful contests with partners that have generated several thousand new email addresses in a week.
I’ve covered how to use email marketing to increase e-commerce sales based on our experience in our e-commerce business. Have any questions or additional tips on things you’ve seen work for you? Leave a comment below!