For your ecommerce newsletter to resonate with audiences, it has to directly speak to their interests and needs, demonstrate value, and arrive in their inbox at opportune times. All of these strategies must be combined with regular email marketing best practices to get results that move the needle.
You can’t have a substantive discussion about email marketing without touching on personalization.
There’s a myriad of studies available to suggest that personalized content is more effective than non-personalized content, that it’s preferred by consumers, and that more marketers wish to incorporate personalization into their strategies.
Integrating at least some measures of personalization is a necessity if you want to get the most out of your email newsletter initiative. And, thankfully, there are numerous ways you can go about this, ranging from exceedingly simple solutions to intricate and complex processes.
Although it may sound elementary, using names in your email newsletters is one of the easiest and most overlooked ways to inject a personalized element into your message. This starts with addressing your recipient by their first name, which forges an instant connection between company and reader and puts the two parties on equal footing. People appreciate being addressed by their name in email because it enhances the perception that this content was created for and sent to them specially.
The other element that must be considered is the name of the sender. In many situations, having the sender’s field include a real person’s name, rather than just the name of your brand is another route for engaging with the recipient on a more personal level. Once customers have become accustomed to receiving emails from that specific sender, you can use this familiarity to ensure future marketing correspondence from your online store will always be well-received.
Including product recommendations based on your customer’s browsing and purchasing history with your store is another way to use personalization to your advantage.
Just consider how well ecommerce giant Amazon does this for Amazon Prime members. They tailor all of their emails to the individual history of the customer, paying particular attention to items that have been viewed multiple times or put in a shopping cart and later abandoned.
Now, you probably don’t have as sophisticated a data gathering operation as Amazon does, but you can still learn from their techniques and craft your emails based on the information you’ve already collected.
2. Visual components and branding
Email is an intensely visual medium, which means that the design of your newsletter is as important in some ways as the content.
Create a strong header and organized footer.
First and foremost is the header, which is typically the first thing the reader will see, setting the tone for the rest of your newsletter. It’s worth investing appropriate resources to get the header right, as consistency throughout your email newsletter experience is paramount.
Ideally, the header should compliment your brand’s visual style and engage the reader’s senses to encourage them to continue reading. It should always come across as polished and professional.
The design of the footer also plays a crucial role, as it wraps up the newsletter and provides helpful links such as social sharing buttons, contact information, or CTAs.
Many companies like to hide their unsubscribe links as discreetly as possible in the footer, but this is actually counterproductive. If someone actively wants to unsubscribe from your emails, you should usher them out the door, since they’re skewing your engagement data and probably won’t buy something anyways.
Provide alt text in every send.
Not to be overlooked is the importance of alt text in an email newsletter. If you’re not a person with visually impairment, or if you use a more progressive email client, you may forget that a lot of your recipients depend on alt text to form every email they receive.
Whether it’s because the user has images turned off from unknown senders or the email client formatted something differently, many times, images don’t appear as the sender intended. In these cases, alternative text (also known as alt text) appears in a box on the screen.
A best practice here would be to assign alt text to each image so that you supply email recipients with the information they need from your newsletter when your images fail to properly render. Here’s an example of what alt text looks like on blocked images.
3. Email schedule and cadence
Finding the optimal cadence (or frequency) for your email newsletters is often a delicate balance to maintain. You shouldn’t overwhelm your audience with an abundance of messages that have them searching for the unsubscribe link. But you also want to ensure that your brand remains a reliable and consistent presence in their inbox.
In most cases, a set schedule of either once every other week or once per month will deliver the ideal combination of saturation and anticipation. If you’re having trouble coming up with content to fill your newsletter on a regular basis, sending out one every two months or each quarter will still allow you to stay on your audience’s radar.
One way to make sure you hit the right stride is to test your way into the right cadence. Learn more about setting the right send cadence in this post.
Just be mindful that these newsletter sends don’t unintentionally overlap with other marketing messages so that you minimize overwhelming your audience with excessive emails.
4. Compelling CTAs
When it comes to calls to action (CTAs) in email newsletters, you can use one simple principle to guide your strategy: Make it obvious what you want your reader to do next.
Don’t expect your recipient to do the legwork figuring out what action they need to take. They might be willing to do so—if they’re exceptionally motivated—but it’s not worth the risk.
The human brain is constantly trying to save energy, meaning it’s constantly and rapidly looking for patterns and concepts that hit immediately on what either provides thriving or prevents striving. As such, email recipients are quickly trying to determine if a message is important to them—and what to do about it if it is.
If it’s not immediately clear to a recipient how they should proceed to find out more, you may lose them in an instant. The good news is that you don’t have to overthink an effective CTA. Stick to a singular, prominent prompt, and place it in a spot where they can’t miss it.
5. Segmentation, list health, and subscriber re-activation
Curating several well-maintained groups or segments of subscribers for your ecommerce newsletters should be high on your list of marketing priorities.
Research indicates that segmented campaigns result in increased open rates, increased click-throughs, lower bounce rates, and fewer unsubscribes.
The results speak for themselves. And the secret to segmentation success is to carefully monitor your lists and use triggers (or automations) to maintain them over time.
This practice eventually leads you to maintaining a healthy list. It’s wise to periodically (and automatically if you have ability to set up the flow) reach out to inactive subscribers, try to get them to re-engage, and then unsubscribe them if they’re not showing interest.
This process of re-engagement and list cleaning is an important tactic for increasing the deliverability of your emails and engaging more readily with your active subscribers. At least once per year (preferably every six months), you should send an email to your inactive subscribers inviting them to respond.
For ecommerce brands, this is a great idea to bring them back with a promotion or discount. Pulling in personalization data, you can even send them a discount for a product similar to their last purchase to maximize enticement. Email marketing pros may also set up these re-engagement campaigns automatically, triggering per subscriber after a certain period of lacking activity.
Here’s an example from publisher and Campaign Monitor customer Digiday as they give two re-engagement opportunities to inactive subscribers.
6. HTML, plain text, and optimizing for both
HTML and plain text in email campaigns both have their benefits and drawbacks.
HTML allows for more creativity and provides unique avenues for engagement through imagery. However, it has to be coded perfectly in order for everything to format correctly.
Broken HTML tags can result in spam and deliverability issues. Meanwhile, plain text is more reliable in terms of deliverability, and it’s more forgiving in its formatting. However, if you rely only on plain text, you’ll be sacrificing a lot in terms of design.
The best advice is to optimize for both types of emails with your newsletters. Any time you send out an HTML email, test it several times in a variety of inbox clients to ensure that it’s properly coded and renders effectively across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. Meanwhile, use any available tools to optimize a plain-text version along with the HTML content, so your audience will see a compelling and thoughtfully crafted newsletter, regardless of the email client they use.
Fortunately for many marketers, if you’re using a professional email platform, the templates they provide for you should be mobile and inbox optimized, so you can worry less about issues with designs rendering.