While many modern retailers have become increasingly comfortable and confident utilizing Social Media, I’m still amazed at how many shy away from the use of email to communicate with customers. Some merchants are concerned that emails from their store will come across as ‘spammy’ and some are simply concerned that the process will be complicated and time-consuming. The truth is, the vast majority of customers are happy welcoming the brands they love into their inboxes and the process for making this happen is easier than you’d think.
The key to success, as with so much of what we do, is consistent quality execution. With that in mind, I’ve asked our in-house ShopKeep POS Email Guru, Richard Berger to bring you his 5 top tips for success.
1. Welcome Emails Rule!
You only get one first impression. E-commerce sites have long had the chance to follow up on a new customer’s first purchase with a personalized welcome email, thanking them for their business. Why do they do this? Because it is statistically proven to increase the likelihood that the customer will come back and shop again. If you collect customer emails at the point of sale or even using a clipboard and pen, you can take advantage of this strategy too. This is a fantastic new opportunity to introduce ourselves, our stores and our brands to our customers very early on.
Note: Make sure to send out a welcome email within 48hrs [ideally 24hrs] of the customers’ engagement with your store. You will be fresh in their minds and they’ll be more open to your message.
2. Make it Feel Personal and Exclusive
Small, independent retailers are in a unique position to make their emails ultra-personal and completely avoid any sense of ‘spamminess’. To make your emails as personal as possible, you should:
a) Directly address your customer by first name, i.e. ‘Dear John’, or whatever the first name is. Services like MailChimp make it possible to bulk upload emails with their associated names and deliver ‘personal’ emails en masse. Don’t worry if you don’t have names for all emails, you can easily set up a default if this is the case, i.e. Dear Valued Customer!
b) Write from you as an individual, not from the company. This is especially true for smaller, single location stores. Make the reply email something personal i.e. email@example.com. There is nothing less inviting to warm customer relations than an email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
c) Use a personal, friendly, non-corporate tone when writing and include images of your wares, your customers, and even yourself.
3. Be Action Oriented.
This is perhaps the most important thing to know about Email Marketing. Each and every email you write should seek to drive a customer action.
If you are sending a ‘brand-building’ email, provide a link to your Facebook page and try and encourage your customers to like you and/or comment/share on your profile.
If you are sending a sales email, make it clear and easy to download/print your coupon, or navigate directly to the purchasing location on your site.
Note: Each email should have multiple links/opportunities for the customer to carry out your desired action (known in the industry as Calls to Action). Also, it is notoriously difficult to encourage ‘offline’ behavior (i.e. a visit to your store) through online communication, so one way to combat this is to create a sense of urgency through time-sensitive offers.
4. Plan Ahead and Automate
One of the great things about cloud-based email platforms is that you can plan ahead. While you shouldn’t feel compelled to email your customers all the time, it is important that you keep a consistent and reliable stream of content so you are always fresh in the mind of your customers. In order to keep this process from becoming overwhelming you should set aside a chunk of time initially to set up your preferred email program, build a template, decide on a content schedule, and figure out to whom each email should be sent. For less time-sensitive communications, you can then schedule them to send in advance and simply follow the results. For breaking updates, you will still only need to fill in a template with new content and start sending.
5. MEASURE, MEASURE, MEASURE!
While this automation can free up a lot of time, it is absolutely vital that you make sure to track the results and adjust accordingly. Success should be defined according to how many of your customers carried out your desired action. Again, most email marketing services will allow you to quickly and easily see how each email performed. The metrics you should be looking at include: open rates, i.e. what percentage of your email list opened your email; click-through rates, i.e. how many took the action you desired; and unsubscribe rates, i.e. how many people decided they didn’t want to get emails from you anymore.
These metrics will give you a good idea of whether your email was a success or not. If you want to improve your rates you can play with adjusting things like the subject line, imagery, the length and tone of the copy, the layout and more. The process should be one of continuous innovation, trial and refinement, hopefully yielding better results over time.
Note: Don’t underestimate the importance of the subject line. People make very quick decisions about whether your email is worth opening, so your subject line must be appealing, interesting and, if possible, intriguing. Simple often works better than you think it will!