How to Write Great Emails for Ecommerce

Regardless of what you sell, one of the best tools every ecommerce business has to gain customers and make more sales is email marketing. While both building an email list and consistently providing value in your emails requires time and work, the research shows that it’s one of the most effective marketing tactics out there.  

Email marketing is far ahead of most other marketing tactics in terms of profitability.

In fact, one study found that email marketing brought an average ROI of $38 for every $1 spent — putting it far ahead of most other marketing tactics in terms of profitability. For your ecommerce business to start making more money, you should prioritize building your list and writing top-notch emails to your subscribers on a consistent basis.

But that last part can be hard to do well. What can you say to your subscribers on a regular basis to keep them interested in your brand and clicking to learn more? While there’s not one right answer, there are a number of tips you can follow to help you get it right.

Know Your Audience

This is the main reason there’s not one right answer: your audience is unique. An email that does well with 19-year old fans of skateboarding wouldn’t get you very far with most 40-year old professionals. Before you start writing emails, you need to figure out who you’re writing to.

If you haven’t yet, spend some time doing audience research in order to create accurate personas for your ecommerce business. When you can picture the person you’re writing to, you can craft a voice that will appeal to them and make sure your emails provide information that they care about.

Personalize Your Emails

Once someone signs up for your list, you want to keep them around. And the quickest way to lose a subscriber is to send them emails they don’t care about. 53% of consumers complain about getting too many irrelevant emails.

But if you have a lot of different subscribers, that creates a problem: how can you write emails that each of your different subscribers will like if some of them have different interests and priorities?

How can you write emails that each of your different subscribers will like if some of them have different interests and priorities?

Any good email marketing software provides you the option of creating multiple email lists you can use to segment your emails. You can either ask your subscribers directly what they’re interested in so you know the exact lists to put them on, or you can base it on how they signed up. For a beauty ecommerce business, someone who downloads an ebook about makeup tips can go on your makeup list, and someone who signs up when viewing a blog about skincare goes on that list.

You can also personalize further by sending emails that specifically address past purchases, ratings, or pages a customer has viewed. If done well, this kind of personalization ensures extreme relevance for the emails you send and can convince a customer to make a purchase they were already considering.

Have a Clear Goal for Each Email

Every email you send should have a clear purpose. Ask yourself: what am I trying to accomplish with this email? A good email marketing strategy will include emails with a number of distinct goals.

This can include:

  • Welcome emails
  • Educational emails
  • Sales emails
  • Newsletters
  • Cart abandonment emails
  • Training emails
  • Thank you emails
  • Survey emails

The goal of a sales email is obvious: to get someone to make a purchase, whether through touting a new product or offering a tantalizing discount. But the purpose of some of the other email types can be more subtle. Educational emails help you nurture your relationship with your subscribers and build trust — the main action you want them to take could be as simple as an open or a click.

Make sure when you’re crafting each email that you have a clear idea of what you want it to accomplish. And don’t muddy your focus by trying to do too many things in one email. Pick one main goal to aim for in each email you send.

Spend time on your subject lines.

You could write the best email of your entire ecommerce career and accomplish nothing if your subscribers don’t bother to open it. The most important piece of every marketing email is therefore your subject line. And getting it right is hard.

There are a number of psychological tips you can employ your in your subject lines to increase open rates, such as:

  • Creating a sense of urgency (10% Off Until Midnight)
  • Using numbers (8 Great Gifts for Mom This Holiday Season)
  • Asking a question your audience cares about (Are You Sure Your Yard is Safe for You Pets?)
  • Using emojis to draw attention (Don’t Miss Our Fall Deals🍁🍂)

Be sure to avoid words commonly associated with spam, like “free” and “cash” so your email doesn’t get caught up in spam filters. And always use a subject line that matches the content of your email. Trying to be clever with your subject to get opens will backfire if you don’t follow through on your promise in the email itself.

And for all the general advice you can find out there on the kind of subject lines that work, always consider your own audience first. Pay attention to what works for them specifically and do more of that.

Customize the preview text.

The subject line is the main thing people see before clicking to open your email, but it’s not the only thing. With the space left after your subject line, people see some additional text in their inbox.

You can customize the preview text that shows up here to further make the case to your subscribers to open the email. Use this space to provide a little extra information to help persuade people that your full email is worth seeing.

Let your personality show.

Reading an email from your company shouldn’t be like reading a dry academic text. Your emails are a chance to connect with your audience—human to human.

So let your personality in. Speak in a conversational tone. Be willing to drop pop culture references or find excuses to include cute pictures of puppies in your email (we all love them, no reason to deny ourselves).

Being professional doesn’t mean being dry and distant in your communication with customers.

Being professional doesn’t mean being dry and distant in your communication with customers. Don’t curse up a storm (unless you know your audience digs that kind of thing) or make crude jokes, but do be willing to talk like a person in your emails.

Use intuitive formatting.

The formatting in your emails should be similar to what you use on your web pages and blog posts. Include plenty of white space and short paragraphs. For emails that include multiple topics or a lot of text, organize the information with intuitive headings that make the email easy to skim.

If you drop a big wall of text into your subscribers’ inboxes, no one’s going to read it, and some will click that unsubscribe button. Make sure your emails are formatted and organized for readability.

Keep it short.

People aren’t expecting to sit down to some serious reading when they pull up their email inbox, usually it’s something you do quickly in between working on other things. That context matters. If you send a long email that takes more than a couple of minutes to read, your subscribers aren’t likely to take the time to get to the end.

Keep the information you include in the email itself brief.

So keep the information you include in the email itself brief. If you’re promoting something that requires more explanation, use the email to provide a teaser and a link back to your website where they can learn more.

The main goal of many marketing emails will be to drive people back to your website anyways, so don’t try to do too much in the email itself.

Give your subscribers something unique.

Your email subscribers are valuable to you, so look for ways to show them that by providing unique value to them. That could mean exclusive deals that are only available to your email list. Content that only they can see. Or early access to products that haven’t been released to everyone else yet.

Giving your subscribers a feeling of exclusivity gives them a good reason to stick around and engage with your emails.

Use A/B testing.

No business really knows what will work for your audience until you start testing. To gain more data on what subject lines, email styles, images, and CTAs (calls to action) work best for your particular subscribers, start using A/B testing.

Most email marketing products provide A/B testing options as a feature. You can write two headlines for the same email, send each one to half of your list, and quickly see which one successfully got more subscribers to click. You can do the same with testing out different parts of your emails: the visual layout, the headings you use, the text you include for links back to your site, etc.

An important tip for A/B testing is to make sure you only test out one thing at a time.

An important tip for A/B testing is to make sure you only test out one thing at a time. If you test out different headlines, preview text, and layouts all in the same email—you won’t know which element is responsible for the results you get.

Over time, A/B testing can help you gain a lot of knowledge about what your audience responds to that you can put to use to write better emails.

Use CTAs

We already established that every email should have a goal. Every time that goal requires your subscribers to take an action—clicking on a link, making a purchase, providing feedback, etc—make it clear to them what you want them to do.

Sometimes your CTA will be part of the main text of the email, sometimes you’ll want to visually set it apart by making it a different color or putting it inside a button. Figuring out the best language to use for your CTAs and the best way to include them in the different types of emails you send will be a matter for testing, but always make sure you include a CTA that clearly communicates to your subscribers the action you want them to take next.

Always Proofread

If you don’t proofread, mistakes will slip through. Typos and misspellings make you look unprofessional. And if you’re not careful, you could end up promising your recipients something different than you meant to. A 5% discount can quickly become a 50% one if you don’t catch the error before you hit send.

Take a few minutes before each email you send to read it back over. Check all the links. And then go over it one more time just to be safe.

Pay Attention to What Works

Email marketing software provides analytics that help you analyze how each of your emails performs. Judge each email based on its particular goal and look for trends in the analytics over time that tell you what types of emails your subscribers most appreciate and respond to.

Judge each email based on its particular goal and look for trends in the analytics over time that tell you what types of emails your subscribers most appreciate and respond to.

A successful ecommerce email marketing strategy requires allowing some flexibility as you go to improve your approach based on what works.

Every email you send is an opportunity to improve your relationship with your subscribers and prove your value to them. Don’t underestimate how important that is. Work to write emails that your audience will benefit from and that will help you achieve your goals.

Have any questions about writing emails for ecommerce? Let us know in the comments!