Growth Marketer Academy: Episode 20 – Use Email to Get More Sales from your eCommerce Site (without spending more on ads) – Part 2
This is the second in a 2-part series about how to effectively craft an eCommerce email that converts.
If you’re running any business, but particularly an eCommerce site, and NOT using email marketing, you’re leaving easy money on the table.
But it’s not all about sales and promotion blasts.
That’s right. To maintain your audience and NOT end up in the dreaded SPAM folder, you need to engage with a variety of helpful, relationship-building emails.
It’s not all about sales and promotion emails.
Sending email blasts without a strategy is ineffective no matter how well-designed your emails are.
No two customers are alike
you need to target and personalize your message.
Start with stages in a customer’s purchase lifecycle segment your email list accordingly.
- Stage 1 – Potential & first-time buyers
- Stage 2 – Repeat buyers
- Stage 3 – Lapsed buyers
Target customers using specific email campaigns & triggers at each stage This will increase the likelihood of conversion.
Send potential buyers an email series that focuses on building trust to win their first purchase
Use a different series to incentivize existing customers to buy from you again.
Sound like a lot of work?
I’m not going to lie – it’s no cakewalk
Good news! You can automate most of these emails.
Turn your emails into an invisible round-the-clock sales team.
Stage 1 – Potential & First Time Buyers (Interested)
Most people take time to make a purchase.
98% of visitors won’t buy on their first visit to an eCommerce store. (inc.com)
Online shoppers shop around
They ARE considering your competitors.
If you can get their email address, score!
Welcome potential customers into your family
Establish a link to your brand culture
Nurture them towards an eventual purchase.
1. The Welcome Email Series
The welcome email is super important.
It’s the first exchange between your business and a potential customer.
74% of consumers expect a welcome email
SO you can expect 4 times more opens
and 5 times the click-through rate of other promotional emails.
How to craft a great welcome email:
Keep it brief
Include great visuals
Do some (or all) of the following:
- Extend a big hearty welcome
- Define what makes you different
- Inform subscribers of what to expect next
- Make an offer
- Promote social profiles
Hello! And Welcome to the Family!
The first thing readers should see is a friendly greeting.
This makes readers feel appreciated.
Test out phrases such as “welcome to the family” or “thanks for subscribing”
Virgin America uses a pun to brand their welcome message.
This is your chance to sell yourself or your brand
Share your brand story
Let people know what makes you different or special.
Identify the reasons why someone should shop from you rather than a competitor.
Food52 does this by letting readers know what motivates them.
Let recipients know about the type of content (and frequency of emails) they can expect from you.
This can be the difference that gets your emails in the inbox instead of the spam folder.
Gilt gives a clear direction of what to expect from them.
Incentives motivate action.
Reduces the level of risk associated with trying out your products.
Can help turn an on-the-fence window shopper into a loyal customer.
Gap offers an incentive right away rather than indoctrinating recipients into their brand culture.
Incentives don’t always have to mean discounts.
- free shipping options
- a gift
- redeemable brand bonus points.
This should be low on your priority list
Still, remember to add links to your social profiles at the end of welcome emails.
Some customers will prefer to interact on social media.
2. Lead nurturing email series
A one-time welcome email MAY be enough to get SOME shoppers to buy from you.
A majority will still require further hand-holding.
Use a few emails to warm leads until they are ready to buy.
IMPORTANT: Keep these messages non-promotional.
Establish yourself as the source of useful info or tips
Show you understand the problems potential customers face.
- Tell stories
When they’re ready to buy, you’ll be the first name that comes to mind.
Anyone can (and should) educate leads.
Positions you as an authority and influencer in your niche.
People trust (and buy) from those perceived as experts.
Men’s grooming line Beardbrand uses education to not only help their customers solve challenges but also place their product in context.
Determine the type of content that aligns with your product and relates to your audience.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who are my customers?
- What do they care about?
- What problems do they have?
- Is there a way I can provide insight into that problem?
Create a video or detailed how-to guide.
Provide a curated collection of links to existing how-to videos on YouTube
Offer a checklist for a related activity.
Remember: keep the focus away from your products
Continue with your story
Expand on your brand story
How your business got started
What drives it today.
Share stories from your employees to humanize your brand
Include testimonials from existing customers.
Sharing reviews and testimonials from your customer’s peers can
- Ease fears
- Continue winning their trust.
Entertain your audience
Just because you’re sending automated emails doesn’t mean they have to sound like them.
People relate to a brand with personality.
90% of purchase decisions are made subconsciously driven by emotions
So take the time to win some hearts.
JetBlue sends lead nurture emails that are fun to read from start to finish.
Your lead nurturing email campaign should have a defined timeline.
The optimal length will largely depend on your industry and target audience.
Pay close attention to how you space your nurturing emails.
For example, your timeline may look something like this:
- Day 1 – Welcome email
- Day 8 – Lead nurture # 1
- Day 15 – Lead nurture # 2
Each email in this segment should build up, or ‘soft-sell,’ your final offer.
All nurture campaigns should end with a promotional email
Ensure people make that elusive first purchase.
3. Promotional email series (for first-time buyers)
Your nurturing campaign should have convinced people to trust you.
Nudge them over the finish line with an email that compels a purchase.
Here are a few types of promotional emails you can test:
These emails are relatively straightforward.
Offer the recipient a unique promo code flat discount on any product they purchase from you.
Everyone loves a good bargain
Including a reason for the offer
(like JOY has here)
improves your conversion.
They’ve set a time limit on their discount
Create action urgency.
Note: Don’t have to give a discount:
Free with purchase add-on
Bonus loyalty club points
Browse abandonment email
Instead of offering a general discount, send a personalized reminder.
Use marketing automation tool to log & trigger a page when someone visits a product page but doesn’t buy
Send them a reminder about it.
Retail clothing brand PacSun sends reminders to shoppers based on the product category they browsed on their website.
Make it even better: add a quick discount to fast-track purchase.
This is, of course, a close cousin to the cart abandonment email.
4. Cart abandonment emails
Cart abandonment = when shoppers add items to the checkout cart but for some reason never complete the purchase.
It’s hugely common for first-time site visitors to browse before buying.
Between new site visitors and returning visitors, almost 70% of all shopping carts are abandoned.
75% abandon their cart with the intent to return
Business Insider reports that this costs online retailers $4.6 trillion in sales every year.
View abandonment as an opportunity.
You can’t fully recover every penny lost
BUT you can win back some sales.
For a cart abandonment email to be effective, you first need to understand why shoppers leave a purchase mid-process
The reasons are many and varied:
Cart abandonment email series lets you address a variety of pain points
Convince customers to return to complete their purchase.
Time is of the essence
72% of all customers who buy from a cart abandonment email do so within 24 hours of cart abandonment.
They don’t need an incentive, they just need a reminder.
Your first cart abandonment email should simply bring back customers to check out.
Offering a discount at this stage =unnecessary
No need to eat away into your profits.
Chubbies Shorts makes this process fun and easy.
- A high-quality image of the product
- A CTA with a link that leads directly back to the checkout
- A way to reach your customer support in case they need help
Take that reminder one step further
Next in the series of cart abandonment emails = an ‘advanced’ reminder.
State your company’s value-add right at the start.
Remind shoppers you offer free shipping
about your no-questions-asked guarantee.
Remind them about their cart AND about how awesome you are.
Offers a simple reminder about what’s been left behind mentions a few points about how purchases involve minimal risk.
The discount cart abandonment email
If none of the above emails work, your customers are price-sensitive.
A discount might push them to complete a purchase.
Decide: How much loss are you willing to take to make a sale?
Typically, you need to offer at least 10% to be effective.
Add an element of urgency to your discount.
Levis cart abandonment email example:
Stage 2 – Repeat Buyers (Engaged Customers)
With your first sale comes great responsibility.
You’re 60-70% likely to sell to an existing customer vs. 5-20% for a new prospect.
Email beats out all other marketing tactics for customer retention.
40% of an eCommerce store’s revenue is created by 8% of customers.
That 8% is repeat customers – they’re hugely profitable!
Yet eCommerce stores devote 80% of their budget to customer acquisition.
The bulk of your profits will come from getting customers who have bought from you before to buy again and again (repeat customers).
There are two types of existing customers:
- Fresh customers
- Occasional customers
Let’s break down the type of emails you’ll need to retain each of these types.
1. Fresh customers
Customers that have purchased from you recently.
At the perfect point in their acquisition cycle for certain key touches.
Post-purchase good vibe emails
Keep shoppers engaged after they’ve made a purchase
Lay the groundwork for further purchases.
Start with the basics: order confirms
Average open rates for order confirmation emails is 70% vs. just 18% for regular email marketing campaigns
Also: tempt people back on your site with upsells and cross-sells.
Convert a one-time buyer into a repeat customer.
Start recommending your other products while a customer is waiting for their first product to ship.
Barkbox uses order confirmation receipts as an opportunity to promote their gift option.
Recommendations at this stage can work, but be careful about a few things.
- Recommendations should not be the first thing a customer sees
Order confirmation should be informational.
Recommending a few products is just a secondary bonus.
- Products should be relevant
Recommendations should be personalized and relevant to what the customer bought.
don’t show customers who bought a razor blade recommendations for swimwear
- Prevent information overload
Limit recommendations to no more than 5
Don’t draw attention away from the main purpose of the email.
The review us email
Editors Note: It’s against Yelp review policy to solicit reviews. To be in compliance with the Yelp platform, instead of asking for reviews, tell your customers “check us out on Yelp!”
Asking for a review helps you in lots of ways.
- You gain valuable social proof that can convince other potential customers to buy
- Reviews give an excuse to check in with customers post-purchase & remind them you exist.
- They highlight your customer service.
- Can even give an opportunity to set up a repeat purchase.
Here’s how to make the most of these emails:
- Timing matters
Send these emails a few days after customers receive their item.
The purchase experience is still fresh in their mind
The opportune moment to collect a glowing review.
- Appreciate their feedback
Let customers know their feedback is valued.
People tend to reciprocate the kind of treatment they receive.
Telling customers their opinions matter increases the number of reviews you collect Drives customers back to buy from you again.
- Give an incentive
The easiest way to invite a repeat purchase.
Make customers feel they’re getting something in return for doing you a favor.
A discount provides this feeling
Encourages customers back to your store to spend on you again.
Example email from Warby Parker
2. Occasional customers
It’d be great if customers bought repeatedly and frequently.
But, this is the exception rather than the norm.
Most of your customers will be occasional.
This group of customers is at risk of becoming unengaged.
To drive sales from this group of customers, your approach should be:
Remind them that you exist (brand awareness)
Mix such messages with special promotions.
The loyalty reward email
Customers like to feel exclusive and special.
This is why brands launch new products with a limited stock:
To make the first round of customers feel special
And create buzz.
Mimic this with loyalty reward emails.
Provide a ‘special’ offer to your customers
Mention why they have received it.
Example: Dressabelle’s loyalty reward email
Encourages ongoing brand engagement
Encourages spending (you’re only XX points away from a bigger discount)
The goal with these emails:
Make your customers feel like royalty and tell them how thankful you are for their business.
The birthday email
Make the customer feel special and appreciated
Opportunity to encourage them to “get themselves the gift they really want”
- Provide a ‘can’t resist’ coupon
Could be a flat fee off a customer’s next purchase
Fixed % discount
or a free gift.
- Send the offer on their actual birthday
Festive spirit = more open to spending
Even if it wasn’t their intent to visit your store.
- Send a reminder after their birthday
In case a customer was busy during their birthday
Send a gentle reminder to let them know they can still get the deal.
Consider “celebrating” other occasions like Anniversaries and holidays.
Company update email
Avoid being overly promotional.
If all that occasional customers see in their inbox from you are product recommendations and discounts, you’ll seem too profit-driven.
Send an info email as often as a promo
Fill customers in on what’s new.
Let them know about:
- a new product under development,
- a product launch date,
- an upcoming event where you’ll be present.
Chick-Fil-A drives excitement and engagement
Stage 3 – Lapsed Buyers (Inactive)
Losing a few customers is expected.
You must try to win back customers who have become inactive or dropped off the radar.
There’s very little risk and a lot to gain.
When a customer hasn’t opened an email or bought from you within a certain time frame, they are in the process of ‘lapsing.’
- Depends on your specific purchase cycle
- If your price point is low and people tend to buy monthly or every few months it’s easier to identify lapsing customers
- Those with an annual or longer purchase cycle make it harder to identify
Common reasons for drop off:
- Their circumstance has changed
- They’ve switched to a new email account
- Had a bad experience with your brand
- Only bought from you because of a rare amazing deal
Customers are sensitive to their reason
You need to create messaging that resonates with them to get them to reconsider buying from you.
1st: segment at-risk customers into two categories:
- Lapsing – inactive customers at risk of being lost permanently
- Lapsed – customers who have forgotten about you
An RFM matrix can help you visualize and segment customers.
- Recency from last order (in months) – the most important measurement of customer health
- Frequency (number of orders in a year)
- Monetary value (low/med/high) – based on average order value
Here’s an example of how one looks (note: your time frame may look different).
You’ll need to be more aggressive with lapsed customers than those deemed inactive.
The emotional appeal email
Everyone likes to hear they are missed.
It makes them feel special and valued.
Use this as a tactic to:
- Grab a customer’s attention
- peak their curiosity
- Get them to open your email.
Use phrases such as ‘we miss you’ or ‘we’re sad when you are away’ in your subject line and email copy.
Once opened, give an irresistible reason for readers to visit your site.
Pinkberry achieves this by giving its inactive users a freebie.
Everyone loves free things.
If you’re unable to give away a small gift, you can
- provide discounts,
- thank customers for their business,
- provide them updates about what they have missed while being away.
The ‘Hail Mary’ discount email
If inactive customers still don’t bite, you’ll have to up the ante.
Up until now, you’ve probably used small discounts here and there
Aiming to entice interested and engaged customers to purchase from you.
If you fear a customer may be lost, you may need to offer a discount so big that customers can’t help but act on it.
If you have to foot their bill, take the loss.
Get them reacquainted with buying from you so they end up purchasing other items.
The passive aggressive email
The previous emails may work on recently lapsed customers.
BUT if someone has been inactive for a long time, they have likely forgotten about you.
Sending an emotional or promotional email out of the blue will probably get you marked as spam.
It’s time to be passive aggressive
Let customers know they are about to be unsubscribed.
Ask them what you could have done better so that you can help other customers.
Remember to be gentle and unobtrusive like UrbanOutfitters does here.
If customers are actually reading, they will probably feel a smidge guilty
May take the necessary steps to stay on your list.
This also brings your brand to the top of their mind.
If they truly don’t want anything more to do with you, at least you’ll get some valuable feedback.
Time to let go
Sometimes you have to accept defeat.
If after all of your efforts to re-engage, your customer still won’t open your emails, unsubscribe them
Send them one final email notifying them of this terrible news.
Leave them with a link they can use to get back on your list
(in case they change their mind)