30 Second Summary
Email marketing is one of the essential marketing channels that every direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce brands needs to master to grow their revenue, drive conversions, retain customers & build a sustainable, scalable business. With this guide, you'll be able to get from zero to launched & start driving revenue from email marketing. We'll break down the email marketing best practices, from planning your campaigns to analyzing the results.
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Planning Your Email Campaign
Defining Your Objectives
Revenue is always the end goal for any DTC e-commerce brand, but how will this email campaign drive revenue? Before launching your email marketing campaigns, start by defining the objective of the campaign.
Here are a few different ways that email campaigns drive revenue:
- By announcing something new & exciting (such as a promotion, product launch or collaboration)
- By creating urgency (such as a limited edition product selling out or a promotion ending)
- By educating customers (such as content emails & seasonal tips)
- By showing how your product can solve a customer's problems (such as showing how your product works)
- By showing the benefits of your product in customers' lives (such as sharing testimonials)
You also want to set specific, measurable engagement & conversion goals for your email campaigns through your open rates, click through rates & conversion rates. If you're just starting out with email marketing, a good email marketing best practice is to use Klaviyo's benchmarks to set these goals.
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: For each of your email marketing campaigns, write down the main objective of how that campaign will drive revenue.
Identifying Your Target Audience
You probably won't hear this often from email marketers but...when you're just starting out as a small e-commerce brand, don't overcomplicate things by trying to segment your list too much. If you only have a couple thousand email subscribers, begin by sending emails to a large portion of your audience or even to your entire list. You can still create relevant and engaging email marketing campaigns that resonate with them by focusing on understanding your target customer & their pain points. As your list grows, you'll naturally have more data to work with, allowing you to segment your email list more effectively based on factors like engagement, purchase behavior, or interests.
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Start by creating 3-5 basic engagement segments, such as "Has Engaged At Least Once In The Last 30 Days" to start using in your email marketing strategy.
Creating a Content Strategy
To build a solid email marketing content strategy, start by asking yourself a few key questions such as:
- "What kind of problem is my customer trying to solve by coming to my business?"
- "What information does our customer need to know about our brand or product in order to want to buy from us?"
The most important email marketing best practice is to send the right message, to the right customer, at the right time. Armed with these insights, you can create email campaigns that address these questions through helpful tips, product education, or sharing your brand story. For example, your Welcome Email should introduce website visitors to your brand & the products you sell. Later on, as they become customers, email campaigns featuring a blog post may drive retention by educating customers. And, of course, don't forget to mix in promotional offers to create a sense of urgency and drive conversions.
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Brainstorm 3 ideas for email campaigns & automated emails that are relevant for your subscribers, by answering the questions above.
Choosing the Right Email Service Provider (ESP)
There are a lot of ESP options out there for DTC e-commerce brands, with popular choices like Klaviyo, Sendlane, and MailChimp leading the pack.
Here are a few important features and functionalities you should be looking for when choosing the best ESP for your online store:
- Easy-to-use email builder to allow you to create email campaigns
- Sophisticated audience segmentation features to target customers based on zero-party & first-party data such as preferences and purchase behavior
- Automation capabilities to send email flows to your target audience
- Opt-in forms that can be embedded onto your website
- Detailed analytics to allow you to analyze your email performance & diagnose issues
- High email deliverability rates to ensure your emails land in a subscriber's inbox & avoid the spam folder
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: We recommend using Klaviyo as your ESP because it's built specifically for e-commerce businesses, integrates easily with most e-commerce platforms (like Shopify & WooCommerce), and has easy-to-use templates which makes it easy to get started with. Most importantly, you can scale your email marketing strategy with Klaviyo's sophisticated automation, segmentation & reporting tools.
Crafting Your Email Campaign
Designing Your Email Template
The most important email design best practices to follow are similar to website conversion rate (CRO) best practices:
- Use a clean email layout with clear sections such as a header, product recommendations, & content blocks
- Make sure to include a call-to-action (CTA) above the fold so it's immediately visible without scrolling
- Apply visual design elements that are aligned with your brand so readers recognize your brand from what they've seen on social media & your website
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Use the "No Scroll Test" & "5-Second Scroll Test" below. If your emails pass, you're likely following basic email design best practices!
- No Scroll Test: Review your email as if you're on the bus flipping through your inbox without scrolling. If you just look at the header, is it clear what the email is about
- 5-Second Scroll Test: Review the email as if you're doing a quick scroll down your phone. Check if each section communicates a clear message and call to action.
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Writing Your Email Copy
When crafting your email copy, remember that your entire email is one big marketing funnel:
subject line → headline → body copy → click → conversion.
- Your subject line should generate intrigue to get readers to open the email
- Your headline gets readers to click or continue reading the rest of the email
- Your body copy gets readers to click or convert through education, product recommendations or promotional offers
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Focus on nailing your email subject line & headline first, since those get the most attention.
Personalizing Your Emails
Personalized content is an important part of an effective email marketing strategy, because it makes emails more relevant to your email subscribers to increase clicks & conversions. For example, a customer who buys sunscreen from a skincare brand may want different product recommendations & educational content than a customer who buys moisturizer. As you grow your e-commerce brand, you can get more sophisticated with personalization based on factors like their purchase behavior, loyalty programs, engagement & more!
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Start simple -- use dynamic product recommendation blocks in email content to increase clicks & conversions. Or use personal elements like their first name in email subject lines to increase open rates.
Optimizing Your Call to Action (CTA)
In e-commerce emails, CTAs are often designed as buttons to drive clicks and conversions. An important email marketing best practice is to have a CTA in the header of the email above the fold, so it's immediately visible and encourages readers to take action without having to scroll down. For a CTA to be effective, it should have an action associated with it, such as "Shop Now" or "Read Blog," which tells the reader what to do next. It's also important to make sure CTA clearly communicates where the reader will end up if they click it, whether it's a shop page, a blog, or their cart.
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Make sure you have a CTA in the header of each email with a clear "call-to-action" copy
Sending Your Email Campaign
Testing Your Emails
A/B testing is a crucial email marketing best practice that involves sending two different variations of an email to see which one performs better. There are four main elements you can test: subject line, preview text, email layout, and email copy or creative. By testing subject lines and preview text, you can work on improving your open rates. Meanwhile, testing email layout and copy or creative can help you enhance clicks and conversions.
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Aim to run an A/B test on every email, even if it's as simple as tweaking the subject line or CTA button, as this can make a significant impact on your campaign's success.
Segmenting Your Email List
Segmentation improves your email marketing performance by sending different types of content to specific segments of your audience which makes the content more relevant and engaging. If you're just starting out, over-segmenting your list can hurt your email performance. But as your email list grows, email segmentation becomes an increasingly important part of a successful email marketing strategy.
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Start by segmenting your email list based on email engagement, then purchase behavior & later, subscriber interests.
Timing Your Emails
While there's no one-size-fits-all approach to timing your emails, 10 AM, 2 PM, and 6 PM EST are often good send times for e-commerce brands. Tuesdays and Thursdays are also typically good days to send emails. However, an important email marketing best practice is to conduct send time testing, which most ESPs offer, to optimize your email schedule based on your target audience.
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Start by sending on Tuesdays & Thursdays at the times above. Then start implementing send time testing & send day testing.
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Avoiding Spam Filters
Landing in spam filters will hurt your email marketing performance because it means your email subscribers don't even see your email. Start by making sure your email content is relevant & valuable to your email subscribers so they don't make them as spam.
A few other basic email marketing best practices to avoid spam are:
- Avoid using all caps, excessive punctuation, or "spammy" words in your subject lines and email copy
- Regularly clean your email list by removing unengaged or inactive subscribers, as high bounce rates and low engagement can negatively impact your sender reputation.
- Encourage subscribers to add you to their contact list or whitelist your email address, which can help improve deliverability.
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Keep your email subject lines & content relevant to subscribers, and monitor your unsubscribe & spam rates.
Analyzing Your Email Campaign
Tracking Your Email Metrics
When analyzing your email campaigns, it's essential to track key email marketing metrics such as the percentage of e-commerce revenue from email, open rate, click rate, purchase rate, average order value (AOV), and dollars per recipient. All ESPs should have extensive reporting & dashboards that allow you to see your email performance at a glance.
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Monitor the key metrics above at least once a week to identify areas of opportunity for growth.
Analyzing Your Email Campaign Data
A critical part of an effective email marketing strategy is analyzing your data & adjusting your future campaigns based on the insights.
There are three main ways to analyze your email campaign data: Benchmarks, Trend, and Comparative analysis.
- Benchmarks Analysis: Look for key email metrics that are significantly below industry benchmarks or your typical performance to identify areas that need improvement.
- Trend Analysis: Observe how your metrics are trending over time – are they going up or down?
- Comparative Analysis: examine how your metrics have changed Week Over Week (WOW), Month over Month (MOM), or Year Over Year (YOY) to gain insights into your campaign's performance over different time periods.
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Download our Email Reporting Dashboard Template to help you track & analyze your data more effectively!
Optimizing Your Email Campaigns
To optimize your email campaigns, create A/B tests that focus on improving the metrics you've identified through your analysis.
- If your open rates are below benchmarks or trending down, try A/B testing different subject lines, send days, or send times to find what resonates best with your audience.
- If your click rates are below benchmarks or trending down, consider testing different headline copy, CTA copy, email layouts, or even entirely new campaign ideas.
- If your purchase rates are below benchmarks or trending down, experiment with different email content or linking to alternative product pages to see which approach drives better results.
By continuously testing and optimizing your campaigns, you'll be able to improve your email marketing performance and drive greater success for your e-commerce brand.
How To Implement These Email Marketing Best Practices: Identify one key metric you want to improve each month & run a few A/B tests.
Email Marketing Best Practices
Building Your Email List
Growing an email list for an e-commerce brand is crucial for maintaining and increasing customer engagement. Some common strategies for growing your email list include using a welcome pop-up on your website, hosting giveaways, and partnering with other brands to cross-promote. Additionally, consider offering lead magnets and opt-in incentives to attract new subscribers. Examples of such incentives include welcome discounts, quizzes, and downloadable PDFs, which can provide value to your subscribers and encourage them to sign up.
Writing Effective Subject Lines
An effective subject line is critical for enticing subscribers to open your emails. As a best practice, aim for a character count between 30 and 50 characters to ensure optimal readability. Great subject lines should be attention-grabbing, curiosity-provoking, and relevant to the email content. To craft effective subject lines, use action verbs, personalization, and a sense of urgency, while avoiding spammy language and excessive punctuation.
Creating Engaging Email Content
To keep your subscribers engaged, diversify your email content by sending blog roundups, product roundups, seasonal tips, product education, brand education, promotions, and product launches. Determine what your customers want to hear from you by analyzing common questions received by your customer service team, comments on social media, and the types of social media posts that receive high engagement. By addressing your customers' needs and interests, you'll create email content that resonates with them.
Segmenting Your Email List
To effectively segment your email list for maximum engagement, create engagement segments based on subscriber activity, such as "Engaged At Least Once In The Last 30 Days," "Engaged At Least Once In The Last 60 Days," and "Engaged At Least Once In The Last 90 Days." Make sure to send emails to these engaged segments at least a few times a month. Ensure that each segment contains a significant number of subscribers (at least a couple of thousand) to maintain a healthy and engaged email list.