Paid traffic is getting too expensive and hard to measure. Audiences are drowned in a flood of influencers. We’re rethinking some good old marketing tactics in an attempt to find the balance between cost and effectiveness.
One such classic eCommerce marketing tactic is the email newsletter. It’s free to send and uncontrolled by anyone but you in contents.
It seems like the perfect platform for actively engaging customers. You can build a brand and communicate offers using only first-party data.
Is that so?
We asked digital marketing experts and ecommerce veterans for their opinion on email newsletters. Are they still effective for online stores? Here are what they had to say.
Related: How to send newsletters in Shopify
“Email newsletters, often monthly, are a good way to get people back to your website. A successful email click-through rate is about 2-3% and ideally will be 5-7%.
I have consistently seen email newsletters bring a few hundred visits more per month. For B2C companies, promotions and targeted/ exclusive messaging perform well.”
Lewis Ramsden, Head of Email Marketing at Roller Blinds Direct:
“A newsletter is a great way to sandwich customers with interesting content and hard-sell product information. We are actually driving traffic to our sites by reminding our email list that we are still here and ready for business. This has also had the unplanned benefit of SEO.”
Chris Byrne, sensorpro:
“Email is one of the few internet technologies not owned by any corporation.
Think about that a minute.
That means no vendor (algorithm) decides whether or not your email subscriber will receive your email. It’s in the hands of the subscriber, where it should be.
In the case of Facebook, you may have 5000 subscribers but Facebook decides which of these will see the message and then ask you to pay for the others to see it.
Oh, and the biggest senders of email in 2016? Facebook and Twitter!”
“In a world where people are bombarded with information at every turn, there is increasingly a great value in not just good content but good curation.
Many email newsletters are effective in this – only look how successful theSkimm has been.
None of this comes as too much of a surprise. How expensive it is to reach your target audience on Facebook and Google – even if they already follow your page!
Because of this we’ve seen a renewed focus on building an email list. That is an owned asset as opposed to having to continually rely on advertising dollars and algorithms to reach the eyeballs you want to reach.”
Naresh Vissa, founder of Krish Media & Marketing:
“Facebook announced it would start filtering promotional statuses in its News Feed. This will hurt marketers greatly. Twitter’s real-time stream of information makes it easy for messages – particularly promotional ones – to get lost in the shuffle.
But an email list is yours. You own it. Facebook and Twitter can’t determine what you do to your email subscribers. You do.”
Drew Fontin, Vice President of Marketing at The Predictive Index:
“Newsletters not only allow us to send relevant content. They also allow people who do not want to hear from you daily to stay informed through less frequent communication.
And, for those who appreciate the value of the content, but not want to hear from you every day, it’s an amazing alternative to the unsubscribe or spam button.”
Daisy Jing, founder of Banish, a skincare brand, and a vlogger:
“We send newsletters regularly. They are an important way for us to keep in touch with our customers, updating and informing them. Informative and tutorial type content works well.
We also let our customers know about changes in the company, giveaways and special promotions which gain more interest.
We introduce new subscribers to our products and our mission. We try to inspire them with stories and updates and it helps answer a lot of common questions people ask too.
Subscribers also have access to coupons that non subscribers do not have yet.”
Amy Olsen, creator of Kuhfs:
“My email newsletter is by far my most lucrative form of marketing. You have a warm audience that has expressed interest in your product or service and agreed to
receive marketing material from you on a regular basis.
Content is key to keeping your subscriber list engaged, learning the benefits of your product and moving through your sales funnel.
You need to provide content that shows how your product can help, make life easier or learn something new.
As an online retailer I offer 25% off your first order, plus a free fashion and style guide as the opt-in. My subscribers are interested in being effortlessly stylish so I provide them with information on how to do that.”
Cindy Jones, Ph.D., owner of Colorado Aromatics:
“At Colorado Aromatics we still send out e commerce newsletters.
I feel that this is an important part of our marketing strategy mainly because these people signed up voluntarily and so we know that they are interested.
I include the type of things that I would like to read about in a newsletter. This means news from us about what is going on, starting with what is growing on our herb farm at any one time.
This is followed by events that we are carrying on, links to new articles, a few tips about skin care and wellness and new product information.
We have a pretty good open rate for our newsletter and I love using it to keep in touch with my customers.”
Holly Wolf, SOLO Laboratories:
“Use a variety of writing styles like 10 tips to keep you from X, Ask the Expert/ Q&A session or quizzes. I also like Myth Busters which are a series of true and false questions.”
Kevin John Gallagher, Stargazer Digital:
“You can include things such as helpful tips and advice relating to your products or services, along with offers, discounts, and promotions.
Just be sure you have your customers’ permission before sending, and that they’re aware of what they’re signing up for!
Don’t make the mistake of just having a plain box that says ‘subscribe to our newsletter’. You have to give people a reason to sign up – otherwise what’s in it for them?
Try something like ‘subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive offers and discounts’. Trust me, you’ll get a better response rate!”
Alex Chaidaroglou, founder of Altosight:
“In my experience, discount codes convert best new visitors to email subscribers. More importantly these customers will have a higher average order value than customers without a discount code!”
Matthew Bell, founder of Bell Interactive:
“Offer your site visitors a free gift, a download, ebook – something special to incentivize them to sign up. Then the communication should be high quality, authentic content. Don’t go for a sale right away.“
Alexis Krasinski, owner of Monarchy Management:
“Email newsletters are still one of the largest sources of traffic for my clients and one of the largest contributors of sales. I’ve found that discounts, promotions and exclusive content increase the open-rate of the emails. However, your newsletter needs to have meaty content to keep readers opening it and going back to your website.”
Robert Brandl, founder of EmailToolTester.com:
“We send an automatic email to new newsletter subscribers – one with a banner, the other without. The no-banner version receives 115% more clicks. When people see the banner, they are much more likely to delete the message right away as they think it’s an ad.”
Pav Sideris, Digital Marketing Manager at CashBacker:
“Collect relevant customer data and monitor activity to create different emails relevant to the customer journey to maximize the results from email.”
Renee Tarnutzer, Product Marketing Specialist at Understory Weather:
“When it comes to email newsletters, the first step must be identifying the segments you need to target. This should include demographics, psychographics and user behavior.
As you analyze each segment, review their commonalities and differences. Review the pages they visit and even how often they visit.
Although this takes time, you can learn a lot from data so you can build strong segments that, in turn, will build strong email campaigns.
If you don’t invest this time upfront, your campaigns will be significantly less successful. Mass blasting is dead. When you send relevant and timely messages to your subscribers, the performance increases tremendously.”
Bob Clary, Director of Online Engagement at Intellibright:
“Email isn’t going anywhere, what is changing is the need for advanced personalization. Specifically, what works is when brands segment their database by interest, interaction, demography (the list goes on and on).”
Matt Press, Splash Copywriters:
“Many businesses have one list and one newsletter. But the reality is, consumers have different likes and dislikes. By creating unique newsletters for different segments of a market, brands can increase their ROI.”
Mandy Menaker, Head of PR and Brand Development at Shapr:
“Content that works tends to be funny, conversational and creative. The newsletter should only be promotional if you’re running a sale or have new features to announce.
Use this opportunity to instead share interesting user stories, educate your fans and share some behind the scenes content. At the end of the newsletter, have only one big call to action so readers know exactly what to do next.”
Alyssa Scavetta, Marketing Manager at the Masonry digital agency:
“Clients and prospects generally want to know that you know what you’re talking about. Share thought-leadership pieces like infographics, video content, gifs and blogs to draw more visitors to your site.”
Tim Akers, owner of Akers Digital:
“I always read articles stating the email is dead, but that is simply not true. In my experience, email has the highest conversion rate of any acquisition channel.
It comes down to your customers and what they value. This can come in the form of members-only discounts, expert advice, or getting exclusive access to new content.”
Of course, there are always those who disagree. They point out some possible problems with email newsletters. Although the majority still believes in this marketing tool, it’s good to bear in mind the negatives, too. Just so you’re prepared.
Max Robinson, Plunger:
“The harsh truth is that very few of your customers actually care about news related to your company or your employees. We’ve found it much more effective to send one targeted email per month, and to keep company news to a blog page on the website.”
Sam Williamson, Fish Tank Bank:
“Many businesses (particularly smaller businesses) seem to be under the impression that sending newsletters every month is a great way to keep in touch with customers. Newsletters should be avoided entirely or sent no more than once every 6 months.
People receive dozens of emails every single day, and if your newsletter emails frequently appear in your customer’s inbox, it won’t be long until they mark the emails as spam.”
What do you think? Share your experience with email newsletters – especially if you run or work with an online store.
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