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Email Marketing for Retail: 11 Tips for 2021

Cillian McGillycuddy 24 March 2021 • Email Marketing, Guides, Marketing

Article first published March 2019, updated March 2021.

Email is one of the most effective marketing channels for retailers that want to increase sales. For a relatively low investment of both time and money, the ROI (Return On Investment) from emailing customers directly is clear to see. With a return of $44 for every $1 spent, retailers can’t afford to ignore their email marketing strategy.

Our phones are never out of reach these days, so you can effectively reach your audience at any time. Sending emails allows you to promote and sell your products while building a relationship with your customers. Like the benefits of blogging, it also helps to humanize your business.

But are you getting the most out of your marketing emails? Are your Open and Click-Through Rates (CTR) lacking? Are you unsure of where to even start?

This guide will introduce some of the best practices for e-commerce businesses to use when emailing their customer base. Here are 11 sure-fire ways to increase sales and revenue from your email marketing efforts.


1. Welcome new subscribers with automated emails

You want to welcome anyone that joins your mailing list or creates an account on your site with an email. However, it would be impossible to manually send every new subscriber a personal email. That’s where automation comes in.

An automated email campaign sends automatically when someone meets a certain trigger, like subscribing on your website. Research has shown that 96% of website visitors aren’t ready to buy yet. That’s where getting them to subscribe to your list, and then sending them an automated welcome email can turn them into buyers.

Many online retailers build their welcome email around an offer or discount code to entice customers back to make a purchase.

NitroSell retailer The Rugged Mill does this effectively with their welcome email that goes out to new subscribers.

Welcome email banner showing a 10% off sticker

2. Optimize your subject lines

Don’t tell the copywriters, but the subject line is the only part of an email that most people will read, so spend some time to get it right. Doing everything you can to improve your chance of getting that open is critical.

Take this blog for example. Including numbers in blog post headlines boosts click-through rates by 206%. The same applies to emails. Calling out numbers or data improves open and reply rates. Offering a 15% discount? Giving customers 30 days to claim an offer? Make sure the number is in the headline as they’re proven to give your emails a sense of urgency and boost open rates.

Be aware of length when writing your subject line though. Mobile devices account for 50% of all opened emails and iPhones will only show around 38 characters in portrait mode. Just like your website needs to be, your emails should also be mobile-optimized or even mobile-first.

You should be aiming for a subject line between 3-6 words in length and no more than 28 characters.

You should also write your subject lines in capitalized titles to boost your open rates with each word capitalized. Full sentences and lower case words tend to under-perform.

Popular email tools like Mailchimp help you when writing your subject line so your adhering to best email marketing practices.

Screenshot of the Mailchimp subject line writing tool

3. Segment your campaigns and lists

Segmentation is when you group your contacts based on criteria that you determine. You could segment your audience based on location, gender, or age for instance. Segmentation is the easiest way to personalize on a large scale. It will also result in more opens and better CTRs as the messaging is more targeted.

Customer list segmentation will result in better open and click-through rates as delivering targeted messages focused on a specific groups will always yield better results than a more scattergun approach.

Every list of customers is different, but finding the similarities in any group allows your email marketing efforts to grow.


4. Learn the best time and day to send your campaigns

Just like an optimized subject line, timing can be just as crucial in determining how your campaign performs. There are many different studies out that will tell when is the best time to send your campaigns. However, no audience is the same, so you will have to experiment for yourself.

Think about who your customer is and when they are most likely to check their emails. If you plan on creating a regular newsletter, try and send it at the same time every week/month. That way, your customers will know when to expect it and reading your newsletter can develop into a routine.


5. A/B test to see what works for your audience

If you have multiple pieces of copy or subject lines that you think might work, try them out. A/B testing them by duplicating your campaign and only change the subject line or key piece of copy. See which one performs better and use that learning to make your next campaign even better.

Most email service providers have an A/B testing functionality built into the platform which makes comparison easier.

The most useful initial A/B test you can do is on your subject lines. Try to find the word combination which maximizes your open rates. Keep everything else about the email the same for a true A/B test.


6. Keep your email lists updated

The data gathered from your email marketing service is invaluable to measure how you are tracking against your KPIs, so it’s important to protect this data’s integrity wherever you can.

If your email list contains old customer email addresses or fake emails, then this will have an impact on all of the relevant metrics, from open rate to bounce rate. If this list contains users who label you as spam, you also run the risk of being labeled as spammer.

If you are using our MailChimp, Bronto, or Constant Contact integrations, NitroSell offers mailing list sign up options at customer registration, customer update, and checkout. On any of these pages, the customer can choose to opt in or opt out of your mailing list, and that gets reflected automatically on your email marketing provider.


7. Use customized responsive email template

Having a branded and coded responsive email template will ensure your emails render as they are supposed to on all devices. Responsive emails use flowing entry forms and images that makes the email content flow seamlessly between screen sizes and mobile devices.

At least 50% of your email opens will be on a mobile so it’s essential that your emails are optimized for mobile. Creating this seamless experience cross-device with your email strategy is a key component of an omnichannel retail strategy. Get in touch with our design team today if you want to help in creating your own responsive email templates.


8. Focus on your call to action

Your campaigns should have one clear call to action which is immediately apparent. Every line of your email should serve the purpose of explaining why your customer needs to take this action. Keep this in mind while writing your email and it will have clarity, purpose, and ultimately lead to more sales.

A simple ‘click here’ embedded in the body of the email will no longer suffice today. Placing a strong call to action button above the fold of your email can lead to a higher click-through rate. You don’t need to deceive your customers into trying to get their click.

Make it clear and make it bold what you want your customer to do. If they need more convincing, that’s what the rest of the email is for.


9. Personalize your emails

It’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire a new one, so using the information you have about existing customers keeps your ROI positive. Using a simple, ‘Hi [first name],’ will make your emails immediately more engaging to your audience who, in many cases, receive an average of at least 90 emails each day.

Personalization doesn’t just stop at using someone’s name though. Your emails need to speak specifically to the customer’s shopping experience. If they abandoned their cart it may have been due to a price point issue. Can you offer them a small discount on that item to entice them back? Using location-specific imagery or offers can also help increase the personalized experience.


10. Be consistent with your campaigns

There is no template for how often you should send out your marketing emails, but research has suggested that it’s better to send emails more often rather than less frequently. While this means you will be sending out many emails per month, it’s important to stay consistent with your audience.

Ramping up around seasonal selling periods is accepted, but maintaining regular schedules for your email newsletters and using email marketing automation to ensure welcome emails and offer emails are sent out as and when they should.

Asking your subscribers how often they want to hear from is is also a good idea as it will help not only gauge how engaged your customers are with your brand, but also how your emails are being received.


11. Keep growing your list

Always look for opportunities to grow your email list. Marketing departments have always relied on emails to convert leads into sales and studies show that email marketing isn’t going away. With that, you should take every opportunity you can to grow your email lists.

Most email service providers offer plug ins to implement your email sign up form onto your Facebook page. Post on social about your newsletter, previewing what kind of content you usually send. You could also include a link to your newsletter subscription form in your order confirmation emails, as you’ll definitely have your customers’ attention then.

Take advantage of every opportunity to have your email marketing efforts seen by as many people as possible.

Related: 15 Ways E-commerce Brands Can Grow Their Email List


Wrapping up

Email marketing for retail doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow our guide when creating your campaigns and you’ll be driving sales from your emails in no time.

NitroSell offers an email marketing service to its retailers if they need help creating or optimizing their campaigns. If you’d like to start making more from your emails, get in touch with our team.


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