Use email marketing to increase sales and customer engagement

Jan 09, 2018

One of my favourite niche shops in Dublin emailed me one day completely out of the blue.

I was excited to receive their email: I loved their shop and the potential their products offered but I couldn’t always get there and I thought, “At last they are going online! I can’t wait to browse their stock. Imagine all the great tips, advice and ideas they could share from their wealth of experience and information!” This excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I opened the email.

The email didn’t include a single link, not even to their homepage. All it contained was one long sentence informing me that one product was now in stock. There was a basic photo of the product in its most simple state and no further inspiration. There wasn’t one call to action and when I went hunting for the one product that they promoted in the email, it was not available for purchase on their website. A retailer with a niche product, a committed customer base and  an email list was throwing away good will and cold, hard cash. Being a terminal busy body, after some humming and hawing, I decided to hit reply and make a few suggestions. The following post, give or take a few additions, was the email I wrote to them. While they never responded I did notice some of my suggestions being put into action in subsequent emails. I would love to know if they saw increased engagement and sales.  I do know that when I create smart email marketing campaigns and associated remarketing campaigns for clients we always see engagement and sales.

Good morning,

I hope you are keeping well.

I have thought about getting in touch with you every time I receive your email newsletter. I think I’ve been subscribed to your emails for certainly a year – you can confirm this through MailChimp (I’m on your list.) You can also confirm how many times I have opened your newsletters. Each time I open it with the hope that something as amazing as your shop will be in the newsletter. I have indeed been amazed but not in a positive way. Please forgive me for being harsh. I really wish it were otherwise. I have considered writing this email many times but have balked each time because I don’t enjoy being critical. I hope you will read this email in the helpful spirit that it is intended.

I love your shop and have been an infrequent customer since the 90s. I am definitely not your best customer. The time I wish I could spend using the products you sell I actually spend working as an online marketer. I currently run my own consultancy,, specialising in content strategy. I have many years experience in email marketing, managing my first campaigns in the early noughties. I hope, like me, you are finding email marketing a fruitful channel. According to eMarketer, email marketing was cited by marketers as the most effective digital marketing channel in the US in 2014 so it is a key channel for any business today. Mailchimp reported all the way back in 2012 that they track over 4 million clicks a day. More recently 86% of consumers indicated that they would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with at least monthly, and 15% would like to get them daily. (Statista, 2015) Hubspot also reported but a different report that email use worldwide will top 3 billion users by 2020. (The Radicati Group, 2016) (Source: Yes, social is important for any company but email is alive and kicking.

I fear that your email marketing efforts to date might not be as effective as they could be so I would like to offer you some tried and tested advice:

1. Include calls to action

Your emails are short and to the point. This is good. Readers scan online rather than read. However don’t forget that your emails are a lead to your content on your website. It’s not enough to tell me that you have new season productss available: tell me how I can get them. “Click here to check out our selection and buy online or instore today.” (And actually have the product you are promoting available to buy online :)

2. Be Useful

Imagine your company is in the business of selling dressmaking products: material, thread, needles and all related products. If you send me an email telling me that there are new woollens available as we ease into winter, that is useful. Pointing me to an article on your website/ a note on your Facebook page/ a board on your Pinterest account about what I can actually do with that woollen material is super-useful to both of us. Useful to me because I find the perfect project and I know that you have the very products  I need to complete it in stock. Useful to you because the next time you have a similar product or you are clearing that product you have a ready made segmented email list of readers who are interested in that product. In fact you also have a segmented email list populated with customers that you know are interested in that particular project, say making skirts, who you can target with information about an upcoming skirtmaking course or new skirt related patterns or products.

3. Reward loyalty

Your list of email subscribers is probably the most valuable contact list you have, more important than any of your fans on any social network. Treat them with care. Not only have those subscribers given you explicit permission to communicate with them, remaining on your list indicates that they wish to continue that relationship. Nurture that relationship by treating them like celebrities, with, for example, first looks at new products, special discounts, special events, exclusive content, anything to make them feel special. In turn they will become your ambassadors online and amongst their own fabric loving communities. They will look forward to your next email as I always do. And don’t forget to make it as easy as possible for them to share that content directly from the email and from your landing pages. You can even track the best sharers and share something special with them.

4. Segment your list

I notice that you work with both retail and business customers. Are they all receiving the same emails? Consider creating separate emails for both, applying the principles above to each. Email marketing can be even more effective in B2B so make the most of your business relationships and use email marketing to remain front of mind as the go-to expert for your niche, your products and your services for your business customers too.

5. Use Automation (or should that be Automate Use…?)

Where possible think about how automated email could work for your company. For example when a new customer purchases a product AND subscribes to your email list, why not send them a small discount on future purchases? Or, after a given period, a well crafted email with information relating to that product or similar products.

6. Work that list

You can also get that email marketing list working beyond your email marketing program. You can currently use it to create audiences on Facebook and Google advertising platforms. In fact (and excuse the Mailchimp fangirl in me) you can do this directly from the Mailchimp interface currently so no need to go wandering off and getting distracted elsewhere.

7. Integrate as much as you can

Integration is when you give permission for an two applications you use to speak to each other in order to complete a function. For example I am currently running an integration for a client that when a questionnaire is filled out it creates a draft WordPress article. Applications like IFTTT and Zapier can help you leverage all sorts of extra functionality with many of the leading email marketing clients. There are integrations for most ecommerce platforms, mail clients, Google applications (including and not least, Analytics), Facebook pages and many more.  Consider how this could streamline some of your processes.

So that’s me sticking my nose in. I use many of these approaches in my work with clients and have found them to be very effective in either making sales and increasing engagement. At the very least and certainly in the initial stages, gathering data about customer interests, preferences and behavior. Do you think you would be able to use any of these in your email marketing? Let us know in the comments below what you plan to use this year. Or get in touch if you would like to talk to us about how to use email marketing to increase sales and customer engagement.

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