We’ve all received those completely pointless, repetitive and uninspiring emails from e-commerce companies, insurance firms, banks, telephone companies, the works. Nine times out of ten, we don’t even bother opening any of them. In my case, most just get marked as spam without another glance. I suspect I’m not the only one.
And yet, we keep hearing these compelling statistics about email marketing. About how it’s the best converting tool in a marketer’s toolkit. About how it’s the most powerful tool to build relationships over the long term. About how it beats social media hollow in terms of ROI dollar to dollar.
So what is stopping your online store from being one of these email marketing converts? Here’s a sampling of e-commerce businesses that are proving the naysayers wrong with the creativity of their email marketing. Let’s take a look.
1. Welcome with Open Arms
Who doesn’t like to feel a little welcome the first time they transact with a new business? A welcome mail is such a simple and effective tactic to build that first connection with your user that it amazes me how few brands invest their time into setting these up.
All you need to do is set up an automated email that gives a shout out to a new user welcoming them into your fold. It helps if the welcome mail can offer the user key details about their account with you or offers tips and tricks on how to benefit from using your product.
The email above from SlideShare is a great example of how welcome emails should be done. It’s personalized (makes the user feel special already), it tells the user about how she can use SlideShare and finally it reinforces a sense of being part of a larger community. Nicely done.
2. Cross-Sell and Upsell Emails
So you’ve made your first sale. Good for you!
Now, why not go back to the same user who has clearly shown their affinity towards you once and get them to buy again? Seems like a logical thing to do. And yet…
Instead of sending your new customers the same old standard newsletter that every single one of your 500 or 5,000 or 50,000 users get; send them something that actually speaks to them. Send them handpicked products that directly complement their original purchase. A shoe maintenance kit for someone who bought shoes, a cellphone case to someone who just bought a cellphone, you get the idea.
Alternately, you can interest a new user in an upgrade to their original purchase by throwing in a superb unbeatable deal. Two things to keep in mind here. One, make sure your upsell doesn’t happen minutes after the original sale. Two, the offer that you make must necessarily be an exclusive one that they would never be able to get otherwise.
3. Request User Reviews
One of the key factors that help in making an e-commerce sale is the number and quality of customer reviews for the products that you sell. User reviews are trusted way more than all your marketing jargon combined and are a must have for any site that’s serious about selling.
Set up automated emails requesting users for reviews to be sent out to within a week of the user receiving your product in the mail. The review request mail should have a direct click through link inside the email that leads the user to the reviews page. Even better, if you can allow users to write a review within your email itself and post it online directly; a la Amazon. Whatever method you choose, just remember to make the process of leaving behind a review a complete no-brainer. The easier the process, the more reviews you’ll gather.
4. Abandoned Cart Email
Nearly 68% of all shopping carts are abandoned by online shoppers every single day. That’s trillions of dollars in potential sales, LOST FOREVER.
Break out of this cycle of attracting users to your site and then losing them to competition, by setting up your own abandoned cart rehab program.
The idea is to send users a reminder of what they left behind ‘unshopped’ in their carts with a timely reminder email like the one from ModCloth below. What I especially like about this one is the fact that they included the actual item from the shopping cart in their email. This prods the user into action by tempting them with an item they liked anyway. The copy in the email also makes sure that the user feels a sense of urgency without feeling pressured into making a purchase.
An abandoned cart recovery email program typically needs at least two rounds of emails to be really effective. The first email like the one above reminds the user about what they left behind in your shopping cart. The follow up email – sent typically a couple of days after the first one – should offer the user an incentive to complete the purchase.
These emails cost next to nothing and help you target a staggering 70% of the people who landed on your site, tried to make a purchase by changed their minds for some reason. Go get ‘em tiger!
5. Reminder Email
You’ll think I’m being repetitive here, but hear (read?) me out. By reminder mails, I’m referring to those thoughtful little emails that remind you about such silly things as an upcoming payment, a subscription renewal date, a meeting or appointment that you set up and so on. Google Inbox, anyone?
Reminder emails pre-empt the user from straying away from your brand by renewing their subscriptions on time or by ensuring they engage with your brand as planned (see the KISSMetrics example above). So they prevent churn and increase engagement, what’s not to love about them?
6. Emails for ‘Seriously’ Special Occasions
We’ve all received emails from random businesses that have our date of birth wishing us a ‘Happy Birthday’ or getting Christmas greetings from more people than your inbox can handle. What happens to most of them? You’re right, straight to the trashcan they go.
For a change, stop being such a cliche and send out emails for occasions when you have no competition, occasions where your email stands out. Send an email for your customer’s first anniversary with your brand. That’s got to be pretty unique, right? Send out an email for World Environment Day. Or International Women’s Day. Or whatever else relates to both your brand and your customer. A quirky image that really grabs the eyeballs is a good investment in your ‘special occasion’ emails.
And don’t worry, those pictures don’t always have to cost a fortune. A copyright-free resource like IM Free offers businesses thousands of professional images that you can modify and re-use under an open Creative Commons license.
The idea is connect with the user on special occasions – occasions when they least expect it, occasions that help your brand stand out.
And if you DO have to go down that cheesy route of birthday emails, make sure that your email gives your customer something truly special like Payless does in their email above; not just a measly ‘Happy Birthday’!
7. Note from the CEO
This is SUCH low hanging fruit, that it’s truly amazing why more companies don’t use it. A note from the CEO or Chairman of a company – any company – to an individual customer tells him that he’s important. It tells him that the company knows about him personally and takes an interest in him on a one on one basis. It’s not surprising then, that emails with subject lines like ‘Note from our CEO’ get far better open rates than business as usual emails.
BestBuy sends a note from their CEO Hubert Joly as a means of reaching out to a lapsed customer. The email takes on the role of a personal letter trying to convince the user to buy from BestBuy once again. A signature and a headshot along with a personalized salutation at the beginning of the email complete the effect.
Remember, this is a one-off tool that you can use for high impact activities. Sending out a letter from the CEO every week dilutes the weight of the email and makes it just another email that heads straight to trash.
8. Ask for Referrals
The list of companies that have grown from zero to millions of subscribers on the back of a strong referral program is legendary. Research has shown over and over again that recommendations from family and friends is the strongest influencer in making a purchase for the largest majority of customers. A referral program taps into two things to get a new customer.
- The greed of the referrer for the goodies offered as a referral reward AND
- The trust that the referred customer has in the recommendation of his friends and family
A recent example of a referral program that was a runaway success is DropBox. Visakan Veeraswamy describes the meteoric rise of DropBox through its referral program alone. The company grew from 100,000 users to 4 million users in little over a year. The smart thing about DropBox’s referral strategy was the incentive it chose to give out for every referral. Customers who brought in a friend into the DropBox fold were rewarded with more storage space, thus increasing their current usage of the service automatically.
In the referral email above, Harry’s doesn’t just offer the user a one-time referral reward. They create a timeline for the referrer showing them the incremental gains to be had each time they keep referring more and more customers to their site. What a great way to turn an existing customer into an affiliate marketer on the sly!
9. Get a Quick Sales Boost
OK, so let’s admit it. Some days are so bad, all you need to see is that cash register go ring-a-ding-a-ding to put a smile on your face. Nothing beats an email with a generous coupon for instant gratification of the e-commerce kind.
While you may send out special offers and deals every now and then with your regular newsletters to your subscribers, you can opt for an email only coupon that beats any other offer out there hollow. The idea is to generate revenue and generate it FAST.
Take a look at the Old Navy email above. While they do talk about their regular deals and offers, the crux of this email is clear. There is a ‘one day only’ offer that is the spotlight of this email with a discount so deep, it’s irresistible. This discount combined with the limited time period of the offer make this email a winner in terms of instant sales.
E-commerce marketers like you and me need not spend thousands of dollars every month on platforms whose returns are nebulous at best, like social media. In the process, we often tend to miss out on the low hanging fruit like email marketing. Make 2015 the year of zero missed opportunities. Make it the year of smart email marketing!