How retail should use email marketing

Email marketing can be the most effective sales support for retail companies. It is undisputed that it is by far the best value for money form of advertising. For every £1 spent, email marketing generates a £38 ROI. Email has been claimed to be more than 40 times more effective than Facebook or Twitter. This is easy to imagine as people have absolute control over their inbox in choosing to receive emails from their favourite brand it is reasonable to assume a retailer will be sending emails to people who want their emails. People have very little control over the type of content they receive via social media and most retailer brand messaging gets lost, not least because people don’t use social media to view adverting. A retailer’s email is also a much better environment to advertise. When someone is viewing an email they aren’t distracted by sidebars, new messages, and all the cruft that is inbuilt in social media. In other words you have the reader’s undivided attention.


I would argue that this spotlight or uninterrupted space not only deserves but demands emails that not only work well across all devices but most importantly look fantastic. Design or more specifically email design is paramount to retail success. Focusing on the products available without any interruption offers a much needed ‘quieter’ shopping experience. Allowing the products to shine within emails is one of the best things retailers can do in their email designs.

Social media is limited

Facebook is a very crowded space, it boasts two sidebars, a chat window, the whole newsfeed. All in all a very crowded space. Even brands that market successfully on Facebook have to do it within the confines of Facebook. Web traffic that could be hitting their online stores is constantly stolen by the myriad of options on Facebook. Instagram doesn’t allow for links in images and the message length is very short. Twitter advertising requires a very large amount of input into time as brands need to have a constant stream of daily content to be noticed. Snapchat can be prohibitively expensive to pay for custom filters. If you were to group all the problems with social media advertising into one thing, the main issue would be control over the channel. Retailers do not and can not control the rules in which they market their products on social media but they have no such constraints with email.

Powerful email tools

Email marketing is an essential tool in any retailers set of marketing options. Increasingly though, people’s inboxes have become a crowded space and even the smallest mistake or missed opportunity can cost a business dearly. Retailers need to ensure they are making full use of automation and personalising content to all their subscribers in addition to their regular marketing activities. Automated emails can create a powerful connection with people and allows for excellent communication between customers and businesses. Great care and attention needs to be taken when setting up these automated systems, for example using noreply@… email addresses is widely considered very bad practice. Personalisation can also go badly wrong if strict data hygiene and maintenance is not practised.

Offering retail support with email

Email offers a very effective support for retail businesses. It can be used to alert customers about in-store events, store openings and – most importantly – new stock items or sales. Email can also be a fantastic tool for getting customers into stores, by creating voucher programmes or emailing people in-store discounts.

Automated perfection

Retailers can not only benefit from increased sales by introducing a well structured email automation programme but also reach new customers and take care of day-to-day sales administration. There is a wide variety of emails retailers can be use in their automated email programs.

  • Sign up confirmation
  • Nursery / Welcome
  • Account creation
  • Account update
  • Password reset
  • Similar product (browse history)
  • Product review request
  • Basket Abandonment
  • Customer support notice
  • Free voucher
  • Thank you notice
  • Purchase confirmation
  • Delivery notice
  • Order tracking
  • Delivery receipt

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Retail businesses would be wise to implement all of these email types while ensuring all replies and communications are directed to an active customer support team which is capable of handling email support queries. The biggest benefit to a retail business in implementing these automated emails is almost passive levels of income for the business. Once the email systems have been set up very little maintainance is needed.

Designing beautiful retail emails

Retail emails should really take advantage of all the modern html format and devices can offer, optimising use of  images, colours, photography and fonts. As emails are viewed on many devices from desktop to mobile, designs should be clean and fairly simple in layout. Using this apporach it is easy to see how some brands really have embraced the medium of email.

Good email designs tend to be just that, good emails rather than diminutive versions of the website. Good retail emails let the products shine and reinforce the company’s branding from email, to web to store.

Careful attention is paid to typography and making emails not only easy to read but also taking into account the limitations of using fonts in email. The written content itself should also be carefully looked at as certain words or overly sales driven copy can cause delivery issues.

Lastly content and making use of personalised content is important. Retailers should be mindful of their customers data wherever possible. For example, is it effective to try sell expensive items like large TVs to a customer who has recently purchased a TV? Emails selling related TV products would be more successful.

To summarise, retailers should make extensive use of automated emails, focus on the content and deliver highly personalised emails that look fantastic in order to engage customers better and stand out from the email crowd.

figures taken from