Chapter 3 Ecommerce email funnel
Let’s talk about the idea of a funnel in general because, even though you probably know how the idea of a funnel works, you probably just gained this knowledge gradually. A purchase funnel is a model representing the theoretical customer’s journey towards the purchase of a product or service being offered. In 1898, Elias St. Elmo Lewis developed a model like this which tracked the hypothetical journey of a consumer through the moment a brand or product attracted the consumer’s attention all the way through to the point of purchase.
Lewis postulated three principles in the beginning to which a sales announcement should conform:
“The mission of an advertisement is to attract a reader, so that he will look at the advertisement and start to read it; then to interest him, so that he will continue to read it; then to convince him, so that when he has read it he will believe it. If an advertisement contains these three qualities of success, it is a successful advertisement.”
After several decades of modification, his model is referred to as the AIDA-model, which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action.
Awareness refers to the moment the customer becomes aware of the existence of a product or a service.
Interest should arise second, when the customer wants to learn more about the product, but at this point he is merely curious. This often applies to a group of products or a general curiosity.
Desire comes as a more dominant and active state of interest in which the consumer aspires a particular product or brand.
Action is the final stage in the funnel, where the customer purchases, or is at the very least seriously considering to purchase the specified product.
The AIDA-model is extremely relevant for ecommerce because you can track your customers easily and collect this data. The interaction with the customers occurs in a more uniform and comparable way than other channels or ordinary commerce. For starters, you can easily identify when a customer has left the funnel and set up automated responses which will work on pulling that customer back.
Each stage has a lower rate a consumer will proceed to it than the previous one. Logically, out of a million individuals who know your brand (Awareness), it is highly unlikely each of them will end up in the final stage of the funnel (Action) and buy from you. By following a funnel, you can create unique patterns of behaviour on your end. For instance, if a consumer leaves the funnel at the stage of Desire, you can try to pull them back by persuading them with an offer. You can for example provide a discount to those who were merely one step away from making the purchase. By knowing what product they’re interested in, you can make a juicy discount offer on this product or even the entire shopping cart purchase to provoke them to return. This is a prime example of price discrimination. We shall discuss similar examples later on.
The ecommerce email funnel is established only partly based on the AIDA model. For instance, the attention stage is already completed if the customer is within your email funnel. Essentially, the email model cannot do much in the field of attention grasping. That is the job of your online strategies, interactions, advertisements and similar tools. The ecommerce email funnel comes into play after the customer has been interested enough to provide you with their email or once you have acquired it.
Interested customers are the cornerstone of the funnel. They have provided you with an email because they expect some form of a response or information from you. This is most often done through newsletters, subscriptions or site registrations. Once you have their emails, your task is to try to get the customer to move up to the next stage in the funnel and see them to purchasing a product. There are many ways to do this and it’s often not as easy as simply displaying a product. You must nurture the relationship, make the customer feel comfortable and intrigued. In a way, this is psychology at play.
Engaged customers are the second and next stage of the funnel where an interaction takes place. Purchases are the most desired interaction you’d want from a customer, and this is the interaction you want to encourage. In this part of the funnel, the goal of your emails is to inform the customer additionally and provoke further purchases. Ideally, the customer will stay in this stage and keep interacting. Aside from purchases, interactions like cart abandonments are interactions you should pay attention to. Cart abandonments are symptoms you should not leave unattended. An engaged customer exiting a cart is not lost, but he presents a lower likelihood to purchase and increased risk to exit the funnel at this stage. By emailing them with several different email types, you can still recapture him and enable a purchase. More importantly, high number of cart abandonments tell you something is wrong in your sales process.
Elapsed customers represent the final stage of the funnel, and this is a stage you do not want your customer to lean towards. It means the customer has abandoned the chance of any purchase in the near future. Although this often happens as a result of reasons which cannot be corrected with a simple email, it can have effect at times. In the end, it costs you next to nothing to contact an elapsed customer, and even if only a portion of them return, you will see a benefit.
Each of these stages can be served with several emails different in style, content and desired goal. We shall discuss each stage in detail, but before we do, here is a short overview of the funnel.
- Welcome email
- Nurture email
- Promotion email
- Transactional emails
- Cart abandonment
- Browse abandonment
- Email and Campaign ideas
- Review emails
3.1 Interested customers
Emails collected through your newsletter subscriptions, interactions or site registrations, immediately put the potential customer into the first stage of the funnel. The customer can move on toward the point of purchase on his own, but the number of customers who do this is significantly lower if you do not interact with them. We have already discussed the potential an email has, and once it’s attained, you have struck a potential gold mine. Emails cost virtually nothing, but a well-made setup can bring you quite the benefit. You can influence the customer and guide them properly to a purchase. Even if your intention fails and the customer doesn’t purchase the product you want them to, your interaction will provoke a sense of care and interest. The customer is more likely to remember your brand, which is one of the main goals in any campaign. As we’ll see, brand awareness is a factor which can be greatly influenced with every single email you send; some more, some less.
3.1.1 The welcome email
The welcome email is the first email you are going to send your customer. Pop-ups, advertisements and activation emails are something we have all grown used to. It has become a mark of the internet. Not only do people expect a welcome email, but they also expect quality. With everyone doing their best to offer the best to their customers, they have spoiled them and lately expectations have skyrocketed.
A welcome email is a fabulous way to not only greet and welcome a new potential customer, but also to provide content of importance. A welcome email should not contain any direct guidance toward a purchase. If you do so, you may come off as pushy and the entire email will be perceived as just another advertisement. If that happens, future emails will probably go unread and regarded the same. In addition, attempting to advertise at the start is a needless shot in the dark. You don’t know the customer’s preferences or tastes, so any product you offer will be a full on guess. So, what do you put in a welcome email?
The subject line of the welcome email should give away what the email is about. Include a “welcome” in it. 33% of recipients open an email based entirely on the subject line, and don’t forget that the subject is the first thing the recipient will read. A welcome is expected, and even if the user sees the email days later, they will know the nature of the email. Keep the subject as short as possible; aim for 4-7 words. A large percentage of emails are checked on the mobile first, and that’s the average number of words fitting on a mobile screen. Even if you cannot fit your intentions in few words, try to at least hint the email’s nature in the first words. “Welcome to…” looks better than “Dear Alex, we want to…”
The latter will most likely be perceived as a renegade spam mail. Just check your spam inbox and see the subject titles of those emails to see bad examples. A welcome indicates curiosity as we’re used to receiving such emails, and even if we forget, we’ll think “what did I sign up for again?” and check the mail.
The content of the welcome email should identify your brand and convince the user further that they made the right choice. Explain who you are, what you do and what makes you better than the rest. It is expected that you already have an idea of how to represent yourself successfully and that you know what’s unique about your business.
In the above example, we see a short introduction about the brand and also a special offer for new users. Providing a unique offer is a great method to provoke further action. Although 10% is decent, it doesn’t scream enough. You should experiment with a fairly tempting offer for the first purchase, making it more likely for the user to respond. Also, it would be wise to make the special offer stand out a bit more in case the recipient is only skimming the content. As we see, they listed two general sections where the user may start off straight away, and there are general product departments at the top as well. The style itself is fairly relaxed and doesn’t come off as too pushy and the text is divided nicely.
A very important component of a welcome email is the information about what is going to happen next. The recipient is instructed to shop or check out a link, as is in the case above, but also they included some general information about what can be expected in future emails. You can also provide more detailed information like how often you’ll send emails, what the subjects will be, future offers etc.
A call-to-action is a very important component of every interaction, not just in emails but in any advertisement or communication to a potential consumer. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the part about psychology, but I’d like to graze the subject and point out that you must indicate some kind of an action requirement from the consumer. A discount is a great way to do this, but you can also provide a gift or points program, vouchers or anything similar your own business may use. You need the consumer, not the other way around, but make it a personal mission to convince them it’s the opposite. Nobody takes emails seriously when they come from an online business encountered for the first time. If you are not convincing and if you don’t provoke an interaction, the email will be closed and likely deleted. And there is a very low chance of them re-opening a welcome email. The act of an appealing discount, gift or a voucher may be a minor loss on your end, but it will pull the consumer further in the funnel where you can guide them onwards.
One massive issue I’ve noticed with the example above is that the entire email is in fact composed of images. That can be an issue if the there is a problem loading images, either through a glitch or through the user’s preferences. Many email clients don’t show images at first. Reason being is that through images, email opens can be tracked. Also, most unknown emails enter the spam folder which always block the attached pictures. The ideal solution to this is to use images as background to text, not embedded. This way, if the loading of images fails, the overlaid text will still be able to carry across the message. You may also use certain images to break the text, but if doing so, be sure to avoid putting them at the very start of the email. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. The start of the email is the most critical part. Be sure the parts you want to announce most will be shown clearly. Discount offers, the shop now button or any videos and links you want to guide your customer to should be highlighted and easily noticeable.
Oddly enough, many sites miss the opportunity a welcome email provides and they use a sort of general template for a welcome email. As you can see, it’s not exactly eventful nor appealing to the eye. It doesn’t have any special offer or anything interesting enough that would provoke a consumer to interact. This type of email assumes the user is already familiar with the site and that he has an interest in buying. However, most newcomers are unfamiliar with the page and they won’t really be influenced by an email of this type. Also, the user didn’t learn anything about the site. I’d advise to avoid using general templates as other sites do. For instance, by researching these sites, within the first ten minutes, I’ve already come across a pair of pages which used identical templates. If a user sees the same text style he saw before, he will most likely skip the email altogether. Let’s be real, most online shoppers have profiles on multiple stores, and they’re always digging for more.
Ironically enough, our bad example has text which would live to tell the story, whereas many sites stick to images with the sort of text which perishes immediately if the recipient doesn’t load images.
Now, we’ll take a look at a more elaborate sample. The example below is a great way to catch the customer’s attention at first sight. A discount is standing out and I’d add that the email subject said “Welcome BNKR + A Gift For You” which tells you straight off the bat that there’s some juice in the email.
Further on, the email describes various offers, labels and dresses which could provoke the recipient to look into the product (example on the left). It can definitely spark the desire for to browse further. This email is dazzling to look at and has some great components.
At the end of the email, there are options to shop by size or to contact the site (example below).
Now, this email definitely provided a decent amount of information about the products, and it even provided information on the site’s social media, but there is some trouble with this overachiever.
Firstly, there is nothing about the company and the consumer won’t have any appeal in that region. Secondly, the images are gorgeous, but the label descriptions are fairly vague and don’t give specific information. It would’ve been better to provide some simple guidance like skirts, tops, pants, dresses etc. as the user is most likely familiar with those divisions. These tags are included at the end of the email, but I’d put them at the start, before the labels. Label descriptions imply the customer is already familiar with them and interested in buying. Introductions to these labels would have been great for a future mail.
Remember though, the welcome email just wants to give a teaser to the consumer, and not every detail you have to offer; just like an advertisement of any kind. There’s a reason the ad goes “McDonald’s, I’m lovin’ it!” and not, “Dear viewer, McDonald’s was established on the 15th of May, 1940, in San Bernardino, California, and it is the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants which offers…”
Back to ecommerce examples, another glitch with the one above is the text which is embedded into the images, and once again, if the email doesn’t load images, the entire ship won’t sail. One important note: always check if your links are functioning. I’m guessing they made a slight edit somewhere in the programming or the links and as a result some of the links listed in the email don’t work at all. That’s an immediate turn-off and annoying for the user. If you mess up the links you basically blindfolded the driver and now you’re expecting him to find your house.
18.104.22.168 Welcome email best practices:
Make a simple subject line which includes a welcome, and if there is one, the offer you’re making.
Write a few short sentences about your company, what makes you unique and why the customer should choose you over possible competition.
Use a tempting offer to pull the reader into the funnel and provoke an interaction.
Include and highlight the most important parts (offers, discounts, links) and be sure to instruct the reader on what their next step is.
Inform about what can be expected in future emails but don’t go too deep! Avoid cluttering big chunks of data into the welcome email, otherwise it won’t appeal to be read.
Use images as backgrounds and only as a complementary asset. If the recipient doesn’t load images, make sure the email is still comprehensible.
Build a unique style and don’t rely on commonly used templates. If you do rely on a template, make sure you at least make the text unique.
Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient and see how comfortable and easy it is to get the point of the email. If it takes more than a few seconds to understand it, edit!
3.1.2 The nurture email
Nurture emails are decently rare to receive from most brands. Instead they’ll rather focus on trying to sell something with each email they send out to the consumer. Naturally, that’s what the purpose of sending an email to a consumer is, but it shouldn’t scream that this is its purpose. The last thing you want is for the recipient to think “Oh it’s them again, with a bunch of offers,” because if that does happen, your emails will not have any inner value to the reader and they are more likely to ignore them. A great example of this inner value are transactional emails which we will see further on. The emails which notify the consumer about the product they just ordered and its delivery are the most opened type because the consumer is interested in the content. It contains inner value and those bolded letters in the inbox are actually important. Meanwhile, a predictable email stacked with offers has no such value. Back to nurture emails!
A nurture email’s purpose is not to sell anything, at least not directly, but rather influence the recipient of that email to be more loyal to your brand, understand it and build a connection. Providing your customers with educative content which relates to your products is only one idea of nurturing the lead. Inform them about news they might be interested in. In one of our earlier examples we saw a case where there was too much detail crammed into one email. You can inform your customers about other categories that may exist without directly provoking a purchase. Talking more about your business story is also a great topic of choice. Even though it might not be the most exciting one, it deviates from the standard “Buy me” email. However, make it at least a little more than “I wanted to earn money by selling something, therefore I started this company.”
The general advantage of using several different types of emails is that the recipient can’t predict every email perfectly, allowing room for curiosity and interest. Entertainment is a great choice as well, and you can tell personal anecdotes, interesting events or facts about your business. In the area of interesting topics, you can isolate striking products, or even make a list of the weirdest items people are currently selling. Webinars, tutorials, guides, ebooks or whitepapers are all excellent information to be shared. You can even go completely away from your business and send an email you would typically send to a friend. Some intriguing links, funny videos, games even. You may think this leaves the professional path, or it may make the reader not take you as seriously as you would hope to, but this is deviation from your other emails and from the competition. In the end, one silly email a month can be ignored by those who dislike it, but it permits for uniqueness and attention-grabbing. There are plenty of examples even from traditional businesses where a newsletter or featured magazine became a stand-alone product people were eager to read.
Nurture emails have the facility to become potential-purchase material. For instance, if a customer has shown interest in a fashion line, shoes, pants, etc., you can send them emails about the latest trends around, runway shows or who wore it best. Within this content you can incorporate products and categories from your own site, and this way, it isn’t just another email that says “Buy our stuff!” Sure, it says just that between the lines, but the consumer gets something more than just an offer. They get seemingly impartial information of interest and they know who they got it from. Also, if you put some extra effort into these emails and provide really noteworthy facts the reader might not have known of before, they’ll remember your brand and look forward to future emails.
One interesting fact about nurture emails is that a vast majority of ecommerce sites does not use them. And if they do, they typically don’t put too much effort into them. This is your advantage to use them and be remarkable. It won’t be easy to get up to speed with fresh information and provide it frequently, but you can start off with more general information. For instance, emails about your company’s story, anecdotes or shareable moments in your company’s past are all excellent source material which can be prepared to be sent to every consumer at one point. You can even divide your story into sections and progress as you move along.
In this exemplary nurture mail by Shopify, we can see a very simple layout, easy on the eyes. It has a link at the end which guides the reader to a location outside of the email, but it does have the too-simple vibe. While it does have a free trial offer within the email, it could be more announced.
There isn’t too much personality going on in Shopify’s case, but this is definitely a good example of a nurture email, and a very proper starting point for future emails. It isn’t too aggressive or crammed with content and links. You may also include some social media components within the email. Nothing too stretchy or attention-grabbing but rather a few icons at the bottom or top of the email.
Harry’s offers a grand example of a nurture email. It’s structured simply, easy to read and provides tips divided in steps, making it an appealing read. Emails like this are easily processed, not because they are shorter or have less information than your usual paragraph, but because they appear as a short read and have visuals. When you see this, you think “this won’t take long, I’ll just check it out.” That factor pulls readers in, making it a brilliant nurture email.
The only complaint I have about this example is a missing call-to-action, a link or the like. Once finishing this email, the consumer will definitely feel more attached to the brand as the email itself is very high in quality, but there isn’t any direct way for the user to act immediately. It doesn’t have to be a pushy interaction, just some links that the user may choose to open.
Social media is always a valid choice to put in an email if you feel like it’s too bland. The icons take minuscule space and these days they even belong to the peripheral vision.
“There’s something there, what is it?” and boom, the reader clicks it. Another way would be the “To read more, click here,” or “For more tips, click here.” Additionally, through clicks these will provide you with data to analyse how well your emails are received.
emails can carry a more personal tone. This can vary from entertainment and content which isn’t product or brand related, but it can also be closely related to the brand when appearing a personally written email to the user. Personally, I dislike messages like these, but that’s just me. Being in the field of online marketing, management, emails and ecommerce, you probably have some speech patterns memorized in your head.
Just between us email handlers, emails which talk about that “One HUGE mistake you’ve been making,” or “One TERRIFYING truth about your product,” by now are transparent as air to us. We both know exactly that the sole purpose of the hyperbole is to attract the viewer’s attention and provoke curiosity. Being exposed to dozens, if not hundreds of such emails daily, as an ecommerce business, you probably don’t even flinch when someone offers you a one-step solution that can fix all your problems. The thing is, customers aren’t like you and me, and they are not used to these types of emails as much. Most certainly not when someone sends it personally from a service they are using.
Emails of this type are effective and they provoke an interest in some customer’s eyes. In this example of a nurture email, we can see a more personal touch, with mostly text in the format of a classic email. For a start, it opens up the curiosity with the subject. If the reader is lazy, he or she will try to skim the article, but as you skim it, you can see some general phrases which provoke further curiosity.
The text itself talks about a critical error, but it doesn’t say what it is, so you’d have to look deeper to find out. Additionally, a link to a video is always welcome because a video is often preferable to reading. Even if a reader isn’t interested in reading everything, they’ll see the link text and the word video, and off they go.
Upon the first glance at this example, the image appears well placed and just as an ordinary image to divide the text, but that’s actually the video thumbnail. It would work better if there were a giant play symbol on the image, indicating that there is a video underneath. This way, the perception of its existence is done within the first second after opening the email.
Nurture emails don’t have to be strictly one sided. You can ask for a response from your consumer. In the case of ecommerce, you can even include direct questions about their interests, asking for the recipient to reply to the email with answers. Questions about expectations, opinions or suggestions are all worthwhile ideas. If anything, as long as it provokes a response, they will create a sense of interaction or reception for the consumer.
As you see some components of a teaser for an article or a video, you can incorporate that in the more colourful and creative examples. You can have nurture emails which simply provide interesting information with a hint of guidance and instruction, but you can also give sneak peaks of articles or other interesting content you have to offer.
When writing the nurture email, keep a few ideas in mind. For starters, when addressing your potential customer, a dash of personality overall goes a long way. It begins with the author of the email. Avoid using general emails like info@ or news@. Instead, send an email from a real person’s address. You can use the CEO’s name in the email, or virtually anyone in the business as long as their address insinuates that it’s coming from somebody made of flesh and blood. Try to make emails sound genuine, and don’t use the customer’s name too often. That is a dead giveaway that it’s just another template that has no personality. As in Derek’s example above, use images to break text nicely. If the reader isn’t in the mood to analyze everything, it is very likely they will shift to the first sentence after the picture, so be sure to make this an interesting one.
If you are apprising about an article or a piece of content you want the consumer to visit, try to incorporate some sentences from that content. In essence, break the entire article down to a few short sentences which will be more than enough to pull the reader in. Call-to-action buttons, links, social media or some kind of trigger for interaction should be highlighted and visible. Use bright buttons for “Read more,” or “Click here.” Essentially, they make it easy for the reader to take the next step without having to read everything.
Nurture emails can be scheduled, both in time and content. If you adapt your content to each individual customer, you will reap the most benefits. If a customer has 80% of their purchases in the clothing department, send them a fashion-based nurture email: they will surely enjoy it! It can be a bit challenging to specify what type of content to send to a new customer as you don’t know much about them, in which case you can send some general nurture emails, such as the email about your company or something similar. As the customer starts using your site more, you will have more data to use as a basis for future nurture emails.
With that in mind, however, you can schedule nurture emails on a timely basis. This schedule part depends on the state of your overall email outreach to a potential customer, as nurture emails aren’t only for new but also existing customers: you don’t want to end up sending a nurture email immediately after a promotional one and come off as a spammer.
Provided you send a couple of promotional emails monthly, a nurture email should be sent out on a weekly basis. This is, of course, situational for each individual case, but generally it’s a good idea to follow that pattern. Keep in mind your primary goal of each email and the entire nurturing strategy: customer loyalty and comfort.
We saw the general weekly guideline, but try to make it more loose than that. Schedule emails on various times, otherwise they will appear cold and automated. As a matter of fact, I have one email which keeps popping up every Tuesday and Friday at 1:30 AM from an ebook site offering me a free sample. I love a sample, but at 1:30 AM I’ll decline everything. I’m guessing they don’t know my time zone, which is another interesting note. With ecommerce sites, users typically have to fill out information about their country, or at least continent, giving away a general location. You might miss their schedule by an hour or two, but you’ll hardly hit 1:30 AM. You can do this by taking their time zones into account.
Here’s a sample of an email cycle containing nurture emails you can try:
First nurture email containing a short story about your business/brand.
Second nurture mail, containing something relaxed and entertaining.
Third nurture email, containing additional detail about your business/brand.
-** Fourth nurture email,** containing something relaxed and entertaining.
Rinse and repeat, minus the welcome email.
You can and should alter this campaign based on other emails you send out. The idea of nurture emails is that they appear natural, containing different types of content in each segment of the cycle. The effect will be lost if you end up sending 3-4 emails within two days, and not sending any for the rest of the week.
22.214.171.124 Nurture email summary
The main motive of a nurture email is to provide interesting information and build a stronger relationship with the customer.
A nurture email can talk about the company’s story, interesting background about products, entertainment or have a personal tone which talks to the user about specific benefits.
Although not the primary focus, soft selling and passive guidance towards purchase can be present in the nurture email.
Include interaction of some sort in the email. Call-to-action, instructions, a link or a suggested response are all great components to place at the end of the email.
The overall tone of the email should be easy to read, comfortable and genuinely feel like a good read rather than an offer.
3.1.3 The promotion email
The promotional email comes one step before a purchase. So far, you’ve been interacting with your potential customer, feeding him information and focused on making him feel at home in your store through the content you have provided. All emails so far have given silent nudges toward a purchase, but now it’s time for a direct offer, packed neatly into the promotion email. The sole purpose of this email is to provoke a purchase.
A promotion email normally includes a general offer, or a collection of offers, and is relatively direct in style and expression. There are general ways to create a promotion email, which we will see before moving on to a more complex type.
The first promotional email type we’ll look at is one directed at pricing. Firstly, discounts are the most appealing thing one can hope to acquire from any type of store. With so much time having passed since you first contacted your leads, it is taken fairly seriously and like a real offer when you make a discount.
For starters, a discount of 10-20% or more on purchases which surpass a certain amount is a great idea, and one of the commonly used in commerce in general.
In ecommerce, shipping and handling are valuable components. Without cutting directly into the profit you’d gain from the product itself, you can offer free shipping for a limited period of time. Most ecommerce sites offer free shipping for higher valued purchases as a complementary gesture.
Limited offers provide an additional nudge to act now. Set a limit for a couple of days, or even a specific amount of hours until a discount expires.
Whatever the case may be, be sure to provide a valid reason for a discount to make it feel more plausible and real. Even if the reason for the discount is getting rid of overstocked items.
In terms of timing, the promotion email should be sent up to two times a month in combination with other emails. It will contribute to the natural feeling and it won’t be easy to anticipate the intervals, unless the customer has used your store for several months.
A very interesting approach is a promotion email based on a specific trigger. This refers to sending specific offers to users based on their behaviour. So, for example, if a user visits the powertool department once or several times, you can automatically form offers for that specific category. This is especially useful for customers who have done a lot of research but haven’t done too many purchases. You can design unique discounts and offers for their preference.
Both of the aforementioned examples fall under segmentation. Segmentation isn’t required on a deeper level when the ecommerce business in question is relatively small, but some form of segmentation should always exist. The simplest strategy is to segment your customers based on the information you acquired from their profiles, signups, subscriptions etc. Gender, age, item preference and overall behaviour makes it easier to divide your audience and tailor emails uniquely for all of them. As your business grows, you will find that this is a key component of a successful and effective automation process.
Special offer emails are another standard method of promoting. If you have a plausible occasion to arrange package deals or combinations of products sold for a lower price than usual, you have solid material for a promotional email. Sales in certain departments are another great way to engage customers, but not all of your site visitors will learn about the sale. Some may even forget, which serves as content material for a short email.
Holidays are the moment to set up a sale or special offer, both of which can be easily promoted in an email campaign. Let’s go through some examples and see what a promotional email typically consists of.
Could you guess the problem with these two examples placed side by side? Other than that, this is a pretty good example of a promotional email. Firstly, the offers are clear, (if the images are loaded) and they’re custom made for the individual shopper. In this case, I was browsing for backpacks and headphones and a few days later, offers in those categories arrived. The email also included additional offers in the realm of clothing and technology, alongside the offers shown in the example. The overall design is fairly basic but not overly so: you immediately know where to look. Plus, the discounts are insanely appealing and prominent.
In the case of ebay’s example, for international shoppers especially, it’s great to have isolated offers which ship to one’s country. If a customer hasn’t purchased before, you might not have this information. Still, if you do have it, through a signup or registration, it’s a great feature to utilize. A more solid structure to announce this fact in this example would be worth the effort. The “SHOP NOW” button leads to daily deals, which is a more appealing label and more specific.
Ecommerce also includes content and products you can use immediately, including e-books, online software and streaming media. Despite their nature, every online store which provides some kind of product, no matter how limited, will use a promotional email. And you can freely draw some inspiration based by their emails. Here’s a sample of an online card game where packs are purchased online.
This email is very well designed. For instance, the bane of all mails we have seen so far: image dependency, is not an issue here. The email retains its purpose and is just as easy to understand even without images.
Only the “BUY NOW” button is lost in the text-only version and reduced to a link the size of a grain. The problem is that in the text version, aside from that grain, the recipient can’t click on anything else to direct him to the purchase location. The highlighted text should be a click-through as well, in case the button fails. Finally, they included social media links at the end in simple fashion.
Despite the difference in style, there is much to be learned from this case. Overall simplicity and structure is well executed, and as we see, the text works on its own. An image or two of the promoted product would’ve been nice to have. The main issue with ecommerce of this type is that the products are colourful and vary greatly in style, hence making them difficult to remember. Let me put you in their shoes for a moment. In 5 seconds, name three of your favourite books you wish would be adapted for a movie. It’s not easy, especially when nobody is directly asking you to recall. Now, if i asked you to choose between several of your favourite books, you’d probably see just how appealing that offer is.
We went over a few types of promotional emails, including the one reserved for the holidays. Depending on your brand, you should make a unique email for every occasion. It’s ok to draw inspiration from examples and make them fit your brand.
Here we have an example from JCP with a special offer for mother’s day. It has a unique design and is simple to understand. The text with the pricing could actually do with more attention, it’s not in a perfect position as it fades among the vibrant colours. Perhaps a solid background for each tag would be good, as we saw in a previous examples.
Unique designs are a plus for any email, including promotions. Regarding the timing of these emails, they are usually sent several days before the holiday period. Advertise products a decent amount of time earlier if you have a large portion of international shoppers. Commonly, most of them will be subject to prolonged shipping time, especially during the holiday season. Celebrations like Mother’s Day, International Women’s Day on 8th of March or even birthdays fall under a category of acceptable access: easy to manage, not too crowded and the orders don’t exactly skyrocket. Meanwhile, on Christmas time, it’s standard for certain international packages to be late for weeks because of overstrain of parcel services. A personal record I experienced was a winter jacket, ordered in October, but I was ready for winter in July next year because it arrived more than 9 months later. For the two most crowded holidays in terms of online orders, of course most customers agree it’s a good idea to order something a day earlier. You can start sending out promotions several weeks or even a month ahead.
As we see, promotional emails don’t do much personalizing in the sense of talking to the consumer. Provide good offers, and you’re set! Do you get the picture? (Incoming pun) If not, let’s see another example, from CANON. Let’s break this one down in a flash. The products are nicely listed, easy to understand. All the important information is given and there’s not much clutter or needless text.
An interesting strategy is not displaying the price at all but only relying on savings. This way, the reader is interested in seeing just how much the camera will cost, provoking a click where he is brought to the site where there are even more offers. There are links guiding to categories on the site as well, which is always smart as they’re not too cluttering. Other potentially interesting information is included at the end, like tutorials, guides and useful links. This last part needs to be incorporated nicely to not come off as too crowded. For starters, you go through the elegant email in the first half - simple products, simple offers - and then out of the blue you’re confronted with columns of links. It won’t be problematic, I suppose, but I’d suggest keeping this for future nurture emails or at least introduce them gradually within each promotional email. The purpose of having so many different email types is for you to not have to clutter up content in a single one.
Fun fact: A study from 2014 by McKinsey.com shows that email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.
126.96.36.199 Promotion email summary
The promotional email has a primary purpose which should be clear to the recipient: purchase.
Design the email to be fast and easy to understand. Don’t worry about nurture or personality. That is what other email types are for.
Use an attraction in promotional emails, usually a discount. Discounts may be based on pricing, package deals or sales.
Use trigger emails to send offers unique to each consumer and give them a singular offer based on their preference.
Segment users for an easier and more targeted email creation.
Experiment with different styles and find the one which fits your brand best.
3.2 Engaged customers
Engaged customers are like clients. Not in the sense of behaviour, but rather your relationship to them. It should be your primary goal to keep them happy and satisfied with the work you do, and if you succeed, you will get paid. Meanwhile, if you search for new ones, it takes time to convince them that you’re the best option they have. Don’t misinterpret my words: you should work hard on acquiring new engagements and more customers, but you should work just as hard on keeping your current customers satisfied.
It’s a lot cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to a new one, not to mention more efficient: you already isolated an engaged customer from a sea of interested ones! Use that information to the fullest. As a matter of fact, an existing customer has a 60-70% probability to purchase again, as opposed to a first-time customer whose purchase success rate lies around 5-20%.
Once a customer is engaged, your approach becomes completely different. Firstly, you have a lot more information about your target than you did before a purchase was made. With interested customers, you only have a general speculation of what they’re thinking. For instance, I love browsing through Amazon’s offers without much thought. I don’t want to buy the most expensive item on the site, I just want to see it. If a user checks out a mouse which costs ten thousand dollars because it’s decorated with diamonds, it doesn’t mean he or she will buy either mice or diamonds.
As a matter of fact, I just got an email like this. I browsed for some books on physics, and I found one which was tagged at a few digits above $6,000. Naturally, the page was filled with hilarious reviews about at-home doomsday and people who claim they actually bought the product. One of them says “I almost didn’t buy this, but then I saw”this item ships for FREE."
Meanwhile, a couple of days later I get this in the mail:
Quite a deal, don’t you think? All joking aside, as a customer, I won’t take this as spam or as annoying. As it happens, I find this curious and hilarious. This type of promotion won’t happen too often, so it wouldn’t annoying if I received one of these every month, but this is a fantastic demonstration of how far away from the truth the system of presumption is.
Since we’re here, let’s give this example a short review. First, the price is certainly novel. Nice highlight, the red makes it even look like it is a bargain, but on second thought no discounts or anything remotely appealing about it. There is no product description, which is sort of necessary for products like books, especially when the thumbnail font is so small. As someone who browses physics only on rare occasions, I have no idea what this product is. The list of authors doesn’t tell me much, unless I know them specifically. Yes, your users may know of certain authors, but I wouldn’t rely on this as convincing factor entirely. Even one sentence taken of the product page would’ve been useful. Not to mention, an entire email for just one product? That’s a wild guess, thinking I want exactly this product. Listing several of them would’ve been better applied sparking my further engagement, regardless of price. Assessing by the “we thought you might be interested in these items,” perhaps the email was supposed to include multiple items but didn’t, for some reason.
Disregarding of this specific product, I quite like the “Add to Wish List” button. It’s an excellent means to “view later” and it also throws the customer into the Wish List campaign funnel, if you have one: remind the customer about the products in their Wish List, or even make special offers based on those products. I think, for now, I’ll definitely put this item in a Wish List. Imagine, if they offer me a discount I could save thousands!
Purchases put a stamp of approval for you to send out emails and interact with your customers. I buy a set of headphones from ebay, and I probably won’t buy another pair. But ebay can see that I’m buying equipment for my PC. In their next offer, they can offer me a keyboard, mouse or a new webcam. You can play with campaigns and isolate what items the customer hasn’t purchased in a category he did purchase from before. Amazon.com uses a different approach, where they offer complementary items within their store. This is outside of the realm of email marketing, but definitely an example worth looking into. Complementary offers are a great idea because if you purchase a desk, you might be interested in an office chair, a desk light, speakers or set of office supplies.
For engaged customers, there is a set of various emails you should use for optimal email communications. Firstly, we have transactional emails which occur the moment a customer makes a purchase. As you will see, these are a great carrier of communication because they act as a spotlight on information: the customer is interested in this email and will often open it more than any other type of email, making it an excellent spot for teasers to additional content. Cart abandonment emails are emails which anticipate a failed purchase and respond immediately. There are many reasons why a customer might abandon a cart, and there are just as many solutions to persuade them to make the purchase. Browsing abandonment is similar in terms of response patterns, but it refers to a user browsing through your site, not making a purchase and then leaving. This is an update, so to speak, to trigger emails which respond to customer’s browsing patterns but it applies to customers who have abandoned your site entirely and haven’t shown any sign of returning or making a purchase.
So far, we’ve mentioned six general emails for interacting with one individual, and there are a few more we’ll mention further on, including emails for lapsed customers. Keep in mind that some of these types contain several emails within their campaign; nurture emails, for instance, can contain 4-5 emails per campaign. In short, depending on each individual customer and your email campaign composition, you’ll be sending a minimum of 4-8 emails monthly to each consumer. Once your email campaigns are properly set up to communicate with the consumer in a natural fashion, your success rate will rise substantially. After we’ve gone through the engaged customer section, which include transactional, cart and browse abandonment emails, we shall discuss some email content and email campaign ideas you can utilize for your own store.
3.2.1 Transactional emails
One of the most important email types for your email marketing strategy, transactional emails, have a remarkable open rate compared to any other type of email. In case you aren’t too certain about what a transactional email is exactly, let’s go over that quickly.
Transactional emails are* sent as a response to a specific action a consumer has made. This action is directly linked to a purchase and includes order confirmation emails, shipping confirmation emails and emails concerning returns or exchanges.*
Transactional emails are essentially a receipt. However, just like any other email, they are not as limiting as your classical definition of a receipt. As you may already presume, the user is interested in these emails because they are provoked by him directly. With its common usage, a transactional email is expected after every purchase. Personally, the moment I click “Complete order” my senses immediately focus on my phone. Within a few seconds, it vibrates and I already know who the email is from. I check it just to confirm the price and that everything is in order. Most users who got burned by hidden costs or who don’t carefully look through the final receipt when placing the order, often not noticing details like shipping & handling coming on top, will be sure to check the transactional email.
Since most items do not ship immediately at the moment of purchase, it is wise to send another email about the time the item has shipped. This is an extremely positive note for the viewer, just picture it. You order something on Monday and go about your business, setting aside your purchases. On Tuesday, you get an email saying the product is on its way. It is a positive note of anticipation and you’ll probably open the email because of it. You can use a click-bait styled email which starts off with a subject such as “About your recent purchase,” which doesn’t give away that it’s simply a notification email. Instead, the user may actually think something was wrong with the order, and chooses to open it. “Your order has shipped,” is a fitting subject line, even though or because if it gives away its content. It isn’t a click-bait, but it’s effective. The tricky part about all click-baits is that once the recipient registers it as useless information, the value of your future emails drops. Nevertheless, I dare say it’s acceptable for the transactional email because the information is relevant.
Emails related to exchanges and returns are not as frequent as other transactional types for one clear reason: not every user will come to the point of return or exchange. In fact you should aim for your clients to be happy with their purchase. If this does happen, though, it helps to be prepared and keep the user up to speed about the process. If a return is in question, alternative offers are a good idea to place within the email. The customer has an issue with a product, which is a great moment for you to correct the issue. Mistakes are bound to happen and it’s important to respond quickly and efficiently as they are the critical moment for customer satisfaction. In case a mistake on your part has occurred, be sure to send an apology, and given the circumstances, you may even include a discount on an alternative item the customer might be interested in.
3.2.2 Cart abandonment
According to a recently updated analysis by the Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate is 68.81%. Interestingly enough, a general increase in this rate has been seen over the course of several years. Businesses need to adapt as the rate tends to escalate. There are many reasons for cart abandonment and just as many solutions, as we will mention.
Before we focus on primary reasons which can be fixed via email, let’s quickly graze some general ones you need to keep in mind. They can be mostly influenced over in-store updates, but they also have their roots in your campaign creation process.
Confusing and lengthy process: Human beings more frequently are lazy than they are stupid. Make your checkout process as short as possible. It should primarily include the current state of the cart with all costs, payment method, address and a final overview before payment.
New account creation: Contributing to the laziness theory, many new customers don’t want to waste minutes to create an account. You can make the sign-up appealing by giving unique offers like first-time purchase discounts, points for future purchase, or a similar system you may use.
No guest checkout: You can grant the option of guest checkout, but if you do so, I’d advise to at least ask for an email, that way you can pull the user into the funnel.
Limited payment methods: A very sharp blade which swiftly cuts the desire to buy. No matter how important a product is, if my payment method is not supported, I will look for a site that supports it. Increasing your payment methods is a wise idea, starting with PayPal which rose to become a universal option most customers expect. Cart abandonment due to security concerns is also solved this way.
Not mobile friendly: A vast majority of customers use mobile devices for various reasons, including accessibility and preference. Many impulse purchases are executed on mobiles. It is highly recommended that your site supports this feature. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, the checkout process can be frustrating. Nothing demotivates users more than a page they have to zoom in constantly, and content which keeps moving around and behaving as if it were displayed on a computer. No well-written email can solve this case, except perhaps remind the user about an abandoned cart in hopes they’ll use a PC to complete the purchase.
The most common reason for cart abandonment, though, is pricing. When shipping and handling is included for each individual item, these digits can add up to quite a sum. If the quantity of products is large, the surprise becomes even larger. Once the customer reaches checkout and realizes the cost is not quite as expected, he or she will either edit the basket to an affordable price, or abandon the purchase. The latter is usually followed by a search for an alternative solution, a site where the costs are lower or where there is a lower purchasing fee. Naturally, the alternative solution is greatly influenced by the site’s reputation, customer loyalty and overall preference. For instance, certain products on Amazon are more expensive than on ebay, but since ebay is a C2C, there is a higher risk of problematic products when buying from unknown vendors for the first time.
As an occasional Amazon user, I’ll gladly pay an extra ten dollars to save time and be certain the product will arrive as I expect it to. On the other hand, if I have an ebay vendor or brand I’m confident in, I’ll take their offer to save some cash. This is typically the main reason according to most statistics, but other reasons may come into play depending on the type of your site.
For a start, if you display the price of shipping and handling near the product price, you’ll have less cart abandonments in consequence. You can even use an on-page status of the cart, or include a calculator customers can use. Educate your users about the purchase before they reach the cart. It’s more honest, efficient and it increases the chances of a successful purchase.
The second common occurrence is simply abandoning without a traceable cause. It is practically unheard of for a user to make a purchase on the first visit. Users like to browse through content and leave the decision making for another day. We all enjoy browsing for inspiration through the expensive part of the store, but we don’t often go in envisaging to buy. Sometimes, a customer might simply leave the site because of obligations, time limitations or other personal problems. In this case, a simple nudge email after a couple of days will do nicely. Sometimes, people intentionally leave something they want to buy for later and you don’t want to be annoying. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be for someone who does this on a daily basis? Just browsing through items, updating the cart occasionally, and getting dozens of reminders about it: a scenario you’d like to avoid.
It is important to recognize the cause for a cart abandonment before reaching out. All the same, a typical nudge email is a start of the campaign. You don’t want to make any needless offers at this stage. Firstly, a nudge will cover the simple abandonment reason. If the customer has forgotten about the cart after leaving it for personal reasons, a single nudge will usually be sufficient, conveniently keeping the cart contents saved. This is also fitting in case of an overpriced purchase. The customer might be willing to make the purchase now. For all you know, perhaps they didn’t want to spend money at a certain point in time, and a reminder could fix that problem.
Nudge I: Within this email, you should include all the details about the cart, and also item images of the product to remind the customer more easily. A fairly simple email with a clear purpose and a big flashy button, just waiting to be pressed. In the example here, it would be good to see additional information, for instance a limited offer or something more eventful. Still, the email delivers with its sheer simplicity.
Nudge II (optional): The purpose of a second email is in case the first one failed, but also it will highlight the details about the product(s) in question. Firstly, what’s unique about the product? If it offers free shipping, if it’s already discounted, contains a limited offer or if it’s soon going to be out of stock, you should include this information in the second nudge. It also acts as a time-checker like the first, and perhaps the customer may be interested to buy it now.
Breakpoint!: Offer a discount for an individual item or the entire cart. Either way, it’s a great offer and it’s in the customer’s interest to respond. You can also limit the offer to apply further pressure. You broke and allowed a discount, now it’s time for them to break as well.
Beat that horse (optional): You can keep sending reminder emails as long as the customer is active. This isn’t usually necessary or advised as the customer either responds with a different purchase or returns to purchase the products in the cart, but it is a potential option. In the end, if a customer wasn’t buying, there is not much at risk.
The style of the email greatly depends on the contemplated contents of the cart. If it’s a compilation of minor items, then it doesn’t make much sense to use a template which describes each individual product with a massive image and detailed description. If the product in question is a single one, however, it’s wise to use a larger image and more detail. Also, it’s important to send an accentuated message. “We saved this item for you,” or “This is a limited offer, item will soon be out of stock,” provide a certain scenario where the customer feels motivated to make the purchase then.
In this example from Whistlefish, we see a perfect nudge email. The image size and position is appealing to the eye and the customer will recognize it easily. The button for shopping is well placed and easy to notice. The message before the picture indicates a personal offer and also there are a few points at the bottom of the email which explain the benefits we mentioned earlier. They are pleasantly placed and don’t cause much clutter. The only part that’s a bit off is the banner at the start. It turns the focus slightly away with it melting into the background. Some form of division between the headline photo would be good if there are item images close to it. Overall, the email is a great example of a simple and elegant nudge for an abandoned cart.
As we’ve said, there is a significant amount of cart abandonments, up to nearly 70%. Hypothetically, if you will, imagine that all of those abandoned carts became purchases? To put things into perspective, if you made three million US$ yearly in sales, you will have missed out on seven million US$ in abandoned carts. Of course, it’s impossible to turn all 70% abandoned carts into purchases, but even if you graze that percentage, you’ll be making a significant amount of profit. From company to company, the environment, audience and all factors change, but there is a general pattern of abandonment email results. For instance, Movies Unlimited, the movie collector’s website, has had a 26% conversion rate from their abandonment email campaign. Meanwhile, Radley London’s recovery of lost sales with a cart abandonment campaign has reached 7.9%. The digits vary, but it’s important to note that there isn’t a specific digit you can expect. All in all, even 1% is a great number. It’s a shame really that many ecommerce sites don’t dedicate themselves fully to creating a valid campaign for these matters. It virtually costs nothing except maybe a bit of time to set up, but the benefits are extraordinary. Here’s another interesting fact: in 2014, the amount of money left in abandoned carts reached $4 trillion. That’s the one with twelve zeroes. Imagine how many zeroes could’ve been cut with something as simple with a cart abandonment campaign.
3.2.3 Browse abandonment
The strategy to counteract browse abandonment is relatively similar to trigger emails. In this particular case, emails are sent to the customer who has shown significant patterns of behaviour on your site by browsing. Primarily, this applies to browsing through a specific category of products and then abandoning it for a while. A personal example from many years ago when I made a purchase involves browsing through one category repeatedly. I wanted to buy a pair of winter boots. As someone who was making an online purchase for the first time in their lifetime, I was worried about many things. Even the slightest detail would push me away. I passed on several pairs because I didn’t like one out of ten images of the same product, worrying I was being misled. First-time shoppers paranoia aside, I showed clear signs of interest in boots. Growing tired in uncertainty, I left the site alone for a few days and eventually I received a mail containing several fitting choices. I ended up buying a pair completely unrelated to the list, but what that email did was remind me of something I was engaging in and I went to browse further.
If anything, browse abandonment emails serve as a reminder of a product one may like. We won’t go deeper into browse abandonment emails as they are mainly identical to promotional emails based on previous purchases. They do differ from typical trigger emails in that they don’t have to focus on discounts or promoting a first-time purchase which contains an irresistible offer. After all, it’s not exactly wise to offer a discount for every single item within a category a potential client has browsed.
Irresistible offers are a great way to get first-time shoppers, but it is not advised to repeat them. Firstly, the customer gets used to discounts thus their reference price goes down, and secondly, your profit goes the same direction: down. There’s a reason a free trial in anything is limited: you want to give the customer a taste of your goods, convincing them that they’re worth the full price.
3.2.4 Email and campaign ideas
As you study and get familiar with the customer funnel unique to your own business, you will undoubtedly observe all the unique ways you can design campaigns or email communication with your customers. Whilst an email campaign should always be singular to your business, carrying that strand of identity which tells the recipient why you’re different than the competition and why they should trust you, you can take a look at email campaigns of other ecommerce sites and draw inspiration from them.
Generally, there are several kinds of email campaigns ecommerce stores can use. Let’s recap the most important ones. After that, we’ll see other unique campaigns ideas you can develop and use occasionally.
The welcome/nurture campaign
The welcome email should be sent immediately and is the starting component for any new customer campaign. As stated, you can include a discount or a unique offer at the very beginning to influence the user and spark a purchase. Depending on the user’s behaviour, the campaign can go in different directions from the welcome. If the newcomer showed interest in certain products but hasn’t purchased, you can go ahead with nurture emails, and eventually build up to a promotion. In the new customer campaign which aims to provoke a purchase immediately, the campaign follows the lines we have already studied in detail:
Welcome email. (Sent immediately after sign-up)
First nurture email, containing a short story about your brand. (Week 1)
Second nurture mail, containing something casual and entertaining. (Week 2)
Third nurture email, containing additional details about your brand. (Week 3)
Fourth nurture email, again containing something casual and entertaining. (Week 4)
Promotional email. (Once or twice throughout the month)
Rinse and repeat, minus the welcome email.
After this cycle is completed, you will send time restricted offers or just a general promotion email. However note that, in case your newcomer has made a purchase immediately, they will be in two campaigns. Alongside the nurture email campaign where you keep your new customer up to speed about everything, they are also in the purchase campaign where you keep them up to speed of their purchase information.
Once a purchase is made, a transactional email which not only thanks the user for purchasing but mainly lists details about the purchase and upcoming process is expected. As we’ve seen that kind of email is a great playground for promotion. After the expected shipping period is over, send a check-up email a couple of days later, asking if the purchase arrived and everything is according to expectations. Make his reply as easy as possible. Once the user responds with a confirmation, it could be done through a simple click, ask them for a product review. In case the user hasn’t responded, send reminder email a few days later. If the item hasn’t arrived the customer would take the check-up email more seriously. In case the item has arrived, the customer might just shrug and ignore it, therefore you can treat a no-response email as a yes, the product has arrived.
Here’s what a campaign might look if the customer made a purchase straight after receiving your welcome email:
Transactional email, confirming the offer.
Check-up email, asking about the purchase and if it arrived. (2-3 days after product arrival)
Product review request, presuming the item has arrived. (2-3 days after the check-up email)
Promotional offer, based on the previous purchase. (2-3 days after the product review request)
The welcome/nurture and purchase campaigns are mostly general and are altered by each unique business. The general idea is to get the user comfortable, make a purchase, talk to them about it and try to repeat that cycle. Nurture emails should always be an active campaign with every customer, and within those nurture emails, your brand should be incorporated passively to gently direct the customer toward a purchase. Nurture and purchase campaigns are two most important campaigns you can use, and you should perfect these two before you consider going forward. Realistically, they are the building block of the perfect email marketing strategy. There is no point in making special offers in the future if your customer feels no relation or understanding of your brand.
Unique trigger campaigns
Take into account every type of customer you can have and design a campaign for them. We have seen the customer who signs up and doesn’t buy anything. We have also seen one who does. Further along the line, there is an entire rainbow of unique individuals:
Frequent shoppers are loyal shoppers and they deserve a reward for maintaining this loyalty. You can set up a campaign which is triggered once a consistent amount of monthly/yearly purchases are effectuated and make a unique bargain, gift or benefit to the customer who has used your site frequently.
Occasional shoppers are loyal as well, but not as active. It may well be that you are their prefered vendor, they just don’t need or want as much from what you sell as the frequent shopper. You can provoke more activity with campaigns which inform them about items they might be interested in more frequently, and even offer a discount on those.
Frequent shoppers eventually start to feel the impact of pricing more and try to cut down expenses. This can result in switching to a competitor who offers discounts based on certain thresholds. By offering a discount for every purchase over, say, $100 for frequent customers, you can maintain their loyalty.
High spenders don’t visit often, but when they do, they leave a considerable amount of money on the counter. By triggering a discount campaign which sends unique offers, you try to get those customers to keep buying. Just because they’re buying now, doesn’t mean they’ll keep buying forever.
Low spenders can receive a discount campaign for an upsell which allures to them with more expensive purchases at a favourable price. This can list products which they would like but are currently just a tad pricier than would they would normally get. A campaign which sends 2-3 emails, eventually offering a value deal on these items, might give them this last nudge to upgrade to a more quality product. You can even specify the list further by adding medium spenders.
As you see, “discount” and “provoke” are two words closely related to this campaign style. I’d like to point out that most customers are simply interested in the product. You shouldn’t get them used to this pattern because sometimes people just don’t want to buy anything. By offering them a discount every time they deviate from a purchase, you’ll get them accustomed to it, thus lowering their reference price. Eventually they might even start behaving in unique ways knowing they’ll get a discount as their reward. This is why it’s important for emails to arrive occasionally and carry a natural tone. The discount bait should usually be applied after an email or two of communication, or a long term running customer relationship.
Customers generally follow a path if left on their own. It is presumed that if your products are good, the customer will return, but that’s a scenario of a perfect world. Today, we live in an advanced time where there is a great deal of information flowing through our lives. Take into account your email inbox, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, driving, working, cleaning, earning money, spending it on food, housing, fuel, taking care of yourself, being entertained, having fun and other various points which occupy your time. With all this on your mind, would you actually remember that pendant you saw online and wanted to check out on the weekend? Oh, never mind, gotta go out with the kids on the weekend, and the cycle of forgetfulness continues. Email marketing in general acts as a reminder and allows you to influence the decision making of a visitor to your site. It reminds the user of what you want them to do and it has potential to turn the static decisions of an online shopper into more dynamic ones.
To quote a great comedian, “Can we talk? Just between us,” there are many email campaigns which work as an excuse to talk to your customer and ultimately proposing offers. Sometimes they may be unique offers, but these campaigns are a great vehicle of just having an excuse to say “Hi,” and communicate to your customer without coming off as annoying and intrusive.
Birthday congratulations are an excellent motive for an email, and highly effective. It’s an exciting day for anyone and people feel special that you “remembered” them. Let’s talk for a second: we can all spot an automated birthday wish. Heck, the first one who congratulates me on my birthday is the bank. Still, these emails carry value if they offer something. It doesn’t have to be a cut at price, but instead it can simply be a gift. I got a site offering me a free birthday cake as a gift along with a minor discount. I do love a discount, but I’m not too excited about a cake which took 20 days to arrive. Still, it’s a nice gesture, and remember, I got a discount!
Long story short, birthday emails are clearly automated based on the customer’s birth date, but they let the customer know they are thought of through an offer or a gift. It further empowers customer loyalty and brand presence.
Holiday greetings we have already seen, and they are a good focus of a campaign. Set annually, they can send out great reminders or even include bargains. Segmentation can come into play here. For instance, take Valentine’s day. If your customer is male, share gift ideas for flowers, jewelry or similar items he can buy for someone special, or even himself (don’t judge!). If the customer is female, send them regards. You can even send out gifts to loyal users. This is where the combination of these campaigns comes into play. You can make a unique campaign for a female, who has been a loyal customer, who has a birthday a few days away from Valentine’s day. This just shows you how endless campaigns can be.
Newsletter campaigns are a classical example where you highlight the content which is new on your site. We’ll see newsletter methods and features further along this ebook.
Update campaigns refer to emails which are clearly automated and inform the user about any changes they or you have made. This starts off with password changes, user id, privacy settings, security settings or any similar change of importance for each individual user. It can also reach the point of updates you make on the site, and you want to update the user about. For instance, a change in certain policies, new features and options are all update material. In campaigns likes these, you shouldn’t include any promotion material or force too much brand presence because they are simply update pages. If a user does severe editing, it can really become annoying if they get 5 different emails saying “Your password has changed. Look at these offers!”
In this example from Smoolis, there is quite a bit to see for an update email. Firstly, a very wise choice of head image. It’s an appealing sight for every reader and it already raises interest in the email itself. This email is a bit longer so we’ll break it into pieces like some previous emails we’ve portrayed.
The email functions well when the images are disabled, and the text delivers well. The learn more button is even preserved in case the images do not load, so that’s a big plus. There is a good burst of information with each mentioned feature. There is not too much text piled into paragraphs and it’s well divided, making it skimmable with good understanding. The features are nicely combined with images and there is a clear divide between the primary feature and additional ones. As we see, there is more than features listed in this email, making it perhaps a bit more packed than necessary, but it’s good information nonetheless. There’s also a connection to Instagram placed within the email, but it would be useful to include other social media links alongside this one. Even if one is highlighted, it’s good to include social media bubbles or at least buttons for easy access. The only downsides I see is perhaps the text itself. Whilst it is well highlighted, I’d tear the text further apart and break up the paragraphs, but that is merely nitpicking now. The email is a good collection of features and additional links the recipient might be interested in.
One exception to update campaigns who are not promoting is the re-stock campaign which is actually useful to the user, especially when updating on items they have shown interest in. With uncountable exchanges made on purchases, it is not uncommon for an item to get back in stock as it is sent back to the seller. If you don’t tell your other prospective buyer who was just minutes too late at ordering, you forgo on making a sale. As a matter of fact, a feature I have noticed on many sites is a lack of re-stock notifications. Firstly, they’ll only tell you when the item will be out of stock or when it already is. Put a button next to items out of stock which can be used to not only collect email addresses but also inform the customer when the item is back in stock. This is essentially a self-made promotional email: the customer is telling you what to offer them directly. You can design a custom email campaign just for this purpose and there is a high chance the recipient will read it because they basically requested it.
Customized campaigns** are also a really good idea.** After all these custom campaigns you’ve created, you should create several different versions of each campaign based on segmentations. Based on gender, age, location, unique categories browsed, unique time periods or similar segments, you can customize each campaign to the letter so it communicates with the customer as personally as it is possible for an automated system.
3.3 Lapsed customers
The ones that got away have the potential to come back. Although this applies in many things, we’ll focus on the case of ecommerce. Lapsed customers are always going to exist for one reason or another but, as we’ve seen, in today’s time, sometimes all that’s necessary to influence a decision is to remind someone of it. This is the purpose of email campaigns for lapsed customers. There are many reasons why someone would stop interacting with your content and the starting point should be to understand those reasons. There is a decently low rate of successful campaigns for lapsed customers, but that is to be expected. In fact, an email campaign for customers who have abandoned your site should not be viewed as a reliable source of customers. It is merely a shot in the dark which occasionally lands a hit.
There are various benefits of a win-back email. Firstly, I’d mention that not that many retailers are using an email campaign for lapsed customers. It can be a challenge to establish certain behaviour patterns in customers. For instance, if someone has not interacted for months doesn’t mean they abandoned your site. It could be that they simply make purchases online every couple of months for other reasons. Meanwhile, if you send them win-back emails constantly, you might come off as a spammer. Speaking of which, campaigns for lapsed customers can give you a better insight into the status of your customers. Your emailing list can be cleared based on customers who haven’t responded to the lapsed-campaign emails. There is a benefit in aggressive emailing, but if you email them indefinitely, you will gain the reputation of a spammer. Not only is the reputation important, but also if your metrics show that you repeatedly send emails which are perceived as spam, certain mailbox providers may register you as a spammer: an issue which can be avoided by keeping a clean and updated email list.
Handling lapsed customers is quite an interesting subject. Firstly, one should not immediately delete the user from the emailing list because there isn’t a general response time set for the win-back emails. Some responses happen in over half a year after the initial email was sent.
As your customers show certain behavior throughout their engagement with your site, it would be wise to segment them based on that behaviour, starting with the frequency of orders. As we’ve seen, if a customer has shown a tendency to purchase every couple of months, he should be marked as lapsed after that pattern has been broken and multiple months pass without any activity. For frequent shoppers who buy items on a monthly basis, a win-back email should be sent once a couple of months of inactivity have passed. In conclusion, not all customers should be emailed on a fixed inactivity period when it comes to lapsed emails.
What are the reasons for abandoning your page, one might ask, and there are several. An interest of the customer could have changed and they simply do not want to make any purchases from your site. We all have those moments when we get hyped about something and want to see every single offer we can find online, but once that period is lived through, the interest subsides. It could also be merely an occasional shopper who visited your site. Another contributing factor could be that a customer saw a great offer on your site whilst browsing through several others and made a purchase, but didn’t want to engage further. The pricing could be perceived as high on the items they’re interested in, which is probably the only factor which could be influenced on your end, depending on what kind of pricing strategy you want to pursue. Still, a good method is to directly ask your customers through a survey. You can even occasionally ask your current customers for feedback about what they don’t like and what you could change, as they’re more likely to respond than the customers who have already abandoned your site. Although lapsed customers are less likely to provide you with a response, you should still send them a survey as at least a few will probably reply. To encourage filling out the information, you can provide an offer, discount or something similar to incentivize people to go through the survey. After all, it might cost you a bit, but it has the potential to provide information critical for the future development of your business.
In terms of construction, the win-back email for lapsed customers should be perfect from head to toe as it aims to return the customer to a place he or she left willingly. You have to understand, despite which reason, a lapsed customer will have at least somewhat of a negative mindset when receiving your email. As usual, the subject line should be welcoming and also immediately explain what the email is about. Successful subjects have been estimated to include words such as “come back” or “we miss you.”
A very important component to include in the email is a reason why the customer should return. Here comes the brand promotion and awareness as you need to remind the customer why you’re better than the competition, what your advantages are and what it is that makes you unique. A discount is typically included to provide a powerful offer which cannot be denied. Keep in mind the segmentation process we mentioned, because if you treat all your lapsed customers the same, you may end up giving a discount to the same person who buys occasionally every couple of months.
In the next example of an online retailer for sporting goods, you can see a really good case of a packed email, highlighting all the necessary information about the company. A clear headline pointing out the reason for the email is well placed, and below they singled out five top reasons why you should return. They also included a discount, which is a fitting component to include in any win-back email. However, in this particular example, the discount isn’t that visible. Skimming the content, it doesn’t exactly draw your attention. Highlighting it in a bubble or a larger font might provoke a better response. They highlighted the voucher code, but it doesn’t have that much visual value without having read the context. An interesting requirement below it, saying that a minimum spending is required, is a practical way to make sure the discount only applies for people who have actually been making more than just minor purchases. All in all, this is one of the good example of a win-back email for lapsed customers. With the majority of text being outside of images, it is very well equipped for dealing with recipients who might not have images loaded.
A different approach is to keep it short and sweet, just like in this example from Pinkberry. Unlike the first email, this one is as short as it could possibly be. Still, it carries over a very clear message that it’s a win-back email, pointing out that a customer’s absence has not gone unnoticed. Seeing how the free offer takes up the majority of the text, it is delivered quickly, but I’d say a standing out highlight would be even better. This email is short and the customer will get to its end almost immediately, making it another great approach.
Another great example can be seen with jetBlue who responds to the customer’s abandonment in a more personal way. The mail itself definitely carries a certain appeal and a fun note through it, and it is definitely something that would provoke interest in most recipients.