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A great newsletter feels like correspondence from a friend. You look forward to hearing what’s going on in their life. They share new information that you’re interested in. You get to learn more about them. For brands that want to create an engaging newsletter for their customers, keeping this feeling in mind leads to more loyal customers and an ever-growing audience.
Below, we share 10 tips and examples for better e-commerce email, as well as some key reasons why you should start a newsletter in the first place.
Why focus on ecommerce email?
Whether you’re a brand manager for a big store or a solopreneur managing the whole operation, you probably have enough going on without thinking about creating another marketing channel. We get it. But building an email newsletter has a huge pay-off when it comes to bringing visitors and customers back to your store. Staying top of mind is a big challenge for online retailers. A newsletter can help your brand stay relevant.
It’s a direct line between you and your email list - If a potential customer visits your website but doesn’t follow you on social media or sign up for your newsletter, you have limited opportunities to get in touch with them in the future. But if they do happen to leave their email address, you have a direct line into their inbox. An ecommerce email is a great opportunity for marketers to get a foot in the door and start nurturing visitors into buyers.
Repeat customers are extremely profitable - Repeat customers are the bread and butter of your online store. Customers who return to make a second purchase usually spend up to three times more than they did on their first purchase. This adds up - a study by Adobe found that 41% of an ecommerce website’s revenue comes from repeat customers. Because your repeat customers are easier to convert than brand new visitors, an email newsletter can be a great way to bring them back or show them something new.
Not all browsers are ready to purchase yet - Visitors come to your shop for a number of reasons, including product research, price comparison, and learning more about your business. Only a small percentage (between 5-8%) are ready to buy right away. Offering an email newsletter gives you a way to follow up with these visitors and entice them to come back to your ecommerce business. Maybe they aren’t ready to buy yet, but when you add a new product line or offer a Black Friday deal, they’ll come running!
10 ecommerce newsletter tips and ideas (with examples)
If we’ve convinced you to launch or optimize your ecommerce newsletter for better results, these 10 tips will help you get the most engagement from your newsletter:
- Set a SMART goal
- Choose effective newsletter templates
- Use video and images to engage your audience
- Build a buyer persona
- Balance educational and promotional content
- Add dynamic and smart content
- Encourage shop browsers to subscribe
- Make it easy for people to unsubscribe
- A/B test your subject lines and call to action
- Ask for referrals
Let’s take a closer look at each of these tips, including the best ecommerce newsletter examples from online shops that are doing it right.
P.S. You may want to take a peek at newsletters and subject lines of other ecommerce brands. Check out our section on competitor analysis tools for emails.
1. Set a SMART goal
For a successful newsletter, you must first decide what success looks like to you. Why are you creating a newsletter? Do you want more visits to your online store? Do you want to increase the average cart value or conversion rate? Or to increase the number of repeat customers? All worthy goals, but the business plan to achieve each of them will be different. So let’s start by deciding on a SMART goal that your newsletter will work towards. (As a reminder, that’s a Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound goal.
For example, if you wanted to increase your average cart value (how much the average customer spends in one transaction), your newsletters might offer free shipping for customers who spend over a certain amount. Or you might feature a discounted item that makes a great add-on to a purchase. Lion Brand Yarn often sends out free shipping discounts in their weekly newsletter, along with “mystery” bundle offers for loyal customers.
2. Choose effective newsletter templates
Create a cohesive and consistent newsletter design that supports the type of content you want to include. For example, if your newsletter will mostly feature new products, you might create a template that includes space for large product images or videos with supporting text. If you’re aiming to create a more narrative-focused update, design your newsletter template to have a large body of text, with supporting images.
Your template shouldn’t be too flashy, otherwise, it might distract from the content. A simple template will also display the best on a wide variety of devices, including mobile phones. Like those in HubSpot’s free newsletter builder, pre-made templates have already been tested to display beautifully and can save you a lot of time and frustration. If you want to customize your email for different types of content, try the drag-and-drop email builder which lets you intuitively change up your design with no coding knowledge required.
REI’s email template uses the same header for each email, focusing on the primary navigation points they want to direct readers to: Shop, Adventures, Classes, and Journal. A short introduction with a call to action and inspiring photos make up the rest of their newsletter. It’s easy to read and a joy to receive in your inbox.
3. Use video and images to engage your readers
Emails can include much more than just text. Using videos increases click-through rates up to 55%, and 65% of consumers prefer to receive emails with images in them. There are a number of ways that you can include video in your newsletter, such as embedding a gif or linking a still shot from a video to your YouTube channel. ModCloth uses gifs in their email newsletters to showcase multiple outfits with effective use of space. The movement gif is engaging but also does a great job of showing the product.
Great product images evoke emotion and can draw your audience in. While you might not think your product is very photogenic, you might be surprised at how much a good photo can do. For example, these images from Head and Shoulders’ Instagram account showcase a very simple product with beautiful imagery. Choose a great background, take high-quality photos, and use them in your email newsletters when possible!
4. Build a buyer persona
Understanding your audience is key to all marketing success. But when it comes to email newsletters, being hyper-aware of who your audience is can mean the difference between an open and a junk mail report. Take these email marketing examples from Marquis Matson.
While Postmates sent her a coupon for Burger King (she’s vegetarian and has never ordered fast food from them), Sivana East sent her relevant lifestyle tips during one of the 2020 lockdowns. Guess which newsletter she engaged with?
5. Balance educational and promotional content
If your email is all BUY BUY BUY, your customers are going to be put off and probably LEAVE LEAVE LEAVE your email list. Instead, aim to provide value to your email subscribers, just like you would in your other content marketing efforts. I love receiving this monthly newsletter from Boreal Folk each full moon because they include helpful foraging tips and recipes for local flora alongside a featured product that’s in season right now.
When deciding what type of educational content to include, think about who your audience is. What pain points do they have? What is their lifestyle like? What other products do they regularly use? While some of your newsletter content can be about your own product, including other helpful information will add more value for your readers. Consider including:
- Recipes and DIY instructions
- User-generated content from other customers that have found interesting ways to use your product (or how to recycle the packaging!)
- Industry news and tips
- A roundup of interesting podcasts
- Other product recommendations
- How-to guides, or a weekly tutorial
6. Add dynamic and smart content elements
Even though you’re sending your newsletter out to a big audience, every individual recipient has different needs. With dynamic content, you can tailor your newsletter to show specific content to each reader based on their previous interactions with your company. You might create a CTA showcasing your new customer sample pack for subscribers who have never purchased before. For loyal customers, you could show a different CTA mentioning your refill discount. See how each type of subscriber is getting relevant offers tailored to their needs? Personalization (beyond just using their first name) performs 220% better than generic calls-to-action.
Birchbox is a makeup subscription company, which uses data collected from subscriber reviews and purchases to personalize emails. Their email marketing campaigns become more targeted, relevant, and helpful. Rather than getting a marketing email, it feels more like a recommendation from a friend who knows you well.
7. Encourage shop browsers to subscribe to your newsletter
If you create a great newsletter, but no one subscribes to it… you’re not going to meet your marketing goals. That’s why part of your newsletter strategy has to include boosting the number of subscribers. There are a number of ways to do so, including using exit-intent popups like Leesa Mattress’ storefront below. Getting browsers to subscribe is the first step in creating effective email workflows.
8. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe
Having a good reputation is important for your email newsletter’s deliverability rates. If you email people who haven’t agreed to be on your list or don’t make it easy to unsubscribe, your newsletter may be reported as spam. Too many spam reports and you’ll start to see your deliverability rates decrease.
Unsubscribes can also be a great source of insight into what people want out of your newsletter. Look through the reasons readers leave when they unsubscribe and address these common issues (such as frequency or relevance) to prevent future unsubscribes.
It’s not hard to do, just include the Unsubscribe link in every email footer. Your customers will know where to look.
9. A/B test your subject lines and call-to-actions
Once you’ve got your email newsletter cadence down, it’s time to optimize. A/B testing is the process of sending out two different variations of the same message to your subscribers to see which one resonates with your audience. By measuring what type of subject line, design, or CTA drives the best open rate and most click-throughs, you can get a better return on each marketing email.
For example, Tinuiti (formally Elite SEM) shared this example where Native deodorant A/B tested different designs. The design on the right featuring the product image drove 31% more clicks than the text-only version.
10. Ask for referrals
We couldn’t end this list of tips without including something about referrals! Email newsletters are an excellent place to collect referrals. There are two great ways to spread the word. First, you can create a beautiful referral call to action and include it in your standard newsletter format like Neiman Marcus does below. They use an enticing product image, overlaid with a brightly colored CTA to draw the reader in.
Secondly, suggest that your reader forward the newsletter to a friend that might like it! DreaReneeKnits includes this at the bottom of every newsletter along with a link to subscribe. Because her newsletter is chock-full of recipes, recommendations, sneak peeks, and discounts, you can bet that her readers are excited to pass on the email!
Bring newsletters into your marketing strategy
Creating a popular newsletter for your ecommerce brand can have a big payoff. It keeps regular customers up to date on your products, and nurtures potential buyers into loyal, repeat customers.