Email Marketing > Merchant Voice

Lessons from an ecommerce email marketer

I have a reputation as a marketer who sends a lot of emails. And it’s true. At FringeSport, we send most of our subscribers five emails per week — sometimes more. But, still, our unsubscribes and spam complaints are very low.

In this post, I’ll offer email-marketing tips based on FringeSport’s experience — how we grow and maintain a healthy list.

The key is to send only emails that our subscribers want to read. If you’re sending poor quality emails, or very spammy ones, it’s not likely that any of the following tips will work. Include only compelling content in your emails that resonate with subscribers.


First, implement an on-boarding sequence. When someone subscribes, send her a series of emails that explain what to expect, to keep her interest. Vary this by the sources for subscribers.

For example, someone who responds to an offer of “Get 5% off by signing up for our email list” would likely prefer promotional emails. Email one could read: “Here’s your 5% off, and by the way, here’s why you should shop at our site.” Email two might be: “Have you used that 5% off yet? Here’s why we were founded, and what we’re really good at.” Email three might state: “Since you haven’t used your 5% off yet, here’s 7% off.” Or something like that.

Then after you run through that sequence, include the subscriber in your “normal” email sends.

To contrast, if someone is on your email list because he purchased products or services, send on-boarding emails that are related to that. Email one could be: “Thanks for your purchase. We’ve added you as a subscriber. Here’s what to expect.” And then include content in the email that’s relevant to the purchase.

Long-form emails

We’ve experimented with sending long-form emails that take up to 20 minutes to read, versus an email that takes, say, 5 minutes to read and that includes a link to our blog. Our subscribers appear to prefer the shorter email that links to the blog. But I am interested in continuing to test — long-form content, entirely in the email. does this really well. We do it decently.

To elaborate, this long-form content should appeal to your customers and prospects. For us, many subscribers are interested in building garage gyms. So we send a lot of content related to that topic. We include stories of other enthusiasts who have built garage gyms, with details of their equipment and training.

Shorter content

We also send quick-hit emails with lighter content, such as a short tip or word of encouragement. Chubbies, an apparel company, does this really well. It has fairly short emails that are funny and that resonate with its customers. It’s difficult to create humorous emails multiple times a week. But if you have that skill, use it.

Promotional emails

Finally, we also send straight-up promotional emails. These perform well around Christmas and Black Friday, and not as well the rest of the year. In my experience, think very carefully about when you send promotional emails.

Frankly, I’m less and less interested in sending promotional emails — “Hey, [this product] is on sale.” — because they are our worst performers. Unless you have deal-focused subscribers, promotional emails are likely not going to do that well. Think about it from your own experience: How many promotional emails do you receive and care about?

For FringeSport, promotional emails are simply not that effective. We see it in the numbers. But what is effective is an email with helpful content that includes an ancillary promo. It’s as if the promo is an advertisement alongside our content, which is the focus of the email.

Review responses

Regardless of the type of emails you send, remember to review key metrics. I heavily scrutinize open rates, unsubscribes, and spam complaints. I also look closely at revenue-based metrics. Revenue will tell you if your email is effective as a marketing tool.

Finally, I send about one email per week from my personal work email address. I encourage recipients to reply directly to me. I read every one of those replies and I try to respond to all of them. Sometimes it creates hundreds of replies. But I’m hearing directly from our customers. It’s 100-percent worth it.

Peter Keller
Peter Keller
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