18 top tips for successful email marketing

 

email marketing

Email is arguably one of the most useful tools in a small business’ marketing toolbox. It is incredibly flexible, cost-effective and offers an impressive ROI. Indeed most small businesses wouldn’t be without it.

A rosy future for email…

“9 out of 10 clients perceive email marketing as a channel of ‘importance’ or ‘great strategic importance’ for achieving business goals” DMA National Client Survey 2015

  • Email has an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent
  • 92% of online adults use email, with 61% using it every day.
  • 76% of marketers are seeing active growth in their number of email subscribers
  • The average order value of an email is at least three times higher than that of social media
  • A message is 5x more likely to be seen in email than via Facebook

Email’s future continues to look rosy as newer technologies such as marketing automation offer even more options and email systems become better and better at identifying and getting rid of spam.

With this in mind, we’ve created a checklist of what we think are the key tips for ensuring your ecommerce business is making the most out of its email communications. So, in no particular order, here is our list of what to do and what not to do as far as your email marketing is concerned.

18 top tips for great email marketing

  1. Focus on content: The quality of your content is key to whether your emails succeed or fail. There is no point sending out emails where the content has no value to the recipient. Focus on sending out information that is relevant, entertaining or useful to your target audience – otherwise your emails we’ll remain unopened or go straight to the trash bin.
  2. Create killer subject lines: You may have painstakingly created an email that is packed full of valuable content for your audience, but if you don’t spend a bit of time crafting your subject line your email may not even get opened. Try to keep your subject line short and to the point and make sure it reflects the actual content of the email. Here are a couple of  helpful articles on how to create successful subject lines: 10 Simple Tips for Writing Killer Email Subject Lines and Best Email Subject Lines.
  3. Mix up your communications: Do not bombard customers and potential customers with just sales messages. You need to mix up the type of content you are sending. Of course, sales emails are essential but they be the only emails you send. Make sure you are also dispatching other useful content for example; newsletters, links to blog posts, helpful tips, relevant account information and so on. It’s all about having a good balance.
  4. Don’t use ALL CAPS.Using all capital letters in emails, particularly the subject headers can look a bit ‘spammy’. More importantly, they may get picked up by your customers’ email system’s spam filters and end up straight in Junk Mail.
  5. Make your email easy to read. Format your emails so they look visually appealing. Recipients don’t want to (and probably won’t) plough through reams of unbroken text. Use short paras, bullet points, images and sub headers  to break up the text. Not only will it look better,  it will also enable people to skim over your email and still understand what it is all about. Include a text only version too as you don’t want to exclude people who can’t open HTML templates.
  6. Personalise your email. Personalise your email when you can. This goes back to building a great permission-based database. Include first name and last name fields in your data capture forms. Research shows that emails that are personalised can lift open rates by  26%, click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by as much as 10%.
  7. Proof your content: Always give your emails a thorough proofread before hitting send. Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, missing information etc. can make you look unprofessional and could reflect poorly on your brand.
  8. Always have a clear call to action. With most of your small business email marketing you are likely to want the recipient to perform a specific action such as purchasing a product, leaving a review, registering for an event, signing up to a competition and so on. Whatever it is that you want, ensure your call to action is highly visible and leaves your audience in no doubt about what it is you are asking them to do.
  9. Test before hitting send. Once you’ve hit send there is no going back. Always send yourself a test email before you dispatch it to your whole small business marketing database. Check its format is multi-device friendly – you want people to be able to read it equally well on a mobile as on a desk top. Make sure all the links are working properly and give it a final once over in case you missed any spelling mistakes at the proofreading stage.
  10. Include an easily visible unsubscribe button. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe to your email communications. Not only are you required to do this, it is a great way to ensure you are keeping your email contact data clean and up-to-date. There is no point in sending out marketing communications to people who have no interest in your product – it serves no purpose and you will only annoy them.
  11. Grow your permission-based list. Focus on building a great permission-based email contact list. Email marketing databases can decay by as much as 23% a year so it is important that you look at ways to data capture new email address to enable your list to continue to grow.
  12. Consider email automation. Automated emails, particularly those that are triggered after a specific action, can have a great impact on your email marketing. In fact, research shows that transactional emails can have up to 8x more opens and clicks than other types of email, and can generate over 6x more revenue. Again there are plenty of excellent email marketing automation systems available offering this kind of email technology.
  13. Images help engagement. Using interesting and relevant images in your emails are a great way to capture attention and increase engagement. Most humans are, by nature, visual learners so by including images you can really lift response. Of course there are caveats – here is a helpful article on how to ensure you use images correctly within emails: Email Images: How and when to use them.
  14. Brand your email. Email is a great opportunity to strengthen your brand and grow your visibility. Include your logo in all of your email communications.
  15. Familiarise yourself with email rules and regulations. You don’t want to fall foul of the law, so familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation and best practice  guidance for you country. In the UK check out Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and the Data Protection Act.
  16. Target your emails: Rather than sending out blanket communications to everyone on your database, try to target your emails to different segments of your audience. The more information you can gather about your customers, the better you will be able to do this. The more targeted you are the higher the likelihood of boosting your response rate and decreasing your unsubscribes.
  17. Test, measure, tweak. The great thing about email is that it offers you the ability to test, measure and tweak your emails quickly and easily to ensure you are getting the best response rates. There are plenty of excellent email service providers that offer free services to start-ups and small business. For example MailChimp offers a free service for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.
  18. Don’t forget your landing pages. You may have just dispatched a top-notch email, full of interesting and inspiring content, however if you call to action buttons don’t take your recipient to an equally well thought out landing page, then your efforts will be wasted.

Of course, email marketing is a huge area and there a plenty more do’s and don’ts you will want to consider. But hopefully the above list gives you a helpful checklist to get you emailing with confidence.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of email marketing, so please do leave a comment. 

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Abandoned cart emails. Helpful tips for start-ups and small business ecommerce

shopping cart abandonment emails

If you are selling online, chances are a constant bugbear will be the number of customers abandoning their items before completing the checkout process. If you are just starting out and panicking at so many people leaving your website with unpurchased items in their baskets, don’t despair you’re not alone.  Shopping cart abandonment is an ongoing issue for even the biggest of players.

Indeed according to research, the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate stands at around 68.63%.  It’s inevitable that some customers will sail away and will never complete that particular purchase no matter what you do. However some customers can be enticed back to complete the sale.  One of the most effective ways of doing that is through abandoned cart / dropped basket emails.

What are abandoned cart emails?

In a nutshell an abandoned cart email is usually triggered emails that get sent out when a customer leaves a website having added stuff to their shopping basket but not having completed the checkout process. Its purpose is to remind people of what they have left in their basket and encourages them to go back and complete the purchase. Below is a recent example of one I received from Amazon:

Amazon abandoned shopping cart email

Why do people abandon their baskets mid-purchase

There are a myriad of reasons that customers abandon their shopping carts halfway through the checkout process. ClickZ identifies the following as the top six reasons:

  1. Unexpected shipping and delivery costs
  2. Had to create an account to complete a purchase
  3. Just conducting research
  4. Payment security concerns
  5. Confusing checkout
  6. Couldn’t find the discount / coupon code

Some of these will be within your control. For example if you have a long, convoluted checkout process then you can take steps to fix it. Other reasons are going to be completely out of you control such as a customer’s telephone rang mid-purchase and they simply forgot to go back and complete the process.

A positive aspect to all this is that 75% of all visitors who abandon their cart do actually intend to buy. This is where shopping cart abandonment emails come in to play.

Tips for creating successful dropped basket emails

Implementing shopping abandonment emails can be great way to pull back some sales you may have thought were lost. Outlined below are some inspiring statistics for cart abandonment emails from an Econsultancy article.

  • 11.6% (over a tenth) of shopping basket abandonment emails are clicked.
  • 29.9% of shopping abandonment email clicks lead to a purchase back on website
  • 44.1% of all shopping cart abandonment emails are opened.
  • The average order value of purchases from shopping cart abandonment emails is 14.2% higher than average purchases.
  • Every single dropped basket email sent delivers over $8 in revenue.

The trick is to make them as successful as possible. So we’ve outlined some helpful tips on how to create winning shopping cart abandonment emails for your business.

Timing

Probably the most important element to getting an uplift in conversions is the timing of your email – wait too long before sending a reminder and your customer may well have gone elsewhere. The consensus seems to be that the initial abandonment email should be sent within the first hour of a customer abandoning their basket. In an ideal scenario you would be aiming to catch a potential customer before they leave their device and forget all about their half-finished purchase.

Here is a sample one from Boden that I received within 20 mins from abandoning my basket:

Boden abandoned cart email

Create a schedule of abandoned cart emails

To get the most conversions, consider sending out more than one reminder. It’s great to try to grab them as soon as possible, but also implement further follow-up emails. According to HubSpot:

  • 95% of people who purchased after abandoning a cart took up-to two weeks to complete their purchase. 

Create a sequence of timely reminders to try to catch those who take longer to make a purchase or who need a little more encouragement.

Strong subject header

In any email the subject  header is important. To even get opened it needs to stand out from all the other emails in the inbox. Do make it clear in the subject header that your email is reminding them that they have left something in their shopping cart.

There are lots of different approaches from creating a sense of urgency or excitement, to reminding customers about the product they left or even using humour. Just find the right approach for your audience. For example:

Product: Amazon takes a no-nonsense approach and just lists the product left behind:

“Zap Arsenal Red Crest Fleece Blanket”

Abandoned cart: White stuff is straight to the point:

“Don’t forget to complete your order”

Humour: Boden’s is slightly more cheeky

“You left something… but where? Oh look…”

Think about your copy

As well as pointing out to your customer what exactly it is that they’ve left in their cart, also use your copy to try to remind customers about why they chose to put the product in their basket in the first place.

John Lewis includes a clear link back to the product details so the customer can easily remind themselves of the product benefits.

Email copy

Use your copy to create a sense of urgency and possible loss.  For example the product is selling fast and you may not be able to guarantee how long the product in will remain in stock. Try and convey to the customer what they may risk missing out on if they don’t act soon.

Use images

If you can, include a visual of the product your customer has left in their basket. It tells people in an instant exactly what it is you’re emailing them a reminder about and can help reinforce the reasons they chose the product or service in the first place .

Here is an example of a Boden dropped basket email with a strong visual of the product in question.

Include an image in shopping cart abandonment email

Clear call to action

Always include a very clear call to action that takes the customer back to their basket so they can easily complete their purchase. Don’t tuck it away in the corner of youR email but display it prominently so the customer won’t miss it. Also make it very clear to the customer what it is you are asking them to do.

In the White Stuff email below, they have put two clear call to action buttons on the email, with a very straightforward call to action: Complete Order.

strong call to action

Abandoned cart emails can be a great way to pick up those customers who, for whatever reason, have left the checkout mid purchase. A well-considered dropped basket series may help turn around a sale that could potentially have been lost for ever!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on shopping cart abandonment emails so please do leave a comment. 

9 ways small online businesses can generate website traffic without breaking the bank

 

Drive traffic to your website

We all know how tough it can be launching a small business online. More often than not we are constrained by a tight budget and lack of resources. Driving traffic to your website is essential in order to attract potential customers.

In this post we take a look at how to get visitors to your website when faced with a limited budget and when the only marketing resource is yourself.

9 straightforward and cost-effective ways to drive traffic to your website

We’ve outlined nine key actions to help you generate more traffic to your online business and grow your potential customer base. It will mean time and effort on your part but all the actions are straightforward to implement, will help in the long-term success of your business and won’t break the bank.

1. Content

We’ll kick off with content. Content is the linchpin to everything that you do and if you only take one thing away from this post then it should be the importance and value of having high quality content on your website. Your content should be;

Relevant: Your content should reflect the needs and interests of your audience.

Engaging: Does it read well? Is it interesting? Will it catch your reader’s eye with an easy to follow layout, supported by interesting images (try Pixabay for sourcing great images that are free for you to use).

Shareable: Your content should inspire people to share it with others. 94% of people who share posts do so because they think it might be helpful to others.  

Try enhancing the content of your site with visual content. Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. Think about implementing:

  • Images and photos to support text
  • Videos
  • Infographics

2. Blogging

Following on from content, blogging is one of the best ways to ensure your website is being regularly updated with fresh, relevant content. This is key to driving traffic to your website. Every time you publish a post it provides additional opportunities for your business to appear in search engines results pages. As nicely put by Hubspot – “The only thing blogging costs you: your time.”

 

blogging

Blogging also has the added advantage of offering long-term benefits. Each post you publish will  continue to pull in traffic for months to come. Indeed, Hubspot notes that 70% of the traffic it receives each month to its blog comes from posts that weren’t published in the current month.

3. Referrals

The great thing about referral marketing for small businesses is it inexpensive  and effective. Essentially you are getting current customers to help drive traffic to your business by using word of mouth to promote your products and services to friends and acquaintances.

The key things when it comes to successful referrals is:

  1. Ask your customers. Interestingly, the majority of customers who have had a positive customer experience would be happy to refer a friend and yet only a small proportion do. So you need to actively encourage your customers to recommend your business to friends and family.
  2. Make it easy. You don’t want make your customer jump through hoops to make a referral, so make it as straightforward as possible for customers to refer a friends. Try introducing a refer a friend scheme that incentivises both the customer that provides the referral and the friend they refer.

4. Search Engine optimisation

44% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine. 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) essentially involves making your website search engine friendly and people friendly. It involves researching the right keywords and phrases to generate traffic and improving your site structure to make it easy for search engines to find their way around. Much of it links right back to ensuring your content is relevant, engaging and shareable to your customers.

To find out more about getting starting with Search Engine Optimisation then checkout these two comprehensive guides to getting started with SEO.

  1. MOZ: SEO: The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization 
  2. Google: Search Engine Optimization Guide

5. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

OK, PPC such as Google Adwords will involve you parting with some money however, with pay-per-click advertising you can set your budget to what you can afford to spend and you only pay when someone actually clicks via the advertisement to your website. The key to successful PPC advertising is spending time researching the best keywords for your business – they need to be specific and relevant. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great free tool to start with (you just need to create a Google Adwords Account). It will help you identify keywords and phrases and let you know approximate cost-per-click.

With a bit of playing around and practice Google AdWords is pretty easy to use. Checkout Google Adwords Support will help guide you through the basics of getting started.

 

6. Social Media

80% marketers felt social media increased website traffic 

social networks

 

Social media plays an integral, supporting role in driving traffic. It is a great way for you to promote your content with customers and in turn, makes it very easy for customers to go on and share that content on with their social media contacts.

It is a good idea to start out establishing your business profile on the main networks such as Facebook then concentrate your efforts on the key social networks used by your target audience. For example if you business is jewellery you may find your focus on more visual networks such as Pinterest or Instagram, whereas if you are professional services you may find more of your target audience using LinkedIn or Twitter.

Remember to add social media buttons to your website, blog posts and email communications. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to share your content with their friends.

7. Email

Email is one of your most cost-effective tools with a healthy ROI. Use email to stay and front of your customers and drive traffic to your site. Share content such as promoting your product and services, blog posts, news articles, infographics and events – all linking back to your website. Focus on building up a quality email list of relevant and permission based contacts as ithe quality of your data will reflect the effectiveness of your traffic :

  • Create a newsletter sign-up form on your website (think about incentivising sign-up to boost response).
  • Gather names through events you attend, run quizzes and contests offer promotions.

8. Mobile responsive

Ensuring your website is multi-device compatible is essential for getting more visitors to your website. Your website should display equally well whether it is being viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile.

responsive design

More and more people are using mobile devices to search the web. Indeed research shows that 60% of web searches in 2015 were conducted from a mobile phone or tablet. Put simply if your website doesn’t view well on a mobile device, people simply won’t take the time to engage with your website. Added to this, if your website is not responsive then it will effect your search engine ranking on mobile searches.

9. Share your URL

Finally make sure you share your website URL at every opportunity. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it is overlooked. Display your website address wherever you can – no matter how insignificant it may first appear: For example;

  • Advertisements
  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • Letterheads
  • business cards
  • Email signatures
  • Invoice and order acknowledgements
  • Promotional material
  • Packaging.

Of course everything we’ve mentioned in this post will entail time and ongoing effort on your part, however they are all effective and inexpensive ways to drive traffic to your website – with long-term, sustainable results.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience of driving traffic to your website, so please do leave a comment.

10 indispensable small business tips for effective email marketing

email marketing tipsEmail remains one of my favourite marketing tools. If effectively implemented it offers a number of benefits that make it an indispensable part of any small business marketing plan. Email is low-cost, flexible, measurable and, perhaps most importantly, has a very healthy ROI. According to the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) 2015 Client Report in the UK the average ROI for email is £38 per £1 spent. An impressive growth of 53% year-on-year.

With email software becoming more advanced and accessible every year, it has opened the door for smaller online businesses to produce some excellent, innovative email campaigns – giving even big companies with hefty budgets a run for their money.

Of course, no matter how fantastic the possibilities of email, there are still some universal best practice guidelines that every business should take on board in order to make the most out of their email marketing efforts.  I’ve outlined below 10 tips that can make a real difference to how your businesses email communications perform.

1. Plan your email communications

“Clients are moving away from ‘spray and pray’ methods to a more considered approach.” DMA 2015

Before enthusiastically firing off emails left, right and centre, take a step back and look at your email communications as a whole. Spending some time putting together an email strategy for your business will be time well spent. Set some clear goals – what are you looking for your emails to achieve? For example:

  • Converting prospective customers into active customers
  • Building awareness of your brand
  • Growing your marketing prospects database
  • Customer retention through the provision of interesting and valuable information
  • Driving traffic to your website

Segmenting your audience and creating a clear plan of action for each customer group will help ensure that not only have you covered all your bases but you are creating the right balance of optimising conversion opportunities but not over-mailing. Creating a flow chart or table of your email communications is a great way to visually summarise all your activities in one place and enabling you to see the wood from the trees when you are contending with a sea of potential email interactions.

planning email campaigns

2. Purpose, message and CTA

Once you have your email strategy in place, think about the  purpose, message and call to action for your emails. Without these they are unlikely to perform as you would like. Think about:

  • What is the specific purpose of your email? What outcome are you looking for your email to achieve?
  • What message do you want to convey? Even if the desired outcome or  purpose of the emails are the same how will you tweak the message to reflect the particular audience segment you are targeting.
  • Do you have a clear call to action? Is it clear to the recipient of the email what it is you are asking them to do? And do you have a strong link to a relevant, supporting landing page?

3.Email marketing software

Advances in technology has meant small businesses can produce their own professional, visually exciting email campaigns without breaking the bank or requiring huge amounts of email expertise. Email marketing software just keeps getting better. Email marketing solutions such as MailChimp, GetResponse, AWeber, ActiveCampaign and MadMimi make it easy for complete novices to create exciting and effective campaigns.

Even better, if you are a start-up with a small number of subscribers you can get up and running for free. For example with MailChimp if you have under 2000 subscribers you can send out up to 12,000 emails a month at no cost.

4.Event triggered emails

According to the DMA marketing automation is growing and triggered emails are driving revenue growth. Indeed in their 2015 National Client Email Report, emails triggered by events or behavior were responsible for 30% of revenue.

We know that the customer journey is complex with a numerous touch points, so being able to trigger automated emails after specific identifiable events have taken place can have real impact on your success. For example identify and set-up automated  email responses to customer behaviour triggers such when someone registers on your website, enters a free prize draw, downloads a white paper, signs-up to your newsletter or even leaves their shopping cart abandoned will optimise the effectiveness of your email marketing.

A lot of this goes back to the importance of taking a considered and strategic approach to email marketing. Investing your precious time planning your email communications really can pay dividends in the end.

5. Data, data, data

Of course your emails are only as good as the data you have. Therefore good data is a premium asset for your business.  Actively building and continuously growing a ‘white hat’ marketing prospects database is essential. Research shows that Email addresses degrade naturally at about 2.1% per month equating to an annual rate of about 22.5%.

You may need to give people a bit of a nudge to impart their email address.   I know that with the amount of email communications I receive from different companies every day, makes me think twice before I hand over my personal details. Enticing people in with an incentive can be a good way to build and replenish your database. For example, competitions, free prize draws, downloadable white papers, newsletter sign-ups,  exclusive subscriber offers and giveaways are all ways to offer something valuable to potential customers in exchange for their precious contact information.

6. Newsletters

I’m a big fan of newsletters. They are a great vehicle for communicating all sorts of varied things to your audience. Focus on providing interesting, varied content aimed at engaging your audience. A good newsletter can help with brand awareness, brand building, customer retention, driving traffic and ‘soft sell’ conversions. When creating your newsletter content think about what information your audience is going to be interested in and keep it varied. A newsletter is not the environment for hard sales.

Content could include:

  • Links to your latest blog posts
  • Industry  news and trends
  • New product launches or sneak previews
  • Competitions and giveaways
  • Special offers and discounts
  • Case studies or client stories
  • Surveys and polls
  • Event calendars

Email newsletter

7. Digestible Content

Engaging content is essential. But even  the best copy in the world won’t be read if it has been presented in a indigestible and unappealing format. Carefully structure your email from subject line right through to a clear call to action.

Scannable: Break up text so a recipient as able to easily scan the email to pick up all the key messages. When laying out your email use headings, sub headings  and bullet points  to break up text in to more digestible and bite sized chunks.

Strong subject line: Your email content may be amazing but if your subject header doesn’t grab attention and stand out against all the other emails they are competing with then your hard work will be wasted.  Your email will remain unopened or in the bin. Spend a bit of time crafting a compelling subject line. News, tips, how to, offers, question and using numbers are all good opens. Try to keep it short and to the point (aim for under 10 words) but most importantly make sure it accurately reflects the actual content of your email.

Visually appealing: Including photos and  images is a great way to engage the audience. We are naturally visual learners so using images that support your content are a great way to capture your audience’s attention and conveying meaning instantly.

Proof read: Spelling and grammar mistakes can look sloppy and reflect badly on your business.  Always proof read everything a couple of times over prior to dispatch.

8.Personalisation

If you can, try to personalise your emails. Dear ‘Jane‘ will have a stronger impact and higher response rate than no greeting or a general hello. According to HubSpot personalised emails improve click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.

Most email software tools can happily add in automated personalisation so if possible personalise all your email communications. When you are building your database aim to collect first and last name fields from your prospects. This takes us back to point 5. Incentivising your data capture will help you get fuller contact details.

9. Cross promotion

Taking an integrated approach to your marketing should yield stronger results. Cross promoting across all your channels is a great way to reinforce your message and strengthen your brand – just ensure you remain consistent. Email newsletters are a particularly good tool for cross promotions. For example:

  • Provide links to your all social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ etc.
  • Promote your blog posts.
  • Drive traffic back to your site with links to relevant content
  • Cross promote giveaways, offers and competitions

cross promote marketing channels10 . Legislation

And finally but most importantly, make sure you don’t fall foul of the law by keeping on top of  email legislation. If you are UK based then familiarise yourself with the Data Protection Act 1998 and Privacy and Electronic Communications regulations Act. Not only that most email marketing services like MailChimp won’t accept your data unless you can ensure it’s ‘white hat”.

Implemented effectively email marketing offers small businesses a number of tangible benefits. I hope taking onboard the 10 tips outlined above will help you on your way to successful and fruitful email communications.

We’d love to hear your own thought and experiences on email marketing, so please do leave a comment

 

 

 

5 top tips to maximise your online Christmas sales in December

boost online christmas salesChristmas is knocking at the door.

We are already a few weeks into the key Christmas sales period but if you aren’t fully up and running with your Christmas promotions quite yet, then don’t worry there is still time to give those seasonal sales a bit of an extra push. This week ShopIntegrator takes a look at how your small ecommerce business can maximise sales with some easy to implement tips.

Online sales predictions for 2015

If predictions are correct 2015 is looking like another booming year for ecommerce in the UK. Researchers forecast 12% market growth and £116bn will be spent online. With many retailers creating over half of their yearly sales and profits in the three months prior to Christmas, making the most of your online presence is paramount. Indeed, according to the Centre for Retail Research last year in the UK online retail accounted for almost one-quarter (23.4%) of Christmas spending with online sales rising from £14.93 bn (2013) to £17.37 billion in 2014 – a very healthy growth of 19.5%.

5 tips to maximise your online sales this holiday season

The great news is that according to National Federation of Retailers 20% of us don’t intend to start their Christmas shopping until December and actually the busy day online isn’t Cyber Monday but the Monday or Tuesday a week or two before Christmas. So implementing a few tips now could still help boost your profits over the Christmas period.

1. Jolly up your website

First stop is your website. When potential customers arrive at your site you want to keep them in a Christmas frame of mind. Adding some appropriate seasonal graphics and images will help create the right environment to promote your Christmas products. Take a look at Tiffany’s home page. It creates the perfect environment for its brand at Christmas.

christmas homepage

Having a separate Christmas page that showcases the products that make great gifts works really well. Helping customers with the decision-making process is essential so spend some time categorising products into relevant groups. For example:

  • Gifts for Her
  • Gifts for Children
  • Gifts for Teenagers
  • Gifts for Him
  • Gifts that Sparkle
  • Gifts for Food Fanatics
  • Stocking Fillers.

Not only will this inspire customers, it can push them along the road to making a decision. For a successful example checkout notonthehighstreet.com’s christmas page.

 

online christmas sales

 

2. Spread christmas cheer on social media

Social media is a great way to communicate with your customers during the Christmas season. As a marketing tool it is low-cost and a very quick way to get your message across. Use social media to inspire with creative gift ideas, highlight any special offers and promotions and communicate helpful information such as reminders about key christmas delivery dates.

And don’t forget social media is the perfect channel to spread some Christmas cheer amongst your customers. It’s a chance to be a bit lighthearted and tap into all the seasonal excitement. Try running a festive contest, create christmas mood boards, share seasonal quotes and offer handy Christmas related tips and advice. To build engagement further open up discussions with fun questions like ‘What was inside your Santa’s stocking when you were a child?”.

Pinterest is all about the visual so a strong presence works particularly well this time of year. Create special Christmas boards and pins to showcase your wares.

Here are a couple of Pinterest examples from notonthehighstreet.com and Stella and Dot.

pinterest christmas boards

 

 

christmas pins on pinterest

 

3. Open a yuletide Facebook StoreOpen a Facebook shop

Think about opening a Facebook store in time for Christmas. With over 1.55 billion monthly active users it’s an excellent way to introduce an additional sales channel for your seasonal products. The great thing about a Facebook store is that you can strike whilst the iron is hot. Rather than having to whisk engaged customers off to your website to make a purchase you can sell to them directly off your Facebook page.

It doesn’t take long to set up a Facebook page either. Checkout ShopIntegrator’s guide to opening a Facebook shop.

4. Ho Ho Ho your emails

Get busy with your email marketing this christmas. Email is an essential part of a small business owners marketing toolkit. Flexible and cost-effective it one of the most effective ways communicate with your customers this season.

Gift ideas. You’ve probably already categorised your gifts on your website so now is the time to use email to inspire customers with your gift ideas. Here is a great example of an email I received from online clothing retailer Boden that does just that.

Boden: It’s just not Christmas without new pyjamas

christmas email

Countdown: Creating a sense of urgency in your emails as Christmas approaches is a great way to encourage conversion. Try sending out emails that count down the shopping days until Christmas.  Here is a fun and creative example from gift retailer notonthehighstreet.com.

notonthehighstreet.com: Nine more sleeps till the unwrapping starts

urgency emails

Last minute shoppers. There will always be a healthy proportion of shoppers who will leave everything to the last-minute. Offering guaranteed delivery a few days before christmas is very attractive to just such customers. Just be absolutely sure you can keep that delivery promise!

Sending an email to  customers reminding them of your last posting dates to guarantee a Christmas delivery is a good way to encourage those who are thinking of making a purchase to get on and do it.

Seasons greetings to your customers. After all the sales promotion emails it is a nice idea to send out a little christmas spirit  to show your customers you appreciate them. Sending out an e-card to customers and suppliers adds a personal touch and reminds then that they are important to you.

discounts, coupons and voucher codes5. Happy holiday promotions

At such a key time of year online businesses are all competing to win customers. A great short-term sales tactic way to boost your seasonal sales conversions is through offering special holiday promotions such as online vouchers, discount codes and e-coupons.

We all love to feel we’ve got a bargain especially during Christmas when it feels like money is literally flying out of our wallets. Special offers such as online discount vouchers can help encourage us to take our shopping cart to the checkout – especially if there is a deadline looming for the discount.

There are all sorts of variations you can use – popular ones include:

  • Free delivery and returns
  • Buy one get one half price
  • Save 25% 
  • Spend over £100 and get £10 off
  • 3 for 2 offers

Just remember if you are offering discounts to make sure you have done your sums first  and have read the guidelines laid out by the British Code of Sales Promotions and Direct Marketing.

Hopefully we’ve given you a few easy to implement ideas to help give your ecommerce sales a bit of a boost during what we hope will be a busy and profitable season for online businesses.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on maximising sales at Christmas. So please do leave  a comment.

 

 

9 tips for writing a killer email subject line

emailThe subject line of an email actually wields a surprising amount of power. Indeed 35% of recipients open emails based on subject lines alone.  A strong subject header can mean the difference between an email being opened or passed over for something more appealing.

So, as a small businesses owner how do you make your communications stand out in the sea of emails your audience receives every day?

 144.8 billion emails are sent every day

At some time or another most of us have been guilty of hastily cobbling together an email header at the very last moment with little thought. However we should really be thinking of our subject lines as an enticing headline that supports the content of our email. Much like a newspaper article, a press release or blog post, time should be spent crafting the most effective headline as possible. Afterall what’s the point of having an email packed with cracking content if it doesn’t even get opened?

Of course different approaches will appeal to different audiences, but there are some universal tips you can implement to help you create more effective subject lines, thus improving your email open rates.

9 Top tips for effective email subject lines

1. Be clear.  If ever in doubt about what your email subject line should be, chose clarity. The majority of your recipients will want to know upfront about what they can expect to find when they open your email.

“Don’t sell what’s inside, tell what’s inside” Mail chimp

 

So be clear about your content. Most importantly, be honest about your content. You won’t win customers by trying to entice them in with false promises, in fact they more likely to bypass your email next time.

2. Keep it short. The general rule of thumb is to keep your email subject line as short as you can. Try to aim for under 10 words. Remember 40% of emails are opened on mobiles devices first so if you make it too long your meaning won’t come across in the 4-7 words that average mobile screen can fit.

If you are struggling to get the number of words down, keep to the point, get rid of any unnecessary filler words and put your strongest words at the beginning. Get into the practice of editing down. For example instead of ‘Enter our free prize draw to win £500 to spend on stunning jewellery from our latest collection’ (17 words) you could edit it down to ‘Win £500 of jewellery from our new collection’ (8 words). Same message just shorter with the keywords right upfront.

5 tips to improve online video content3. Try numbers . Using numbers in your email headers can be a great way of getting noticed. For example here are some ones in my inbox that grabbed my attention and got opened:

  • 5 ways to sprinkle on the sparkle (Boden)
  • 23 ways to blow your valentines socks off (notonthehighstreet.com)
  • 7 golden rules for content marketing (Econsultancy)

I’m not sure of the psychology behind it, but studies seem to agree that odd numbers and random specific numbers seem to get higher open rates, so it’s definately worth giving numbers a whirl.

4. Mix up your content. Your header is only as good as the content inside. So if you find yourself stuck in a pattern of sending the same type of emails over and over again, your subject lines are probably going to reflect this. So reboot your content and surprise your audience by sending out a variety of different email communications such as competitions, newsletters, special offers, blog posts, sneak previews, quizzes, surveys and so on. It follows that if your content is varied and interesting, your email headlines are more likely to be too.

adding humour to email5. Introduce some humour. This can be a tricky one to get right but if you manage it can work wonders. A bit of humour can be a sure-fire way to grab attention and get your email to stand to from the crowd. A good example is Groupon’s much applauded subject line:

“Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)” 

Puns or plays on word can also work well – holidays and seasonal promotions can lend them selves quite well to this. Here are a few of seasonal examples from notonthehighstreet.com who do creative email headlines really well.

  • They do say ‘drink and be merry’… fill your festive boots
  • It’s the best thing since Christmas…Easter we so glad to see you 
  • Pretend like you had this planned for ages…valentines day sorted

Being clever can be great but remember don’t try to be so clever  that no one can work out what your on about. If you do want to try writing some email headers with a bit of humour checkout this blog from Vertical Response – it’s got lots of examples of amusing subject lines alongside some great tips.

6. Offer a benefit . Including a clear benefit to you reader in your subject header can help increase your open rates. When you are crafting your subject line focus on the benefits rather than the features. Using strong benefit words can work well as they imply a promise of what is inside, for example

  • Increase
  • Discover
  • Learn
  • Win
  • Earn
  • Save

7. Urgency and Exclusivity. Subject lines that create a sense of urgency and exclusivity can give a 22% higher open rate. Here is a great example of an email I received recently from Banana Republic that covers both these elements. The subject line was: Our 40% online private sale ends today.

email urgency and exclusivity

And yes it did work as I did take advantage of the offer.

8. Don’t be mistaken for SPAM. The last thing you want is for your email to look like possible spam .

69% of email recipients report email as spam based only on the subject line.

People tend to steer clear of subject headers that look a bit ‘spammy’. So don’t be temped to oversell and be careful if you’re using overtly sales words like FREE in your headlines.  Definitely avoid using ALL CAPS as it shouts of spam.

9. Test and monitor. Most email service  providers will have ‘insight’ tools that will enable you to monitor your email performance. Simple A/B testing of your subject headers is a great way to find out what works best for your particular audience, helping you craft stronger performing headlines.

Finally, before you press SEND…

Before your send your email merrily on its way, double-check your subject line to ensure there are no typos and it can’t be misconstrued to cause any offence. If in doubt it’s always a good idea to ask yourself the following question: If you received this email would you open it, ignore it or assume it’s SPAM?

We’d love to hear some of your tips for creating powerful email subject lines, so please do leave a comment.