Practical Ecommerce

Using Email Marketing to Generate New Customers; 6 Pointers

For years, email marketing has been the workhorse in the web marketing toolbox. It is relatively inexpensive. And it’s typically very effective for getting subscribers to your site, to shop and buy. For that reason, email has one of the highest returns on investment for many ecommerce merchants.

Email marketing is relatively easy in the utopian situation of marketing to consumers that have already purchased from you, or have subscribed and have shown an interest in purchasing.

But what about using email to generate new leads, and new customers? We’ve previously addressed strategies for growing an email list, to attract prospects, at “7 Tips to Grow Your Email Subscriber List” and “Using Email for Customer Acquisition.”

Getting prospects to subscribe is the first step. The second is getting them to convert, to actually purchase products and services from your site. This article will cover six pointers to remember, to convert new email subscribers to customers.

1. It’s an Investment

If using email to gain new customers was successful every time, then we wouldn’t need to work very hard. The truth is, for almost every marketing channel, obtaining new customers costs more money than you earn on their first order. That’s to be expected. The point of gaining new customers is that their lifetime value and referrals will ultimately provide the return on investment. In short, create budgets and realistic expectations before using email for customer acquisition.

Wall Street Journal wine offer

This offer from The Wall Street Journal, a known brand, is aimed at new subscribers that have not yet joined the wine club.

2. New Subscribers Respond Differently than Customers

It’s virtually unheard of to send an email to a group of prospects and new subscribers and receive immediate sales — unless you have a known brand with a compelling offer. Converting new contacts is a dance, and needs to be choreographed accordingly. The behavior and actions of new subscribers will differ greatly from established customers. A customer may click directly from an email and place an order. A new subscriber may go to your site, do some comparison shopping, and then return via a Google search days later.

3. It Takes Time

Developing a successful email-marketing program for your own customers may take months. Executing a campaign that is effective at converting prospects into customers may take even longer. Focus on the various elements of a traditional campaign and continually test and measure the following items.

  • Subject lines
  • Offers
  • Calls to action
  • Ad copy
  • Deployment time

Rarely will you be successful on the first try. Test, measure, make changes, and repeat. Your program will get stronger. The key is not to give up after one or two poor-performing deployments.

4. Consistency Is King

Once you’ve identified the elements in your emails that create conversions, use them repeatedly. Average the performance over time. Some deployments will perform better than others. But remember that the most successful acquisition campaigns are those that are performed consistently.

5. Measurement of New Sales Is Tricky

New subscribers will typically have shopping behavior that is different from established customers. It’s typically much harder to track direct sales from new subscribers. I’ve found that one of the best methods for attributing sales from new subscribers is via a “matchback” analysis, which compares the subscribers who opened or clicked on a particular campaign to customers who placed their first order over the same period. Often sales that cannot be tracked through a direct link or offer code can be attributed via a matchback, providing a much better view as to the success of a particular campaign.

6. Grab Shoppers before they Leave

New visitors that are comparison shopping or exploring your site for the first time are more likely to abandon a search or browse session than existing customers. Make sure retention programs — abandoned cart emails, remarketing banners — are in place to convert those shoppers later.

Carolyn Nye

Carolyn Nye

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  1. Jerry Jao March 6, 2014 Reply

    Great post. I think setting the right expectations on what you can achieve with a more sophisticated program is important. It is important to employ some of the most sophisticated ESPs (email service providers). Or else you might spend a lot before you see the benefits. And as marketers, we care about seeing that return as soon as possible.

    There are some cost saving options that you can do to maximize results such as using MailChimp (lower costs) and accomplish the same with some of the Apps on that integrates with lower tier service providers, one example would be my company, Retention Science. Check it out our Mailchimp integration site:

  2. Dave Harris April 9, 2014 Reply

    Great post and I love the tips and tricks you have shared! Email marketing has been there for years and definitely the most effective tool for instant advertisement out there. e-newletters are quite a handy way to make sure that your business is not unheard of. Banckle.Campaign is a really good email marketing tool which lets me make my own email marketing campaigns with predefined themes and also reuse the newsletter themes every month.

  3. Scott August 17, 2014 Reply

    What about using email to prospect? Like using lists from InfoUSA. Does anybody have experience with that?

  4. Lasha December 2, 2015 Reply

    Great Post! We have achieved almost 60% growth in terms of Sales conversions since we started using email marketing. MailChimp along with AeroLeads(Build email Lists) and some unique content has worked wonders for us.