What Does a Successful Retail Email Campaign Include?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula to retail email success. There are, however, a few dos and don’ts you can follow to start improving your emails today.

Email Navigation Bar

One of the most common questions I receive is whether you should include a navigation bar in a retail email. The lesson I can teach you in this regard is to start thinking of email differently than you would your website.

Emails don’t require navigation. The entire purpose of navigation to help a visitor find their way around your website which contains multiple pages. An email is a single message.

Now that’s not to say they don’t perform…

In my experience email navigation bars do quite well. They are often the most clicked on area of an email if there isn’t a clear main call to action.

Email navigation bars attract so much attention that they can overshadow your primary goal and any content your team has worked hard to create for the email.

Many big box retailers have cut back on the number of navigational links they present in their email navigation bar. If you’ve done any amount of shopping recently you’ll know just how stressful and time consuming it can be. Choice paralysis (watch below) can prevent your potential customers from ignoring you altogether. Or really stress them out before making a decision.

Try cutting back on the navigational links you include in your emails. Consider changing them on a campaign basis depending on what your main message is. If you’re sending a clearance email include 3-4 links to popular clearance categories.

Another great reason to cut back on your navigation links is to make them easier to click on in a mobile context. You don’t want the first thing your reader sees is two rows of navigation instead of your more valuable content below it.

You’ll be doing your customers a big favor by simplifying your emails and giving them a break from having to make yet another decision.

Link Your Logo

I can’t tell you how often I receive emails from businesses who fail to link their logo to their website. I don’t think I need to go into much detail here. Make sure your logo is linked to your website to give your subscribers easy access to more information if they are looking to purchase or find an answer to a question.

One Main Focus

What is the primary reason you are sending your campaign? One of the biggest misstep I see retails make is trying to sell too many different things to too many different audiences all in one email.

Determine what your main theme or goal is for the campaign. If you have three different categories of products, pick one to focus on and give less real estate to the others (or leave them for a future campaign).

Better yet, spend time getting to know your subscribers and send them content that is relevant to them before you send.

Clear Call to Action

Once you’ve determined your main focus you’ll want to include a call to action. This might be a button, link, graphic or combination of these three.

The call to action should stand out from everything else in the email. You can make the call to action bright and bold using a different color from the rest of the elements in the email. Leaving ample whitespace around a call to action can also be effective in attracting attention to it.

Featuring Multiple Products

When showing individual products always make sure your customer can click on it and purchase it if they would like. Don’t show products that are unavailable unless you communicate it directly in the email. Including sold out products or those with limited inventory is a way to prove your products are desired by others. Social proof when used correctly can be a powerful tool to increase your sales. Here are 5 other types of social proof and why they work.

Provide Value

Every campaign you send should somehow benefit your subscriber. It should be relevant to their likes and dislikes and help them solve some sort of problem.

For retailers the challenge is trying to find ways to promote products without constantly discounting. For some of you it may be your entire strategy.

What value to your products provide your customers with? Will they help them look great for their job interview? Include the benefits of your products along with them whenever possible.

Every retailer under the sun can give a 20% off discount (or more). For many customers a big discount is enough to buy, even if they don’t need it. If you can focus on your customer’s needs and the problems your products might help them solve it will give you an edge on your competition.

Secondary Content

Less important content may include a link to customer support, social media, shipping promotions and anything else that may help drive your customer to purchase.

The key to knowing what to put second comes from understanding your customers questions and needs.

For example, if you’re sending out a campaign a few days before Thanksgiving or Christmas you may also want to include a reference to your expedited shipping options. If they have decided they would like to purchase from you but are still worried it won’t make it to them in time this will help ease their mind and make the sale.

Long-term Thinking

Every email campaign you send doesn’t need to focus on making an immediate sale. Some of the world’s most successful companies have made it big by playing the long game.

I use this analogy quite frequently, but business is a lot like dating.

You might tell a joke to make him laugh during your first date. If you’re lucky enough to get a second date you might ask her more personal questions to learn if you’ll be a good fit for each other. Chances are if you speed things up too quickly it won’t last.

If you have this same mindset when it comes to email marketing you’ll be able to develop a long-term relationship with your customers making it more likely for them to purchase from you multiple times and tell their friends about you.

Happy emailing!

Sarah Shuda
Sarah Shuda
Designer. Mom. Wife. Loves Gilmore Girls, healthy living, and long walks in the country.