10 Email Marketing Dos & Don'ts for Ecommerce Brands

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Today's modern ecommerce marketers are using a variety of innovative channels and techniques, and for good reason! Innovative marketing automation tools provide advanced segmentation, personalization, and omnichannel messaging options, leveraging the power of social media and mobile notifications to generate an ever-increasing return on investment.

But as an ecommerce brand, you must identify the most efficient marketing channels for reaching out to your target audience and engaging with customers. 

Email marketing continues to be the knight in shining armor. It remains one of the most ideal and effective methods for promoting an ecommerce/DTC brand. Email marketing is as vibrant and healthy as ever, and it continues to evolve at a rapid rate. 

Email marketing continues to generate $44 for every $1 spent, the highest ROI of any channel, with 73% of marketers rating it as "excellent" for conducting business.

Customers strongly prefer brands to communicate with them via email: 61% of people prefer email marketing over other channels. 

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Preferred Contact Methods by Brand

Well not just customers but even top marketing thought leaders think so:

“Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches – at scale.” 

– David Newman

“Out of all the channels I tested as a marketer, email continually outperforms most of them. Not only does it have a high conversion rate, but as you build up your list, you can continually monetize it by pitching multiple products. Just look at ecommerce sites like Amazon: one way they get you to continually buy more products from them is by emailing you offers on a regular basis.” 

– Neil Patel

So instead of fleeting romances that may occur on other channels (pun intended:-)), build lifelong relationships via email with your customers by using these 10 email marketing dos (and don’ts) for ecommerce brands as a basic checklist:

1. Own and grow your email list via opt-in. 

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Email Meme

This is a given. 

Yes, we know that owning and growing your email list does take longer than purchasing third-party data, but it ensures that you are building an engaged, high-quality list. It’s certainly worth the grind.

You may also use the opt-in form as an opportunity to present social proof. If customers know the number of people subscribing to your newsletter or their positive experiences in the form of testimonials, they are 63% more likely to convert.

To make it more engaging and fun for your customers, you may use an interactive sign-up form. For instance, like this quiz one from L’AMARUE:

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - L’AMARUE Interactive Signup Form

Such engaging and fun sign-up forms/quizzes provide you with excellent zero-party data which is perfect for personalizing your emails. 

Experiment with different offers and social proof to test which sign-up form leads to the most successful email deliverability.

Remember this!

Don’t use purchased customer data (third-party data). Purchasing an email list is not only unethical but may have undesirable consequences, such as an unengaged list or poor email reputation.

65% of customers worry that data is being collected without their permission.

Only 40% trust brands to use their data responsibly.

63% of customers are okay with personalization so long as it’s based on data a brand has collected rather than purchased.

– The State of Personalization 2022 Report

2. Ensure email deliverability. 

Emails may appear differently based on the recipient's device, browser, inbox provider, and other variables. The only way to ensure that your emails display correctly across all platforms is to test, test, and test some more!

If you have a large subscriber list and are switching Email Service Providers (ESPs), you should implement a progressive IP warming plan to ensure that your email deliverability remains stable.

Having your brand's own domain can help boost deliverability and add to the experience your brand provides. Remember that 45% of email users avoid opening emails from unknown addresses. 

Data-backed email deliverability goals and strategies will boost your email campaigns. To gauge your email deliverability success, make sure to keep an eye on the following metrics:

  • Hard and soft bounce rate - Consider removing hard bounce and repeated soft bounce email IDs from your list.
  • SPAM complaints - Though it sounds counter-intuitive, add a clearly visible unsubscribe button for your customers to click so that they don't mark your emails as spam.
  • Engagement rates - Ideally, the contacts who have engaged with your emails in the last 30 or 60 days should be your target audience for future emails to improve the engagement rate.

Most importantly, abide by email marketing laws, such as the CAN-SPAM Act

Follow these 6 email deliverability best practices to ensure that your emails land in the right place at the right time!

3. Add preheader text.

Include an attention-grabbing preheader text to provide more context to your email. 

A well-designed preheader encourages readers to open your email, eventually resulting in high conversion rates for your campaign. For example, check out how this preheader has added a sense of urgency:

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Iphone Push Notification

4. Segment your email list based on real-time behavior. 

Segmenting your list is a great way of ensuring that you send relevant information to each of your customers. The result is that they’ll always look forward to receiving and opening your emails. 

While demographic segmentation is a given, behavioral segmentation is what you should have done yesterday. :-)

Segment your email list based on what they do, like based on when and which page do they visit on your site. Segment them also on the basis of their purchase frequency, recency, their AOV, or how involved they have been with your brand in the past.

5. Automate emails based on real-time shopping behavior.

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - I Love Email Meme

Automating emails in response to a customer's behavior enables you to keep track of their position along the customer journey. Behavior triggers are also an effective method for re-engaging lapsed customers.

For instance, you can send behavioral emails, such as:

By tracking their customers' behavior and tying that data into their email marketing platform, Birchbox is able to determine when a customer begins the checkout process but does not complete it. 

When this occurs, Birchbox sends an automated email reminding the customer that they still have items in their shopping cart. It includes images of the products left behind and encourages the customer to complete the transaction:

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Birchbox Cart Abandonment Email

6. Personalize your emails.

You should personalize your subject lines, CTAs, and email copy by adding dynamic content as applicable, including product images.

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Personalize Email Stats

Believe it or not, just using the recipient’s first name in the subject line can increase open rates by 26%

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Email Open Rate Stats
Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Email Personalization Stats

Customers are likely to pay attention to your product recommendation emails, if they are relevant to their preferences and past purchases. For instance, Clinique's product recommendations is tailored exactly to a shopper’s profile, preferences, and behavior:

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Clinique Product Recommendations

Create a compelling subject line. Your customers will not open your email regardless of how great the content is if the subject line is uninteresting. Apart from personalizing the basics like adding the customer’s name to the subject line, you can also include their behavior triggered content here. For instance, if John had browsed a few sneakers or if his past purchase history shows an affinity towards sneakers, you should hyper-personalize your email’s subject line similar to this one from Converse

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Converse Hyper Personalize Email

Add dynamic content. Dynamic content is content in your email that changes based on the information about your customers as well as their behavior: 

  • Demographic (name, age, gender, etc.)
  • Firmographics (organization name, work address, associated industry, etc.)
  • Psychographic (lifestyle, interests, hobbies, etc.)
  • Behavioral (purchase pattern, response to different offers, browse and cart abandonments, etc.)
  • Product images (based on all of the above factors)

So, each customer views an email with content that’s personalized for them based on all these factors.

Your emails can cover product recommendations, such as “recently viewed items”, “similar items”, upsells and cross-sells based on customer behavior and purchase history, complementary products that go well with already-purchased products, ideal product combos/bundles that go well together… For instance, this email from Nordstrom incorporated the customers’ location to dynamically alter the content based on their location and weather:

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Nordstrom Location based Email

Hyper-personalize your Call to Action (CTA) buttons based on the customers’ shopping behavior and not just segmentation alone. For instance, your CTA for a new customer (who’s maybe just browsed a few beverages on your site) vs. your CTA for existing customers (who’s already bought a beverage) should be different:

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Email CTA Stats

Ensure that your email and the landing page [ideally, it should be a PDP (Product Detail Page)] speak the same language to add continuity to their experience. 

The visuals and copy in your email and landing page should have the same style, and the CTAs should aim for the same goal in both. This way your customer, who’s reading your email, can easily follow the path to conversion.

7. Send monthly campaigns.

Based on your product’s lifecycle, engage your customers with monthly email campaigns. Send them appropriate emails on your brand’s milestones and anniversaries, product promotions, and other events (based on seasons and calendar events). 

Here are some ideas for such campaigns:

  • Send happy customership anniversary greetings
  • Provide exclusive benefits to your VIP customers
  • Send birthday greetings with a discount coupon

See how DAVIDsTEA pampers their customers by celebrating the brand’s 10th anniversary by highlighting milestones in the customer’s journey with personalized factoids, creative copy, and free shipping and sample offers at the end as a token of gratitude: 

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - DAVIDsTEA Anniversary Email Campaign

Remember this! 

Don’t send emails only during sales and holiday seasons. Holidays are a time when people look forward to purchasing products online. Therefore, it is acceptable to slow down your hard sell marketing campaigns and instead focus on 'interacting' with customers.

8. Ensure that your emails are mobile-friendly.

Pay close attention to the following email design best practices to ensure that your emails are responsive:

  • Emails with more than three columns appear poorly on mobile devices.
  • Limit your content. Keep emails brief. 
  • Avoid asymmetric designs; they are not mobile-friendly as on a smaller screen, it becomes tougher for the reader to focus their attention. Ensure symmetric layouts in your email if your goal is to enhance recognition and recall as symmetrical design makes it easier to recall information. Symmetric layout enables you to achieve more order and structure. For instance, check out this email from Adidas:
Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Adidas Email Campaign
  • If your email highlights various types of content, clearly delineate sections with whitespace and lines. Therefore, it would be easier to skim.

9. Email your customers before they feel the need to ask. 

One of your early automated emails post-purchase, for instance, can cover tips and tricks to better use the products they purchased. 

Ensuring that they can constantly learn something new about products that they’ve purchased and love will increase their loyalty and advocacy. In fact, your post-purchase emails can even source dynamic content from other customers’ unboxing/product reviews too, which makes it even more authentic. :-) 

Remember this! 

Don't compose every email with a sales pitch. :-)

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - CTA Meme

10. Design well crafted emails. 

No matter how much personalization you introduce in your emails, it's all wasted if your email design and content doesn’t wow the customer. 

Withings sends an email presenting important features to customers, who have recently purchased a new scale:

Email Marketing Dos & Donts - Withings Product Features

Observe how every element in the email right from the witty headings, the white space, appropriate CTAs and their placements (placing the first CTA above the first fold), and product images tilts the scale in their favor. :-)

The final word: A/B test everything from subject lines, content, CTA, colors, and images.

Testing is the foundation of intelligent ecommerce marketing, including email marketing. It provides the data necessary to determine what resonates with your audience.

A/B testing subject lines, content, and CTA button colors, and product images is essential for creating highly engaging emails. 

If you decide to A/B test (hint: you should :-)), be sure to track the changes you make and their effect.

In addition, although it may be tempting to change everything at once, you should only test one variable at a time to ensure that you obtain accurate, clean results.

So, there you go. Use these 10 email marketing dos (and don’ts) as a basic checklist to make your emails stand out from the crowd.