Personalization, pictures and productivity are all crucial today to maximize the sales potential of email marketing.

Vivek Sharma, CEO, Movable Ink

Vivek Sharma, CEO, Movable Ink

It’s no secret that retail is undergoing massive transformation.

Everything from the in-store experience (or lack thereof) to the way shoppers research and buy has changed dramatically. A lot of this disruption is the result of the “Amazon effect” that allows consumers to find and order almost any product online with just a few clicks.

However, despite a lot of talk about the death of retail, online sales comprise only 9% of total U.S. retail according to the Department of Commerce. Consumers still spend both in-store and online, and shopping has truly become omnichannel. Discounts and free shipping aren’t enough to stand out anymore. Retailers must compete on customer experience.

Email: Opportunities and Challenges

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Email has long been the workhorse of digital marketing, delivering the highest ROI of any direct marketing channel. It’s the most natural channel to create and deliver compelling and personalized customer experiences, which are essential to outshine competitors in a highly crowded retail marketplace.

Unfortunately, many traditional email tactics that retailers have used for years don’t cut it any more. More campaigns, segmentation, and triggers/journeys require resources that marketers don’t have the bandwidth for. Most importantly, these tactics don’t create the experiences that retailers need to meet the needs and expectations of consumers today.

Here are three specific email strategies with supporting tactics for retailers to overcome customer experience and productivity challenges to drive revenue and loyalty.

1.   Strengthen loyalty programs with personalized experiences

Email is essential for a successful loyalty program, but many retailers aren’t taking advantage of it with personalization for loyal rewards members. Here are a few ways that retailers can strengthen their loyalty programs with email.

Pro Tip: Display real-time spend and rewards points for every customer

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Complicated rules and difficulty redeeming points can kill any loyalty program, so keep it simple. According to a study by Colloquy, the number one reason consumers cite for continuing with a loyalty program is that it’s easy to understand (81%). It is also important to present loyalty points that are updated in real-time in email to properly reflect the customer relationship. If a customer earns points after an email is sent, these points should be updated and presented at the moment of open. Real-time loyalty status also let’s retailers showcase a customer’s progress to the next level, or benefits they can take advantage of with their current status or points.

Showcase real customers using your products, adding authenticity to your emails.

Pro Tip: Help customers see the big picture with data visualization

The use of data visualization in marketing, like infographics, has skyrocketed. And it makes perfect sense—graphics are more engaging and visual data is easier to digest. According to the the SAGE Handbook of Political Communication, the human brain can make sense of a visual in less than 1/10 of a second.

Incorporating data visualization into your loyalty program emails is a no-brainer. And it’s not as much work as you might think.

Pro Tip: Add authenticity with user-generated content

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Consumers are now content creators, uploading and sharing images of their favorite products and services as a testament to their brand loyalty. The sheer volume of digital content has grown exponentially thanks to platforms like Instagram and YouTube that encourage social sharing.

Retailers can add user-generated content to loyalty emails by displaying a live social feed of curated content from Twitter or Instagram. It’s the best way to showcase real customers using your products, adding authenticity to your emails.

2. Drive revenue by adding real-time personalization to promotional emails

Personalized experiences make for better retail marketing because they’re incredibly effective in getting your customer’s attention. It’s also a huge priority for most marketers. Yet only 40% of consumers report seeing any kind of personalization. Here are a few ways that retail marketers can improve those experiences with real-time personalization.

Pro Tip: Use contextual elements like geo-targeting and weather personalization

Meeting customers where they are at the exact moment they open your email makes the content both relevant and helpful. This type of contextual marketing lets you promote offers based on your customer’s location or weather conditions, no matter where they are when they open your email.

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This is also a great opportunity to drive foot traffic to any brick-and-mortar store locations by providing a local map with the stores nearest to each customer, and providing relevant store hours too.

Pro Tip: Leverage customer behavior like browsing history and cart activity

All retail customers are different with unique preferences. If you serve them an email based on their past interactions with your website, they’re far more likely to convert. Behavioral marketing lets you leverage those interactions—whether its browsing history or items left in their cart—to create email content that speaks to each individual.

3. Send out more campaigns with fewer resources

Productivity is a major challenge for most retail marketers—lean teams, tight production schedules, and limited resources all factor into this. Here are a few ways retail marketers can take advantage of their existing content to easily create great on-brand experiences in email.

Pro Tip: Repurpose your content

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Email marketing is ideal for repurposing your best content. If your company has a blog, pull your best blog content into your welcome email series to get it in front of your new customers fast. For retailers, this might be a blog post featuring best-selling or most popular products.

Don’t forget about images—take advantage of any product images you have on your website by pulling them into your promotional emails for a seamless on-brand experience.

Pro Tip: Use time-targeting

Time-targeting is a tactic for serving up different offers based on time of open—all in one email send—thus saving retail marketers tons of time. It’s ideal for promoting a new daily offer that can change automatically to reflect the current offer, like many retailers do in the lead-up to their Black Friday emails. Time-targeting builds excitement, drives urgency, and ensures the best experience for customers regardless of when they decide to engage with your message.

Conclusion

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The new retail experience is online, in-store, and everywhere in between. Email marketing offers retailer brands innovative ways to push their campaigns to new levels and drive revenue and loyalty with the 1:1, real-time experiences their customers have come to expect. Incorporating these strategies and tactics into your email marketing is win-win and are proven to help retailers engage with their most important customers—those who are ready to buy.

Movable Ink provides email marketing software.

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