Email Marketing

How to Build an Email List that Builds Your Ecommerce Business

Picture your website traffic as a big funnel. At the top of the funnel is all of the…

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This is a guest post by Leighton Taylor from Ecommerce Pulse

Picture your website traffic as a big funnel.

At the top of the funnel is all of the raw traffic that comes to your site. The next level down in the funnel is narrower, and these are only those visitors who've interacted with your brand in some way (e.g., by reading your blog, following you on social media, or giving you their email address). The bottom level of the funnel, and the smallest, includes those people who've taken the plunge from interacting with your brand to making a purchase.

Convincing someone to give you their email address is much easier than convincing them to buy something, since it doesn't cost anything except the ten seconds it takes to sign up. Once you have someone's email though, you have the opportunity to follow up with them over time and eventually move them from the middle of your funnel to the bottom where they become a customer.

But how can you get that traffic into your funnel and convince people to give you their email address? And then how can you effectively build a relationship with them until they remember you, want your product, and pull out their credit cards?

Let’s dive into some strategies to first build up an email list and then effectively market to it.

Part 1: How to Build Your Email List

1. Use ads to drive traffic to a landing page

The fastest way to start building your email list is to send quality traffic to a landing page. By quality traffic, I mean that it needs to be people who are likely to be interested in your products. Your marketing budget will be much more effective if you carefully choose who to spend it on.

For example, Facebook allows you to show ads to people who are in your target audience. You can choose what age, gender, relationship status, location, and interests you want to target with your ads.

My online shop sells survival knives, so I set up a Facebook ad targeting men ages 18-50 located in the United States who have expressed interest in survivalism and bushcraft. I was able to send traffic to a landing page for about $0.08 per click. The landing page offered a weekly newsletter containing survival articles and gear reviews, and about 15% of the visitors signed up for my newsletter. Within 4 weeks I went from less than 50 to over 1,000 email subscribers.

It’s important to note that sending traffic to your shop’s homepage is not your only option – you should also consider creating a dedicated landing page with a clearly-defined offer and extremely visible signup form. A good landing page will be free from distractions and focus on asking people to sign up in exchange for a newsletter, downloadable resource, or free course of some kind (more on that later).

Here is the landing page that I used to build my email list for my survival knife shop. You can view the actual page here.

If you’re interested in adding a landing page like this to your Shopify site, I’ve made a video tutorial showing you how.

In addition to Facebook ads, another source of qualified traffic is paid Reddit advertising. Reddit is a popular online community divided into “subreddits,” which are groups centered around different interests. For example, there are subreddits dedicated to talking about survivalism, ecommerce, gaming, woodworking, and pretty much any hobby or interest you can think of.

Reddit allows you to buy ads that show on specific subreddits, so that you’re only paying to show ads to people who are interested in your niche. Campaigns start at $5, so it’s super easy and cheap to test it out and send traffic to a signup landing page.

Fair warning: the Reddit community is unique, and you’ll want to be familiar with “reddiquette,” explore the site, and do some research on how to advertise to Reddit users before jumping in.

2. Offer a discount code in exchange for an email address

An often-used method of getting email subscribers is to have a popup window that offers a discount code in exchange for an email signup. This method is most effective for encouraging people who are already browsing your products or reading your blog to sign up to your email list. In my experience, a lot of people will sign up for the discount code but won’t make a purchase right away, which is why it’s important to nurture that relationship over time.

JustUno is an app that allows you to set this type of offer up, and they have a free plan you can start with to try it out. Simply generate a discount code, then plug that into the JustUno app, customize the text that will appear on the widget, and you’re all set.

WOD Superstore is an ecommerce site that uses JustUno to offer a discount code to their visitors in exchange for an email address. Notice the big kettlebell on the left with a “Save 3% on your order” offer. When that kettlebell is clicked, a window pops up with an email signup form, and it instantly reveals a coupon code upon signup.

3. Hold contests and giveaways on Facebook

ProClip USA, a company who sells smartphone mounts for the inside of your car, holds monthly giveaways of their products on Facebook. Visitors can be entered into the drawings by first liking ProClip’s Facebook page and entering their email, and then can enter more times for a better chance to win by sharing the giveaway with their friends.

Giving away one of your products or a gift card to someone who enters a contest on your Facebook page can be a powerful way to both build your email list and social media following. This tactic can generate buzz about your brand on Facebook and build your social following, in addition to collecting email addresses.

Make sure to use a great photo of the product you are giving away, so that it catches people's attention in their busy newsfeeds and is shareable. If you’re giving away a gift card, you could make a collage of your best-looking or most popular products to feature on the contest page.

A few tools you can choose from to create Facebook contests are WooBox and Rafflecopter.

4. Have an email signup box in your site footer or sidebar

It never hurts to have a regular, old-fashioned email signup box on your website for anyone who wants to subscribe even without being motivated by one of the above options.

This is especially effective if you have a blog with high-quality regular content, as people will be more likely to subscribe in order to be notified when you have fresh content.

Ok, so now that you’re building up a big list of subscribers, how can you nurture those leads and move them toward a purchase?

Part 2: How to Leverage Your Email List to Boost Sales

1. Publish a newsletter

A regular email newsletter is a good way to keep your email list warm without being too “salesy.” You can base the newsletter on your latest blog posts, or even curate content from other sites in your niche.

For example, I send out a weekly newsletter to my survival newsletter subscribers. The newsletter includes the first few paragraphs of my latest blog post, with a link to read the full post on my blog. I also curate several links to survival gear reviews on other websites and a few survival articles from other blogs. Finally, I include a “featured survival knife,” which has a picture of one of my products and a link to view more details (and hopefully make a purchase!).

By regularly sending this type of newsletter, you can build your reputation as an expert in your niche and nurture your relationship with subscribers. Since you're regularly providing free, quality content, you’ll get subscribers in the habit of opening and reading emails from you, rather than mentally categorizing your emails as junk mail.

Huckberry is an example of a brand with an awesome newsletter. It’s got great writing, a preview of their latest blog posts, and also contains a lot of featured products, but is so well-done that it doesn’t feel like you’re being sold to.

2. Send a drip email sequence

Another way you can interact with your email subscriber list is by setting up a drip sequence (a series of autoresponders). An autoresponder is an email that you set up to automatically be sent to new subscribers at a certain time after they initially sign up.

For example, your landing page could offer a free email course on a subject related to your niche. New subscribers would automatically receive this course broken into several emails over the course of a few days, weeks, or months after signing up.

The advantage of an autoresponder series over a newsletter is that it doesn’t require you to constantly create new content--once you write and set up the series, it’s all automated for new subscribers.

For example, rather than my weekly newsletter (or perhaps in addition to it), my email signup landing page could offer a 7-week email course teaching a variety of wilderness survival skills, with emails being sent once a week for a total of 7 emails.

You might want to set up two landing pages – one that offers a weekly newsletter, and one that offers a free course. Then, send traffic to both pages and see which one converts better. Every audience is different, so it’s always a good idea to test and see what works best for your niche.

Autoresponders like this can be easily set up using an email marketing service like MailChimp or Aweber. For an email service that’s especially focused on this type of autoresponder series, check out Drip.

3. Holiday & seasonal promotions

A more traditional form of email marketing is to notify subscribers of special offers based on upcoming holidays or the time of year. You might want to let your subscribers know about a Black Friday sale, an after-Christmas sale, or a spring clearance sale.

You can also remind people about upcoming holidays like Mother’s Day, or even send them a “happy birthday” email with a special discount code.

Here’s an example of a holiday promotional email sent before Christmas by one of my favorite brands using Shopify, Ugmonk.

4. Subscriber-only discounts

Whether you send a regular newsletter, an autoresponder series, or just send emails about special promotions, you can always include discount codes for your subscribers to boost their motivation to make a purchase.

It is possible to generate unique discount codes for each person on your mailing list, but in my experience this is more trouble than it’s worth. I’d recommend instead generating a single discount code that can be used an infinite number of times, but making sure that it is only available for a certain time period. If you do this, make sure to mention in your email copy that the discount code expires on a certain date.

This type of limited-time offer serves two purposes: first, it prevents customers from using the code multiple times at any time in the future that they want to, and second, it creates a sense of urgency that encourages subscribers to purchase something now rather than waiting until later.

5. Notify your list of social media contests & giveaways

An email list can also be leveraged to give a nice boost to your social media presence. Let’s say, for example, that you’ve invested in advertising to drive traffic to a landing page and build up your email list, but you don’t yet have as many social followers as you’d like.

To achieve your goal of increasing your social following, you can hold a giveaway as mentioned above in Part 1. Once the contest is underway, send an email to your subscribers letting them know that they can enter the drawing for a free product or gift card by liking your Facebook page or whatever social platform you're working on.

This strategy helps to engage your email subscribers in yet another interaction with your brand, which can not only help those subscribers move down the funnel closer to a purchase – it can also help your subscribers spread the word about your products to their own friends and followers. Exposing your brand to the social media networks of your email subscribers can help your brand to reach even more people and draw them into your funnel.

Are you using email marketing in your business? Let us know in the comments.


About The Author

Leighton Taylor publishes a blog and podcast, Ecommerce Pulse, where he discusses ecommerce strategy, interviews experts, and documents his own journey of building and growing an online store.

Divide and Profit: How to Segment Your Mailing List for Better Engagement

One of the biggest mistakes many businesses make with their mailing list is sending the same email to…

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One of the biggest mistakes many businesses make with their mailing list is sending the same email to everyone, all of the time.

If you think about it, not every subscriber on your mailing list is equal. You’ve probably got a mix of potential customers (those that haven’t made a purchase yet), new customers (those who have just made their first purchase), loyal customers (those who have made many purchase), and former customers (those who haven’t made any purchase in a while).

On top of that, if you sell items in different categories (for example, women’s clothing, men’s clothing, and kids clothing), do you think every subscriber is interested in all of those products? Do you want to send the same message to all of these people? Of course not.

While you can’t customize an email specific to every subscriber on your list, you can create emails based on specific criteria using segmentation. In this post, we’ll look at different ways to segment your mailing list in order to increase engagement and conversions.

Segmenting Your List Based on Customer Type

Wouldn’t it be nice if, when people walked into a store, they had a label on them that indicated whether they were new to the store, had visited but never purchased, have purchased once but not again, or have purchased many things on a regular basis? If people had labels like that, the salesperson that greets them would probably say something different each time.

Many customer databases have these labels. If yours does, then you should consider segmenting your list based on these differentiations. This way, you can target your emails in a way that will convert potential customers into customers, first time customers into loyal customers, and loyal customers into brand advocates. It can be as simple as offering new customers discounts or your most loyal customers a free gift with purchase.

Segmenting Your List Based on Interests

Let’s say your online store sells pet supplies. You probably have dog owners, cat owners, hamster owners, new pet owners, elderly pet owners, and so on. Sending them all the same email campaign isn’t going to always make a sale. However, sending them a targeted ad based on their specific pet owner needs will.

This is when an interest-based segmented list comes in handy, and there are several ways you can get subscribers into the appropriate segments. You can do it based on:

  • Products they click on in your email. If the subscriber clicks on a dog leash, then you can segment them as a dog owner and send mailings about new dog products.
  • Lead magnets they subscribe through. If your online store offers free guides for different breeds of dog, and your subscriber choose the guide to Chihuahuas, then you can segment them as a small dog owner and send mailings about new products for small dogs.
  • Items they purchase. If your customer tends to buy ferret toys and hamster wheels, then you can segment them as a small animal lover and send mailings about new products pertaining to little critters.

Find out which option works best with your customer database and mailing list platform and start sending targeted mailings based on specific interests. For example, here's an email Nordstrom's sends to subscribers it knows is interested in menswear. 

By segmenting your emails based on interests you’ll increase your open and click through rates and lower your unsubscribe rates as you will not be blasting products to people who are not interested in them.

Segmenting Your List Based on Location

Location can be an important segmentation for several reasons. For starters, if you have both an online store and a physical location, you may want to send emails about sales that are happening in-store, but only to people in your region. If you have customers from various countries, you may want to send country-specific promotions on shipping like Deals Direct in the example below.

Most mailing list service providers will have an option to segment based on location. The location is usually determined when a subscriber signed up for your mailing list. You can also use your customer database to find the current location of your customers based on billing and shipping addresses.

Segmenting Your List Based on Engagement

Last, but not least, you will need to tailor messages differently based on the subscriber’s activity. You’ve likely seen emails that say, “We’ve missed you.” These were probably from businesses whose emails you have not opened in a while. 

Most email marketing providers will allow you to create segments based on subscriber activity like Mailchimp does here:

One reason that businesses create a separate segment for inactive subscribers (those who have not opened emails in a long time) is each subscriber typically costs you money. So why pay for subscribers who are not engaging with you?

The strategy usually goes like this. You will create a segment of subscribers that have not opened their emails in a certain timeframe, say three months, six months, etc. You send just that segment of people an email that asks them to reconfirm their subscription, either to confirm they want to continue receiving your emails or to get a special discount code or a free resource (like a new style guide for example). If the subscriber does not confirm within the next week or two, they are removed from your list.

This is a great way to make sure your mailing list consists of people who want to get your emails, i.e. the people most likely to make purchases. This will always boost the ROI of your email marketing, as you’ll be paying less for your mailing list service and only sending emails to the people who want them.

Your Mailing List Service Provider’s Segmentation Options

Note that some of these segmenting options may or may not be available to you based on the mailing list service provider you have chosen. To find out what segmentation options you have available to you, you will need to refer to the features your provider offers. You can do a Google search for your mailing list provider’s name plus segmentation, segment your list, and similar keywords. If you use the following mailing list service providers - Aweber, MailChimp, Campaign Monitor or Constant Contact - you can refer to their features listings and documentation guides for more information.

How do you segment your mailing list? Share your tips in the comments!


Further reading:

4 Ecommerce Transaction Emails You Should Be Optimizing (And How to Do It)

When most online retailers think about email marketing, they often just think about sending monthly newsletters or information about…

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When most online retailers think about email marketing, they often just think about sending monthly newsletters or information about sales.

But email marketing is so much more than that.

In fact, every email you send to a potential, current, or former customer is an opportunity to provide value and have a sales conversation.

The following are examples of how major ecommerce brands are using 'transaction emails' to boost their sales during the buying process - and what you can learn from them.

1. The Shopping Cart Abandonment Email

The average shopping cart abandonment rate is 67.44%. That's a lot of ecommerce dollars being left on the table. 

What can you do to get those customers back to your checkout page so they complete their order?

For customers whose information you already have, such as those who have created an account on your website, you can send them a friendly email reminder that they left something in their cart.

Here's a great example of this kind of email from Kerastase:

How this works is typically within 12-24 hours of your customer entering their information and abandoning their item(s) in your store, you send them a reminder that they still have items waiting for them. Often customers just want to get to the last step in the checkout so they can see the final charges with shipping costs included or they simply get distracted from their shopping experience.

The example email above in particular is great because it shows the product the customer added to their shopping cart (with an image) and gently nudges them back to the store. It's also personalized and adds a little extra incentive with the 'same day shipping' offer. Finally, it uses a great call to action button which makes the desired action crystal clear.

However, there is one flaw to this email’s design. A lot of email services will hide images in email until the recipient (your customer) tells it to display them. If they don’t allow their email service to display the images for this email, all they will see is this:

As you can see, without images enabled this email conveys almost zero information.

In other words, you need to have the main message included in the email in text so that the customer will see it immediately when they open your email.

Walmart, on the other hand, takes the approach of a mostly text based email for people who abandon their shopping cart after logging in to their account. Even without images enabled, customers will know exactly what the message contains and where to go next:

But this email isn't perfect either. It doesn’t tell the customer what is in their shopping cart. This makes them miss the opportunity to get their customer excited about the item(s) they were about to purchase.

Thus, the keys to a successful shopping cart abandonment email are the following.

  • Put the main message in text format so customers will see it right away without having to enable images. This includes a link back to their shopping cart.
  • Remind the customer about the specific item(s) in their shopping cart, awaiting purchase so they can get excited about them again.
  • Remind them about a specific incentive, such as free shipping or current availability.
  • Have a clear call to action.

Note that when it comes to incentives you offer in your shopping cart abandonment email, you might want to think carefully about offering a coupon or discount. Why? You will train your customers to put items in their shopping cart and leave so they can get money off of their item(s).

An alternative, if applicable, is reminding the customer that the product is currently on special for a limited time. This leverages the power of scarcity and will hopefully motivate them to return and make their purchase quickly.

2. The Order Confirmation Email

The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 - 70% according to Marketing Metrics. This means that once a customer has made a purchase, there's a better chance you can get them to make another one by using your order confirmation email as a marketing tool.

GoDaddy does this well by including a coupon code for your next purchase in your order confirmation email:

What’s great about this email is the promo code is bright, bold, and above the information about the order you just placed.

GoDaddy also offers related products to choose from based on your purchase.

While this can be a great way to increase sales, be sure that you carefully consider whether trying to sell again right away to a brand new customer is worth it.

Your new customer probably won’t cancel their order just because you approached them to make another purchase, but they also might not take up the offer if they're a first time shopper.

This may be a better strategy for your repeat customers as opposed to new ones. As an alternative, you could ask first time buyers to 'like' your business on Facebook which may be a more palatable option for them at this stage in the relationship.

The key takeaway is that order confirmation emails are an important opportunity to not only reassure your customers about their purchase, but also provide ways for them to extend the relationship with your business whether it be through another sale, an app download or a call to action to follow you on social media. 

3. The Shipping Confirmation Email

Just like order confirmation emails, shipping confirmation emails are another opportunity for you to get creative.

For example, instead of asking customers to make another purchase for themselves you can ask them to make a purchase for someone else.

The shipping confirmation email is a good one because your customer is excited about the prospect of receiving their purchase. So much so, in fact, that you can ride this wave of excitement by getting them to consider gifting your product(s) to their friends and family.

Check out how BarkBox does this:

Alternatively, you can always use your shipping confirmation email to encourage your customers to make another purchase for themselves:

The only drawback on the above email from Express is that the calls to action in this email are not personalized to the customer’s purchase. It would be much more effective if they noted the customer’s purchase was a pair of slacks, and the ads were targeted to shirts and ties instead of suits or women’s clothing.

Thus, the keys to a successful email after shipping an order are the following.

  • Make it easy for your customer to track their order. Include the expected delivery date and tracking number linked to the shipping company so people can click once to see exactly where their order is in the shipping process.
  • Suggest that the customer forward a link to the item purchased to a friend.
  • Include product suggestions that match their purchase.

Why is it so important to make the customer’s most recent order so easily to track? You want to do this to reassure them that their order is being delivered (and that your business is trustworthy), get them excited, and make the customer happy - a happy customer is more likely to share their shopping experience with others.

4. The Customer Feedback Email

One email that brands usually do not push marketing into is the feedback / survey email after a customer has presumably received and used their product. Toys R Us, for example, includes a sweepstakes with their survey email.

And here's a survey email from Moo, the printing company:

What's the difference between these two emails? While Moo sends the customer to a third party survey tool for feedback, Toys R Us sends customers to a survey on their own website. This makes it easy to encourage their (hopefully) satisfied customer to start shopping once their review is completed.

Thus, the keys to a successful email for feedback are the following:

  • Focus on customer satisfaction - not sales - so you can get your customer’s thoughts on their purchase.
  • Place the review / survey form on your website so the customer can be presented with offers and products after submitting their feedback.
  • Include the review on the product page as user generated content to help boost future buyer’s confidence.

While encouraging future purchases from satisfied customers is easy, what about those who are less than happy with their purchase? Make sure that your system follows up with an email that offers to help make that customer happy. As mentioned earlier, it’s easier to make sales with existing customers than new ones, so focus on customer retention more than acquisition when possible.

Summary

When you send an email to your customers, you're having a conversation with them in their most personal online environment - their inbox. In other words, you need to make every email count. 

Getting creative with transaction emails can be an effective way to not only be transparent with your customers about their purchases, but also get them back to your store for repeat sales. 

What marketing tactics do you currently build into your transaction emails? Have they been effective for you? Let us know in the comments.

How to Build a Responsive (and Profitable) Ecommerce Mailing List

There's no question how important email marketing is when it comes to running a successful ecommerce business. When compared…

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There's no question how important email marketing is when it comes to running a successful ecommerce business.

When compared to other channels, email subscribers are more responsive, they have a stronger connection with your business, and they buy more of your products.

And every subscriber counts. Whether you’re gaining one per week, one per day, or one per minute.

But how to you go about getting people to join yet another newsletter - not to mention actually buying your stuff once they've signed up? 

At the end of the day you need the right mix of incentives, sign-up forms and high quality, valuable content. 

Let's take a look at how to put all these ingredients together so you can drive more sign-ups and sales.

Choosing the Right Sign Up Incentive

The first stage of building your mailing list is choosing the right incentive, or 'ethical bribe', to offer people in exchange for joining your list.

This step is all about getting permission to follow up with your potential customers over time.

There are lots of options you can choose from - the key is to make sure it's something that's compelling. For most ecommerce businesses, this is usually an immediate discount or the promise of getting future discounts and information about special, members-only sales delivered by email.

There are also a number of email marketing and incentive focused apps and services you can use to help make this step easier like Incentivibe and ViralSweep for example. 

Another good incentive is a free piece of content that your target customer would find valuable and would put your subscriber into a buying frame of mind. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

  • A women’s clothing store could create seasonal fashion guides to help women learn the latest trends and how to coordinate outfits and accessories - specifically, outfits and accessories they sell.
  • A bookseller could offer sample chapters of their latest / best sellers.
  • A musician could offer a free MP3 download of their new song.
  • A photographer could offer a free high-resolution wallpaper download.

No matter what industry you're in, coming up with a compelling incentive is an effective way to kickstart your list building efforts.

Creating High Converting Landing Pages

Once you’ve decided on your incentive, your next job is to create a landing page - sometimes called a squeeze page. A squeeze page is simply a page on your website that is 100% focused on getting people to subscribe to your mailing list.

Why do you need a landing page? You can use it in a variety of ways to help build your list.

  • Add it as a link in your social profiles.
  • Advertise it using Google AdWords and Facebook Ads.
  • Link to it in blog posts.
  • Link to it in emails (within the body or email signatures).

Essentially, it’s just an easy to reference page that you can get people to and convince them to subscribe. It has no distractions - no other objectives.

Your landing page content should include a persuasive headline, some text or a video about your incentive and the benefits of joining your mailing list, and an opt-in form.

Everything else - like your sidebar - should be removed.

Placing Strategic Opt-in Forms

Aside from your landing page, the most important element for driving opt-ins on your website is strategically placed opt-in forms. Opt-in forms are just a fancy word for the email sign-up boxes.

Popular email marketing software solutions will have handy opt-in form generators that will provide you with a snippet of code that you can just drag and drop into various places around your site. 

Here are some of the more popular services:

While it may sound excessive to add multiple opt-in forms to your website, it’s really not. If you had eye-tracking analytics on every visitor to your website, you would find that they do not look at every part of your website, from header to footer.

They may just look at the content on a blog post or your about page, your navigation menu, or your sidebar. Hence, you need to make sure that any one spot they look at has a conversion point for your mailing list - an opt-in form.

So where should you place an opt-in? Here are good places to consider.

  • Your header / navigation bar. This can be an email field with simple text like 'join', 'subscribe', 'sign up', 'get updates', 'get exclusive discounts', 'get our free fashion guide', etc.
  • Your sidebar. This can be just an email field or name and address field with a sentence about your free incentive and what your mailing list has to offer.
  • Your About Page. After you tell visitors about your business and the benefits of your products, get them to connect and learn more by subscribing. This can be just an email field or name and address field with a few sentences about why people should subscribe.
  • At the bottom of your blog posts. If people make it to the end of your blog post, chances are they enjoyed your content and are ready to take action. Having a strategically placed form here gives them a clear option for what to do next.
  • Your website footer. Let’s say your visitor bypasses all of the above fields. If they do make it to your website footer, they’re still interested. Capture them as subscribers. 
  • Your checkout page. One of the best ways to build your list is to simply make sales. The services mentioned above all have integrations, whether it's their own or a third party app, that will allow you to add customers to your email list after they make a purchase.

Most visitors will be blind to a few of these spots so having multiple forms is important.

Also, if you run a brick and mortar store, don’t forget about offline opportunities. Email service providers provide apps that allow you to capture subscribers in-person. One such app is Chimpadeedoo from MailChimp which lets subscribers enter their email address on your iPad or Android tablet. Even if you’re offline, it will collect the email addresses and import them into your MailChimp account the next time you're online.

Staying in Touch

As you start growing your mailing list, you need to make sure you're staying in touch with your subscribers. The last thing you want is to build up a great list, not email them for months, and then have them either not open your emails or unsubscribe because they’ve forgotten all about you and why they joined in the first place.

You have two options for keeping your subscribers interested in your business. The first is to send regular, manual updates, such as newsletters, information about your industry that your customers would want to keep up-to-date about, or links to your latest pieces of content.  Preferably this would be high quality content that has independent value but that also has sales and conversions in mind. This option is best for businesses who have new things to talk about on a consistent basis.

The second option is to put your customers in an autoresponder series. This is a series of emails that you set up in advance and scheduled to send to new subscribers within a specific timeframe as they join your list. 

Your first email to your subscriber would have the incentive you promised - the discount, free guide, link to a download, etc. The next email, sent a few days later, would follow up with the subscriber, asking how they liked the incentive. The next email, sent a few days later, would let subscribers know about some products and services that will be of interest based on the free incentive they received.

This option is best for businesses who have pretty static products or simply those who want to automate their sales funnel in a set it and (almost) forget it kind of way. I say almost because if you do have updates to your products and services, you'll want to update your autoresponder accordingly for future subscribers.

Bringing it All Together

When it comes down to it, building your list is all about getting permission and providing value. To get permission, think about what incentives or high quality content you can create in order to drive sign-ups. Once you've got people joining your list, focus on sending your subscribers a balanced mix of more high quality content with occasional sales and promotional messages mixed in.

In our next post in this series, we'll be looking at how some of the major online brands are building their lists and driving sales with email marketing.

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Why Email Marketing is the Key to Ecommerce Success

Whether it’s social media, SEO or content marketing, you’ve got a lot of options when it comes to…

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Whether it’s social media, SEO or content marketing, you’ve got a lot of options when it comes to marketing your business online.

But when it comes time to have a sales conversation and drive conversions, there's one channel that continues to outperform the rest: good old-fashioned email.

According to recent research and surveys:

  • Email has an ROI of around 4,300% (according to the Direct Marketing Association)
  • 80% of people say they receive marketing messages alongside their personal emails on a daily basis.
  • 70% of people make use of coupons or discounts they learn about from email.
  • 60% of people say that receiving special offers is the top reason they subscribe to an email list from a business.

In other words, if your ecommerce business hasn't taken the time to adopt email marketing, then you're leaving money on the table.

And if these stats don't convince you, here are some other factors that might motivate you to start building your mailing list today.

Email Is Outperforming Twitter and Facebook for Selling Stuff Online

The top social networks that most small businesses use are Facebook and Twitter - and historically they've been great free tools for content distribution.

But if you have a Facebook fan page, then perhaps you've heard that only about 16% of your fans will actually see the updates you post to your timeline.

That's because Facebook wants you to buy their advertising to promote your message. This even has some considering it a bad investment for small businesses

Facebook is not the only social network where your reach can be limited. If people are using Twitter search to locate information, they have to specifically click "All" to see all tweets or profile bios with a specific keyword.

Developers also have the option to use a filter in the Twitter APi that will value tweets as none, low, medium, or high meaning that users of those applications may miss out on tweets that algorithmically check out as having little value. So again, small businesses not investing in advertising may see a decline in engagement.

In short, you can't just assume that if your target audience is on Facebook or Twitter at the time you post a new update, they will see it. 

More importantly, when it comes time so have a sales conversation with your audience, email simply out performs social media.

Custora recently did a study that analyzed data from 72 million customers shopping on 86 different retailer sites. 

They found that over the past four years, online retailers have quadrupled the rate of customers acquired through email to nearly 7 percent.

Meanwhile Facebook and Twitter barely registered.

 

They also found that the average customer lifetime value (CLV) of users acquired via email is considerably higher than those coming from social media.

However, email is not just a superior channel for customer acquisition. Some people are seeing it drive way more traffic than social as well. 

Noah Kagan recently sent a tweet to his 13,000 Twitter followers. It got 109 clicks for a click-through-rate (CTR) of 0.8%.

He sent the same information to his email list of 3,547 people and got 882 clicks for a CTR of 24.8%. An 8x improvement over Twitter. (Hat tip to Justin Premick for this info).

The reason email is so much more effective at driving traffic and sales is because you get to take the conversation about your products and business to your customers most personal online space - their inbox.  

While platforms like Facebook and Twitter are great for free content distribution and engaging your community, they're also noisy and your audience may not be on them when you post an update.

Email, however, gets seen every time. 

Google is Making Search Rankings Harder to Acquire

As the CLV graph above shows, customers coming from both paid and organic search are extremely valuable to your business. However, climbing the search rankings in Google is getting harder and harder. 

For those that keep up with the latest in search engine optimization news, you probably know that a lot of the tried and true methods that SEO's have used in the past to gain higher keyword rankings are being devalued by Google.

Algorithmic changes have (rightfully) targeted low quality content (building links via article marketing and blog networks), keyword-based anchor text (trying to rank your men's clothing company by creating a high volume of links using that term), paid links (typically links that are sitewide in sidebars or footers), and many other linking strategies.

And the newest tactics that are under scrutiny include guest posts, infographics, and press releases.

This has put many businesses that have used these into the famed Google penalty box, and many more business in a state of constant fear that they may lose their rankings in the future. 

Most of the SEO strategies that are safe and work well (like content marketing) take time to build upon before desired rankings are achieved, leaving new businesses with only one option to get on the first page quickly: buying Google AdWords. The ins and outs of PPC can be enough to make ones head spin.

This is why businesses that are investing in PPC to build their mailing list. This way, instead of just getting a potentially one-time click in search, they are opening the door to future communications with their target customer base. One that they don't have to worry about getting penalized.

Email is Content Marketing's Best Friend

Content marketing is undoubtably the hottest marketing strategy right now because it can help you in both of the above areas. It gives you something to share and promote on social media, and it also helps you earn more rankings in search results. 

The trouble with it is, quality content takes a major investment. First, you have to decide what to focus on. Do you want to have text-based blogs posts? Video explainer videos and commercials? Slideshare presentations? Fun and informative podcasts? Viral infographics?

Then, you have to decide who is going to create all of that content for you. Do you have an in-house team of content creators? Do you outsource? How do you find someone who excels at creating different types of media?

In other words, content marketing is tough. The thing is, it works. Really, really well.

And that's why collecting email addresses from your visitors is so important. It gives you a way to keep in touch and follow up with them over time and ensures all the time and money you've spent on creating content isn't just resulting in one-time visits.

Not to mention building a mailing list to consume your content is going to help increase your overall conversions as you will see more purchases from your email list than your blog readers, YouTube subscribers, or podcast listeners as mentioned above.

Email Drives Traffic and Sales

Now that you know why you need a mailing list of your ecommerce business, let's take a look at what you can do with it. Depending on the service provider you choose to deliver your email content, you can use your mailing list to reach your customers in a wide variety of ways (which we'll be exploring more deeply in future posts).

Here are just some ideas to get you excited.

  • Let customers know about your new products and other interesting company news that affects them.
  • Set up autoresponders - a series of drip emails with a goal of getting a customer to buy or learn more about your products over time.
  • Send timed discounts for holidays, birthdays, and other personal events (anniversaries, for example).
  • Remind customers about an uncompleted purchase in their shopping cart.
  • Reward loyal customers with a discount.
  • Re-engage with customers who have not shopped in a while by offering them a discount to stop by.
  • Get testimonials from customers.
  • Share your newest content (blog posts, videos, etc.) with your customers to engage without a sales focus.

As you can see, you can engage your customers through email in much deeper ways and use it to drive traffic to your ecommerce website.

While social media and search are great ways to get discovered by your customers, email is the way to really build a relationship with them.

Now that you know how important email marketing is, it's time to get started actually building your email list.


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