3 Trends in Retail Email Marketing to Watch in 2016

Jan 13, 2016 2:34 PM  By

For retail brands, digital marketing in general is an important part of driving engagement and sales both online and in-store. Today, retailers are scrambling to keep up with the shifting buying behavior of customers who now expect personalized, relevant messages at every touchpoint.

As new channels and devices continue to pop up, email continues to stand firm as a central hub for contextual marketing and remains the gold standard for ROI, generating $44.25 for every $1 spent. And, companies using email to nurture leads generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost according to Hubspot.

When it comes to email opens and actual conversions/sales, it’s no surprise that mobile leads the way for the retail audience. Our most recent data shows that most retail consumers open email on a mobile device, with an even higher preference among apparel customers. Customers buying apparel products also have the highest level of comfort with mobile conversions.

While 49% of non-apparel retail customers convert on mobile devices – a higher percentage than most industries – retail apparel shoppers show a significantly higher number of mobile conversions. With 67% of conversions happening on mobile devices in Q3 of 2015, it’s the only consumer group that prefers spending money on mobile over desktop.

The evidence is clear: email marketing drives retail sales. But how do you optimize emails to stand out in your customer’s increasingly crowded inbox? Here are some recommendations based on trends that will pick up steam this year.

Contextualize and Personalize

Consumers increasingly want contextually relevant, personalized messaging – and the data proves it. 80% of consumers find product recommendations based on previous purchases useful according to eMarketer, and 78% of retail consumers are more likely to become a repeat customer if sent targeted personal offers according to Infosys. Emails that employ personalization get 29% higher open rates and 41% higher unique click rates than non-personalized emails according to Experian. For best results, marketers need to go beyond the customer’s name. Here are some ideas:

  • Use live polling to tailor highly personalized offers. For example, feature several handbags and ask customers to vote on which style they’re craving this season. You can then use that data to create personalized offers based on preference.
  • Target by weather to deliver the right offers to the right customers. For example, depending if the temperature is above or below a certain point when a customer opens your email, it could feature weather-appropriate merchandise.
  • Build excitement and a sense of urgency. For example, use a live countdown clock that shows how much time remains for a certain offer or sale and also provide key “shop by” dates to ensure items will arrive on time for holidays and special events.

Create and Cultivate a Social Community

Marketers are increasingly turning to social media to reach consumers with relevant content. Our research found that nearly one third of marketers are integrating email and social media…but the majority of these integrations are very basic (e.g. social sharing buttons). Image-based social networks like Instagram have taken off and when used with email are shown to increase engagement. In fact, 62% of marketers said that social media interactions lead consumers to buy more in “most or some cases” according to PwC’s Annual Global Total Retail Customer Survey. Here are two things to focus on:

  • Create a social community provides consumers an opportunity to come together and experience your brand in their inbox. For example, pull live-social feeds directly into your emails from social platforms like Instagram to increase engagement. Social images (especially user generated content) are authentic and seasonally relevant.
  • Once you’ve created a social community, then focus on building social advocates. Sharing social content in email is one thing, but mobilizing consumers as word-of-mouth advocates can supercharge and amplify your brand message. For example, run a gift card contest that asks customers to upload a picture and use a certain hashtag showing how they’re wearing a particular item for the season.

Eliminate Conversion Obstacles

Consumers today have no patience for lengthy checkout processes. Any conversion obstacle increases the chance a customer will bounce from your email or abandon their cart later on. 83% of consumers say a seamless experience across all devices is “somewhat or very important” according to Salesforce. Just like on your website, you need to reduce the time and effort along the path to purchase through a streamlined email experience. This includes clear, one-click calls to action and providing real-time information. For example:

  • Offer your nearest location. Using geo-location and live maps, show customers the nearest retail location based on when and where they open the email. This could be used when promoting new products or updating customers on their rewards points (and the closest place to redeem).
  • We already know the combined power of social and email. Make social sharing easy by providing deep links to social apps or pre-populated tweets. Whether the incentive to share is a game or contest embedded in your email, use one-click sharing right from the email to maximize participation.
  • Nothing’s worse than opening an email that features sold-out products. Provide customers with your most up-to-date inventory by pulling information directly from your website into your email. Web cropping not only keeps customers happy with relevant, available offers, it also cuts down on the email marketing process.

There’s no doubt that email will continue to be an effective way for retail brands to engage with consumers and drive sales. By providing contextual and personalized messages, creating and mobilizing, and eliminating conversion obstacles, you can provide the best customer experience and accelerate your email success for the rest of the year and beyond.

Garin Hobbs, CX Director, Movable Ink

  • http://datafying.com.au/ DATAFYiNG DiGiTAL

    Great post with some really good ideas for personalisation. Here is another one.
    For apparel retailers, target by body-size to deliver the right styles to the right customers. For example, customers in size S and size L are different. Certain products only fit one group not another.

  • Theo

    Great post! I especially like the tip about targeting according to the weather conditions. It’ll be a long while before email becomes irrelevant. It’s important to stay up to date with trends and analyse what works for certain group of customers. Also software such as GetResponse help out in segmentation, A/B tests and creating landing pages for the email campaigns. Mobile optimization is a must-have for email marketing.