Let’s face it. As much we complain about email overload, it’s an absolutely essential component of any successful online retail business. Email has the ability to lubricate every interaction you have with your customers, providing reassurance, confirmation, and support at every touchpoint. Smooth first-time transactions generally lead to smooth repeat transactions (which are great for everyone).
According to a recent study by Experian, the volume of email sent in Q1 2013 increased by 11.6%. Even with the increase in volume, unique open rates also increased by 9.7%. This is an important datapoint for retailers. Consumers are getting more email and opening more too.
To frame the opportunities that email can create for your business, let’s explore the different types of emails that retailers can send and how to optimize them. Here’s a quick table of contents of each email we’re going to talk about in this post:
1) Transactional Emails
a) Account confirmation: This email confirms to the customer that their new account has been set up. Customers see this as reassuring that the information that they painstakingly entered was received properly and they can now use their account on your website. With that, this new account confirmation email is the first opportunity that you have as a retailer to provide incentive to go directly to your website and start shopping. You can assume that the customer created an account with the intent to begin shopping, so giving them incentive to welcome them to your site and reminding them to start shopping is important.
b) Opt-In: This email engages the customer and gets them to take action. Whether the customer forgot to finish the account creation process or you want them to opt-in to your newsletter/daily emails (like the example below), you want to get the customer to open the email and take action, either through a detailed install process or just a simple click to accept. Opt-in emails are gentle reminders to get the customer to do something, so the customer needs to feel valued and that this action asked of them is really worth it.
c) Cart abandonment: Cart abandonment is an opportunity, as consumers are telling you something when they abandon a purchase. When your customer browses a product category and carts an item, they are giving you a very strong signal of intent. Should that customer abandon, you now have the ability to re-engage with them in an extremely relevant way. They’ve already given you a clue as to what they are interested in. Email remarketing recognizes this intent and delivers a highly relevant email campaign to re-engage them.
d) Order Confirmation: This email assures your customer that the order was received and items/prices are as the website indicated, the order is shipping to a particular address, etc. Customers have come to expect order confirmation emails very soon after placing an order. If no order confirmation is received, customers will either attempt to contact you for confirmation or order elsewhere (and in turn cancel/return their order from you). While it serves as an unofficial receipt, this is typically as official as a customer requires, as they view it as similar to the actual paper receipt received when making a purchase at a physical location. These emails can engage customers to connect via social media, incentivize customers to order again soon, and also create a customer service presence for any order questions.
e) Order Shipped: Similar to the order confirmation email, this informs the customer that the ordered item is on its way.This email assures the customer that order was received, processed, and has left your hands en route to them. Customers have come to expect shipping confirmation emails, and the quicker the better, as faster processing by you typically ensures happier customers (even if the method of shipping is slow, the customer chose that, whereas quick processing time is all on you). If no shipping confirmation is received, customers will either wonder what is taking so long, attempt to contact you for confirmation, or order elsewhere (and in turn cancel/return their order from you). These emails can engage customers to connect via social media and incentivize customers to order again soon, and also create a customer service presence for any order questions.
f) Order Follow-Up: This email is the first opportunity for contact after the item is received and for you to connect with the customer. The best order follow-up will solicit a review, which not only gets valuable feedback for you, but it also drives customers back to your website. While it doesn’t solicit a sale, this can serve as a subtle nudge pointing the customer in the right direction to purchase again.
These emails allow you to connect with the customer on a regular basis (probably 1-2 times per month, consistent offer schedule). These emails can alert customers to popular seasonal items that you carry and compete with in the marketplace or sales/clearance items they can buy at a discount to help you increase inventory turnover. A healthy mix of these two types can go a long way, as you do not want to be too focused on sales/clearance items that could hurt your positioning, but you also need to move inventory as trends and seasons change. These emails lend themselves to detailed tracking, list segmentation, and easy split testing of subject lines, content, etc. to further define which segments of your target market are most receptive to your campaigns and what those most responsive to your campaigns are in the market for.
a) Tips/Blog Posts: These emails attempt to engage the customer by providing them useful free information on a regular basis (probably 1-2 times per month, consistent schedule). These emails can alert customers as to what is most interesting and helpful to them while boosting your brand image, as you can inform customers as to what you are up to and how you can help them by giving them a small taste of your expertise.
These emails remind customers of their past loyalty and rewards/points they have accumulated with your company. If the rewards are expiring, customers certainly want to be made aware so they can use them or renew them as to not let them go to waste. Rewards encourage customers to be loyal to you, as the more they spend with you, the more rewards they earn. Customers value rewards and are so focused on getting something for free that they do not realize that they will typically spend more just to earn the rewards. Be sure to communicate rewards reminders to remind them of their loyalty and increasing rewards, so as to not let points go to waste. Rewards emails encourage customers to re-visit your website to either use points or make a purchase in their drive to accumulate more.
5) Other Triggered Email
a) Customer Birthday: A simple email to a customer to say happy birthday shows customers that you’re thinking about them, you value them as a customer, and it is a nice gesture that goes a long way. It is also an excuse for you to send them a promotional or reminder email of some kind to encourage them to make another purchase from you in the near future.
b) Win-Back Campaigns: These emails are last ditch efforts to get a former customer to re-opt in. The primary objective of a win-back campaign is for the subscriber to open. If the subscriber opens, they are choosing to re-engage with your company and continue to receive emails from you. These emails can incentivize re-engagement, clean up your mailing list, and remind former customers of why you make them happy. These emails show that you care if they open the email, and if they don’t, they are expressing that they do not want to receive any more emails from you. This can be ok, as it removes those from your mailing list that clearly no longer want to be on it anymore, keeping them happy too.
c) Upsell/Cross-Sell: These emails remind customers that they have purchased from you in the past, had a good experience, and should purchase from you again (oftentimes at a higher price point). In these emails, you can promote complementary products to the ones they have already purchased, or you can offer up replacements that are more expensive for the now used up, outdated or worn out product they have already purchased from you. These emails are a perfect opportunity to drum up repeat business around your core competencies.
If you’re lucky, your e-commerce platform provider will take care of most of these emails for you. However, for retailers, who want to take each of these email categories to the next level, they may consider working with a specialized vendor.
What categories are we missing? Where do you find great examples of retail emails? Let us know in the comments!
What to do next
If your eCommerce company would like to understand the ROI of similar campaigns to the examples above, then request a free ROI report to calculate your revenue from email after switching to Rejoiner.