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4 ways to use emails in eCommerce

Emails aren’t a new thing, they have been around for a long time and new uses for Emails are being found all the time. Some uses are simply an electronic version of what paper mail can do; others add hyperlinks and other interactive elements to the mix, whilst some uses would not be at all possible for paper mail.

To get us psyched up and introduced to the importance of emails here is a section of an infographic from Adobe.

Well I don’t know about you but I am impressed by the power of emails when influencing purchasing decisions. Now all we need to know is what the kind of emails we need to prepare.

Oh? Offers and newsletters you say? Add cart abandonment and customer service to those and we have a deal. Okay? Let’s get started…

1. Offers

Pretty self-explanatory but just in case, email offers are a collection of your latest and greatest offers available to the customer you are targeting with the email. These are usually discounted prices which are visible on the website, available for all and don’t require a special code. Limited offers can be sent to specific customers but it is best to save these for situations where customers are teetering on the edge of a decision to buy.

Emails containing offers can be sent to any potential customer, but not every offer sent will entice all customers enough for them to make a purchase. To increase your chances of choosing the most appealing offer for your customers you can use survey results such as the ones below from Bluehornet, but these are usually not specific to your industry and more importantly the demographic of people you target, who might have different preferences.

According to this survey customers prefer money off the price over any other type of offer included in the options. For your business this might be very different, but that is something you will have to decide for yourself.

2. Cart abandonment emails

These are referred to as reaction Emails, in this case when a customer adds a product(s) to their shopping basket but doesn’t complete the checkout process for a variety of reasons (busy people are busy, lazy people are lazy etc.) an email is sent to help them back to the checkout, just imagine this scenario:

You are relaxing on the sofa, browsing a shopping website, and after finding all your desired products you head for the checkout, but… oh no! It’s asking for card details and you know where that is… all the way across the house!! Deciding it is just too far to go right now you put your device down and resume the hefty task of relaxing, with the memory of your once desired products drifting out of your mind. BUT THEN! The next day as you sit down for your lunch you sift through your emails to find a friendly, attractive email from the site you visited last night. One click and you are back to your checkout with the same items in your cart, but you are ready this time… your card is in arms reach. You live happily ever after with the products you desire arriving with next day delivery guaranteed*.

*For purchases made before 1pm and in reality.

A customer adding a product to the cart shows intent to actually buy it, there might have been some barrier at the time, so some clever people somewhere came up with cart abandonment emails.

(Posh English accent)

Clever Chap – “Oh blast! Just look at how many people are visiting our electronic shop but not choosing to buy anything… some even have the nerve to add items to their electronic shopping basket and still aren’t paying for the blooming things.”

Clever Lass – “Hmm well I wonder if they had to dash out at the last minute?”

Clever Chap – “It is a possibility I must admit”

Clever Lass – “If we could somehow remember what this customer wanted to buy and remind them later on in the day…”

Clever Chap – “Oh but we can, through electronic mail of course”

Clever Lass – “Ah so we devise an automated system to remind our shoppers of what they had in their baskets and make it easy for them to proceed to our electronic checkout”

Clever Chap – “And we will call it the electronic shopping basket abandonment reminder via electronic mail system”

Clever Lass – “How about Cart Abandonment Emails”

Clever Chap – “E?…mails…so much time will be saved

That might not have been exactly how it happened but I’m going to say its close enough.

But I want to stress that cart abandonment emails are very valuable and important, this edited (to be smaller) version of an infographic from SaleCycle helps me out.

75% of all shopping carts are abandoned? That’s a big opportunity.

How many people abandon me?

If you haven’t already, we suggest you use Google Analytics funnel to track how many cart abandonments your website incurs. This number can be used with your average order value to calculate potential revenue lost from cart abandonments. But this amount isn’t definitely lost; with the use of cart abandonment emails you can recover some of these potential customers by giving them a convenient way to resume their purchase.

Cart abandoners have spent time on your website and put the effort in to place items in the cart (They’ve shown you what these are), this information makes them more valuable than the average visitor.

So how should you approach your cart abandoner?

Whichever method you choose, you should consider how many emails you plan to send, you’ll want to try to avoid nagging the customer and doing more damage.

The simplest way to approach a cart abandoner is to send a single email inviting them back to view their cart after leaving. Make sure this email has your contact number visible, and state that they can call for help with the check out if they need.

To add more incentive, additional emails should include offers, such as:

- Current offers you have available to all

- A new offer just for cart abandoners which is limited to 1 offer per timescale

- Offering free or reduced postage can work very well in bringing customers back to complete their orders.

Funny is good

Including humour in these emails can make it feel less like a robot is churning out thousands of impersonal messages, making the email more engaging and friendly.

You can relate the humour to your brand, expanding the customer’s image of your business and making your brand more memorable.

Check out this visual guide to creating a cart abandonment email by OMETRIA

1) Timing is essential

2) Get your subject line right

3) Incorporate your regular website navigation

4) Remind them of what they’ve left behind

5) Get your copy spot on (copy means text)

6) Call to action

7) Tempt them back with related items

8) Include customer reviews

More details on each step are available at OMETRIA

3. Customer service

Something you might have heard of, using emails for customer service. I’d guess that most ecommerce shops advertise their email address in multiple places to encourage customers to reach out if they have any problems. If you do not, then this is where you should start.

If you advertise customer service but the reality it’s more like this…

…It will backfire worse than any gun you might find in this rusted old town.

Parature have gathered some interesting customer service facts, I found numbers 3 to 6 a bit more relevant to email customer service than the rest but feel free to zap over and look at the others.

Some of those statistics are pretty scary, but luckily providing a basic level of customer experience is all you need to avoid most of the tremors caused by upset customers.

Now a little snippet of an infographic from Provide Support shows that email is the 2nd most preferred channel for assistance, just behind phone by 1%.

If your customer service is a bit more reminiscent of a ghost town then you have to ask yourself what that is costing you in customer loyalty and therefore sales. Another Snippet from Provide Support just shows this, so keeping customers happy is actually cheaper than a ghost town.

Some companies take the whole customer service a bit further, check out some of the stories helpscout has gathered about amazing customer service experiences. I have borrowed one story for a preview, if you want to read more stories head over to helpscout

Investing in customer service can lead to amazing viral stories like these, which will generate a lot of good press and obviously loyal customers.

Some important things to keep in mind when deciding how much time and resources you put into your customer service are:

- It takes far less time and resources to keep existing customers loyal than to draw new customers in.

- Customers will be more satisfied with their customer service experience if you make them feel like they matter.

- Going the extra mile usually makes the customer share their experience.

- Taking too long to reply or not replying at all is going to upset the customer enough to share their bad experience.

4. Newsletter

Email newsletters are something you should ask your customer to sign up for, rather than forcing it upon them. If they have opted into receiving a newsletter from you via email then they will not have any reason to mark it as spam, which could affect the visibility of the email in the future. More on spam and how to avoid it later on.

Newsletters may seem like a lot of effort but again that effort will translate into a range of benefits for your company.

If you need ideas for a newsletter you could start by choosing from one of these categories and then apply it to your business:

- Regular newsletter – weekly, monthly, yearly, the frequency can vary but these usually summarise what has happened since the last newsletter.

- Stories – the journey a product takes from raw materials all the way to delivery or a story about a customer using the product.

- News about – the company changing or growing, existing products, events, new products and upcoming products.

Your email newsletters will have more success if you optimise them for the four buying modalities I have mentioned in a previous blog post found here.

Humanistic – Slow and Emotional

Stories about customers appeal to the humanistic modality of readers; this is because they want to hear how your products have helped other people so they can relate to their experiences. So grab any testimonials you can from the most respectable people you can and share them on your newsletters.

Methodical – Slow and Logical

Stories about the product journey can appeal to those who are in the methodical modality; methodicals want to know all the details and they will know if you have any false claims.

Product guides can also satisfy the methodical modality by providing a complete breakdown of specifications and features.

Spontaneous – Fast and Emotional

As the spontaneous modality buyers often buy things… spontaneously, they seek reassurance that their purchase has guarantees and warrantees etc. Small sections of a regular newsletter could show a quick and easy 3 step returns procedure or similar to continually reassure spontaneous buyers that should they change their mind they aren’t trapped with their purchase, and it should put them at ease; if they do decide to return their purchase, it is better to have a satisfied customer and to lose one sale than to have the sale but then potentially lose more through word of mouth.

Competitive – Fast and Logical

Competitives are competitive obviously, and their high standards also apply to the products they buy and companies they buy from. So to appeal to them you need to show how your product is the best and how your company beats the competition.

Any stories about how your company or product has won an award or achievements such as a high percentage of customer satisfaction will appeal to the competitive modality. Asking questions with big answers can appeal to competitives too, as they seek answers and will most likely read on to find out “how to use your product 200% better than you ever thought you could” sorry about the generic example.

Regular newsletters can help keep customers engaged and invested in the company over an extended period, which could mean that they buy from you again.

Things to remember

Format for mobile

Emails are read more and more on mobile devices, so why let them have a worse experience reading them than desktop users… This graph from litmus shows the increase in use of mobile to view emails.

So 48% of opens are on mobile and some of the 30% of opens on webmail could have been from a mobile browser, meaning the majority of emails should be optimised for mobile as well as desktop. But…

An infographic by exacttarget shared some useful insights on mobile friendly emails, I have taken a snippet shown above which stresses the point I just made. With so many emails being opened on mobile devices why are so little optimised for mobile? Especially since over 70% of people opening an email that is not mobile friendly will delete it.

For the greatest results with your email marketing campaigns you should definitely optimise your emails for mobile devices. There are two methods to go about this, much like optimising your website for mobile viewing, responsive design is one option and mobile-aware is the other.

Responsive design will change the layout and sizes and even the content of the email based on the screen size detected, meaning it will be comfortably viewable and clickable from almost any screen size.

The mobile-aware approach will similarly detect what type of device it is being opened on and display content best suited for that device, usually via scaling based on number of pixels or percentages in better designs.

Avoid the spam folders

Wait… aren’t spam folders for fake companies trying to scam money from people? Well yes, but your emails aren’t completely safe from the spam folder. This is because of spam filters use certain “tells” to gauge what is spam and what isn’t, and if your emails show signs of spam they get thrown in the spam folder with no hesitation.

A report from ReturnPath showed that “11% of all email messages went missing and another 6% were delivered to subscribers’ spam or junk folders.” So you should consider it possible that your messages could end up as part of this percentage. (none of these were actually spam)

Though there might be many technical reasons for your emails being marked as spam, it is best to leave the resolution of those problems to technology specialists. What you can help with is ensuring the content in the emails doesn’t look like spam.

This infographic by litmus is a great guide for creating subject lines for your emails, which tend to be what triggers the spam filter alarm most in terms of content.

The main body of content is also something you should take care with in a similar way to the subject line. They both have to match for a start, what the subject line tells you is in the email should probably be in the email.

Unless you are doing something like £$€¥₩฿лв¢₱ ﷼  or !!!! or ALLCAPS or free buy now; you should not be triggering a spam filter. Be truthful in your emails and don’t cover your email in sales words and you can relax.

If you need any help with using email in eCommerce feel free to contact us at iD30.

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