Email Marketing Best Practices: How to Refine Nearly Every Email
One of the most effective ways for eCommerce store owners to drive their sales is through email marketing. It is one of the few means of marketing where you own your audience. They have already opted in to hear from you and it didn’t cost you anything to reach them. Because of this, email is a high priority for several up and coming online stores.
However, if you are sending uninteresting emails to the wrong people, it is very easy to lose email as a successful and lucrative channel. Good email marketing is relevant, personalized and timely. Understanding the core types of emails you can send to your customers is a good place to start. There are three primary categories of emails you can send:
These include receipts and updates on other post-purchases.
These are essentially sales emails, newsletters, and new product announcements.
These are based on a customer’s behavior, such as sending an abandoned cart email to customers who did not complete their purchase.
Creating and optimizing all of these emails, especially for anyone new to creating an email marketing strategy from scratch, can be very overwhelming. There is a wide variety of emails you can send within each category as well. Taking a glance at the campaigns run by established businesses goes to show what kind of diversity is possible.
So we have gone over the fact that there are many options and variations. However, it is very important to remember that almost all of the emails you send will generally contain a certain structure. For example, a subject line and preheader, the body content, any relevant visuals you wish to use, and a call to action. By understanding and implementing a few basic practices that have been tested and proven to be successful, you can expect to start seeing greater results from the emails you send.
Elements That Matter Prior To Opening The Email
A mistake commonly made is focusing only on the body of a marketing email. Although the content of your email is important, your subscribers aren’t even going to see it if they don’t open the email in the first place.
Convincing your subscribers to open up your email comes down to three key things:
- The time that your email shows up in their inbox
- What is written in the subject line and preheader text
- How you segment your list of subscribers to ensure that you are sending relevant emails to the right people who will benefit from the content
Subject Lines That Tend To Get Opened
Possibly the single most important element in deciding whether a subscriber opens your email or not is based on what is written in the subject line. Even the best email in the entire world is going to be buried under a heap of other emails in your subscribers’ inboxes if the subject line does not compel people to action.
For this reason, subject lines need much more careful consideration than many businesses give them. Fortunately, since that is of utmost importance, email marketers have done a plethora of research on what makes a subject line effective. Here are a few of our tips to consider:
- Be Clear Over Clever: Your subject line needs to tell your subscribers what they’re going to find in the email. Although a bit of intrigue is alright, try not to rely on vague, opaque copy that could leave room for misunderstanding.
- Keep It Short And To The Point: Since Mobile email services start to cut off subject lines after roughly 55-70 characters, you can lessen the chances of your message getting lost by making sure you stay under that maximum character amount.
- Ask Questions: Studies have shown that phrasing a question in your subject line tends to engage and intrigue your subscribers.
- Be Clickable Without Being Clickbait: It’s easy to get caught up in overselling your email’s content since the goal is to get as many people as possible to open it. But also keep in mind that open rates are only useful if they lead your subscribers toward your call-to-action. You want to avoid misleading them, possibly resulting in them unsubscribing altogether.
Test When In Doubt: You can better understand what actually works for your specific audience by running A/B tests on your subject lines.
Choosing The Right Time To Send Your Email
You can figure out the best time to send email campaigns by testing different things to see what works, and by getting to know your customer base. Keep in mind that when you send an email is sometimes just as important as what you are sending.
The best place to start for marketing emails on behalf of online stores is to find out when your peak purchase times are. Essentially, when during the day does your store sell the most? Is there a time that seems to be quite slow? Being aware of this information gives you a glimpse into your customer’s schedules and habits, which can greatly improve your email marketing strategy. As long as you are set up for eCommerce, Google Analytics can help you track your data for peak purchase times.
Transaction emails (an order confirmation, for example) are best sent right after the purchase is made. However, Lifecycle emails require a bit more testing to get exactly right. For example, the best time to send an abandoned cart email can vary based on the reason for the abandoned order and the strategy you choose for recovering those orders.
Segmenting Your Email
It might sound a bit complicated, but it basically comes down to dividing your subscribers into smaller and more targeted groups. Most email marketing services make it pretty easy to segment your lists.
Since segmentation allows you to send more personalized emails to the right people at the right time, each email has a better chance of converting that subsection of your customers. You can segment your email list based on various factors, including:
To illustrate, you might create an email segment for new subscribers who have yet to make their first purchase. Your specific goal for that segment is to build trust that results in your new subscribers to buy for the first time. So you might include first-time deals or discounts in these types of emails to further motivate them to place an order.
On the flip side of that coin, you could have another segment for your loyal, long-term customers who buy from you frequently and spend a lot of money with your store. Since you already know that you don’t need discounts to get those customers to make purchases, you can focus on promoting products that they may be interested in as well as showcasing your appreciation for them.
Email Content Best Practices
So your emails are now arriving to the right people at the right time, and have a captivating subject line. Now the body of your email needs to live up to the promise of your compelling subject line. Not only does that involve just what your email says, but also how you say it and the format of your message. Let’s discuss how you can successfully accomplish this.
Craft A Body Copy That Will Get Read
If the content in your email cannot keep your subscriber engaged, no matter how compelling the subject line is, your message will ultimately fall flat. This is where the body copy of your email comes into play, and where you fulfill the promises made in your subject line.
To begin, the body of your email needs to be brief, compelling, and on-brand. Your copy needs to convince subscribers to act on the featured prompt or call to action in your email, and you must do so in a relatively short amount of time. This is why it’s so important to use an intentional hierarchy of information, putting the most relevant and important information upfront, and getting into more detail later.
Formatting your email copy to create easy-to-read and concise sections in your email is also important. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Start with one, simple offer
- Use headings, bullet points, and clear content rank scale so your audience can easily scan the text
- Don’t be afraid to strategically use formatting options available, such as bold phrases or highlighted text, drawing attention to key phrases
- Write short paragraphs, utilizing white space for a more visually inviting copy
Effectively Using Images That Add Value
Images can be a great way to get your message across, but it can also cause formatting issues on mobile devices and increase email loading times. The key solution to that is to only use images when and where they actually add value to your email. For example, using an image that is going to convey your message better than simply using text could.
In that case, strive to use small image files. Several email marketing service providers recommend images that do not exceed 1MB. Some email providers have a safety feature that blocks images from senders that are not in a subscriber’s contact list, so remember to always add alt text for any images you have included. This assures that recipients know what an image is and they can safely click to view the image if they are interested in doing so.
Mobile Optimization And Responsive Design
Responsive email design for mobile devices is more common now than ever. Mobile email opens account for about 60% of all open, as of early 2019, and that percentage is ever increasing. Mobile commerce is also on the rise, and needless to say, shoppers are quite comfortable browsing and purchasing products on their phones. Some even prefer this method of shopping, as it’s quick and convenient to do from wherever you are.
Thankfully, almost every email marketing platform makes it super easy to design responsive emails. Often this is accomplished by either choosing a responsive template or selecting an option to automatically optimize for mobile use.
Effectively Using Calls-To-Action
Calls to action (CTAs) clearly suggest the next step you want the reader to take after reading your email and a means to take it, usually by the use of a link or button. The CTA constitutes the sole objective of each campaign. Whether purchasing a particular item, reviewing a recent purchase, or something else entirely, it’s what your emails are driving subscribers to do. Here are a few of our tips for email CTAs:
- Prioritize One CTA Per Email: Every campaign should focus on a single, central action. Any additional CTAs run the risk of being distracting or causing confusion to the reader.
- Use Action-Oriented Words That Create A Sense Of Urgency: Getting customers to act is all about creating a sense of urgency. This could include emphasizing the “limited time” of a particular sale, a “limited number” of stock for an item, and phrases like “Get started today” or “Buy now”.
Use A Button Image That’s Easily Noticable: Your CTA needs to stand out from the rest of your email copy. Using a button image instead of a text link and bright, contrasting colors can keep it from getting skimmed over. It’s also a good idea to strategically place the button in an area that has plenty of white space, and preferably not at the bottom of the email.
Measuring Your Email Performance
The only real way to improve your email marketing campaigns is by measuring your email performance. This makes it one of the most important best practices to implement. Fortunately, keeping track of the performance of your emails is fairly easy. Essentially, it boils down to observing the correct metrics and understanding what they mean for your emails.
If you aren’t already, you should be tracking these four core email marketing analytics:
- Open Rate: The percentage of subscribers that opened your email
- Bounce Rate: The percentage of emails that didn’t make it into a subscriber’s inbox, due to a technical error, a subscriber’s email being inactive, or spam filter
- Opt-Out Rate: The percentage of subscribers that have unsubscribed from your email list
- Click-Through Rate: The percentage of subscribers that click on any link contained in your email
Ultimately, the only email marketing metrics out there that matter are your own. With that being said, sometimes it can be helpful to know where your own performance falls when it is compared with other eCommerce businesses. Having that information can help you to set knowledgable, practical, and tangible goals for the betterment and growth of your own business.
Klaviyo collected data on the average email marketing metrics of its users, covering a large number of industries. For the sake of comparing your own performance, here is what they discovered for eCommerce businesses:
As you can see, the data from Klaviyo clearly shows that email benchmarks can vary widely from one industry to the next.