In times when paid traffic is getting too expensive (and hard to measure) and audiences are drowned in a flood of influencer social updates, 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, building a brand and communicating offers without the hawking eye of the competition.
Is that so?
We asked digital marketing experts and ecommerce veterans for their opinion on email newsletters – how effective they can be for online stores. Here are what they had to say.
Do you think newsletters still work in eCommerce?
“Email newsletters, often delivered 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 additional visits per month for companies that make an effort to collect email addresses from their visitors.
For B2C companies, promotions and targeted/ exclusive messaging perform well.”
Lewis Ramsden, Head of Email Marketing at Roller Blinds Direct:
“Having the newsletter is a great way to sandwich customers with this interesting dynamic content along with hard-sell product information, which would normally disengage readers and send them running for the next email in their inbox.
Instead, we are actually driving traffic to our sites by reminding our 60,000+ email list that we are still here and ready for business. This has also had the unplanned benefit of aiding our search engine presence, which in retail is all about being the top of the list.”
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 can dictate to the business owner on whether or not their email subscriber will receive a message from them. 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 in which individuals are bombarded with information at every turn, there is increasingly a great deal of value in not just good content but good curation.
Many email newsletters are effectively accomplishing this – one need only look to the recent success of someone like theSkimm, by way of example.
None of this comes as too much of a surprise when you understand how expensive it is on Facebook and Google to reach your target audience – 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 e-mail list is yours. You own it. Facebook and Twitter can’t determine what you do to your e-mail subscribers. You do.”
Drew Fontin, Vice President of Marketing at The Predictive Index:
“Newsletters not only allow us to send a collection of relevant content, they also allow those who may not want to hear from you daily to stay informed and engaged on a less frequent basis.
And, for those who may appreciate the value of our content, but not want to hear from us every day, it’s an amazing alternative to the unsubscribe or spam button.”
What newsletters do you send to your customers?
Daisy Jing, founder of Banish, a skincare brand, and a vlogger:
“We send newsletters regularly and they are an important way for us to keep in touch with our customers with updates and informing them of content they would be interested in. Informative and tutorial type content works well.
We also let our customers know about some changes our company has, giveaways and special promotions which gain more interest.
For our new subscribers, we introduce them to our products, our mission and inspire them with stories and updates from our customers in small snippets so they don’t get overwhelmed with information 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 be providing content that helps the subscriber understand how your product can help them overcome a problem, make life easier or learn something new.
As an on-line 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-newsletters.
I feel that this is an important part of our marketing approach mainly because these are people who voluntarily signed up 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 includes 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 in the store or elsewhere, links to blogs I’ve posted recently, 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.”
What email newsletter tactics that you’ve tried work best?
How to capture leads
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 and 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, e-book – something special to incentivize them to sign up. Then the initial communications to that newly registered user should be high quality, authentic content. Don’t go for a sale right away.“
How to get better open rate
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. That being said however, your newsletter needs to have meaty content to keep readers opening the newsletter and to send them to your website.”
How to make people click on your email
Robert Brandl, founder of EmailToolTester.com:
“We are sending 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.”
Segment your audience
Pav Sideris, Digital Marketing Manager at CashBacker:
“The take-home tip is collect relevant customer data, monitor activity and interaction data to create an array of email suites that are relevant to the customer journey to maximise 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 as well as user behaviors.
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 on the forefront, there are a lot of little nuggets that can be harvested 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.”
Personalize your newsletter
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 based on interest, interaction, demography (and 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, so by creating unique newsletters for different segments of a market, brands can increase their ROI.”
What do you include in an email newsletter?
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, you need to provide a service to them. 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.
What are the cons of newsletters?
Max Robinson, Ace Work Gear:
“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 released no more than once every 6 months).
People receive dozens of emails every single day, and if your newsletter emails are frequently appearing 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.