How To Get the Most Out of Your Email Newsletters

a shiny holographic envelope on a purple and green background

There’s no shortage of ways to communicate with your business’s customers. And yet, despite social platforms, online media companies, and messaging apps galore, email continues to be one of today’s most effective marketing tools.

That’s because an email newsletter offers a way to deliver relevant, personalized content directly to your target audience at a relatively low cost. Email is the most-used medium across advertising campaigns, and delivers one of the highest returns on investment.

As a popular tool for businesses of all sizes, here’s what you need to know to create a newsletter that’s differentiated and compelling.

What is an email newsletter?

An email newsletter is a digital publication that provides relevant information about a company, organization, or individual to a target audience. Brands create newsletters for email marketing campaigns in order to build a long-term, trusting relationship with their audience.

Newsletters complement other forms of digital marketing—such as social media accounts or SEO (search engine optimized) copy—by sharing valuable content and context. These types of newsletters often expand beyond promoting products to include broader information about the company or industry.

How does an email newsletter work?

A good email newsletter contains several key elements, including:

  • A defined target audience
  • A catchy subject line and preview text
  • A simple and beautiful newsletter template
  • Valuable content
  • Clear calls-to-action (CTAs)

Newsletters are usually sent via email marketing software platforms, which enable companies to create, send, and track email campaigns. An effective newsletter platform—like Shopify Email, for example— features contact list management, email templates, scheduling options, and reporting tools (such as open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribe rates).

Your email frequency can vary depending on your goals, content, industry, and audience. Newsletters are often sent weekly, but you may want to send an email newsletter several times a week, month, or quarter. In the first email, you should communicate how often you plan to send emails, what type of content they will contain, and perhaps include a welcome gift like a discount code.

Since email newsletters aim to build trust with your audience, it’s important to allow your audience to opt in to marketing emails through sign-up forms on your website. This will also ensure that the audience you’re marketing to is interested in receiving your communications—and, therefore, more likely to engage with your business.

The importance of email newsletters

The email newsletter is one of the most effective forms of digital marketing. The benefits of an email newsletter as one of your marketing tools include:

  • Directly communicating with your target audience. The vast majority of adults use email. Email newsletters offer a way for you to reach your audience directly in their inbox, grabbing their attention in a place they’re already checking frequently.
  • Gaining insight into your subscribers. Through an email newsletter, you can track your target audience’s engagement, click-through rates, and behavior on your website. With this information, you can generate personalized content for different groups of people, like alerting those in a certain location about an upcoming event, or sharing exclusive content and discounts with loyal customers.
  • Driving traffic to other channels. With clear calls-to-action like “Tag a friend” or “Read now,” for example, you can drive traffic to other platforms, such as your social media accounts, a new blog post, or specific landing pages.

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3 types of email newsletters

  1. Informational newsletters
  2. Promotional newsletters
  3. Transactional newsletters

There are three common types of email newsletters:

1. Informational newsletters

Informational newsletters provide subscribers with more context about your company and products. Examples of informational newsletters include:

  • Personal updates from company leaders 
  • Product tutorials and how-tos 
  • Roundups of recent blog posts
  • Customer testimonials, reviews, or user-generated content
  • Seasonal content or mood boards
  • Industry news

2. Promotional newsletters

Promotional emails share information about products and—you guessed it—promotions. List segmentation often comes in handy for this type of newsletter, as you can offer things like exclusive discounts or early access to products to a specific group of loyal customers. Examples of promotional emails include:

  • New product announcements
  • Restocks alerts
  • Sales and discounts
  • Partnerships
  • Products and discounts for specific times (Valentine’s Day, Cyber Monday, or holiday gift guides)

3. Transactional newsletters

Transactional emails, or “lifecycle emails,” keep customers updated about their product interests and orders. While these emails can include more content—such as similar product recommendations or discounts to use in the future—they are typically more targeted in nature, as they’re focused on individual customers. Transactional newsletters include:

  • Abandoned cart notifications
  • Order confirmations
  • Shipping status updates
  • Requests for product reviews

6 best practices to create an email newsletter

  1. Build an email list
  2. Segment your email list
  3. Choose an email template
  4. Optimize for mobile devices
  5. Test and optimize your subject lines
  6. Include clear calls-to-action

The smartest email marketers create newsletters with a clear strategy in mind. Here are a few best practices that can help to define your own strategic approach:

1. Build an email list

You can build a contact list for your email newsletter by gathering contact information of current customers and adding newsletter sign-up forms to your website so new contacts can sign up. You can also gather emails of potential customers by hosting product giveaways or events.

2. Segment your email list

Depending on the size of your contact list and newsletter goals, it may be helpful to segment your subscribers into groups. These segmented groups could include loyal customers, one-time customers, potential customers, or people who live in certain geographical areas.

3. Choose an email template

The copy in your newsletter is only as good as your design. With many email marketing services and software, you can start with premade templates. The best newsletter software offers drag-and-drop templates so you can easily personalize your email with your company logo, brand colors, fonts, and other features.

4. Optimize for mobile devices

Emails are more likely to be viewed on mobile devices than desktops, and yet many email newsletters aren't optimized for mobile. To make your emails more mobile-friendly, consider reducing your use of images, breaking up text, or using a responsive newsletter template that automatically adapts to any screen size.

5. Test and optimize subject lines

Subject lines represent the first line of communication that your recipient sees in your email—and the only thing they can see before opening it—which is why they’re an important tool for increasing email open rates. But it’s not just about open rates: A good subject line also minimizes the chance that your email gets flagged as spam. Use your newsletter software to test different subject lines and preview texts so you can define what leads to successful deliveries and subscriber engagement.

6. Include clear calls-to-action

Every newsletter should include at least one call to action. Example calls-to-actions include visiting product landing pages, following social media accounts, or reading a blog post.

Email newsletters FAQ

How do I write an email newsletter?

Decide on a compelling topic—based on your audience’s needs and interests—and draft your content. Once you finalize your copy, pick a simple and compelling newsletter template. Make sure you include a clear call to action. The last steps are writing a strong subject line and preview text.

What should be in an email newsletter?

Your first newsletter should set expectations for your contact list about your email frequency, purpose, and content. Future newsletters could include content such as:

  • Personal updates from company leaders
  • Product how-tos or inspiration
  • Blog posts, such as profiles of customers or influencers
  • Customer testimonials or reviews
  • News about upcoming products, promotions, or sales
  • Exclusive discount codes

What are 3 types of newsletters?

Three types of newsletters are:

  1. Informational newsletters
  2. Promotional newsletters
  3. Transactional newsletters

What are 5 elements of an effective newsletter?

Five elements that can help you achieve your newsletter goals are:

  1. A defined target audience
  2. A catchy subject line and preview text
  3. A simple and beautiful newsletter template
  4. Valuable content
  5. Clear calls-to-action

What makes a successful email newsletter?

A successful email newsletter builds trust with defined target audiences by delivering valuable, interesting, and relevant information. Ultimately, a newsletter should help you acquire potential customers, retain previous customers, drive sales, and learn more about your audience.