Email For Ecommerce: Marketing Emails

In this blog series, we walk you through some of the dos and don’ts of email for ecommerce. Last week, we talked about transactional email. This week we dig into marketing emails.

Email has always been a simple medium for one-way marketing communication to your customers. For ecommerce shops, it was a way to blast into the inboxes of customers and potential customers with the push of a button.

And then spam filters started to recognize the patterns and relegate marketing email to the spam abyss. Still, email remains a key medium for marketing activities, but it is more important than ever that marketers do it right.

Here, I’ll walk you through some of the ways to use email as a marketing tool without angering your customers and getting tossed into the spam folder, or worse, being dropped by an Email Service Provider (ESP) altogether.

First, with marketing emails, let your customers opt-in. Tell them what you plan to send them and how frequently they can expect emails. That will reduce the element of surprise and the chance of recipients deleting before reading. You should also send a confirmation email with a link that verifies the email address (a “double opt-in”). This protects your reputation and reduces the likelihood of spam complaints. A double-opt in is a great way to confirm that someone wants your emails. Because they’re willing to take a small extra step – click a link – to receive them.

Many marketers are scared of double opt-in emails. “But my list will be smaller!” they say. This is true, but it misses the main point. If you send a marketing email to 100,000 people, and 1,000 complain of spam, that is a 1 percent complaint rate. A 1 percent complaint rate is high enough for major ESPs like Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail to block ALL of your emails entirely. We’ve seen this happen.

Imagine, though, if this ecommerce shop had practiced double-opt in. Its list might be smaller, say 70,000 instead of 100,000 emails, but because spam complaints would be close to zero, this sender would end up getting many more emails through to its end users.

It’s also important to personalize marketing emails. Let me repeat myself: personalize, personalize, personalize. Not all of your customers want the same brand of socks; so don’t market the same thing to everyone. For successful email marketing campaigns, use data about your customers to target offers toward them. While some may want socks, others might want cufflinks. Knowing your customer and tailoring your email to them will increase engagement.

Another key component of marketing email is tracking. Marketing emails tend to have higher complaint rates than transactional email, so it’s imperative to set up tracking to know who your most active customers are. You should make sure that your active customers make up the bulk of your send. You want ESPs to see that your users are engaging with your emails to ensure maximum inbox placement. You can always sprinkle a small portion of inactive customers into the mix to make sure your overall reputation doesn’t suffer.

And again, I can’t stress this enough, you should make unsubscribe and change preferences links highly visible and ensure that they work, lest you harm your email reputation.

While most people think content is king, the look and feel of your email is also incredibly important. Does it reflect your brand? Is it consistent with the look and feel of your ecommerce store? Are you using aesthetically pleasing images, fonts, etc…? If it’s ugly, it won’t get read, no matter how good the content is.

Finally, and importantly, ask for feedback. There’s no better way to know if you’re hitting the right chords than going straight to your customers for their thoughts. Asking your customers to suggest changes, make a comment or tell you what they like and don’t like can help you build a better email marketing campaign the next time around.

Are you gearing up your next big email marketing campaign? I hope email has helped.

That concludes our email for ecommerce series. Thank you for reading and learning more about how best to leverage email in your ecommerce business.

Taylor was Director of Business Operations at Rackspace Hosting in charge of keeping the Mailgun ship sailing smoothly. Taylor was COO and co-founder of Mailgun which Rackspace acquired in August 2012.


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