Practical Ecommerce

Email Marketing Dos and Don’ts for Ecommerce Merchants

In “Email Still an Effective Marketing Tool?,” we addressed why email marketing is highly efficient, inexpensive, and easy to measure. This is unlike social media marketing, which for smaller merchants is often difficult to manage and track.

I used email marketing extensively in my previous online jewelry business. Here is a list of email dos and don’ts I learned along the way.

Email Marketing Dos

  • Aggressively capture email subscribers. Capture email subscribers on your website, during checkout, in transactional emails, on your social media posts and pages, and any other place you can ask for an opt-in.
  • Offer subscription options. Offer subscriptions options, such as frequency, subject matter, promotions, and past purchases.
  • Offer at least one subject-oriented option. This means every email does not need to be a promotion. You can offer tips, customer profiles, and human-interest stories. Try to find some way to add some value to your brand beyond promotions.
  • Personalize promotions. Mine your customer data and personalize promotions to the extent that your supporting platforms allow it. Past purchases, recent item views, and abandoned items can be used to personalize emails. Use what you have to increase your conversion rates and average order values.
  • Give subscribers what they want. Respect subscriber choices and give them what they want and nothing more. If you create a new delivery option, provide a way for them to opt in rather than just assuming they will want it.
  • Invest in a branded template. Don’t use the default templates included with your email marketing service. Create one that will help your brand stand out, support site links to relevant content, and support mobile devices. Create several for different types of promotions.
  • Track email results. Use referral links that can be tracked as goals in your analytics. Track opens, clicks, add to carts, and conversions.
  • Pay attention to results. If something is not working, try something else. If something is working well, make it better.
  • Build promotional landing pages. If you are offering 40 percent off, create a 40 percent off landing page. You will see a higher conversion rate.
  • Keep in contact. Sending more than one newsletter per week is difficult for some small merchants. But invest the time to make contact with your customers, for top-of-mind awareness.
  • Offer an option to change preferences. When a subscriber opts out, offer alternative options to try and keep them on your list in a less intrusive delivery schedule.
  • Ask why customers opted out. A simple question on the opt-out form, asking why they unsubscribed, can provide helpful insights.
  • Send out mobile friendly emails. Soon the majority of emails will be read on mobile devices. Test your delivery on those devices. Test your landing pages on mobile devices. You will increase your conversions.
  • Clean up your lists periodically. One of the best practices is to clean your lists periodically. At least once a year, send an email to all subscribers who have not opened during that year. Ask them to confirm their subscription. This will weed out uninterested people and provide you with a better idea of your actual clicks and open rates.
  • Compress your images. Keep images small so that performance is quick. No one wants to wait for a high-resolution image on a mobile phone.
  • Send an instant newsletter to boost business. During slow weeks, when your sales are below your target, assemble a quick promotion to a list that you know will produce results.
  • Post a copy of your email on your website. Post a copy of your email on your website, then promote it via your social media outlets. Create different links for tracking. Remove obsolete emails so people don’t find your old coupons in a Google search.
  • Include an opt-in link. In addition to your opt-out links, be sure to offer an opt-in for those who may have found your email on your website or via a forward. Insert a forward-to-a-friend link, too.

Email Marketing Don’ts

  • Don’t spam your lists. If you have an old list you want to import or use, send a one-time email requesting an opt-in to your new service. If subscribers ask to opt-out, whether they do it on the phone, via email, or from your automated links, remove them immediately.
  • Don’t send out emails with poor content. Emphasize content development. Use quality images, proper grammar, and links that work.
  • Don’t assume your list is good forever. Eventually, your list will go stale. Clean up your lists as suggested in the dos, above.
  • Don’t send out bad coupons. If you have promotional coupons, make sure they actually work. Bad coupons anger consumers.
  • Don’t put too much on the email page. Keep text to a minimum on promotions, have a primary offer and secondary links.
  • Don’t make too many offers. Too many offers clutter the message and reduces its effectiveness.
Dale Traxler
Dale Traxler
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Comments ( 2 )

  1. Jerry Jao July 23, 2013 Reply

    This is a great list. Thanks for sharing Dale. My biggest takeaway is "Don’t assume your list is good forever" – it’s remember to note that customers change and we need to ensure the list is updated with the right kind of customers.

    Also, it’s important to not have your marketing campaigns driven by offers – this will train your customers to expect offers long-term and not a good way to build a long-term and high-margin business.

  2. Dale Traxler July 25, 2013 Reply

    I completely agree that marketing campaigns need to be more than offers. Constant streams of promotions lead to disinterest. That’s another reason to segment your lists so you can target appropriate content to your readers.

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