A Complete Guide to Email Marketing for Retailers in 2022 & Beyond

Email marketing is like a wardrobe staple (think white t-shirts and sensible dress shoes) that not even the most fashionable marketers can shun completely. With its formidable ROI and targeting capabilities, it can help you step up your overall marketing game. 

But you can’t just go around treating your emails like the digital equivalent of flyers and shoving them in the face of anyone and everyone you cross paths with. An email marketing campaign with personalization and segmentation can revolutionize customer experiences. And that’s not all email marketing is good for.

Main Benefits of Email Marketing for Retailers

  • Everyone in business lives and breathes for the bottom line. Email marketing is directly responsible for an upswing in overall sales and has a 3800% ROI.
  • It’s a goldmine of data for getting valuable customer feedback. It tells you which emails are being opened, read, engaged with, and the links being clicked on.
  • Customer engagement is crucial to any business’s growth. You can establish a communication stream through emails that let you get in touch with existing customers to retain and re-engage them.
  • In a 2021 survey by McKinsey, 76% of customers said they got frustrated when the brands they bought from did not personalize communication. The one-on-one nature of emails allows for noise-free, customized messaging that makes customers feel valued and unique. 
  • Lastly, emails offer you the one thing no other major communication channel does – autonomy. You’re not at the mercy of algorithms, or burgeoning ad spends to get through to your customers and can build independent, long-lasting relationships with them.

Retail Email Marketing Tips for Growing Your Business in 2022 & Beyond

Here’s how you can avoid pitfalls and build a powerful email marketing strategy for your retail business from the ground up:

Build your own email list (avoid buying lists)

As convenient as they seem, instant or purchased email lists get a bad rap from everyone. They can land you in trouble with:

  • The law – Irrelevant commercial emails without prior consent violate the GDPR. 
  • Your ESP – Sending unsolicited emails wrecks the domain reputation you share with their other clients and gets you blacklisted.
  • A whole lot of harangued recipients can and will report your emails as spam, destroying your sender’s reputation. 

So don’t pick quantity over quality, especially when emailing people that don’t know you or your business. Curate a list of prospects wanting to hear from you with high-quality lead magnets. Or use social media campaigns to mobilize leads. 

Sephora uses free samples to gain access to email addresses.

free sample example sephora gain email adresses

Pop-up prompts offering limited-time offers, exclusive access to sales, and reward programs can also encourage sign-ups.

Segment your lists 

Frequency and irrelevance of messages are the top reasons people unsubscribe from emails. The only way to prevent it is by finding out what customers want to hear about and respecting that choice. 

You can segment your email list based on: 

  • location, 
  • age, 
  • gender, 
  • sign-up source, 
  • buying habits, 
  • high-engagement hours, etc.

Having segmentation from the beginning is more desirable. But even if you already have a list, use existing data to sort users into broad categories. Monitor ongoing activity to make more niche segments. Or send them an email asking them to confirm their preferences.

set your preferences email example

It reduces unsubscribes and improves revenue by pitching products they’d want to buy. Don’t overload segmented audiences with regular and segment-specific communication and risk antagonizing them. 

Choose the right email marketing software for your needs 

When it comes to tools, one size does not fit all. Booming businesses with long email lists have different requirements from fledgling ones with shoestring budgets. And affordability isn’t the only factor for determination.

If you intend to send multimedia-heavy emails but don’t have an in-house designer, MailerLite and SendPulse have simple drag-and-drop builder options with interactive email templates and in-built video features.

Someone looking for a more advanced workflow for their email sequences can opt for Drip or Omnisend, both of which are optimized for e-commerce.

Hunter Campaigns is a feature-packed tool for cold outreach.

As for the pricing, if a software looks perfect for your needs, but doesn’t currently cater to businesses your size, ask their customer rep if they can create a customized plan for you. MailChimp offers a free plan for sending emails to up to 2000 contacts for those still finding their footing. 

Utilize automation in your campaigns

Automated, behavioral trigger-based email sequences are the crown jewels of email marketing. You can use them to establish a humanized, if not human, connection. More importantly, to reach out to customers at the right time without spending hundreds of hours tracking and monitoring specific actions like signing up, cart abandonment, birthdays, etc.

As far as unique triggers go, Outdoor Voices’ half-birthday email is a clear winner.

unique marketing email trigger for half birthday

Automation can help you track which section of your website a user is visiting to send them relevant emails.

Integrating your automation campaign with social media channels or advertisements collates data and shows a holistic picture of customer behavior. It lets you target potential customers in a tried-and-tested manner and replicate previous customer successes.

Personalize subject lines & email copy 

There’s a lot riding on subject lines. It makes sense then to steer clear of sales-y, gimmicky, or lackluster lines like ‘EOSS ENDS IN 12 HOURS, BOOK YOUR HOLIDAY TODAY!!!’ or ‘Gift A Holiday To Your Family This Christmas’. 

Instead, use data to determine which products customers looked at on your website, then send them an email with the personalized subject line ‘Are you all packed for the {preferred holiday destination according to browsing history}, {first name}?’

Keep your tone friendly and warm in the copy, and your content valuable. Relevant recommendations don’t repel customers; some of them might even thank you for them. For example, you could cross-sell travel insurance to a customer who’s made hotel bookings through you. 

Your emails don’t always have to be transactional. Send them tips on how to better use products they’ve bought or snowstorm safety guides like this email here.

complete snowstorm guide email tips 255x1024 1

Optimize emails for all devices 

The multi-functionality of mobile devices makes them an obvious choice for reading emails for most users. Coupled with the increasing share of mobile in website traffic, it’s clear that you’re alienating a large demographic of potential customers by not mobile-optimizing your emails. 

Too-large images that have to be pinched and zoomed, and scrolled through ruin the customer experience. Even subject lines have to be crafted keeping a rough 30-character limit in mind, beyond which most mobile email clients will truncate them. 

Even if you’re not rushing to try out responsive emails or AMP for email just yet, ensure a basic clean look for your emails. Stick to single-column formats to avoid overflowing tables and images. Use clickable CTA buttons to encourage engagement and accommodate for darker/night themes on phones while planning your email design.

Omnichannel marketing

Omnichannel marketing offers a way to overcome the drawbacks of one mode of communication with customers by transferring or continuing it to another channel more suited to the purpose. 

Say a customer buys something from your offline store, then reviews it on their Instagram, and you email them with a special discount coupon for their next purchase, both online and offline – that’s omnichannel marketing.

Alternatively, you can run an influencer marketing campaign and organize giveaways in exchange for email addresses. Then use emails to lead them further down the sales funnel and ultimately direct them to your website for purchase.

Ensure seamlessness and consistency in tone of voice. The beauty of omnichannel marketing is also its single most significant vulnerability – the need to perfect customer acquisition or retention across all channels instead of just one. 

The multiple touchpoints allow for a better user experience, improve sales and give you valuable insight into customer preferences, sales cycle lengths, and bottlenecks.

For instance, ClicData has more than 260 connectors, including integrations with MailChimp, Hubspot, Google Analytics, and many popular CRMs. You can easily connect data from different channels and create a single marketing dashboard providing an excellent overview of data from various channels. That way, you can quickly analyze data and understand which channels work and need strategy adjustments.

A/B testing

Even with a detailed buyer persona, there’s a lot of guesswork in deciding when and what to email customers. A/B testing splits your emails based on attributes like subject line, copy, image, and personalization options to find out what resonates more with your audience. 

The shift doesn’t have to be drastic – moving an image a little higher up in the email, omitting a paragraph, or tweaking a line here and there might be all you need to increase open rates, click-throughs, and conversions.

top 3 marketing kpis and how to fix them

You can change more than one factor, but limiting the differences between the emails you’re testing is best if you want more precise answers. 

Since not everyone can go all Keanu Reeves from The Matrix on the swathes of data these tests generate, it might be a good idea to invest in a project management dashboard like ClicData. 

Wrapping up

Email marketing is here to stay, but the evolving digital landscape calls for incorporating specific changes to your strategy. Data privacy and sensitivity are essential, as is the personalization of communication. It’s a delicate balancing act, but the pay-offs, whether in brand awareness, lead nurturing, cross-channel conversions, or just plain old revenue growth, are well worth it.

About the author

Antonio is an outreach manager at Hunter. He is passionate about testing different outreach tactics and sharing results with the community. When he is not connecting with industry leaders, you can find him on his motorbike exploring off-the-beaten paths around the world. 


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