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Email is a proven workhorse for retailers. Targeted email marketing improves customer retention, improves buyer trust, and increases conversion rates. It improves sales and fosters growth for your brand. 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. When you have something new to announce you want your new and returning customers to know about it so they can get to your store, and you can make a sale. You want them to receive timely messages about your new products. You want to keep them up-to-date 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 email marketing best practices to increase retail sales, convert prospects to customers, and get your business booming. Let’s go.

Create beautiful emails that sell

Image matters, that’s a fact. Beauty is extremely important for retail because these emails support your brand. But there’s no formula for what beautiful design is—it’s often a reflection of taste and preference.

Design beautifully using big, bold hero imagery and text over images. The most engaging emails 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 in order to get your customers to do something. And most importantly, they need to look amazing on desktops and on mobile devices.

Campaign Monitor customers have designed some of the most beautiful and effective emails out there.



Stay true to your brand

You’ve probably spent significant time and effort developing your brand, so don’t throw it away when it comes to your email marketing. The brick and mortar, online, and email experience should be consistent. Your brand should create an emotional connection with your customers. It should elicit a feeling and make them want to spend. Your customers should be familiar with what you offer and it should look and sound consistent every time. 


Easier to read equals easier to sell

The average adult has an 8-second attention span, which means they’re skimming your emails for information they want, not necessarily reading word-for-word. This information could be about style, quality, price, or a benefit that captivates.

So design your emails so they are easy to read and use short, concise copy that is clear, and convincing. Use large text and strong headlines. Ask for the sale.

In this email, Topshop makes it very clear what their promoting, and that makes it easy for customers to digest the content and take action with a clear CTA.


Test to see what resonates

It’s hard 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.

In the simplest form, you should A/B test subject lines, content, and layouts.

A/B tests can range from simple to complex. In it’s simplest form, sending multiple subject lines can be called an A/B test. The goal is to see which one generate the most opens, and the least. More advanced testing includes pitting completely different email templates against each other to see which one generates more click-throughs

This is a great way to increase the open and click-through rates of your emails. We’ve tested everything from subject lines to copy blocks 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.

Design for mobile, it’s where the money is


Today, over 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices, and of that percentage 23% will open an email again later. In peak holiday season that number skyrockets because shoppers are on-the-go and using their mobile devices more and more. In fact in 2015, 76% of Black Friday emails and 63% of Cyber Monday emails were opened on a mobile device—according to Movable Ink.

So optimizing your campaigns for mobile is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s mission 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 any email, ensure you 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.

Use integrations to power automation

When it comes to email marketing, there are hundreds of powerful integrations that make it easy for retailers to automate their email marketing.  Some of the top platforms include Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce, and GetFeedback.

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. For example, with the Magento integration, you can use your rich customer data stored in that platform to segment your customers and send hyper-targeted, super 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 your email campaigns based on specific purchase criteria. You can send campaigns to your new customers, VIP customers, repeat customers, and newsletter subscribers.


Shopify for Campaign Monitor segments


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 a really easy to build email campaigns quickly. Our library of professionally-designed templates and drag-and-drop email builder make it simple to create engaging email marketing campaigns that can increase sales in a matter of minutes. And you need zero technical expertise because it can all be done without a single line of code.

Use dynamic content to segment and personalize

Sending personalized emails is one of the today’s most effective strategies, and it works particularly well for retail. Using this strategy marketers can send tailored emails to their subscribers, segmenting content by gender, age, past purchases, and general interest.

The results from personalized campaigns 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 emails, 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.  And that’s great for the bottom line.


Personalization is easier than it sounds

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, Magento 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 last year. These customers may receive special offers on earbuds, or receive emails that direct them to other products they might like based on their interest in earbuds.

See how some retailers using dynamic content to personalize content are succeeding.

Sephora personalizes based on customer status

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— segmenting by gender

When it comes to apparel, obviously men and women have different preferences. So Adidas segments their email campaigns by gender.

In a recent campaign that promoted lines from Pharrell and Rita Ora, Adidas used dynamic content to send an email to the appropriate gender. The men received an email featuring Pharrell wearing men’s apparel, while the women, an email of Rita Ora decked out in women’s gear.

On—emails based on location

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 send also make sure their emails are in different language, or “localized.” This ensures that the subscriber gets their email written in their native tongue.



Use marketing automation

Marketing automation gives you the ability to send emails automatically, without having to manually create and send new ones each time.  This keeps the cash register ringing and ringing. When someone makes a purchase, adds an item to their shopping cart, or signs up for updates, they can automatically receive a pre-determined series of emails—this is called a “customer journey.”


When it comes to retail, email automation is an amazing tool. 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.

Why retailers love marketing automation

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.  It’s basically out there selling your products, and your brand for you.

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 not technical expertise required. It also keeps customers engaged, and encourages them to make more purchases.  Bottom line, automated emails bring in the bacon, and retailers are set on getting a piece.

How retailers are using automation

From welcome emails to shipping notifications to requests for product reviews — there are many ways that retailers can use email automation to guide the customer journey.

Common automated emails in retail are:

  • Welcome emails
  • Order confirmations
  • Shipping confirmations
  • Email address confirmations
  • Password reset emails
  • Support notifications
  • Cart abandonment emails
  • Purchase receipts
  • Registration confirmations
  • Related product emails
  • Review request emails

Here are some of the best ways retailers are using marketing automation:

Welcome emails

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 be want to be part of your email list. Obviously, this is a much smaller commitment than handing over their money.

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.


Seafolly mobil first


Shopping cart abandonment emails

Cart abandonment means a customer did not complete an online purchase despite putting 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. That’s a lot of potential sales left on the table.

But the good news is a survey conducted by VWO says 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 an email 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.

Birthday or anniversary emails

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 and shipping notifications

Order updates, account registration, and shipping notifications aren’t always the sexiest emails, but they’re arguably the most necessary. These types of emails boast high open and click-through rates, as they contain information that a customer needs, and is interested in.

Review requests

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. Take Jaybird, a Bluetooth earbud maker—they send out an automated email to get post-purchase product feedback. It’s goes out customers have received their earbuds, and after they’ve had time to try them out.


Product re-purchase

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 ultimately purchase another pair of On shoes.

Integrate your email with brick-and-mortar efforts

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.

How retailers integrate their efforts

Side-by-side campaigns

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.

Sharing brick-and-mortar news through email

When new stores open, retailers can share the news through email. This connects the customers and the 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.



Connecting web visitors with dealers

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 On website. On uses Campaign Monitor to send an email 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 automatic notification email confirming their appointment. It’s  a very cohesive and connected experience.


Encouraging in-store customers to sign up for email updates

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.

Enlist turns your iPad into a signup form so that you can capture these critical email signups.  This is very popular,and it works particularly well if you’re hosting an in-store event. The app even works without WiFi.




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 email campaign based on previous purchases.

So the bottom line is, email marketing is an ultra powerful tool that retailers need as part of their diverse marketing 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.

  • Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. (McKinsey)
  • 72% people prefer to receive promotional content through email, compared to 17% who prefer social media. (MarketingSherpa)
  • Email marketing drives more conversions than any other marketing channel, including search and social. (Monetate)
  • A message is five times more likely to be seen in email than via Facebook. (Radicati)
  • Email’s ROI was 28.5%,  compared to just 7% for direct mail. (Chief Marketer)

By integrating these nine best practices, you can develop an email marketing program that increases touch points with new and existing customers. Retailers that focus on harnessing the power of email marketing will see increased sales and more repeat business.  We know you’ll get some epic results.

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