15 minute read time
Post originally published September 2016, updated April 2020.
Email is a proven workhorse for retailers. Targeted email marketing improves customer retention, buyer trust, and conversion rates. For over ten years, email has been the channel generating the highest ROI for customers. It’s the easiest, most cost-effective way to reach the right customers, at the right time, right where they are.
As a retail marketer, you want to be as connected with customers as possible. You want them to receive timely messages about your new products. You want to keep them informed when they make a purchase and include their payment confirmation, shipping notifications, and various other transactional updates.
Retail holds a particular set of challenges: It’s highly competitive and fast moving, it’s seasonal and promotion-based. Email is the great connector and bridges retailers directly with customers. But, in today’s competitive marketplace, you need to engage your audience where they live, and most consumers are living—and consuming content—on their mobile devices.
For every $1 spent, email marketing generates an average of $38 in ROI. It drives real business results with automation, personalization, interactivity, and enhanced integrations. Brands like Sephora, Adidas, Birchbox, Topshop, Rip Curl, and Jaybird, are reaping the benefits, and so can you.
In this guide, we’ll discuss nine powerful retail campaign best practices to increase sales, convert prospects to customers, and get your business booming.
Beauty is extremely important for retail because these emails support your brand. But there’s no formula for a beautiful design, as it’s often a reflection of taste and preference.
The best retail campaigns have images that stretch full width across different-sized screens. They use clear, compelling text over the artwork and always carry strong calls to action.
These should be clear, concise, and motivating to get your customers to do something. And, most importantly, they need to look amazing on desktops and on mobile devices.
You’ve probably spent significant time and effort developing your brand, so don’t throw it away when it comes to your retail campaign. The brick-and-mortar, online, and email experience should be consistent. Your brand should create an emotional connection with your customers and elicit a feeling, making them want to engage. Your customers should be familiar with what you offer and it should look and sound consistent every time.
The average adult has an 8-second attention span, which means they’re skimming your emails for information they want. This information could be about style, quality, price, or a benefit that captivates.
Design your emails so they are easy to read, and use concise copy that is clear and convincing. Use large text and strong headlines. Ask for the sale.
In this retail campaign, Topshop makes it very clear what they’re promoting, and that makes it easy for customers to digest the content and take action with a clear CTA.
It’s difficult to know what will resonate with your audience, which is why A/B testing is important. With A/B testing, you can test two different emails to learn which garners higher open and click-through rates.
You should A/B test subject lines, content, and layouts.
Sending multiple subject lines is a simple form of an A/B test. The goal is to see which ones generate the most and the least opens. More advanced testing includes pitting completely different email templates against each other to see which one generates more click-throughs.
We’ve tested everything from subject lines to our call-to-action buttons. We’ve even tested different templates against each other to see which one works best and got a 127% increase in click-throughs as a result.
Today, over 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices, and, of that percentage, 23% will open an email again later. In a peak holiday season, that number skyrockets, because shoppers are on the go and using their mobile devices more.
Optimizing your retail campaign for mobile is no longer just nice to have; It’s critical to driving opens, clicks, and revenue for your business. If you don’t lead with a “mobile-first” email strategy, the audience you’re trying to reach may not engage with your messages.
It’s incredibly important that you create emails that look amazing on every device. This affects images, the length of headlines, and copy, and makes subject lines even more important. Before you send an email, be sure to send a test to see what it will look like in a variety of email clients and mobile devices. For more detailed information on mobile-first email design, read our Email Marketing in the Mobile Era guide.
When it comes to the best retail campaigns, there are hundreds of powerful integrations that make it easy for retailers to automate their email marketing. Some of the top platforms include Shopify, WooCommerce, and Salesforce.
You can use these and other integrations to automate campaigns so that data stored in your e-commerce platform or CRM can be used to dictate which emails certain subscribers receive. With integrations, you can use your rich customer data stored in that platform to segment your customers and send hyper-targeted, relevant, and personal emails.
The Campaign Monitor integration with Shopify is also very robust. The moment you’ve connected Shopify to Campaign Monitor, you’ll find a series of pre-built segments in your list, which enable you to target each retail campaign based on specific purchase criteria. You can send campaigns to your new customers, VIP customers, repeat customers, and newsletter subscribers.
Integrations like these offer seamless data sync. If you set up an integration once, you can then watch your customer’s Shopify activity flow into your Campaign Monitor list.
Additionally, the Campaign Monitor integration makes it really easy to build email campaigns quickly. Our library of professionally-designed templates and drag-and-drop email builder make it simple to create the best retail campaigns that can increase sales in a matter of minutes. And you don’t need technical expertise, because it can all be done without a single line of code.
Sending personalized emails is one of today’s most effective strategies, and it works particularly well for retail. Using this retail promotion strategy, marketers can send tailored emails to their subscribers, segmenting content by gender, age, past purchases, and general interest.
The results from a personalized retail campaign are incredible. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened and marketers have found a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns. When subscribers receive content that’s tailored to their interests, they’re more likely to open a retail campaign, click-through to your website, and you’re more likely to make a sale.
Thanks to powerful and easy-to-use email service providers like Campaign Monitor, as well as robust integrations, it’s easier than ever for retailers to personalize their email campaigns in ways they never imagined possible.
To get started with personalization, you’ll need to segment your email lists. Using data you already have, you can sort customers based on a number of behaviors: gender, age, past purchases, or geography. You can get this information through your signup forms, or use integrations to pull data from existing systems, such as a CRM, or e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Big Commerce, or WooCommerce.
Once you’ve created these segments, you can create specific offers that will only be seen by that segment. You can do this easily using dynamic content. For example, an electronics retailer might create an earbuds customer segment to target their earbud-loving customers. This segment is a group of customers who have bought two or more pairs of earbuds in the last year. These customers may receive special offers on earbuds or receive a retail campaign that directs them to other products they might like, based on their interest in earbuds.
Read on to learn how some retailers using dynamic content to personalize are succeeding.
Sephora, a makeup retailer with a booming online business as well as brick-and-mortar stores, has a customer loyalty program where customers can reach VIB or VIB ROUGE status. This stands for Very Important Beauty Insider. When customers spend enough to reach this level, they get sent special promotions and offers.
Customers that are part of the loyalty program receive emails with promotions exclusively for them. Customers who are not VIB or VIB ROUGE receive a different email. Sephora also makes sure to include the customer’s first name in the email, so it feels more personal.
Adidas segments each retail campaign by gender.
In a recent campaign that promoted lines from Pharrell and Rita Ora, Adidas used dynamic content to send a retail campaign to the appropriate gender. The men received an email featuring Pharrell wearing men’s apparel, while the women received an email of Rita Ora decked out in women’s gear.
On, a Swiss athletic shoe company, is a global brand. They use personalization to reach customers wherever they are.
On sends running maps based on a subscriber’s location. These maps show routes through a given city, offer suggestions on what landmarks to see on their routes, and what cafes offer the best treats.
With customers around the world, they also make sure their emails are in the appropriate language, or “localized.” This ensures that the subscriber gets their email written in their native tongue.
Marketing automation gives you the ability to send emails automatically, without having to manually create and send new ones each time. When someone makes a purchase, adds an item to their shopping cart, or signs up for updates, they can automatically receive a predetermined series of emails. This is called a “customer journey.”
Email automation is an amazing tool for retail. Automated emails allow retailers to have multiple touch-points with prospective and loyal customers. These types of emails bring in substantial ROI, as are sent based on a subscriber’s behavior or a period of time.
Retail customers want to receive updates about their orders, returns, new products, promotions and sales. Automated emails are used to keep customers informed about purchases and account activity, and they’re often transactional or “trigger-based,” which means they’re sent because of an action the customer took.
Because of this, emails that are sent automatically based on a customer’s behavior have eight times more opens and clicks than any other type of email. And they can generate six times more revenue, according to Experian. Additionally, automated emails average 70.5% higher open rates and 152% higher click-through rates than other marketing messages, according to Epsilon Email Institute. Lastly, 75% of all email revenue is generated through transactional campaigns, rather than one-size-fits-all email blasts, according to the DMA.
Marketing automation is now a must-have. Automation also gives small teams the ability to build robust email marketing strategies, with no technical expertise required. It also keeps customers engaged, and encourages them to make more purchases.
From welcome emails to requests for product reviews, there are many ways that retailers can use retail campaign automation to guide the customer journey.
Common automated emails in retail are:
Here are some of the best ways retailers are using marketing automation:
According to research, 96% of visitors to your website aren’t yet ready to buy. However, they are interested in what you offer and may want to be part of your email list.
Once these people subscribe, you need to give them a warm welcome. Seafolly welcomes new subscribers with an email that shows off their apparel, which makes subscribers feel like they’re part of the Seafolly squad.
Cart abandonment means a customer did not complete an online purchase, despite having put products in the cart. It’s a big deal for retailers because, on average, 68% of online shopping carts filled will never be checked out.
However, a survey conducted by VWO said that 54% of shoppers will purchase products left in shopping carts, especially if they’re offered at a lower price. The key to recovering those carts is automated emails.
At Birchbox, if a customer fills up a shopping cart and doesn’t complete their order, they’ll automatically receive a retail campaign reminding them that they still have items in their cart. It encourages the customer to go back to the site to complete their purchase and includes images of the products left behind.
Most people love being remembered on their special day, so lots of retailers send out birthday or anniversary emails to mark the occasion. This type of email can be easily automated, as long as you have your customers’ birthdates.
Monica Vinader, a jewelry retailer, celebrates customer birthdays by giving 10% off their products. By recording the customer’s birth date, the brand can send out an automated birthday email that gives customers an extra incentive and reminder, which tends to lead to more sales.
Order updates, account registration, and shipping notifications are arguably the most necessary emails. These types of emails boast high open and click-through rates, as they contain information that a customer needs and is interested in.
After a customer makes a purchase, you want to hear their feedback. Were they satisfied? Was the product everything they hoped? Did the shipping process go smoothly? Did they have a positive experience with customer service?
Knowing this information can help you improve the product, as well as overall customer satisfaction. It’s easy to automate these review requests using email. For example, Jaybird, a Bluetooth earbud maker, sends out an automated email to get post-purchase product feedback. It goes out after customers have received their earbuds and after they’ve had time to try them out.
There are many products that wear down from overuse or simply deserve an upgrade. On, a running shoe retailer automates “shoe renewal” for customers who have bought shoes in the past. On collects information about the particular subscriber, such as which shoes they bought, when they bought them, and how many miles per week they run, and then sends automated emails when that subscriber is due to buy a new pair of shoes.
This helps the customer assess the state of their running shoes, build brand loyalty, and purchase another pair of On shoes.
Unlike other types of businesses, retailers often have brick-and-mortar campaigns running alongside their online marketing campaigns. It’s essential that brands take a holistic approach so that the online and brick-and-mortar stores are aligned in terms of promotions, look and feel, tone of voice, and the like. Back to an earlier best practice, always be branding and make sure it’s consistent.
Retailers should send these kinds of emails. It connects customers with a tangible location and increases sales.
Rather than making discounts exclusive to in-store or online shoppers, Sephora sends out discount emails alongside coupons. VIB customers receive a snail mail with a 15% off coupon, but they also receive an email with the same deal.
Additionally, Sephora’s emails encourage customers to shop wherever and whenever is right for them, online or in store. They allow customers to save their email to Apple Wallet so that in-store shoppers don’t have to find or print the physical coupon. More convenience means more sales down the road.
When new stores open, retailers can share the news through email. This connects the customers and marketing efforts, and can be used to promote in-store events and sales.
Fred Perry sent out the following email to their customers who live in New York to invite them to their pop-up event with the date, time, and location. It’s basically an event invitation.
On sells shoes on their website, but also through retailers, so they need to create a seamless experience between online and offline traffic. To create this singular experience, On has a digital dealer program.
Customers can go to the On website and find locations where they can try on and buy shoes. Customers can then book appointments with dealers directly through the website. On uses Campaign Monitor to send a retail campaign directly to the dealer.
The dealer gets info about the customer booking the appointment, and they can be better prepared for them. The customer receives an automatic notification email confirming their appointment. It’s a very cohesive and connected experience.
When someone comes into a brick-and-mortar store, retailers need to find ways to connect with them online. Lots of retailers require email addresses for loyalty programs, or simply ask if the customer would like email updates at checkout.
A well placed signup form on a tablet or computer can capture these critical email signups. This works particularly well if you’re hosting an in-store event. And Campaign Monitor signup forms are mobile-responsive and ready to be displayed on any device.
In addition to this method of collecting customer emails, Shopify POS allows merchants to send digital receipts to customers, then collects their email addresses in the back end. You can also associate customers with their orders through POS, then use the data when you create a personalized retail campaign based on previous purchases.
Developing a personalized retail promotion strategy for your email campaigns is a crucial part of your larger marketing strategy. Any smart marketer realizes, however, that email isn’t the only platform customers use. That’s why it’s so important to create retail social media campaigns that integrate well with your retail campaign efforts through email.
If you’re a one-woman marketing show, all you have to do is organize your own calendar. If your social media and email teams work independently, however, it’s important to get everyone on the same page. Sharing written material, data, and metrics will keep your content fluid across every platform and provide everyone with more information when it’s time to calculate results.
You can customize your retail campaign templates to cross-promote your retail social media campaigns in a handful of ways.
Always conduct proper reconnaissance about your audience. Do the majority of your subscribers spend time on Instagram and YouTube or do they prefer LinkedIn and Twitter? Understanding this information can help you narrow down which social channels are actually worth the effort.
Facebook offers an amazing system for running a retail promotion strategy to collect email addresses. Even Instagram, Pinterest, and WhatsApp offer special privileges for businesses so you can customize your profiles with one main call to action, such as acquiring subscribers.
If you’re going to spend money on targeted advertising, which already has an average click-through rate of less than 1%, shouldn’t you spend that money by trying to reach people who already know like your brand?
By uploading your subscriber list to Facebook, for example, you can create a social retail campaign that only targets people who actually want to hear from you.
Any decent email service provider should give you the option to break up your list into segments based on different data and demographics. When it’s time to run tests, no group is more valuable than your most engaged subscribers.
If you’re thinking of spending some money on a risky social media campaign, send the topic and call to action in an email campaign to your most engaged subscribers first. If it performs well, it’s probably safe to integrate the same topic into the social media portion of your retail promotion strategy.
These three examples below are some of most well-rounded overall incredible retail email campaigns.
What’s so great about this retail campaign?
Source: Really Good Emails
What’s so great about this retail campaign?
Source: Campaign Monitor
What’s so great about this retail campaign?
Email marketing is an ultra-powerful tool that retailers need as part of their diverse retail promotion strategy. It helps retailers acquire new customers, increase conversion rates, encourages brand loyalty, and, above all, increases sales.
A few other stats to help you know email marketing is the way to add to your bottom line.
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