Increase Your Sales: 5 Ways for Retailers to Optimize Email Campaigns

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We all have it: the dreaded “promotions” tab in our email, that black hole of messages from retailers that is the virtual equivalent of walking down a European street being yelled at by counterfeit designer bag vendors. It’s not fun, and you spend the whole time checking your pocket to make sure someone hasn’t run off with your wallet.

optimize email campaigns

As a retailer, you don’t want to think that your emails are part of the problem – just obnoxious background noise that don’t add value to your customer’s lives. But chances are, your emails aren’t adding value. Chances are, your emails are just as annoying and ignored as all the other ones.

So how do you rise above the white noise and make your emails something that your customers want to read; something they look forward to receiving? Check out my five tips below to turn your emails into something that customers will be excited to get.

1. Send emails filled with content that helps your customers use your products.

The idea here is to show your customers how your products can fit into their lives, and how they can improve them. These types of emails can encourage a customer to purchase a new item that they now understand how to use, or show customers how to use products they already own in ways they hadn’t thought of. There’s plenty of possibilities here:

After a customer makes a purchase, you can send them an email filled with tips on how to make full use of your products. These tips could be included in your transactional emails, if you email receipts or are an eCommerce company. For instance, if you sell vitamins, you could send along an infographic of how your vitamins are best used – like what time they’re best taken, which foods you could take with them, and what results the vitamins will bring. Just put together some snazzy visuals with a few handy facts about your product.

Dollar Shave Club is the master at this.

Dollar Shave Club is the master at this.

You can also send along emails that show how your products solve your customers’ pain points (which your buyer persona should include). Make sure your subject line speaks directly to the pain point, to ensure a good open rate.

An example for a women’s clothing company might have a subject line that reads, “Sick of getting holes in your jeans from normal wear and tear?” And then the body of the email could be about the company’s miracle jeans, and how they don’t get holes from usual wear – like thigh rub, or knee rips.

You should also send out emails filled with ideas that show how your customers can use your products together to create product whole better than the sum of its parts. A clothing company should send out outfit ideas, a furniture retailer should send out layout ideas, etc. Use your products to illustrate these ideas, but don’t push them with a hard sell. The content of the email should explain why you chose to create the outfit the way you did – why certain textures can mix and match, for instance. At the bottom of this email, you can always include a “Get This Outfit” button.


2. Send emails filled with “giving” content.

Send emails to your customers that don’t ask anything of them or try to sell them, but instead only give them something – tips, entertainment, or help. These emails need to contribute to your customer’s overall lifestyle, and show them that you understand the context in which they purchased your products. Plus, when you send out emails that don’t ask subscribers to do anything, and only offer them something (whether information, physical gift, etc.), it shows that you value them as more than just a source of your income.

Some ideas of emails with giving content:

  • Try sending out a newsletter. This newsletter could be filled with posts from your own blog (none of which should be explicitly pushing your products), or your favorite posts from around the web. These could be posts related to the types of things you sell, or they could be humorous lifestyle posts.
  • You could put together an email filled with your favorite photos of your customers using your products. (Bonus: gather these photos from your social followers – it will encourage your customers to share about you on their favorite social sites.)
  • You could send them something free, like a product from a partner company, or a code for an ebook, or maybe even some free samples of your own products.

3. Send creative promotions.

Sending promotions isn’t a total no-no. Promotions can perform really well (especially if you don’t have them every day of the year). But remember when you do send out promotional emails, you’re competing with hundreds of other retailers who are using subject lines and promotions that look exactly the same. So try something different.

Some interesting promotions I’ve seen:

  • Instead of saying “40% off the whole store today!” try “Your $40 credit is expiring today.” Inside the email, you can explain that it’s $40 off every purchase of $100.
Both of these subject lines are creative ways of talking about a promotion.

Both of these subject lines are creative ways of talking about a promotion.

  • Send out a personalized coupon or promotion. If your lists are segmented well enough (see below), you should be able to send out coupons to people on items that they purchase frequently. A frequent pants purchaser could get a subject line that reads, “35% off all pants,” or a subject line that reads, “All shirts 50% off with purchase of pants.” While these may seem to be more generic subject lines, they’ll be more likely to stick out just because they’re exactly what the customer is looking for.

4. Write thoughtful subject lines.

Like every other person writing about email marketing ever, I’m going to take the time to remind you that subject lines really matter. They’re the preview of your email, the 100 or so characters that subscribers use to decide whether or not to open your message.

As a retailer, you have the additional challenge of the promotions tab. Google’s way of reorganizing email so that all your promotional emails go into a special tab is awesome if you’re a Gmail user but, as a retailer, it’s tough. The promotions tab puts your store’s emails in direct competition with, well, your direct competition.

To stand out, you can use tricks like:

  • Include a number in your subject line to make it stand out. Think: “7 Ways to Use Glitter Glue Without Getting It Everywhere.”
  • Ask a question in your subject line. This is a great place to dig up the pain points your customers experience from your buyer persona. For instance, as a sporting goods store, you could try sending out a subject line that reads, “Sick of your cleats getting dull?” This sort of question speaks right to cleat wearers, and is a pain point that leads right to a purchase. It makes your store seem aware and caring of the problems in your customers’ lives. It also makes you seem capable of fixing these problems.

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  • Make your subject line something topical, or personalized. The more you can relate your email to your customers’ lives, the more likely it is to get opened. Personalization increases unique open rates by 73%. Try using dynamic content to include your subscriber’s names in the subject line, for instance.
  • Make use of Google’s Quick Action buttons. These buttons allow you to include a CTA button in your subject line, so that your subscribers can use your email the way you want them to without ever having to even open it. The best use I’ve seen made of this is the “track package” buttons that come with the emails telling me my order has been shipped. (Seriously, that button is my favorite.)

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5. Get your subscribers on accurate lists.

As I said above, the more personalized your emails are, the more likely your customers are to be interested in them. In order to do this, you need to set up your marketing automation solution properly. The most important thing is to make sure that your subscribers are on the right lists within your solution, so they’re receiving the right emails. Some list segmentation ideas for you:

  • Break your list up by the basic demographics that divide up your buyer personas. If you’re a men and women’s clothing store, you want women receiving emails mainly about women’s clothing, and perhaps a few about men’s clothing as gift ideas.
  • Make lists for when a customer completes certain actions, for instance, after they purchase an item. A customer who’s already purchased with you should receive emails letting them know you appreciate their purchase, and other types of emails meant to cultivate their loyalty to your brand. If you can break the lists down into something as granular as the exact product they purchase, more power to you!
  • Segment by location. This will allow you to send out emails that are very specific to certain regions. One excellent use of this is emailing customers in a certain area that is about to endure a big weather event. A company like Home Depot could target an area that is about to get a huge snowstorm with an email that reads, “We still have snow shovels for you to purchase,” or something. (I just survived #Snowzilla here in DC, and I wish I had received that email.)
You can see the Ann Taylor Company has me on a location-based list. They're referencing the coming #Snowzilla here.

You can see the Ann Taylor Company has me on a location-based list. They’re referencing the coming #Snowzilla here.

  • Make lists for different sending frequencies. Allowing your customers to choose how often they want to receive emails from you when they sign up is a great way of preventing people from getting burned out with your emails.


cara pinterest img - retail email

These five tips can help you make the leap out of the promotions tab and into the customer’s personal folder, but they’re certainly not the only tips that can help you do that. What email marketing practices have you found success with? I would love to hear your thoughts and learn more, so share in the comments below!

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About the Author


Cara Wood

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Cara Wood is a marketing associate at Capterra and a graduate of Mary Washington! When she's not hard at work at Capterra, she can be found horse-back riding, reading and just generally having a good time at life.


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