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How to Develop an Email Marketing Strategy to Grow Online Sales

6 min read Last Updated: June 25, 2020
email marketing strategy

Written by Ramin Ramhormozi

Ramin, a Managing Partner at SKU Agency focused on growing your business through strategy, technology & design. Ramin loves to devour business books, podcasts and blogs. In his spare time (which is minimal) he enjoys hanging out at home with his wife and three kids - and occasionally riding the Peleton.

In the United States as of 2019, more than 90% of internet users have and check email. That’s more people than those who use social media, watch videos, play games, or even use online search engines. In fact, email is the most commonly used internet utility in the world.

If you aren’t doing your level best to utilize this powerful platform, you’re missing out on a major avenue of sales conversion. As online retail continues to build year after year, online merchants must develop a long-term email marketing strategy as part of their digital marketing toolkit in order to succeed.

E-commerce sales grew by a remarkable 14.9% in 2019 and the trend promises to continue with a boom in 2020. The numbers were expected to increase regardless, but with more consumers than ever before at home and looking for safe alternatives to in-person shopping, digital commerce is going to break the mold in ways we’ve never witness before.

To compete with major retail giants who have access to their own shipping channels, online merchants need to be creative in their digital marketing. One of the most effective methods of growing your online sales is through email marketing.

How to Create An Email Marketing Strategy

Email marketing for e-commerce means getting potential and existing customers to opt-in to your marketing by signing up for an email list. Once they’ve done that, you’re free and clear to begin sending out marketing emails and getting those coveted conversions.

Email engagement numbers remain fantastic year after year. An email campaign can see 50 or even 100 times the number of clicks you’d get from a Facebook ad campaign! Open rates for emails are at about 20%, which is pretty incredible.

The reason email performs so well is simple. The vast majority of internet users have email, and most of those users check it daily. It’s frequently the first thing people check in the morning and they check repeatedly throughout the day. You’re also not battling an algorithm and competing with companies to be the first thing the customer sees. All of the emails end up in the same place and customers can check at their leisure.

All you need to do is end up in a customer’s inbox. The question is, how do you get there in the first place?

Tips on Enticing and Increasing Email Signups

email marketing pop-up

There are a variety of ways to build your email list, which will, in turn, improve your e-commerce online sales. Here are some of our best tips on incorporating more signups as part of your email marketing strategy.

Use pop-up invitations, but sparingly.

Customers tend to dislike pop-up invitations to sign up for email lists, so you have to be careful about how you implement them. They are certainly effective for grabbing customer attention since they show up in the middle of the screen, blocking out the content beneath. Your best bet is to make them simple and to-the-point. Add something to sweeten the pot, like 10% off the first purchase. Avoid snarkiness or guilt-tripping, customers don’t respond well to it.

Place a sign-up area on every page as part of your email marketing strategy.

Make sure your signups are accessible on every page of your site, whether it’s on a sidebar, at the bottom of the page, or via a link on the navigation bar. This gives customers easy access and provides a constant reminder.

Place a call to action wherever appropriate.

Believe it or not, customers are more likely to do something if they’re explicitly asked to. Remind them to sign up for your email list near the signup box, on social media, and even at the end of blog posts.

Offer a great deal.

You’re more likely to get a wide variety of signups if you offer something enticing like a freebie or discount for doing so.

Let them in on a desirable secret.

Are you an expert in a field relevant to your product or service? Give your customers a taste of your knowledge through accessible blog posts and web pages, then invite them to sign up for your email list for free resources, an ebook, or a newsletter series with interesting advice.

After the First Interaction

You’ve managed to receive several email signups. Awesome! Now it’s time to take advantage of them.

A robust email list does you absolutely no good if you’re not using it. If you want to see that nice boost to your online sales, make sure you develop a complete email marketing strategy.

Understand Your Audience

The very first step of literally any email marketing strategy is, of course, knowing your audience. Ask yourself these fundamental questions:

  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • What problem do they need solved?
  • How does my product or service solve that problem?

From there, you’ve got a solid foundation to build on. Every product solves a problem, no matter how abstract. Fashionable clothing solves the problem of a dull wardrobe, pizza solves the problem of a grumbling stomach, and card games solve the problem of boredom. Use that solution as the core messaging of your e-commerce email marketing.

Practice Good Email Segmentation

email marketing strategy

Want to improve your clickthrough and open rates? Learn to embrace email segmentation!

This is a method of fine-tuning your campaign to reach different audiences with unique messaging. Once you’ve figured out your audience, you can divide them into groups to market to them even better.

Some segments you should consider include:

  • Demographics (age, gender, income, interests)
  • Active or inactive users
  • Last purchase (amount of purchase, time between purchases)
  • Items left in cart
  • Location
  • Online behavior (from your website)
  • Sales funnel position

All of these segments will give you a deeper understanding of how to reach that particular customer. Offer up something that appeals to the interests of fashion-forward customers while designing different messaging for a mother looking for children’s clothing. Be mindful of how long the average customer takes to repurchase your product and send them a reminder email when they’re about due. Offer enticing deals for inactive customers to bring them back into the fold.

Set Up Email Automation

Drip systems aren’t just for gardeners! An email drip campaign is a strategy that sends out multiple pre-written emails over a set amount of time. When someone signs up for your email list, they’ll receive an introductory email, followed by additional emails over the time period you set.

There are tons of best practices for drip campaigns, but the rule of thumb to remember is to avoid annoying potential and existing customers. Repeated emails are shown to get results but overwhelming a customer’s inbox will end in an unsubscribe or delete without open.

Drip systems can be set up in a variety of ways:

  • A series of related emails sent at regular intervals
  • Additional emails based on customer behavior
  • A nudge to remind the reader that a sale is ending
  • Onboarding after a free trial ends

Get creative with the possibilities. Ultimately, keep it short and sweet.

Write Great Subject Lines

Spending hours crafting the perfect email is all well and good, but if a customer never opens it up, it’s all for nothing. Increase your open rates with compelling email subject lines!

There are all kinds of ways to craft a great subject line. Ask questions, promote your content, offer up a delicious deal, share great information, and a whole lot more. Delve into your personal specialized knowledge to figure out what you can offer the customer and distill it into a subject line you’d be eager to open yourself.

Some examples:

  • “Free art lesson inside!”
  • “There are products waiting in your cart!”
  • “Are you a Carrie or a Samantha?”
  • “5 Steps to Better Sleep”
  • Literally any Buzzfeed headline

Improving Online Revenue Growth

It’s all starting to come together. You’re building your list, creating a stellar email marketing campaign, and crafting great copy. Now it’s time for those sales to start rolling in!

Easier said than done, right? No worries. You’ve done the hardest part already. There are only a few more steps to ensuring your clickthroughs turn into conversions.

Most importantly: always make sure your emails match your current site! This seems like a no-brainer, but e-sellers routinely forget to turn off emails for a sale or special before they deactivate it on the site. If you’ve promised the customer something in an email, you must make sure your site delivers on that promise.

Further, always double-check landing pages and links to make sure a click goes where you intended. If a customer clicks on a photo of wine and ends up on a page selling corkscrews, they’re more likely to leave than stick around and try to find the item they really wanted.

Get Emailing!

You’ve got this! All the tools you need to create world-class emailing marketing set up are at your disposal. Make the leap today and see the immediate uptick in your online sales.

As always, the team here at SKU would love to help you out with any of your e-commerce needs. We’re certified Shopify experts and Klaviyo Masters, ready to help you build and implement a site that makes your life so much easier. You can count on us for help with content marketing, email list setup, and a whole lot more. Reach out today!

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