Practical Ecommerce

Using Email to Maintain and Build Site Traffic

When I managed email marketing for a leading ecommerce site, I would receive calls from our IT department almost every Tuesday, asking if I had sent a large email campaign. The trouble was that we were sending too much traffic to the site at once. This was a good problem to have, but we had to change our strategy to send the emails over time, evening out the traffic to the site.

Email campaigns can greatly increase traffic. But omitting email campaigns can cause traffic and sales declines. In this article, I’ll offer four tips on managing your email campaigns to optimize your site traffic and increase conversions.

1. Throttle Larger Email Deployments

I usually suggest that merchants send to their entire email database at least once a month. But it must be managed carefully, so that the email deployment occurs over a number of hours.

When sending to a large database, you run into several possible problems. First, the obvious one is sending too much traffic to your site at one time. In addition, this could increase demand on customer service personnel and cause delays in response that can potentially anger customers. If you have the type of business where customers call in or need assistance, this may pose a problem.

In addition, when sending a large number of emails at one time, you risk possible partial blocking at major Internet service providers. The actual deliverability of your campaign could suffer as a result.

The solution to all of these problems is simply to throttle the email send, to allocate a certain number of emails each hour. Most major email service providers have this basic functionality. If they do not, you can segment your list and schedule the email send accordingly. Make sure the throttling does not occur after hours, when you may not have customer service available. Also note if you have an offer or feature that is time sensitive — like a 24-hour sale — accommodate the throttling so the offer is not sent after it has expired.

2. Automate Triggered Emails

Triggered and transactional emails typically have the highest open and conversion rates. Automating many programs will therefore help to ensure a steady stream of repeat traffic. The basic automated emails to adopt into your program could include:

  • Order notifications;
  • Shipping notifications;
  • Follow-up customer satisfaction survey;
  • Welcome emails;
  • Abandon cart emails;
  • Abandon site emails — search or browse;
  • Reactivation email series.

Each one of these programs is designed to address a need of a customer or prospect at a key point in the transaction process. They are also designed to get repeat visitors to come back to your site, to complete a purchase, facilitate a repeat purchase, or simply to keep the customer engaged and satisfied.

I received this email, below, from Fandango a few days after I purchased tickets for “Monster University,” a movie. The email was well timed, relevant, and a good way to get me to click back to the site and write a review. Fandango also added a recommendation — “The Wolverine” — at the bottom.

Fandango follows up ticket purchases with a timely, relevant email.

3. Adopt Acquisition Campaigns

Email acquisition campaigns are designed to go after new prospects. Acquisition campaigns aren’t nearly as effective as emailing to your existing customers. But they are important to keep the stream of new site traffic. Adding ongoing acquisition campaigns to your email program will add an additional traffic stream of new visitors that will convert at higher rates when optimized appropriately.

These new visitors should be captured and then remarketed to via your retention email program. It is a good way to build your email database and thus increase your site’s traffic.

4. Don’t Forget to Email

One of the biggest traffic killers is when ecommerce merchants simply forget to send out email campaigns. It happens often, especially when merchants take on many roles and manage several elements of a site. Create an email schedule and stick with it. When sales are down we sometimes don’t realize that it could be because email frequency was reduced or campaigns were missed. Missing even a week or two of a normal ongoing schedule can put a huge dent in your traffic, conversions, and sales.

Carolyn Nye
Carolyn Nye
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Comments ( 2 )

  1. Elizabeth Ball July 20, 2013 Reply

    Interesting article, Carolyn.

    The automation of customer feedback surveys for example, would be ideal, yet it has challenges. These surveys can and should be sent within a few days of an e-gift certificate, e-book or electronically generated product.

    But what about delivery delay differences eg items sent overnight and less speedily by international shipping? Some may not even have received their order when they receive the survey.

    And what about items which can’t be remarked upon so quickly? Do you wait for the recipient’s anniversary, birthday, christening, wedding etc to pass for the gift-giver to respond? What about the timing for product surveys by new mothers who are overwhelmed?

    Or do you just automate and hope they’ll respond?

    And lastly your third point on email acquisition campaigns. Are you talking about unsolicited email via bought lists? Isn’t this spam?

  2. Cristina Sierra July 25, 2013 Reply

    Carolyn – great practical advice. I have yet to embark on a true email strategy and I’m struggling with which vendor to choose (aWeber, Mad Mimi, etc.). Are there any you recommend for companies just starting to adopt email marketing for acquisition and to communicate with their existing customers?

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