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Email Marketing Still Delivers for Online Sellers

The dazzle of video advertising and the continued presence of contextual ads overshadows email’s continued marketing potential. But used effectively, email marketing presents sellers with great opportunities for customer conversion and retention. EcommerceBytes reached out to a pair of notable firms for their insights on the topic.

Constant Contact Director of Content Marketing Dave Charest called email marketing “the workhorse of any online marketing strategy.”

“Above all else, you own your email list and get to decide when and how often you are going to contact your list. You are not at the whim of ever changing social networks whose algorithms dictate who sees your message,” Charest said.

MailChimp told EcommerceBytes “Email is still the most powerful tool for small businesses and continues to be the biggest revenue driver. It’s a highly compelling form of marketing communication – when people proactively request to receive content via email, there’s a real interest behind it.”

Email supports a variety of technologies that help render one’s message beyond plain text. A MailChimp spokesperson noted several common elements safely work with email clients: table layouts including HTML and nested tables, simple inline CSS, and web-safe fonts.

Adding elements should derive from the message one wishes to communicate to the email list. Constant Contact’s Charest noted, “It’s always best to send marketing messages that answer the following questions: What are you offering? Why should the reader care? What should the reader do next?”

He continued, “This formula along with a simple design of picture, paragraph, and call to action works very well in today’s predominantly mobile-focused world where more than 50% of messages are opened.” Such messages convey relevance without overloading the reader, Charest also noted.

Successful email campaigns hinge on various elements, like preparation. MailChimp recommended multivariate testing with “multiple pieces of content, rather than just subject lines, to generate the best click through rate. The changes may be very incremental, but over a year it makes a big difference.”

Multivariate testing involves adjusting multiple features such as subject lines, time of day sending emails, length of a message, headlines, images, and others, as MailChimp suggests. The company also suggests automated messages that trigger in connection with customer actions like abandoning a shopping cart. These messages could help encourage future conversions.

Constant Contact sees top-performing email marketers starting their efforts with a plan. “This is particularly true for small business owners who, in addition to marketing their businesses, are wearing many hats to actually run their businesses,” said Charest.

He continued, “The second thing successful email marketers do is go beyond opens and clicks to measure the impact email marketing is having on their business. This comes from understanding why they’re sending the email in first place. What action do they want the reader to take?”

So how much email marketing is enough? “Information like this is very audience specific and can vary by industry, but in general, it’s best to think about sending shorter, more frequent emails than longer, less frequent emails,” said Charest.

“For example, let’s say you’re promoting a sale, a good place to start would be to think about sending an announcement two weeks out, a reminder one week out, and a last chance email a few days before the sale expiration,” he said. The company also provides suggestions on times to email based on the industry sending those messages.

MailChimp also noted, “There’s no one-size-fits-all answer – it really depends on who your audience is. Some subscribers want to hear from you at a higher frequency, and some less often. You have to test based on your marketing goals to find the right cadence.”

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David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.

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