Using email to increase e-commerce sales

Letting consumers know about a sale is one of the most common uses for email marketing. Rushing in is simply not an option, though, as they’re also among the most risky.

Consumers are always keen on a bargain – a fact understood since the dawn of retail. Therefore, a sale is often a good way to encourage returns from long-lapsed customers, whilst also giving a gentle prod to those dithering on a potential purchase.

They are also among the most risky for businesses, where spam filters are concerned. Words or phrases such as ‘limited time only’, ‘discount’ and ‘quick’ are sure to set off some of the more over-zealous spam filters, meaning that the message doesn’t even end up getting through. This poses quite the conundrum, as brands want to establish at first glance that the overall message is that of a sale, but without using the spam-heavy words – like a digital, high-stakes version of Taboo.

For this, testing comes in to force with full effect; allowing marketers to trial a number of different approaches on a small-scale test group, before rolling out the most successful option to the wider community.

Reactionary emails Using email to increase e-commerce sales

Approaching the more professional side of email marketing is the reactionary email, which is triggered once a person completes (or, conversely, doesn’t complete) a certain action. These can be especially useful for closing deals that may otherwise have gone forever.

For example, a customer has gone through the entire purchasing process but ends up abandoning the sale at the last minute. Scheduling an email for 24 hours later may then encourage them to return and make the purchase, which may not have been achieved without the small reminder.

Likewise, if the first email doesn’t prompt the sale, their browsing history can be kept on record, then another sent in the future, or if the item in question ends up coming down in price.

Whilst these emails will not be sent to the same volume of people as some others, their more tailored approach could give them a higher success rate.

Repeat after me

In a similar vein to that of the reactionary emails, messages can be sent that encourage people to make another purchase immediately after making their first.

Today’s online checkout process is rarely – if ever – undertaken without collecting an email address. This not only allows for messages to be sent regarding the initial order, but then signs customers up for future marketing messages.

Striking while the iron’s hot… not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today… hasting not wasting… making hay while the sun shines… call it what you will – the fact remains that getting in quickly can have incredibly lucrative results. Businesses can monopolise on new customers as they have already shown themselves to be happy enough to make one purchase, to encouraging a second shouldn’t be too difficult.

This can be achieved in a number of different ways. Firstly, businesses could showcase items that other customers who made similar purchases also bought, such as a bag to match the jacket or some additional speakers for a home entertainment system.

Another option is to offer a one-off discount as ‘thanks’ for becoming a new customer. Others may wish to sign customers up to a VIP-style scheme where discounts are taken off the list price for members who log in before they start browsing. Alternatively, a faster delivery service or suchlike can be added free of charge for the first month after signing up to entice a potentially one-off customer to become a regular one.

To really ensure the message gets across, it can be included in emails that are sent to confirm an order. These messages are the ones most often opened, as users want to ensure the payment details and address have been taken accurately. Therefore, with such a high open-rate, brands can insert this promotional content in order to ensure it has the biggest audience they can muster.

Signalling to mobiles

The content of your message is, of course, what is driving its success, so think carefully about what you are including and how this contributes to your goals. Some companies try to include too much in a message and end up with several weak calls-to-action – you want to provide the reader with relevant and engaging content (text, pictures, etc.) with a clear ‘next step’.

Make sure you look at all of the different facets of your email, not just the body text and subject line (although these are admittedly major points). For example, have you thought about playing with the from field? You could have the message coming from an individual within your firm, rather than just the brand name, or perhaps it is more effective to have just the brand name? Keep testing to find out.

A key part of producing the right content is relevance and a prerequisite for relevance is actually understanding your target customer base. Who they are, what motivates them and how they react to certain issues – these can all help you to meet or even surpass their expectations.


The mobile audience is large and growing. Smartphones and tablets are being snapped up at breath-taking pace, meaning that certain retailers are now handling as many sales through mobile devices as they are via desktops.

This trend can, of course, prove to be beneficial for marketers who are paying attention when these trends emerge. Knowing that people are turning to mobile devices in their droves, marketers can use this to their advantage and win over this market.

Sending out mobile-friendly emails gives businesses a competitive advantage over those who haven’t done so, meaning that just a small touch could drastically impact bottom-line figures.

Then, links contained within the email can head to a mobile-optimised site that can handle tablet or smartphone users quickly and with relative ease, regardless of their connection strength.

These four examples are just some of the ways online retailers can use emails to increase sales and impact the bottom line. Thankfully, email is seen as one of – if not the – most cost effective methods of online promotion, meaning even the smallest of brands can try out one or more such techniques in the hope of seeing orders skyrocket.