When it comes to email marketing strategy and eCommerce shop owners, we see a common thread of events:
- They start an email list at the time of the store launch. They do this as part of a Kickstarter campaign, because the email input thingy came as part of the CMS template, or because the email service provider was a cheap app to tack on to their Shopify or BigCommerce store.
- From there, the shop owner’s approach to email marketing isn’t really a formal one. Either they a) totally ignore that list and let it collect dust or b) hit it every day or week with the same exact newsletter content to every single subscriber.
- They do this for a few months or years and don’t see a ton of revenue from it, but continue to “do email marketing” because they think it’s something they “should be doing.”
I’m not looking at anyone…I promise… but does this sound familiar?
It’s understandable. You’ve got your hands full as an eCommerce shop owner. But as you mature beyond these early stages, you will approach a time when it makes sense to reconsider your scrappy email strategy.
Not sure if you’re at that point? Here are a few signs to watch out for.
1) You’ve hit a plateau.
When you first launch, you’re the pretty new girl at school. The public’s curiosity around shiny new objects can spark a ton of press, social media interest, and initial sales from early adopters.
Then you come down from that high and have a reality check.
You realize that to expand beyond the early adopter crowd, you have to put in a little more work. Mainstream consumers need a little more convincing before they click “buy.” They need more product information, brand credibility, or monetary incentives (read: sales). Advertising, PR, blogging, and social media, and key channels for bringing all of these folks to the door. Email, however, is the ultimate way to nurture them with these messages and get them to convert.
How the right email program can help: A segmented email strategy would help a lot in this scenario. You need to split up your list and separate the newbies from the subscribers who have bought from you before. Then, you need to market to them accordingly. To make this happen you need an email system that syncs with your subscribers’ real on-site behavior and lets you automatically build lists based on that behavior.
2) You’ve expanded your product line.
Imagine this hypothetical situation: A company starts out by selling one product. They do really well with that. So, to build off of this success, they expand into more products and organically bring in a fresh crowd of customers interested in that new thing. Sales still don’t seem to be quite where they should be, though. A quick survey reveals that the original customers who bought the first product are completely unaware of the new stuff.
This situation actually isn’t so hypothetical at all. It’s a very similar to what happened to our customer, Holstee, when they expanded their product offerings beyond their trademark Manifesto posters into other collectables, like the Holstee wallet.
Holstee had a natural opportunity to reach out to these early customers who had only bought the Manifesto poster. They set up campaigns to do just that, and strong open rates (>40%) and very high click-through rates (>30%) on those sends. They saw a significant direct impact on revenue, as well. While a high number of recipients opened and clicked right away, purchases often occurred across multiple sessions.
You have to evolve your product line so that your brand doesn’t grow stale, but you also have to bring your customers with you on that journey. If your analytics show you that your first-time buyers haven’t been back to the site in a while, it could very well be that they don’t know you have new stuff to offer.
How the right email program can help: To execute on a campaign like Holstee, you want to use a program that offers an API and allows you to send historical data to its system so you can start these campaigns when you are ready for them. Similar to the first example, segmentation and personalization of your campaigns becomes important as your company grows, as your product lines and customer personas grow more diverse, and as your marketing becomes more complex.
3) You hired your first marketer.
Well, obviously, as a marketer the first thing I have to say is… congrats! We’re a fun bunch to have in the office.
Now, on to the serious stuff.
Like every employee at a startup, this first marketing hire should be ready to wear many hats. Whether or not you think you were hired to own a particular area of marketing, it quickly becomes part of your role. That’s partially the nature of startups, but it’s also because all of these marketing channels are integrated these days. (Case in point: If you run a blog, who owns setting up blog newsletter subscriptions and sending out those emails? Boom. Gotcha. You, dear blogger, are suddenly doing email marketing, too.)
How the right email program can help: There are a few things to keep in mind here.
First, you want a program that’s easy to use. You need a program that offers a lot of technical capabilities, but is also understandable for non-technical employees. Yes, today’s marketers are certainly more technical than ever before. However, quite frankly, that technical skill is typically basic HTML, CSS, Photoshop, MySQL, and sweet Excel formulas – not APIs or coding email templates from the ground up.
Be realistic. Invest in a program that offers the right features for everyone on the team. Your email program should make it easy to create templates (a drag-and-drop template builder goes a long way), build lists, and find metrics.
Second, you want a program that is versatile. Ideally you would have a system that can handle your product nurture emails (if there’s an app component to your business), blog subscriptions, marketing nurture emails, and transactional emails all in one place. With limited time and budget, you don’t want to scramble between various email service providers and have to organize your lists in several different places. Avoid the hassle and pick something that can be used for a lot of different purposes.
How did you know when it was time to upgrade your email marketing strategy? Share what your process was in the comments.