Four tips for improving your email marketing performance

Chloe Thomas gives advice to e-commerce companies on getting people onto your website through email marketing.

Email marketing is a fantastic way to keep your customers buying, and convert your enquirers to buyers. As soon as you have a list, you can start using some very cheap and good-quality software to email your customers.

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to make money in e-commerce. It’s powerful because:

  • You get the results almost instantly – people will buy within minutes of the email launching
  • You are in total control – you are in control of the products, promotions, and stories you are putting in front of people, and you are in control of when it goes out and which customers get the message. This means you have a lot of influence over what the outcomes are; which products get bought, how much you sell, and more
  • You can target specific customer groups, getting lapsed customers to buy again or enquirers to buy
  • It should always be profitable – there are so many levels of technology that you should always be able to find a good software solution at a price that means you are making money.

The job of every email you launch is to get the customer to the website, as quickly as possible. If they don’t click to the website, they can’t buy. The faster they get to the website, the more likely they are to buy. In fact emailing is so easy that lots of businesses fail to truly maximise their performance by ignoring some technical set up basics and not putting the right foundations in place – so use these tips to up your email performance.

1. Email deliverability – don’t use cold data

All your effort in email marketing is wasted if you don’t get your emails into the inbox; this is called email deliverability and is not the same as the percentage delivered reports you get from your email sending system. Ensuring this happens is hard.

Email deliverability is vital to the success of your campaign. Your potential customers need to be able to see your email in order to make a purchase. Maintaining this deliverability is down to two things: the Email Service Provider (ESP) (ie the software and hosting) you choose, and what data you mail. So don’t use cold data as:

  • response rates are low and prices are high, so you are unlikely to recruit new customers cost-effectively
  • data quality is poor – if you go for the cheap lists you are going to get bad data, and mailing to that is a waste of your time
  • you could mess up your emailing to your own list (your deliverability), if you mail some cold data and three people on Hotmail hit the “Spam” button, you might not get any emails to people using Hotmail for months. That could prove to be very expensive.

If you want to go all out on maximising your deliverability, there are two further things you can do: set up the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) records on your domain and get into white lists.

2. Email deliverability – White lists

A white list guarantees your emails are put into the inbox of your customers. The criteria for entry are a series of standards you need to meet and adhere to, and they are set pretty high, so becoming compliant may take some time, too.

3. Email deliverability – SPF

SPF is the Sender Policy Framework, a way to define where your legitimate emails are sent from. Not all ISPs check this, so it’s not critical, but it’s free and worth doing if you can.

The SPF record is a text file that sits on your domain’s name servers (the same place you go to change your A records and CNAME records). It’s pretty simple to get an SPF record in place; more complex to do it right.

If you are going to set up an SPF record, you need to make sure you have included EVERY location that sends email on your domain’s behalf. In a typical e-commerce business, these might include:

  • your Email Service Provider (ESP) for your email marketing
  • your Order Management System for your order despatch confirmations
  • your website for your order-placed emails
  • your head office if you use the same URL in your emails
  • your customer service team if outsourcing.

If you leave one of them out, the emails sent from that location may well not be delivered because your SPF record will say it’s not a legitimate email.

Steps to setting up your SPF:

· Identify everywhere your emails are sent from

· Go to to find out how to set up the text file

· Put it in place

· Check every location’s emails are still working correctly.

If any systems change, don’t forget to update the SPF record!

4. Safely growing your list

Buying email data doesn’t work, so what can we do to increase the list?

The first thing to do is to make sure you are always asking for an email address.

Secondly, make sure it’s easy for customers to give you their email addresses. Check through all the points where you interact with the customers: where can you improve email address capture? This includes stores and catalogues as well as websites, social media, etc.

Thirdly, make sure your email sign-up is obvious and compelling. Put it somewhere it’s going to be seen, and make it easy to use (so ask for as little information as possible). Then test different incentives, prize draws, free downloads, free gifts: see what works best for your business.

Finally, think of where else your customers might be. What magazine or websites do they like? And would those magazines or websites be interested in running a competition for their readers? If they are, you could provide the prize and set up the entry form so that everyone who enters signs up to your emails.

When you are measuring the effectiveness of these recruitment methods, don’t just look at how many email addresses you get. Keep the data from each recruitment campaign separate and see how it responds; you want good data not just any data, so the campaign that brought you data that buys is the one you want to do again.

Make sure you have your deliverability basics in place, then work on growing you list – in the right ways!

Further reading on e-commerce

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