There are many ways to reach online consumers.
You’ve got social media, content marketing, display advertising, search engine optimization, affiliate marketing, and more.
But in terms of return on investment, there’s one that’s hard to beat. Know what it is? Yep, it’s still the good ol’ email marketing.
According to the DMA, email generates an average of $38 in return for every $1 invested. Similarly, in our last year’s report email ranked as the top digital marketing channel in terms of effectiveness.
The trend seems to be clear – you have to pay to play. And if you want to acquire more customers, you have to keep increasing your advertising budget.
Luckily, this isn’t the case with emails. Once you’ve got your contacts’ permission, you can run email marketing campaigns without worrying about your organic reach and external algorithms. If you pay attention to engagement and deliverability, of course.
In this article, I’d like to show you why using email marketing is a must, especially if you’re running an ecommerce business. With the help of marketing professionals from The Baby Sleep Site and Only in Your State, I’ll also show you how to use email in your marketing communication strategy.
Let’s get started, shall we?
How effective is email marketing?
I’ve already mentioned the 3,800% ROI. But that’s sometimes hard to relate to if you don’t know exactly how much you’re paying to acquire new customers.
Other metrics such as the average email open and click-through rates may be more meaningful. Especially if you’ve been running online marketing campaigns using social media or display advertising.
In our Email Marketing Benchmarks report, every quarter we analyze the average performance results of businesses across industries. As I’m writing this, the global average open and click-through rates are 24.29% and 3.97%, respectively.
In other words, every fourth person you send your email to, give or take, is going to open it.
Compare that to your organic reach on Facebook and you’ll know that this is a solid figure.
And that’s an average result, taking into account all the different types of emails.
If you look only at triggered emails, the results are even higher – they score an average open rate of 45.7% and a click-through rate of 10.75%. More than double the clicks you get with simple newsletters.
You’re not exactly selling in an email, so measuring conversion rates is more challenging with this channel. That’s why you should run a few campaigns exclusively to your email subscribers and then compare the results to your other channels.
As for the outcome, you can thank me later.
How to use email marketing for ecommerce?
One of the main advantages of email is that it works perfectly across the entire customer lifecycle.
No matter if you’re looking to:
- acquire new leads,
- convert your leads into paying customers,
- or retain your existing customers,
…email’s going to help you grow your ecommerce business.
Let’s take a look at exactly how email works for each of these funnel stages.
No business can exist without an effective customer acquisition strategy.
This is especially the case with ecommerce businesses. You’re not normally looking to serve only a handful of customers – even if they’re very profitable – but instead, you’re doing everything you can to get as many people into your online store as possible.
So how does email fit into the equation?
First of all, thanks to email signup forms and landing pages you can ask your store visitors to stay in touch. If they provide you with an email address, you can send them newsletters and keep informing them about your offer or special promotions.
This is especially important if your prospects aren’t ready to make a purchase when they first come in contact with your brand.
Here’s what Nicole Johnson, the owner of The Baby Sleep Site, says about this:
Email marketing is very important to our customer acquisition strategy. Our clients need time to get to know our philosophy and what our company is about, so email marketing allows us to build relationships.
Also, email can supplement your other customer acquisition campaigns, using different digital marketing channels.
Maura Hughes, Head of Ecommerce for Only in Your State, further explains this concept:
Email marketing is a core part of our customer acquisition. It’s the part of the consideration and awareness stage of our customer journey. We drive traffic to our pages through social media marketing and search and then from there, we implement webforms and welcome series to help convert prospects into buyers.
There are several reasons for which prospects would be interested in joining your email list. For example:
- To get a discount code (e.g. 10% off the first purchase)
- To get a free delivery
- To be among the first ones to get the latest offers
- To get exclusive offers
- To get updates when a specific product is on sale or back in stock
Match the value you’re offering (or the lead magnet you’re using) to prospective newsletter subscribers with their buyer persona. Don’t suggest joining a loyalty program to prospects who are looking to make a small one-off purchase.
If you’re interested in learning more about using email for customer acquisition, we’ve recently published an extensive article on how to build an ecommerce email list, focusing on SEO, PPC, and effective landing page design.
With the first stage out of the way, let’s look at how email marketing can help improve your ecommerce conversions.
At the very least, you can run promotional campaigns or blowout sales on retail holidays like Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
But that’s only going to work for people who are ready to buy.
As Nicole Johnson from The Baby Sleep Site already mentioned, not all prospects are ready to buy from you right away. That’s when you might want to run what marketers call lead nurturing campaigns.
In short, lead nurturing or email drip campaigns are used to turn prospects into buyers by sending a series of messages in specific time intervals.
One email at a time, their purpose is to strengthen the relationship between the prospect and the brand by offering additional value.
Nicole goes on to explain their approach in more detail:
We use email marketing to convert contacts to buyers by sending them a series of free content emails as well as emails describing how we can help and what is involved in our process.
Similarly, Only in Your State uses welcome email series to convert prospects into customers. And email automation is just one of the tactics they use to get on average 50.55% unique open rates. You can read more about this in our case study.
Note that you can start your lead nurturing process at any chosen moment, not just after signup.
Below you can see an example of a cart abandonment email that has a similar objective as your typical lead nurturing campaign.
This is a single message from a four-email series sent by American Giant, a US-based online retailer – all focusing on a different aspect that makes their offer special.
If you don’t complete the purchase and buy this particular hoodie, you’ll likely receive:
- one email saying that “your new favorite” hoodie is still available
- one email letting you know about their “lifetime warranty”, which lets return the product anytime, free of charge, as they’re “built to last a lifetime”
- one message explaining the story behind their “Classic Full Zip” and how it has been named the “Greatest Hoodie Ever” by Slate magazine
- one final email repeating the fact that you can still complete the purchase and return the product for free, anytime.
Most often, lead nurturing is used for:
- customer onboarding campaigns – to turn newly acquired prospects into paying customers
- top of mind campaigns – to become the first choice for those who aren’t ready to buy but are interested in the offer
- re-engagement or win-back campaigns – to win-back those leads who either showed intent or have previously bought something from you
In one of our recent webinars Getting started with ecommerce communication, we looked at how a company called Casper uses lead nurturing (example below) for their onboarding program. You can check out the recap and the recording if you want to learn more about what they do to convince their prospects to buy mattresses online.
If you’re interested in running lead nurturing campaigns – or any other campaigns aimed at converting your leads – it’s worth considering using marketing automation for this process.
Marketing automation makes it easy to send the right content, to the right people, and at the right time.
Why does this matter? Because your audience is more likely to act upon your offer when they get relevant content.
You can read more about this and see how easy it is to run lead nurturing campaigns using automation templates in our recent article – 5 Marketing Automation Workflows to Skyrocket Your Ecommerce Conversions.
Holly Sutton recently wrote a great article on why retention emails are as important as sales emails. And I couldn’t agree more.
To acquire a new customer, you often have to settle down for a minimal profit margin. By offering a free delivery or 10% discount, you’re often barely covering all the costs you had to incur up to that point.
You do that through repeat sales that lead to high customer-lifetime value (CLV) – and hope to get that money back in the long run.
Email campaigns are great for this. That’s because there are many ways you can use them to drive customer engagement and build brand loyalty.
Even in your list opt-out, welcome, and re-engagement emails you can convince your contacts to take action.
For The Baby Sleep Site, Nicole Johnson uses yet another tactic:
We use cart abandonment emails to learn more about how our readers are thinking at the time of purchase. We send an email automatically to ask them for feedback on the website and the reason they abandoned their cart.
Unquestionably, survey emails can work wonders.
Maura Hughes of Only In Your State says this about how they use emails for customer retention:
We use win-back campaigns to attract customers who have not purchased or are not engaging with the brand anymore, we have an automated cart abandonment campaign, and we offer loyalty campaigns offering discounts for new products to existing customers.
We also use a post-purchase follow-up campaign to strengthen customer loyalty, increase product reviews, and offer best-selling products.
As you can see, there are multiple ways to use emails to retain your ecommerce customers.
A thing to keep in mind: start thinking about customer retention as soon as possible. How you communicate at the beginning of your customer journey is just as important as how you do it at later stages, when they become inactive.
Win-back campaigns are a great way to drive retention. At the same time, a well-designed message containing shipping information could be the one that strikes the right chord with your audience.
How will you grow your ecommerce business?
Now that you’ve seen how email can help your ecommerce business, it’s time you answer this one simple question:
What’s the first step you’re going to take?
If I had to choose a campaign I’d launch for my online store first, it’d definitely be one of the following – welcome email, post-purchase follow-up, or cart abandonment email.
But even if you don’t have a product to sell just yet, you can use email to introduce a new one.
So go on, connect your online store with GetResponse and launch your first email marketing campaign today.
Complete Guide to Marketing Automation for Ecommerce
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