Article first published December 2016, updated May 2019.
Email marketing remains one of the best digital channels for return on investment (ROI). In fact, a study by Econsultancy found that the revenue generated from email marketing is rising—with 68% of companies ranking email as the best channel for ROI.
But, these results aren’t that surprising. People spend an average of over 30 hours a week reading email. For marketers who are serious about reaching potential customers through this high-performing tactic, email retargeting can help.
What is email retargeting?
Before we begin, let’s quickly define the concept. Email retargeting allows marketers to seamlessly target site visitors with content tailored to their browsing behavior.
Unlike traditional sends, these emails can show potential customers specific products they viewed or redirect them to a sign-up page they may have left incomplete. While traditional sends can offer marketers a large reach, retargeting gives them the ability to serve their customers ads that relate to their activity online.
Remember, email marketing must be permission-based which means the subscriber has opted-in to hear from your company.
5 steps to set up and optimize email retargeting
Email retargeting can sometimes seem daunting. But many of the best practices for traditional email sends can be applied to this tactic. Here are five steps every marketer should follow while setting up and optimizing retargeting performance:
1. Data collection
In order to run retargeting through email, marketers must know when a visitor comes to their site and how they interacted with products pages while there. In order to do this, you must begin by collecting data about your customers. With retargeting, you can do this by placing a pixel on your website or in your email. This will place a cookie on the user’s browser, allowing you to track their online behavior.
You can use data like browsing behavior, product pages viewed, and, of course, email addresses to help you serve highly tailored ads. A good rule of thumb is that the more data you have around how likely it is your visitors will convert, the more accurate your email retargeting will be.
2. Audience segmentation
Once you’ve collected your data, the next step is to break out your audience and create segments based on browsing behavior and purchasing intent. These segments will help you craft a strategy that ensures the most appropriate ads are served to each of your customers. Here are a few ideas that you can use to segment your email addresses for retargeting campaigns:
- Site abandonment – This segment includes email addresses of people who visited your homepage, but left without navigating to any other area of your site.
- Cart & sign-up page abandonment – This segment consists of visitors who made it to a conversion page. This will include users who made it to things like a shopping cart or trial account landing pages but didn’t convert.
- Loyalty – This segment focuses on growing the lifetime value of your customers and will include email addresses of users who have already completed a purchase on your site.
3. Email creation
After collecting and segmenting your data, the next thing you’ll want to do is create highly engaging emails that convince your audience to convert. If you’re having trouble creating high-performing email campaigns, we’ve collected a few pieces of advice for you:
- Consider sending your emails from a person, instead of your entire company. People are 15-35% more likely to read emails from a person.
- Keep your subject lines short, action-oriented, and urgent. Studies show that subject lines posed as questions perform better than those that are not.
- Keep your calls-to-action concrete. They should tell readers exactly what their next step should be. For instance, you could replace a vague CTA like “Come Back” with “Finish Your Purchase.”
- Use images that play a supporting role. Also use a good balance of text and images.
4. Campaign creation
From here, you’ll want to begin creating your campaigns. Before you begin, make sure to have a campaign objective in mind. This can be everything from upselling past purchasers to recovering cart abandoners. This step is important. Lean heavily on your data to see how your customers are really acting on your site and tailor your content and email cadence accordingly. The frequency with which you email long-time customers should be much different than for a user who’s never made a purchase on your site.
Before setting up a campaign, it’s also important to understand the decision-making process of your customers. Tools like Google Analytics and Kissmetrics give marketers more insight into how people shop on your site. Consider the following while setting up your campaigns:
- How long do customers take to make their buying decisions?
- How many times do they return to your website before finally checking out?
- How often do customers leave products in their cart?
This will give you insight into how potential customers make choices and will help shape your email flow for campaigns. Once this is in place, map out an email automation plan for each of your sequences.
5. Email triggering and optimization
Finally, it’s time to trigger emails so that they send to visitors once they leave your site. Usually, the best retargeting campaigns use predictive algorithms and user-intent signals to determine the best time to send an email that nudges customers to come back. However, if you’re creating an automation map, be sure to keep track of which points were most successful in engaging buyers so that you can optimize for this in the future.
Once this is in place, you can begin monitoring your performance. Look at how your ads are performing and continue to optimize your campaigns to ensure the highest results possible.
How do I reach out to potential customers? Try retargeting your emails like these brands
If you want to know what it looks like to send out retargeting emails, check out the following examples. They’ll inspire you to not only take action, but to understand how to incorporate retargeting emails into your future campaigns.
Gathering data from your subscribers
Data gathering is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your next email campaign. But we’re not just talking about basic email metrics here. That’s definitely helpful and something every marketer should keep an eye on regularly. However, to really deliver the best to your subscribers, you need to gather information directly from them.
You can do this in two ways.
First, you can incorporate A/B testing into your marketing strategy.
An effective way to do this is to just change up the copy you’ve written, whether it’s in the body of the email or the email subject line. See which one appeals to your audience the most, and you’ll have a better idea of how to target their interests in the future.
Source: Campaign Monitor
The second way to gather data is with surveys. You can do this in a number of ways and for a number of reasons.
A survey could be used to see how much your subscribers liked a product they just purchased and/or whether they’d recommend it to others.
OneTable surveys their audience to see if they liked the restaurant they just went to based on information in their app. Once they get the feedback, they can offer even better restaurant recommendations down the road.
Surveys will help you segment your list so that you can retarget your emails more effectively.
Source: Really Good Emails
Another reason to utilize surveys is to humanize your brand with subscribers. Instead of being just some brand they’re interested in, fun surveys, like the one below, make them feel like they’re interacting with an actual human being.
Source: Really Good Emails
Takeaways: Gather as much data from your subscribers as possible. Do this by implementing regular A/B testing into your strategy and by conducting surveys/asking your audience for their input.
Pointing your subscribers in the right direction with a powerful CTA
Without a call to action (CTA), your subscribers won’t know what you want them to do next. They might just read your email, think it’s nice, and then move on with their life.
Your goal, though, is to boost customer engagement and, ultimately, your conversion rate. The CTA button will help you do this, so don’t neglect it.
This Salesforce email is a prime example of a clear call to action, but this email campaign doesn’t just provide value to their readers. Not only do these buttons provide their customers with something of value, but they provide Salesforce with interesting data about their subscribers.
The Salesforce marketing team can monitor which buttons their subscribers click on and then provide even more effective retargeted emails in the future.
Source: Really Good Emails
Takeaways: Spend time getting your CTA button just right for your audience. If necessary, add multiple buttons to gather more data about your subscribers.
While email retargeting is incredibly effective, customers will always have a need for email announcements, newsletters, and other lifecycle marketing programs. Retargeting is a complementary add-on that delivers highly targeted emails triggered by real-time customer browsing behavior and acts as a performance booster overall.
Once you implement retargeted emails into your marketing campaign, you need to keep track of your progress. Our latest metrics guide shows you which metrics you need to monitor for continued success.