Marketers have heard for years that email is dead. However, just the opposite is true. The importance of email has never been greater, and there is still no better way for ecommerce merchants to communicate with a customer or prospect. From sending transactional information to advertising and promotions, having access to a person’s inbox represents a powerful marketing opportunity.
With that said, here are four of the best ways to invest in email for 2016.
1. Outsource or Hire an Expert
Many ecommerce merchants try to take on every role themselves, to reduce costs. Often, however, the opportunity cost of attempting to do something yourself is greater than the expense to outsource or hire an expert.
In a day when there is a wealth of experienced and knowledgeable designers, coders, email marketing experts, and consultants, now may be the time to get an outsider’s opinion, to help steer your program in the right direction.
One place to find email marketing experts is Only Influencers, a member-only community comprised of email marketing professionals. I’m confident that you will discover qualified and knowledgeable talent there.
2. Attend Educational Conferences and Webinars
Learning about the changes taking place in the email marketing industry or listening to case studies from companies similar to yours will not only provide you with many ideas but can also inspire a significant shift in your approach and practices. This year, set aside part of your budget to invest in education and attend more conferences and webinars.
Late winter and early spring happen to be key times for email marketing and digital conferences. What’s more, the contacts made through networking may reveal additional opportunities, aside from the educational benefits you accrue. A few popular email marketing conferences include:
- Marketing Sherpa Summit – Las Vegas Feb 22-24;
- Email Evolution Conference – New Orleans March 30-April 1;
- The Email Design Conference – Boston Aug 26-28th;
- Email Insiders Summit – Dates TBD; December 2016.
3. Upgrade to a More Sophisticated Marketing Platform
There are easily half a dozen email marketing tools designed for small- to medium-sized ecommerce merchants that are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. These include platforms such as Vertical Response, MailChimp, or Constant Contact.
However, these tools, as good as they are, may be limited in their overall capabilities. As your business grows — or as you plan to grow — having a true full-service marketing automation system that can push the boundaries of not just email marketing but also other automated communications will help you get to the next level.
There are dozens of providers, depending on scope, budget, and capabilities. I recommend that you download an email marketing vendor guide, such as one from email marketing consulting firm RedPillEmail, to find a platform best suited to your needs.
4. Invest in Your Database
Time and again, I stress the importance of having a quality email marketing database. Without a good source of email addresses with which to correspond, you cannot have a very successful program.
For 2016, I highly recommend that you invest time in refreshing and increasing the size of your database, or getting to know the characteristics that make up the bulk of your customer base at least.
Also, to be cleaner, more modern, and mobile friendly, many ecommerce sites often lack an obvious place for a visitor to sign up for emails. That represents an enormous missed opportunity.
Here are some tips to increase subscribers in 2016:
- Ensure that you have an email sign-up form on every page of your site;
- Subscribe individuals during the checkout process, but make sure this is clear to them;
- Try tactics such as pop-up email captures for new site visitors, or contests and drawings;
- Acquire new emails with co-branding or co-registration tactics.
Opt-Intelligence is a subscription acquisition service that allows marketers to specify, using demographics, what type of subscribers they are after. Use of this service may help bump up your subscriber base with well-qualified prospects.
Be confident and follow these four steps to invest more in your email program in 2016. Despite the naysayers, email still provides the highest return on investment of any media channel.