We hear the whispers from time to time. It goes something like, “It’s 2022. Isn’t email marketing dead?”
Yes, stinging words to a SaaS company that lives and breathes email marketing. But anyone harboring such presumptions is forgiven. Like smartphones shoving aside digital cameras and streaming music bulldozing CDs, the skepticism around email’s relevancy is understandable.
We’re here to 1) clear up such unfortunate misunderstandings and 2) spill the beans on how Shopify merchants can squeeze the most sales and brand building out of email marketing.
What makes email marketing profitable
Email marketing is far from being a relic.
The truth? It’s never been so pertinent and essential to boosting a business. It retains its perch as the most cost-effective and reliable channel for any Shopify merchant. Email marketing’s return on investment is $36 for every $1 spent.
Why is email so profitable compared to other marketing channels? We’ll give the short version and condense it to three reasons:
- Nearly all consumers (99%) check their email daily. That sounds the opposite of dead.
- An email address is first-party data. Subscribers permit you to communicate with them, meaning they want to hear from you … unlike many ads cluttering their social feeds.
- Speaking of social media, no denying that it’s super powerful. What it’s not? Reliable for consistently reaching your followers. One word: algorithms.
OK, the explanation behind email marketing profitability is out of the way. Good stuff, here we come!
8 tips for getting the most from email marketing
Email marketing is comparable to many things in that you get from it what you put in.
Email can be your Shopify store’s breadwinner. A healthy program hinges on regular maintenance. You wouldn’t expect a car to get you across the country without gas tank fill-ups, trusty blades with enough wiper fluid, and air in the tires, right?
Follow these email marketing best practices to ensure your vehicle for reaching customers is at its prime performance.
#1 Grow your subscriber list
Let’s stick with the car analogy. Think of your Shopify store in terms of an operation. A robust list growth engine is a massive component for supporting and expanding your Shopify store.
In essence, constantly growing your subscriber base can become the lifeblood of your marketing efforts.
The goal is to create as many intake channels as possible through such portals as:
- Your website. Multiple opportunities for collecting newsletter subscribers abound, including popup forms, traditional static placements within the header or footer, banners, and a blog if you’ve got one.
- Social media. Take the opportunity to direct followers to your email subscription form. As we mentioned, you want their first-party data so that you’re not at the mercy of other platforms out of your control.
- Paid ads. Target the audience you’re trying to win over. Promise them they’ll never miss a beat if they sign up for your emails.
- Partnerships. Leverage your relationships. Explore collaborative or cross-promotional opportunities, focusing on how you can get more eyeballs on your signup forms.
- Your storefront. If you have a physical operation or participate in popup events, ask customers at checkout if they’re interested in joining the email list.
Email subscription popup from Ruggable
With any intake channel, you need to offer something of value in exchange for an email address. It could be a “short-term win,” such as a discount applied toward a first purchase, or a “long-term win” of regularly receiving style tips. Your offer could even be a combo of an immediate perk plus a benefit over the long haul.
#2 Keep your subscriber list clean
We’re all for accumulating subscribers.
But it’s more important to have the right ones. You know, those who buy from you, show promise by engaging with your content (i.e., click through, for example) and want to hear from you.
The wrong type of subscribers is risky. They have the power to damage your deliverability by flagging you as spam. Too many complaints trigger block lists and ISP blocks, meaning that many or even all of your emails go straight to junk.
Adhering to some basic practices will help you avoid the spam fate and keep your messages visible. Maintain a clean list by:
- Removing unengaged contacts. A general rule of thumb is to remove subscribers who haven’t engaged within the last six months. Once a quarter, run a “makeup or breakup” campaign that asks this segment if they want to continue receiving emails. If they don’t respond to the email, unsubscribe them. This boosts engagement percentages; high engagement translates to more inbox placement by the receiving email services.
- Including an easy-to-find unsubscribe button. Allowing uninterested contacts to exit your list gracefully is miles better than a spam complaint.
- Using an email service provider (ESP) that automatically removes bounced addresses. Most do.
Oh, and there’s one more important no-no. Never, ever purchase a subscriber list. The humans behind the addresses did not willingly sign up, so you’re inviting a complaint. Worse, some purchased lists contain spam traps — fake email addresses that automatically blacklist your domain.
#3 Be consistent
Consistency has two angles:
- Repping your brand in a consistent manner
- Maintaining a steady presence
Email marketing is a spectacular avenue for defining a brand. You have immense power to use it to influence your audience’s perceptions over time and emerge as a top shopping destination.
Each email should represent your brand, from colors and imagery to personality. Start by defining your unique selling proposition if you already haven’t. It’s the root of formulating a brand positioning that informs the look of every marketing piece you create.
We’re not saying every email should be a cookie-cutter version of the last. However, there should be an underlying consistency. Cohesion between emails builds recognition. And when email marketing feels like an extension of your website, you’re nailing it.
Southern Pearl Clinical Skincare emails have a consistent look that aligns with its website
Brand recognition and recall only have a chance if you show up regularly. People need to see you to remember you.
It’s OK if twice a month is all you can muster. Can you manage an email newsletter once a week? Super. Twice a week? Fantastic. The goal is to deploy at least two to four monthly email newsletters. A free course, composed of short lessons no longer than five minutes, can help you craft your email marketing calendar and develop newsletter ideas.
Establishing a rhythm is vital. Any recipient who pays close attention should not just expect your emails but detect a general pattern. Once you establish a routine sending cadence — say every Friday morning — it gets easier to dial up the sending if you desire.
Whatever you do, please don’t send a flurry of emails and then stop, only to return a few weeks later for one message … and then stay silent for a few more weeks. A haphazard schedule can communicate that your brand is disorganized, potentially impacting shopper confidence.
Also, we don’t recommend sending daily (the exception being Black Friday-Cyber Monday) or multiple times a day. Such practices are often the quick lane to an unsubscribe.
#4 Follow email design best practices
Your challenge as a Shopify merchant: hold attention in a fast-paced society rife with message bombardment. You have about eight seconds to make an impression before your prospect abandons you.
Therefore, an email newsletter needs to make an immediate impact. Adhering to email design best practices play a large part.
Start by crafting a punchy subject line. You need the subscriber to open the email, after all. Ensure that your words directly relate to the content of the email, don’t be afraid to toss in an emoji or two, and be succinct. Some other tips for increasing email open rates, per the world’s best marketers:
- Use sentence case (capitalize the first word only)
- Move the most impactful words to the front
- Use numbers
- Ensure your preheader text supports the subject line
As for the actual email design, follow anatomy basics by building a header, body and footer into every email newsletter.
Don’t skip out on the header! Brands sometimes leap into content and forget the opportunity to reinforce their brand.
The best header designs include a logo at a minimum. Variations are a logo plus menu of collections or content pages, logo plus social media icons, or logo plus menu and icons. Use the space to your advantage. Just refrain from cramming in too much (i.e., a menu of more than four items that takes up two lines), or you’ll produce a cluttered eyesore.
Total Sports Enterprises’ header contains its logo, social accounts and easy-to-grasp menu
The central part of your email message should contain the following:
- A bold headline to introduce your content
- An eye-catching hero image (photo, illustration or animated gif)
- Copy of short text; we recommend no more than three lines
- A solid call to action (CTA) directing subscribers to your site
Take liberties and play around with the order of body elements.
Grand Candles has a bold hero image with direct CTA and closes out with another CTA
The email footer deserves just as much attention as your header. Harness this closing space by going beyond social media icons to communicate information you want subscribers to know about your brand.
We call it a “footer that functions.” Rely on icons — paired or not with short phrases — to relay information like shipping parameters, alleviate common friction points, or showcase what’s important to your brand.
Oh Hello Bae’s footer
#5 Segment subscribers
Personalization is a big deal when it comes to winning and retaining customers.
According to one study, 80% of consumers are more likely to buy when given a personalized experience. Moreover, other research shows 62% of consumers say brands that deliver unpersonalized experiences will lose their loyalty.
The key to personalizing your email marketing? Putting into place an email segmentation strategy.
Of course, most emails are appropriate for your entire subscriber base. Devising messages for specific groups within your database lifts your email marketing game to another level.
Email marketing segmentation allows you to do things like:
- Alert buyers of a particular product line to a new arrival
- Engage subscription customers
- Notify subscribers of a nearby, upcoming popup
- Offer VIP perks to higher-value lifetime value customers
A location-based email example from Boldly Blonde
Shopify’s customer segment templates provide an easy start for those dipping their toes into email segmentation. Defaults primarily revolve around customer and purchase behavior, such as new prospects or customers who have never made a purchase.
Build your own segments if you’re more ambitious. Pretend you’re a detective when examining your email list. You’ll find ideas for constructing multiple data logic fields.
Remember how we mentioned popups as a tool for growing your list? They’re also excellent for gathering data to support an email segmentation strategy. Collect subscriber information at signup through a form field. It could be asking for the content that intrigues them, their birthday or any other preference pertinent to your shop.
Shopbop uses a form field to gather information about its subscribers
#6 Activate email automations
We see it too frequently among Shopify stores: they put effort into email newsletters or campaigns — as in, a group of related email messages — but reserve little or none for automations.
This is a big mistake. An email program lacking email automations is missing out on sales.
What do we mean by email automations? They’re messages operating in the background, triggered by a specific subscriber behavior.
For example, you sign up for a brand’s email newsletter. You (usually) receive a welcome message in return.
ESPs offer a slew of automation opportunities, from ones based on subscriber actions to others tied to commerce activity. At minimum, we recommend the following three must-haves for every Shopify store. They can be a single message or turned into a campaign of multiple emails:
- Welcome email automation: Say hi to new subscribers and give a taste of what to expect. Welcome automations generate 320% more revenue per email than promotional newsletters.
- Abandoned checkout automation: Remind subscribers about items they left in the shopping cart and didn’t purchase. There’s tons of potential for closing sales with this automation. Statista reports an average 88% of carts are abandoned.
- Post-purchase automation: Follow up with your customer after their purchase. These automations come in varying forms, such as a special thanks to a first-time buyer or a “Hey, we miss you!” message to a lapsed purchaser.
LOLI leans on a popular welcome email campaign tactic of offering a discount
An oft-repeated phrase sums up email automations: they’re about sending the right message to the right person at the right time. Like email segmentation, add them as another tool in your personalization arsenal.
#7 Test, check metrics, adjust, repeat
Experimentation is so much a part of finding business success. That goes for email and any type of marketing initiative.
Try different messaging angles, calendar schedules, or newsletter send times. We don’t suggest an email strategy constantly in upheaval mode, but rather one that embraces making more minor tweaks over time. Swap out a static hero image for a gif and see if it makes a difference in click-through rates. Craft more intriguing CTAs if you’re experiencing disappointing engagement rates.
Of course, you need a baseline understanding of your emails’ performance. Give each email about a day before you check into these metrics:
- Open rate
- Click rate
- Average order value
- Unsubscribe rate
It’s wise to take a step back at least once a quarter and evaluate the bigger metrics picture for a comprehensive look at newsletter and automation performance over time.
Take those insights to improve your email marketing, then check performance metrics later. Tweak and repeat.
#8 Be authentic
Staying true to oneself is a prevailing mantra, isn’t it?
It’s no different for brands.
Independent Shopify stores have a considerable advantage over heavyweight retailers. Small businesses have a backstory worth telling. They’re led by individuals with aspirations of supporting their families, turning dreams into reality, and uplifting their communities.
Spotlight your brand’s culture. Speak to what you stand for. Communicate your view of the world.
Again, it’s about building brand recognition and trust.
Let your personality shine, even in the slightest and most light-hearted ways.
Squalo Divers has fun weaving some personality into a segmented birthday message
Make email marketing more profitable
We just threw a whole bunch of information at you. It’s a lot to process. So to recap at a high level, do the following to ramp up your email marketing program:
- Grow your subscriber list
- Keep your subscriber list clean
- Be consistent
- Follow email design best practices
- Segment subscribers
- Activate email automations
- Test, check metrics, adjust, repeat
- Be authentic
Don’t feel the pressure to address everything at once. Chip away at making improvements, and you’ll be on your way to an email marketing program that soars.
Tracy Puckett is Content Manager at Seguno Software, the top-rated email marketing platform built exclusively for Shopify. Tens of thousands of merchants choose Seguno to save time, send better, and earn more — without leaving Shopify.