If you’re looking to build a relationship with your customers beyond the transaction, there’s no more important marketing channel than email. Known for its cost-effectiveness and high ROI, email is a key channel for creating personalized experiences and building 1:1 relationships with your audience.

 Despite the popularity of email, and the many resources available to help marketers do it well, it's not uncommon to see brands make missteps in their email marketing campaigns: from a batch-and-blast approach to consistently aggressive promotions, we’ve seen it all. If you’re looking for opportunities to elevate your customer communication in 2020 (it’s more important than ever), read on for top tips to improve the effectiveness of your program.

1. Start With Goals.

While driving revenue is the primary focus of any ecommerce retailer, it should not be the only KPI you’re reviewing to measure the success of your email marketing program. Engagement metrics like opens and clicks can be good indicators you’re targeting the right audience with the right content, but without a defined end game it’s impossible to determine when you’ve achieved success. Therein lies the importance of goal-setting.

Examine baseline stats for your program to find key areas of growth opportunity, and create a set of goals through which every new initiative must be viewed. 

  • Trying to drive up the AOV of your email subscribers? Consider how your promotional strategy and email merchandising will impact cart value. 
  • Want to increase repeat purchase rates? Instead of a generic bounce-back messaging, consider how to increase personalization based on past purchase behavior.
  • Looking to turn more prospects into customers? Find opportunities to target non-purchasers with hero products or special first-purchase incentives.

2. Keep Communication Consistent.

The key to building trust in any relationship is consistency. Email is one of the more intimate marketing channels—subscribers have to grant you access to send them messages—so it’s important to make good on that invitation by maintaining good sender practices.

While the cadence of email might fluctuate here and there based on seasonality, wild swings in mailing frequency are likely to lead to unsubscribes or, worse yet, spam complaints and deliverability issues. Being predictable in your mailing habits is just as important as displaying consistency in your brand’s tone of voice, visual identity, and messaging strategy.

3. Evaluate Your Promotional Strategy.

Promotions and discounts are commonplace in email, and a reasonable tactic to reward your subscribers for their engagement and continued brand loyalty. They can, however, become a bit of a slippery slope. Seeing strong conversion rates from a promo can lead marketers to run them more frequently, or increase the depth of the discount to drive even more orders. 

There’s a delicate balance between incentivizing conversion and giving away the farm. Not only can frequent promos train your subscribers to wait for the next sale before making a purchase, discounting your items diminishes your margin, meaning you need even more conversions to generate the same amount of revenue.

Be thoughtful when approaching promotions, and consider how to leverage segmentation to control margin. For example, a cart abandon series can be segmented based on customer status: non-purchasers receive an incentive to place their first order, while repeat purchasers who are already hooked on your products might just need a gentle reminder to complete checkout. 

4. Be Intentional With Your Merchandising.

Including the right mix of products in your emails can have a serious impact on engagement and conversions. Determining how many products to include, from which categories, and through what lens or story is worthy of careful planning and analysis. While inventory surplus or scarcity certainly impacts the products featured in marketing campaigns, that should not be the only consideration.

The number of products, type of products, and category spread of products included in your emails impacts how “shoppable” a message will be. Testing each of these elements to find the sweet spot for your brand and audience is quick and simple, and could yield an impressive boost to your average order value (AOV) and items per order (IPO). Be sure to test your linking strategy (homepage vs. product detail page vs. category page) to see how the landing page impacts metrics as well.

As with all elements of email marketing, the more personal you can make your merchandising, the better the return will be. Taking a one-size-fits all approach to your email campaigns might work for a while, but over time your subscribers will lose interest and stop engaging. Utilize recent browse behavior, past purchase data, or demographic information on your subscribers to dynamically populate relevant products to get more return from your merchandising efforts.

5. Be Ready to Pivot.

We’re all learning the hard way in 2020 that the best laid plans often go awry. This year has already been anything but business as usual, which is why you need to re-think the goals of your email program and adjust for the new normal. Chances are that you will need to pull back on ad spend and adjust your expectations for list growth and channel revenue.

But even in good times it’s important to look to the data to know when something is working or when it might be time to adjust. What works for your competitors might not work for your brand or audience. Stop comparing yourself to other brands and instead focus within. Regularly evaluate campaign metrics to identify optimization opportunities and don’t be afraid to run a few A/B tests before diving head first into a new approach. This goes for your automated campaigns as well, which see conversion rates 5-10 times higher than promotional emails—it’s time to remove the phrase “set it and forget it” from your vocabulary.

6. Make it Personal.

Above all, remember that behind every email address is an individual person, and even the best campaign won’t convert if it’s not relevant to them. Taking a customer-centric approach to your email campaign planning will ensure you’re not mailing just to mail (or, really, just to make money), but because you have something relevant to say to the recipients of each message. Making your messages more personal is sure to surprise and delight your subscribers and build a broad base of loyal customers over time.

This blog post was contributed by Mandi Moshay, Director of CRM and Email at Tinuiti.

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