January 22, 2015

How to get started with Email Marketing for your Retail Store

Email Marketing 101 for your Online Retail Store

Email Marketing is still one of the highest converting, and most efficient marketing channels I 'own' at Encircled.

I say I 'own' that channel as the data (the customer email addresses) are an asset of my business.

Unlike Facebook, or Instagram, or any social media site for that matter where my 'fans' or 'followers' live on their platform.

I consider all social media channels to be 'rented' because at anytime (though I hope not!), they could just up and disappear, and I would be left with nothing.

Email marketing is an integral part of your customer's purchase journey.


If you're a new brand, chances are that most people landing on your website have never heard of you before, or maybe heard a little bit about your product or brand.

Depending on your price point, and your consumer, it is likely pretty rare that someone will purchase from you on their first visit to your website.

Therefore, you want to create a sales funnel that will keep that 'browser' engaged with your brand until they are ready to become a buyer.

One of the best channels you can refer people as they browse your site is your email.

This is because you know you will have their undivided, one on one attention through this channel.

On other channels, such as social media platforms, you will be competing for attention in their feed with many people including their friends, family, and other brands. 

It's also low cost (and at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, most likely free).

Depending on your email solution, up to a certain number of subscribers is free.

Free marketing that allows me to talk to my customers one on one? Yes please!

How to Get Started with Email Marketing

1. Select an Email Platform Provider

There are MANY options for email providers. Each has their pros and cons, and fit with different sizes and types of businesses. 

Do your research and select one that fits not only with your business today, but your email marketing goals a year from now. Ensure that the email provider integrates with your current eCommerce system, so that you can create a seamless interface between the two channels.

There are significant differences in functionality, and cost once you start surpassing a certain number of subscribers.

I use Mailchimp for both of my businesses. For me, the usability, integration and support won me over. 

A couple of good collaborations of side-by-side detailed reviews of the options:

Top Ten Email Marketing Services

Email Marketing Review Comparison Table

6 Things to Consider When Selecting an Email Marketing Provider


2. Create a List

Once you've selected your email marketing provider, depending on the provider, you're going to want to create a destination list. A list where all of your new subscribers will be added!

The way to do this varies by provider. You may want to create several lists depending on your business structure. For example, if you are collecting emails at checkout -- you might want to push these subscribers to a list for only people who have purchased from your online store. 

Alternatively, you can sub-segment you main list (break your main list) once you start to build it up by those who have purchased, and those who have not, and even down to the product level that a customer has purchased.

The ability to segment your list is a basic function that you need to have the ability to do as this will increase your relevancy, click throughs, and opens on your future list.

Email nirvana is the ability to serve up the right information to the right readers at the right time.


3. Design an Engaging Opt-in Offer

I plan to write a whole post in the near future on creating an engaging and differentiated opt-in offer for product-based businesses.

It's very common to visit a retailers online store and see a promotion-based opt-in offer. Meaning, the eCommerce site is offering X% off your first order, or Free Shipping if you give them your email address.

What is less common, is a non-promotional based opt-in offer.

For Encircled, a give my newsletter subscribers a free downloadable and printable packing list for carry-on travel. 

I was first exposed to the idea of a non-promotional based opt-in offer through Marie Forleo's B-School. Marie is a passionate advocate for email marketing, and especially marketing to the right customers.

Using a promotional opt-in (discount etc.) generally converts well, but there is usually a huge drop-off either immediately post-opt in (i.e. customer grabs the discount code, and unsubscribes) or at the first email post-opt in (I.e. customer forgets they subscribed or now remembers and opts out).

Your goal of your email list is to attract subscribers who want more of what you're selling.

And ideally, even if you're selling physical products, you will be giving them additional value through your email channel that they will not get anywhere else.

To develop a solid opt-in offer for your retail brand, start with the customer in mind. What is something that only YOU could offer to make their life and use of your product/brand better/smarter/faster/easier.


4. Create an Opt-in Form + Put it EVERYWHERE.

Again, this step will vary by email provider.

In Mailchimp, you can easily customize your opt-in form with fonts, your branding colours, logo, and a header banner.

You want your opt-in form to feel JUST like your brand or website does, so spend time doing this. Also pay attention to the legalities required by your area for your opt-in form.

At this time, you'll also want to integrate with your eCommerce provider. I use Shopify for both of my websites, and Mailchimp seamlessly integrates with their platform.

If you have a basic opt-in form (pop-up, footer, side-bar, in page) available as part of your platform then activate it! You can also create custom forms and embed them throughout your site content, on your product pages, on your blog and individual blog posts.

As well, you'll want to grab the portable link for your form so that you can leverage it in your social media sites (add it to the description, and post it from time to time).


5. Start talking to your Email Subscribers

I know what you're thinking......Easier said than done, Kristi.

But you're wrong.

Emailing your subscribers (or your list, or members, your cherished email addresses) does not have to be a gruelling and stressful task.

Think of it as a joy.

You have the privilege of these customers, and future customers entrusting YOU with their email address, and allowing YOU to grace their email inbox on a weekly, or monthly basis.

This is an immense honour.

It means, they are intrigued/interested/engaged with YOUR brand. Amazing.

Now, hopefully this new information doesn't add MORE pressure but in essence, it means your subscribers WANT to hear from you. Crazy, I know.

So, give them what they want and start writing that email newsletter. 


6. Build a regular schedule of content + contact for Email

We've covered off how you will contact your list, and how you will build that list, and WHY you need a list but now a natural next question is WHAT do I send my list, and WHEN. 

This is not an easy answer, and the answer for this question in relation to YOUR business, your brand, and your product will vary based on the time of year, the size of your list, the quality of your list, availability of content, your bandwidth, and your experience/willingness to give email marketing a go.


Whatever you do, I implore you to try to be as consistent as possible. For example, don't start emailing your list weekly for two months, and then stop talking to them completely for 6 months. 

Be realistic. Like setting any communication goal for your business, think about what you can manage on your busiest week, and set that as your goal.

Starting off bi-weekly is generally what I recommend for my clients who are new to email marketing. 

One tip to get you in a regular mindset of email marketing is to pick a day/time when you will send out your email every week (in a future post, I will talk more about how to select/change/optimize that day and time).

Now back a day or two out, and set a recurring invite in your calendar for 2 hours a week for "Email Marketing" every week that you send out an email. If you're able to develop, test and deploy an email in less than 2 hours then amazing, you'll give yourself back a few hours a day. 

What to Send (a.k.a CONTENT).

The big c-word. Content.

Initially, when you're starting out in email marketing, it's common for retail brands to push out promotions, new products, new designs, sales, special releases of product -- promotional messages.

While this needs to be done by both new and existing Retailers (we're all running businesses with products, and inventory we have to move!), the way in which you deliver these messages is key.

If every week, someone is emailing you with 50% off -- chances are you will unsubscribe, unless you're a deal seeker (which do not 

Recently, I removed myself from the GAP's mailing list as they are on a daily basis pushing off price based offers. No thanks.

You want to get into the mindset as to how YOUR brand can add value to your subscriber's life. 

For example, say you sell Organic Skin Care products. Your customers will likely think of you as the expert in skin care, and probably organic skin care, and maybe tangentially organic living. 

So, perhaps every email, you send your readers a tip for how to enhance their skin care regime, or organic recipes (you can even repurpose others content with their permission of course!), other uses for your products (i.e. maybe the lip balm is great on dry cuticles, benefits of organic skin care, how to shop for organic groceries,.... the list is endless. 

I can totally see someone with this type of business creating an amazing YouTube video on how to wash your face properly. 

Do not assume customers KNOW everything just because you do. Become that champion of knowledge for your area of expertise, and own it.

Think about your customer, what they would want to know, and how you can help them get the most value out of your products, and your brand.

Email marketing does not have to be the bane of your existence.

With the above tips, you'll be off and running to a good start with email marketing for your online store.


Do you have an email list? Why or why not? Leave us a comment below!

Dig this post? Click to Tweet + Share this bit of Retail Bliss with the universe!

Your Email List is a privilege. Treat your subscriber as such via @retailbliss http://goo.gl/BJHBJf #retail #shopify #mailchimp #marketing


Principal Retail Consultant/Founder