4 Ways to Grow Your Ecom Business with Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the easiest ways to reach your ecommerce customers. So why is it so darn hard?

The catch twenty-two of emails is that because they’re so easy to send, everyone does it. Which leads to consumers feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails in their inbox—and that even has its own diagnosis known as “inbox fatigue.” 44 percent of receivers say that emails are sent too often.

The large number of emails sent every day, estimated at 205 billion per day, means that marketers have to work hard to get their emails noticed and opened. So something that was once simple has become complex.

That being said, an email marketing strategy is still crucial for any industry, but it’s especially vital to an ecommerce business. When all of your business is done online, you’ve got to reach your customers in that same online space.

It’s easy for an online customer to click a button at the bottom of an email that will take her directly to a purchasing page. Other types of more traditional marketing, like print ads and commercials, are one step removed from the online space. As a result, those marketers have to work harder to motivate a customer to remember their brand and product, and then go online and purchase.

But in ecommerce, all you have to do is provide a “Buy Now” button at the bottom of your email, and your customer can go directly to the purchasing page—while the product is still hot on his mind.

This is a tremendous advantage when motivating customers to act.

Yet, any action a customer takes, still hinges on the email being viewed. So most email marketers continue to run into the same problem: How do I get customers to open and read my emails?

In search of answers, I have combed the most recent studies and reports for information that’s relevant and useful to the unique space of ecommerce. The information included here is what I feel can and should be used to make your daily email marketing campaigns more effective.

Email Marketing Is Changing

And you need to adapt too. The first hurdle to cross is to understand that mobile is the future of email marketing. That doesn’t mean that people won’t still use their desktops to read through email, but the majority are now being read on mobile devices. Estimates range from 55 to 73 percent of email is opened on a mobile device.

This constant accessibility is a gift to anyone in the ecommerce space. Most people keep their phones with them or near them all day. Half of all millennials even admit to checking their emails while still in bed in the morning. That means marketers have continuous opportunity to reach their customers. Customers today can be contacted when they are out to dinner, at work, on the bus, and even in the bathroom (45 percent).

Ryan Dietzen, senior market analyst for Adobe Digital Insights, explains the opportunity for marketers like this, “They’re checking constantly. They’re checking while they’re having face-to-face conversations. They’re checking during meals. For marketers, that means the always-on consumer. There’s not going to be a time when they’re not reachable by email.”

And many of those that do read through emails on their desktops are initially triaging their inbox on a mobile device. That number is at 42 percent.

This is especially relevant for ecommerce marketers because the “glance rate” is the second highest of all industries for ecommerce. The good news is that most customers will at least glance at your email and you can grab attention with your subject line. The bad news is that they are less likely to open and read through your email than some other industries. So make your emails stand out from cluttered inboxes and get opened.

My research suggests four ways to grow your ecommerce business with email marketing.


  1. Target Your Audience

If you don’t already have a firm grasp of who your customer is, it’s time to get it and use it in your email marketing campaign.

When you know who your customer is, you can tailor your email to suit him or her better. For instance, a Live Content study reveals that women convert at a higher rate in the morning and men convert at a higher rate in the afternoon. So if you are sending an email featuring a gender-specific product or sale, knowing when to send it to your customer will increase the likelihood of the email converting.  

This is commonly known as segmentation. Some ecommerce is already so narrowed by niche, that you will only have one demographic to utilize. But other ecommerce sites, for instance, a t-shirt website may have several: men, women, animal lovers, bibliophiles, and so on. The most effective emails will target each segment separately. Segmentation was shown to increase the open rate by 14.31 percent and the click-throughs by 100.95 percent in a  2017 MailChimp study.

By segmenting your customers and then tailoring the emails that you send to each segment, you’ll be able to increase your conversion rate as well as decrease your unsubscribe rate. According to Litmus, the number one reason consumers report email as spam is that the brand sent too many or irrelevant emails. In other words, don’t send an email for 25% off all dog toys to a cat lover. And be selective about the email you send. I can tell you from personal experience, that the more emails I see from a company, the less attention I give to each one.

Once you know your demographic, this Live Content report will give you a detailed sketch of your customer’s online behavior. As the report explains, there’s a barrage of data about consumers, but it won’t help you unless you use it to get to know the people behind the screens. So when writing your emails, think of writing to one person, not a list. This will help you to keep your message personal and warm.


  1. Optimize Email for the Mobile Experience

This is what is known as responsive design. Responsive design is email design that changes depending on how it is being viewed. For example, an email opened on a desktop, could have a complicated layout of multiple columns with visuals. But for an optimal mobile experience, the same email needs to be one column the reader can easily scroll with her thumb.  And a reader should never be required to scroll horizontally on her phone.

Layout is only one aspect of responsive design.  32 percent of receivers complain that email on mobile devices is too small to read so text should be enlarged. The same text on a desktop could be unreadable on a mobile device. MailChimp reports text for the main body copy should be at least 16 px.

It’s also important to remember that a customer on his phone is tapping with a finger, not clicking with a mouse. That means on a desktop a button can be small but on mobile, it should look like this:


The button stretches the full width of the mobile device, making it easy to tap the button with a left or right thumb. Unlike, the desktop open, where a tiny cursor will point and click, small buttons on mobile present a challenge to users.

This applies to making groups of links more usable as well. For instance, the bottom of your email may have several links in close proximity, like Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Unsubscribe.

Usually in smaller text than the rest of the email, these conjoined links can create frustration for readers. A simple fix is to make each link its own button and add space around the button, known as padding.

If all of this seems like too much to bother with, think again. According to Litmus, 51 percent of customers will opt out of emails if they are not mobile friendly. It comes back to the large volume of emails consumers are receiving. Emails from businesses average 122 per day for each user. Glancing through emails, let alone reading all of them is a substantial task. With numbers like that, it’s understandable that customers have no patience for emails that do not display correctly on their phones.

If you need help creating responsive emails, check out these free templates.

  1. Use Real-Time Data to Your Advantage

Real-time email marketing uses real-time data to personalize the email when the reader opens it. Some of the data used for real-time emails are location, time, and weather. An example of using this data in an ecommerce email would be changing a “25% OFF” offer depending on location. If the email is opened in Florida, the email may read “25% OFF ALL SWIMWEAR” but if the email is opened in New York, it may read “25% OFF ALL SWEATERS.”

Utilizing real-time data is a tremendous opportunity for marketers. As Jonah Berger explains in his book Contagious, “triggers” are behind a substantial amount of behavior, from voting to purchasing.

Essentially a trigger is one thing that links to another thing in your mind, often on a subconscious level. For instance, voting at a school instead of a government building may make you more likely to vote in favor of a school bond. And researchers that played French music in a grocery store saw an uptick in the sale of French wine.

Using real-time data as triggers present endless possibilities. Want to sell more umbrellas and raincoats? Use real-time data to trigger buyers with rainy weather conditions. Or if an email is opened in the morning, products like cereal, shoes, and notebooks may sell better, and pajamas and lavender bath salts will sell better if the email is opened at night.

Also with real-time data, you can add a countdown ticker right in the email subject line. Scarcity is a powerful motivator for most consumers, and countdown timers have been shown to improve click-through rates by as much as 70 percent.

And whenever possible, personalize the subject line. This can increase the open rate by 41.8 percent in consumer product industry, according to a 2015 report by Experian.


  1. Keep Ecommerce Customers Happy through the Holidays

An IBM Email Metric Study revealed essential data about the holiday season and emails. First, it’s important to realize that ecommerce emails may double during this time (November 27 through December 26). The deluge of emails at this time means that the open rate drops from 20.9 percent to 17.6 percent, but considering that the amount may have doubled, your customers will actually open more emails overall.

However, customers are more likely to unsubscribe during this time. The additional amount of emails means that customers have even less patience for email that is not optimized for their mobile devices. The IBM study also had the following suggestion to help minimize unsubscribes during the holidays:

“To reduce holiday unsubscribes, consider sending an email to subscribers before you ramp up frequency, explaining the increased frequency, what kind of promotions they can expect, and shipping and return policies. Include prominent language about frequency options and link to your preference center. In addition, revise your preference-center language and options to encourage unsubscribers to opt down or snooze emails instead of simply opting out.”

Additionally, because sales have begun to run longer and longer and promotions start earlier in the month, consumers will likely get email fatigue quickly during the holiday season—especially if every email they see from you is “15% OFF!” “Black Friday Deals!” and “SALE.”

So it’s more important than ever to send relationship building emails during the holidays. Sometimes called “white space emails”, these emails will share beneficial content with your customers and ask nothing in return.

If your ecommerce space sells jeans, you could send an email with a “Jean Fitting Guide.” If you sell pet supplies, you could send a Holiday Pet Safety Checklist. If you sell kitchen supplies, the holidays are the perfect time to send out a recipe or two.

The idea is to get your customer excited when they see an email from you, even during the overload of the holiday shopping season.

Email 2017: a More Personal Experience

Taken all together, the research points to creating a more personal and individual experience for the recipient of your email will lead to better conversions and customer loyalty.

Getting to know your customers will be the first step. From there you can use responsive design and real-time data to present a customized email experience. And after working so hard to create a positive relationship, don’t lose your subscribers during the holidays. After all, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner.


*Byline / about the author:

Teo has built and optimized hundreds of successful ecommerce stores for his clients and he teaches others exactly how to do it step by step at MyEcomClub.

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