Email marketing is social media’s more reliable, easier-to-deal-with cousin.
Instagram shows up at the family reunion an hour and a half late, wearing fresh-off-the-runway trends, and babbles on about how much they’ve “grown” since you last saw them. They’re an exciting person to be around, but not someone you’d rely on.
Email marketing, meanwhile, shows up on time, wearing the same classic style they’ve been wearing for a decade (think: a modernized Princess Diana look). They’re not as glamorous as Instagram, but they are someone you can count on.
For new and growing shop owners who don’t have a lot of time or a huge budget, the safe bet is to invest in the channel that’s stable and proven: Email marketing.
For consistent traffic and high-spending returning customers, email marketing is the shop owner’s most powerful tool. Let’s dig into why.
You have full control over your email list
Are you a digital sharecropper? Digital sharecropping is when you lean 100% on a third-party platform over which you have no control.
The most common example of digital sharecropping is funneling your whole content strategy through Instagram. In the e-commerce world, another common example is selling solely through Etsy or Amazon without your own, independent store.
As Copyblogger points out, digital sharecropping is the cyber world equivalent of leasing a retail space from a landlord. If the landlord decides to triple the rent, you’re, frankly, sh*t out of luck.
Unless you own your space—online or brick-and-mortar—you’ll forever be vulnerable to the whims of the powers that be.
That’s why email marketing is so valuable for small business owners. You outright own your list from the very beginning.
No one can demote your content in your readers’ inboxes because you weren’t sending emails frequently enough. No one can suddenly decide to blacklist your emails to all your readers. There’s no algorithm at all.
And when you’re spending zero time trying to please the algorithm gods, you can spend more time creating great content that drives sales.
You can target specific types of shoppers for higher conversions
With most marketing channels, you have one message that you send out to, well, everybody. And you just hope that the right people see it.
With email, you can segment your email list based on the characteristics or past behaviors of each subscriber. Then, you can craft different messages for each of them. And targeted messages are more likely to resonate.
For example, you could segment your audience based on whether they’ve purchased from your store yet or not. For those that haven’t, you could offer an incentive to finally make a purchase.
You can set it and forget it
Most email marketing software includes a built-in automation feature. This means you can create sequences to send on certain “triggers”—or, behaviors of your customers and readers.
For instance, you can have a welcome sequence triggered to send every time a new subscriber signs up for your list. Or, you can set up an abandoned cart sequence to send to someone if they exit your store with things still in their cart, prompting them to come back and follow-through on that purchase.
Not only does automation make it easier for you—you don’t have to constantly create new content—but it is also more effective for driving sales.
Automating your emails set on triggers is like having a sales associate in your store, gently pushing each customer toward a purchase, with a personalized touch.
You can edit your emails to perfection thanks to detailed analytics
The analytics included in most email marketing software is surprisingly detailed. You can see how many people opened your emails, how many clicked on a link in your email, and how many followed through with a purchase. And you can see which subscribers did what.
This means you can tell exactly what part of your email failed—the subject line, the body copy, or the call to action.
…So you can use your analytics to tweak your emails like a skilled surgeon, delicately and specifically until you’re getting consistently good results.
Other forms of marketing, like social media or blogging, only reveal the broad strokes of what’s working.
For instance, while you may be able to see that one Instagram post didn’t get much engagement compared to the others, you don’t know why. Was it your caption? Your image? The time you posted? You’ll never get a clear answer.
You can A/B test your emails to learn what works
To make optimizing your emails for conversions even easier, most email marketing software includes an A/B test feature.
To illustrate how this works, let’s look at an example.
Imagine you want to drive traffic to your jewelry store for your special Valentine’s Day collection. And you need this to really work.
So, you write an email and craft two different subject lines. Some subscribers get sent the first subject line and others the second. Your software determines which subject line got the most opens and then sends any remaining subscribers the winning subject line to optimize for high open rates.
In addition, for future emails you send, you now have a clear idea as to which types of subject lines work best for your audience.
A/B testing can also be done on preview text, body copy, images, and call to actions.
You can personalize your emails for higher open rates
Have you ever received an email from a brand with your name in it? Maybe it made you feel good; maybe it made you feel a little, uh, weird. But regardless, it made you pay attention.
That’s the power of personalization in emails: It buys an extra second of attention. And that extra second may be all you need to entice someone with the actual content of your email.
The data says this works, really well. According to Campaign Monitor, emails with personalized subject lines get 26% more opens.
You can build stronger relationships with your customers
Email feels intimate. You’re sending a message directly into someone’s inbox, right next to a message from a coworker or a friend. And when readers open your email, it’s just them and your message—there’s no scrolling away.
This intimacy helps build stronger relationships with your customers. Which ultimately vastly improves your bottom line.
You’ve probably heard the old adage that it costs five times more to attract a new customer than to sell to an existing customer. And it’s been said that repeat customers actually spend 33% more than new customers. Ca-ching.
You can start email marketing with a low up-front investment
To start email marketing, you pretty much just need to sign up for email marketing software.
Most email marketing software is affordable for small businesses. Mailchimp is free for up to 2000 subscribers. And e-commerce favorite Klaviyo (*This is an affiliate link. Thank you for using our links, and supporting ADC.) includes more features and is still only $60/month for about 2500 subscribers.
In addition, most email marketing software comes with drag-and-drop template options, so you can build beautiful emails without graphic design experience.
Wrap-up: Make the most of email marketing
Even though it’s one of the best tools for driving traffic and increasing sales for online stores, email marketing does require time and know-how to get it right.
It’s possible to send emails every month and see little ROI—if you haven’t written them in a way that inspires action. (Open. Read. Click. Purchase.)
All that writing for lackluster results? That’s a lot of wasted time that the head of a business can’t afford to lose.
If you’re thinking about jumping into email marketing for your online shop but don’t want to go it alone, work with a copywriter to help you get it right from the beginning.
Krista Walsh is a copywriter for shop owners who want to grow their business but are struggling to increase sales and drive traffic to their independent online store. She helps her clients develop a memorable, true-to-them brand voice for their website and content + use email marketing to build lasting relationships with new and existing customers–for repeat sales. Connect with her here.