It may seem hard to believe, but according to Wikipedia, email is almost 50 years old. Compared to the meteoric rise of TikTok or even the emergence of augmented and virtual reality because of COVID, email is a dinosaur.
And yet it’s as relevant as ever.
HubSpot has oodles of data on how critical email is to businesses of all kinds: From being the preferred method of millennial engagement to having an insanely high ROI, successful email engagement correlates strongly with a successful business. So if you want to take your business to greater heights, don’t give up on email; double down. Here are six fresh ideas to win the inbox and keep your customers coming back.
1. Ask Customers to Opt In
Newsflash: People don’t like email spam (OK, hopefully, that’s not a newsflash). Unsolicited emailing can work, but it’s not nearly as effective as getting people to check a box agreeing to be contacted by your business. In fact, double opt-in — where the box is checked and then the customer verifies their consent in a follow-up email — is about as bulletproof as it gets when it comes to building a list of people who will actually want to read the emails you send.
GDPR and similar privacy/solicitation regulations have been the norm since 2018, so for many companies, it’s a legal requirement to get customers to agree to share their contact information with you. Legal or not, it’s also a good first step in boosting your engagement rate and wasting less time reaching out to folks who don’t want to hear from you and will possibly react to being spammed by choosing a competitor when they eventually become a qualified lead.
2. Offer Discounts in Abandoned Cart Emails
It’s frustratingly common — about 70% — for a customer to browse your store, add items to their cart, and then close the tab before finalizing the sale. You may not know what made them change their mind, but you can do your best to recapture them with creative email marketing strategies.
For a lot of customers, the motivator to abandon the cart is an unexpected cost. The total was higher than they anticipated, shipping was too expensive, or there was an unanticipated fee, like sales tax. So to incentivize them to come back, send them an abandoned cart email with some sort of discount, maybe a percentage off the whole order or free shipping (a great motivator for shoppers).
3. Get Creative with GIFs and Memes
As we all continue to communicate online, our online language changes. While the written word will never disappear (as much as people like to pretend we will one day communicate only using emojis), it can be greatly enhanced with other elements, like GIFs and memes. They can be a little tricky to pull off effectively, but they add visual interest to an otherwise static form of communication.
Incorporating GIFs and memes into your email marketing campaigns, when done well, can add a whole new dimension to your communications. The only thing more powerful than making someone laugh is making them cringe at how hard you’re trying to make them laugh. Before you make a faux pas by using a stale meme like Bad Luck Brian or the impatient Cookie Monster GIF, make sure it comports with your brand voice. If you feel like it’s a bad fit, there are plenty of other ways to experiment with your emails. Like any attempt at using humor in marketing, it can backfire, so err on the side of caution if your audience doesn’t seem like they will appreciate your attempt at being clever.
4. Follow Up in New Ways
Sending another email to follow up with a subscriber who didn’t open the first email seems a little redundant, no? Instead, try sending unresponsive subscribers a text message. People use their phones far more often than their desktop or laptops, so reach them where they already are. Especially if it’s a time-sensitive issue that you don’t want them to miss out on, like a sale or product launch, a text could actually be really helpful.
The golden rule for texting is to keep your message short, clear, and have a single goal in mind for what you want them to do. So, using the example of a limited-time sale, you can follow up on an unopened email about the sale with a short text that explains what the sale is and how much time they have left to act on it. Be concise and have a clear call to action.
5. Experiment with Segmentation
Like opting in, email segmentation isn’t a brand new concept, but it’s gained ground in recent years. From that same Hubspot report I referred to earlier: Marketers who use segmented campaigns noted as much as a 760% increase in revenue. What’s so special about it?
Segmentation does a lot of heavy lifting for you by sorting your email list into groups depending on a number of variables. You can segment by age, socioeconomic status, average order size, region/country, new vs. repeat customers, and so much more.
Before you create a segmentation list, it’s important to have in mind an end goal. In a sense, you’re working backwards and deciding what your desired outcome is, then creating hypotheses that will allow you to A/B test different messaging or design elements on those segments to achieve the outcome you’re looking for.
The end goal with segmentation is to engage customers with your brand and make them more likely to respond to your emails. Because you’re taking care to craft a more personalized message than if you just sent them all the same email, it follows that more of them will reply. Don’t get me wrong — it’s useful having a strong control variant that you can rely on to convert across multiple targets. But if you segment, you give yourself an opportunity to tailor your appeal and excite more customers than ever.
6. Design with Mobile in Mind
In 2018, mobile opens accounted for 46% of all email opens. With the rise in smartphone use since then, that number has likely increased. If you are a B2B in a legacy-heavy market, maybe your target audience is more likely to use Outlook on a desktop PC. But for everyone else, mobile email design should be front and center as a priority, because there’s a high likelihood that many of the customers receiving your emails will be reading them on their phones.
There are a whole bunch of ways that you can create elegant, high-converting mobile emails, but here are four basic tips to get you started:
- Keep your subject lines concise. Remember, phone screens are narrow. 25-30 characters is the golden rule. Anything more than that will probably be cut off.
- The preheader text needs to be limited for the same reason. 35 characters max.
- Assume that your recipient has a slower phone or mediocre data plan, and keep your image files compressed. Try to be as reasonable as possible with the media you decide to send.
- Don’t overcrowd the field with lots of buttons or clickable elements. For anyone with even the mildest case of sausage fingers, nothing is more frustrating than clicking the wrong button on the phone and getting sent to the wrong place.
If you design emails to be easy to read and interact with on a typical smartphone, there’s a high likelihood that your customers will reward your design efforts with higher engagement.
How to get started
Depending on your budget and priorities, some of these tips are going to be easier and faster to implement than others. Adding GIFs or memes to emails, as well as offering discount codes to abandoned cart shoppers, is relatively simple and doesn’t require much heavy lifting.
Segmenting your email list, opting in (and creating separate lists for opted-in vs. non-opted-in customers), and redesigning your email layouts to be mobile-friendly will take a bit more planning and possibly require some expense on your end.
Just remember that whatever changes you make, the long-run payoff of better email interactions with your customers will be well worth the work.
Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.