Practical Ecommerce

Using Data to Attract, Retain Email Subscribers

Email marketing remains crucial to most ecommerce companies. Attracting and retaining new subscribers is key to that effort.

Merchants no longer have to guess which subscription offers have the widest appeal. With testing, merchants can produce sign-up forms that appeal to their audiences and receive the best responses. After that, to retain new subscribers, merchants can now use data to tailor messages and content to each subscriber’s interests, to help engage subscribers over the long term.

Here are three ideas for attracting and retaining email subscribers with testing and data.

Test Sign-up Forms and Offers

Your relationship with your subscribers doesn’t start with them entering their email addresses. Rather, it begins the moment they see your email opt-in form or page. That’s why it’s essential that you optimize every aspect of the page, from its web copy and offer, to its graphics and layout.

Find out what your target audience likes. What tone should you adopt in the sign-up offer? Should you include images? What’s the best incentive to get them to sign up? Find the answers to these questions by surveying your customers. Analyze their responses and incorporate them it into your subscription offers.

The next step is testing your opt-in forms and pages. Run A/B tests on the different components of the page to see which ones perform the best. Consider a landing page builder such as Unbounce or OptimizePress and use its default testing functionalities. Alternatively, you can opt for special A/B testing tools, such as Optimizely or A/Bingo.

You can also utilize user-testing services to see how people respond to your opt-in pages. For instance, there’s Fivesecondtest, a service that provides insights on people’s first impressions of your page. You upload your designs, then Fivesecondtest will show it to users, who have five seconds to view the image before they answer a set of questions. You’ll then use the results to fine-tune your pages.

For deeper insights, consider UserTesting, a service that enables you to test with a user panel, your own customers, or visitors from your live website. UserTesting lets you watch videos of participants on your site, where you can see and hear where they get stuck or confused.

Finally, test your page and messages on various devices. Consumers increasingly view emails and websites on their smartphones and tablets. Mobile users want content that is easy to view. Make sure landing page and email messages look and behave beautifully on mobile.

Personalize the Content of Emails

Do you send out a generic “thank you for subscribing” message? Or worse, do you use the default one generated by your email service provider? If so, do your subscribers a favor and send them a message customized to them and to your company

Beyond that, send emails that include only the content that interests the subscribers. For example, The Honest Company, a retailer of home and baby products, sends emails based on what each subscriber viewed on the site. If a subscriber spends time browsing the site’s “Health and Wellness” section, then she might receive emails containing images of vitamins and supplements. However, if she viewed baby products, she would likely receive emails promoting baby wipes, diapers, and other related items.

I know that this approach is effective because The Honest Company is a client of my firm, Retention Science. Sending personalized emails based on subscribers’ browsing habits has increased The Honest Company’s conversion rate by 170 percent, according to company personnel. (Be careful, however, about the misuse of customer data. I addressed that topic here previously, at “4 Mistakes to Avoid with Ecommerce Customer Data.”)

Allow Subscribers to Control Email Preferences

Irrelevant content and too many messages are the primary reasons for unsubscribes. Address this by enabling subscribers to control their email preferences. It empowers subscribers and tells them that you care about their experiences.

Take the example of ModCloth, a women’s fashion retailer. At the bottom of its welcome email, the etailer asks subscribers if they prefer to receive updates about plus sizes, as shown below.

ModCloth provides options for subscribers

ModCloth invites new subscribers to choose email preferences.

ModCloth then provides a page to allow subscribers to update their email preferences accordingly.

ModCloth provides options for subscribers

ModCloth provides options for subscribers.

Similarly, social-shopping site Little Black Bag enables members to select the type and frequency of updates.

Little Black Bag lets users decide how frequently they get emails

Little Black Bag lets users decide how frequently they receive emails.

In short, using customer data to develop relevant and timely email communications can retain subscribers and increase the conversion rate from them.

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Jerry Jao
Jerry Jao
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Comments ( 2 )

  1. Stacey Herbert March 17, 2014 Reply

    You made some fantastic points here. Today I spent some time checking ecommerce email marketing practices, and I came across some interesting things.

    Many just dump you back on the homepage. And that generic ‘thank-you’ page? Even the big brands are making that mistake. But the biggest thing that I noticed is, how few brands – especially those that could really benefit from the extra reach – where really focused on list building.

    For many, both the placement, layout and experience, of their optin box just felt i’ll thought out.

    The scary thing is, many of these medium sized ecommerce brands are spending $$$$ of dollars with big agencies getting new sites built that sing and dance and everything else, but don’t focus on what their business needs most – permission to email!

    • Jerry Jao March 18, 2014 Reply

      Stacey,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your experiment and discovery.

      We appreciate your feedback and please continue to share your thoughts!

      Jerry

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