Retail email marketing guide for 2024: 6 strategies & examples

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Want more people to start visiting your stores online? Or maybe you’d like to win more sales from your existing customers? If you said yes to either of these questions, then it’s time you looked at email marketing and its impossible-to-beat ROI.

In this email marketing for retailers guide, we’ll take you through the ins and outs of setting up an email program that attracts and retains loyal customers who keep returning for more. Also, we’ll examine some great retail email examples.

Sound like a plan? Let’s dive in.

Importance of email marketing for retailers

If you don’t already engage in email marketing, you’re probably wondering whether it’s necessary and why. Below are some of the top reasons your retail business needs a robust email marketing strategy:

  • A direct line of communication: Email marketing gives your business a direct line of communication with its customers. 

    Unlike third-party-owned marketing channels like social media, your communications aren’t at the mercy of algorithm changes or unwitting Terms of Service violations. You can speak to the people who are the most open to hearing what you have to say without middlemen messing with your communication stream.
  • High return on investment (ROI): Many decades and marketing channels later, email remains the most lucrative marketing channel with the highest ROI. 

    At $38 in return for every dollar spent, it beats social media marketing, influencer marketing, and digital ads in profitability and cost-effectiveness. These huge returns make email marketing an essential must-do for any retail company that wants its business to flourish.
  • You can recover lost business: Abandoned carts are an unfortunate reality of online retail. However, when the customer is a member of your email list, you’re more likely to have a handle on cart abandonment woes. That’s because you can re-engage these customers with automatic cart abandonment emails that remind them to complete the checkout process.

    In contrast, when you don’t have a potential customer’s email, once they abandon their cart, you’ve probably lost their business for good.
  • Get feedback and data: Email lets you gather feedback you can use to improve your business. You can use survey responses and metrics like email open rates and link click-through rates to gauge your campaign performance and make adjustments where necessary. 

In summary, if you don’t do email marketing, you’ll leave money on the table and miss out on valuable feedback. Do you really want that? 

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6 email marketing strategies for retailers

How do you get leads and potential customers on your retail email marketing list? How do you get them to stay on your mailing list, open your emails, and not even consider hitting that unsubscribe button?

You have to connect with them. 

Present a great incentive for signing up, either with a signup form on your landing page, through a paid ad, or even via a compelling video or engaging webinar.

But that’s only the starting point. Here are the strategies to create successful retail email marketing campaigns.

1. Build your email list

First things first – get them signed up for your marketing email content!

Retail businesses, ecommerce businesses, and physical stores alike all need the same thing – people walking in that door. In the case of businesses online, that’s getting a potential customer to become an actual customer.

One of the best ways to go about this is by putting a form on your landing page asking website visitors for their email addresses. In exchange, you want to offer them a lead magnet, like 20% off their first order, or invite them to join your exclusive members-only emails with special offers, discounts, and new product announcements before the public hears about them.

Here, you’ll find some great lead magnet examples and ideas your company can use to collect email addresses.

Creating a web form is easy and can increase conversion rates to get visitors signed up for your email newsletter – all you need is a Web Form Builder.

With the right types of forms, you can invite people to sign up for your marketing email right on your website or entice them with an offer to increase sign-ups. 

A popup signup form for musicians.
Example of a popup on Jacob Collier’s website. Source: Email marketing for musicians

You can also use one that will pop up as the visitor tries to leave your website to catch their attention one last time before they click away. These are called exit-intent popups.

Exit intent popup example with a discount code.

💡 Get more ideas like these from our small business email marketing guide.

2. Take advantage of welcome emails

Once you’ve built your form, you will need to create a compelling welcome email that’ll make your new contacts want to engage with you. A well-written welcome email gives recipients a sense of connection that will keep them subscribed to your emails. 

Also, welcome emails get some of the highest open rates of any email campaign. Our email marketing benchmark report shows that welcome emails get an average open rate of 63.91% and a clickthrough rate of 14.34%. That’s around 3X what you’d normally get from regular newsletters.

Here’s an example of a good welcome email:

Retail welcome email campaign example.

Business: Biossance

Subject line: [Activate] 20% off welcome offer

Messaging:

The usage of brackets and activate is eye-catching and engaging without seeming desperate. The message itself is really nice, with a great use of images and text throughout the message.

They offer the signup discount button and a simple statement to “start with a clean slate.”

That extra special touch

Aside from the discount, the email goes in-depth without being heavy-handed to tell their customer base about their care for humanity, the environment, and sustainability. This creates a connection for customers, giving them a reason to feel good about buying from this company, and even builds trust with a message of brand consistency and values.

That’s a powerful statement: “2 million sharks saved every year”.

Lastly, they tell you what’s to come from their retail email messages, inviting the reader to “get excited for: …”

This email has a lot, yet it doesn’t feel too jammed in or cluttered. The trick is to pick a great email design and combine text with engaging visuals.

The other important thing with welcome emails is creating the desired connection with subscribers, no matter your brand, and being transparent and open about who you are, what you have to offer, and what they can expect from your emails.

Check out our article on Welcome Emails for more details on how to take full advantage of these campaigns.

3. Personalize your retail emails

A small bit of personalization in marketing emails goes a long way.

And there are so many levels to email marketing personalization. From using your subscribers’ names to sending them offers based on what they’ve bought to let them know about special events or offers related to where they live. 

You can even use their birthday information from your web form to send them a birthday email and a discount for their special day. There are many ways to make one more link of connection that’ll help you drive more repeat customers.

Here’s what you can do to personalize your retail email marketing:

  • Use tagging, scoring, tracking, insights, purchase history, and browsing history to understand your customers and their preferences.
  • Tailor automation workflows to customers’ needs and wants with scoring and tagging to create refined segmentation for your emails.
  • Personalize based on email history data – what they’ve opened and clicked – and use that information to make a better connection and improve open rates.

You can also understand what your customers want by simply asking them. You could send out a survey or create an email preference center where they’ll pick the kinds of email content they’re interested in. 

Besides helping you personalize your emails, it also boosts the performance of your email campaigns since the recipients will be eager to open and engage with the content.

Here is a nice example of a personalized email. Even the discount code sounds like the recipient’s name.

A personalized email with a custom offer.

Business: Topo Designs

Subject line: Go ahead, take another look!

Messaging:

A personalized message tells the recipient this email is one they personally will love. It’s an email marketing strategy based on what consumers have already shopped for, or rather, looked at and clicked on links from their website. They give a discount code to use on something they want and even feature the item they’ve been considering.

It’s simple, direct, and sleek, without much clutter.

4. Create stand-out subject lines

Your email’s subject line is the first thing potential customers see when your email lands in their inbox. The words contained therein are crucial for two reasons: 

  1. they’re what the customer will use to decide whether to open the email and read its contents, banish it to their virtual trash can, or mark it as spam and 
  2. they’ll compete with other email subject lines from other businesses for the recipient’s attention. 

For the above reasons, you must create subject lines that stand out.  After all, even if your email contains the most persuasive copy ever written, it won’t amount to anything if your customers don’t read it.

So, how do you craft compelling email subject lines? Some best practices include:

Inspire curiosity

Pique your customers’ interest when crafting email subject lines. You want to inspire enough curiosity in your readers that they feel compelled to open the email to read further. 

One great way to do that is to frame your email subject line as a question, as is demonstrated by T-shirt retailer and printing company Redbubble:

Subject line example that inspires curiosity.

In our 2023 Email Marketing Benchmarks report, we found that emails that contained a question mark in the subject line had a positive impact on email marketing campaign performance. These subject lines had a 26.57% open rate.

That said, make sure your question-based subject line isn’t too obvious or rhetorical. It could come across as boring and condescending.

Highlight benefits

More often than not, people buy products to make their lives easier. Thus, highlighting benefits is one way to make your email subject line grab attention. Your subject line could announce a sale that saves the customer money (a common tactic), as below:

Subject line example that highlights the offer.

Another effective way is to include language that refers to the benefit the customer will derive (e.g., “Beat the heat this summer with…”).

Consider using our AI-powered email subject line generator to craft a subject line that gets your business noticed and customers entering your sales funnel.

5. Optimize your emails for mobile devices

According to data from EmailMonday, 41.6% of email opens occur through a mobile device (as of 2021). This means you must optimize your emails for mobile for your email marketing efforts to pay off. 

An excellent place to start is with your email subject lines. Ideally, you want concise subject lines that don’t exceed the number of characters displayed by mobile devices. This number varies from one device to the other. For example, iPhones display 78 characters, while Android devices display between 50 and 70.

GetResponse's Mobile Preview and Inbox Preview help you ensure your emails look great on all types of devices
GetResponse’s Mobile Preview and Inbox Preview help you ensure your emails look great on all types of devices

Also, when designing the email, make sure to place your call-to-action button front and center. But leave enough space around the button to ensure it’s clickable and other page elements don’t get in the way.

On a related note, you’ll need to set up A/B tests when creating emails and optimizing them for mobile. A/B testing involves creating two versions of your email copy, page design, call-to-action, or all of the above. You send one version (A) to a subset of your email list and the other version (B) to another audience subset. 

The aim of A/B testing is to determine the better-performing version using metrics like click-through rate and open rate. Use them to test your email subject lines, length, content, and more so you can craft future email campaigns your customers will respond to favorably.

6. Leverage marketing automation to drive revenue

Want to increase those email open rates? You’ve got step one, a great subject line. If they are engaged, intrigued even, they will open the email. Once they’ve opened your email, you’ve won a huge part of the battle toward getting that conversion.

Now, you can combine all the pieces and use marketing automation to your advantage. Automation helps you get the right messages to the right people at the right time. This increases your chances of getting your recipients to make a purchase and stick with you for the long run.

Pro tip: Put messages in email inboxes right when email subscribers are most likely to open them. You can find out when your subscribers are most likely to open your emails using Perfect Timing. If your emails get the most opens in the morning, and you have customers in different time zones, morning is different for all of them, so set up your automation to deliver the message to everyone’s relative morning time automatically, using Time Travel!

As a retail marketer, consider what works for a physical store and apply it to your email marketing strategies. Use event tracking as customer feedback; let your customer base tell you what they want with their activity, and then this can automatically trigger email sends and messages based on what they’re doing.

Behavior is the best informer

Behavior-triggered emails tend to see greater results. Why is that? 

Well, because your clients are already informing you what they want and are looking for. You can connect with them through a well-timed email while they are already at a higher engagement level based on the actions and behaviors you’re tracking.  

Every little behavior speaks to a bigger picture and allows you to segment further to deliver what your customers seek. 

For instance, in real life, if someone is browsing your shop and continues to circle back to a certain section, you can be sure that’s what they’re really interested in. Maybe they see an item they love, but you don’t have their size or have sold out of most of your stock. You can set up a system that notifies just them about the items when they’re back in stock. 

Check this out:

An email campaign for items that are back in stock.

Subject line: Good news! We’ve restocked!

Messaging:

Automated, personalized, and delivered in a way that requires nothing but the initial setup from the sender. It’s an email marketing strategy based on triggers and behaviors.

The item they wanted was out of stock. The company knows this person wants it based on what they are tracking or even from having the ability to let the visitors fill out a form requesting this information. Once it’s back in stock, the email is triggered to send to the customers that want it.

Another way to leverage automation and make your retail email marketing strategy more effective is to use AI product recommendations. This solution lets you show recommended products (e.g. best sellers, products that go well with other items a user looked at, etc.) which will make your communication more personalized and relevant to your audience.

As you can see from the animation below, after you’ve integrated your shop with our solution, adding product recommendations to your emails takes only a couple of clicks.

That’s not the end of our retail email marketing tips! You can combine email marketing for retail best practices with engaging paid ads. These two work incredibly well together to drive more traffic to your website, attract new customers, and retarget those who’ve visited your online store but didn’t end up buying.

Retail email marketing examples

The companies below are excellent examples of retailers doing amazing email marketing:

1. Sephora

Beauty products retailer Sephora uses emails to build customer loyalty.  

Sephora – retail email example.

Based on the above email, it’s clear that the company has a system that awards customers points when they shop with the brand. The system encourages Sephora customers to accumulate points, which they can redeem in the future for more Sephora products. 

The above email not only showcases the products the company has available for purchase but also reminds them the points they accumulated are redeemable.

Additionally, the rewards “hit” Sephora’s Bazaar twice weekly, which implies that the company sends these reminder emails frequently. It’s an excellent way to build loyalty while staying at the top of your customers’ minds.

2. Adidas

In the image below, sporting goods giant Adidas welcomes new email list subscribers with a bang:

Adidas - welcome email example.

While encouraging them to “Shop Now”, the email also offers a 15% discount on their first purchase when they use the promo code included.

This marketing email is an excellent example of a retailer welcoming subscribers into the fold and incentivizing conversions through discounts. 

The recipient of said email will be compelled to take action because they have a benefit to gain (in this case, saving 15% off the purchase price). It’s ingenious email marketing that begins to inspire customer engagement and loyalty from day one.

3. Kohler

Plumbing manufacturer Kohler crafts mobile-friendly email designs like the one below:

Kohler retailer email optimized for mobiles.

The retailer places a prominent call-to-action button within the reader’s reach in this welcome email. It also leaves ample space around the button, ensuring it’s not cluttered with other distracting elements. 

This design increases the chances of the recipient clicking the call-to-action and converting (in this case, exploring the Kohler website).

Take your retail business to the next level with email marketing

Now, you have everything you need to unlock the potential of your email campaigns, and you’re ready to write your own email marketing success tale. Implement the retail email marketing tips discussed in the article to give your emails a higher chance of success and ultimately drive conversions for your retail business. 

Whatever you do, whoever you are, wherever you are located, you can reach your customers with these online retail marketing strategies, focused around retail emails engineered to get you more leads and more sales.


Habeab Kurdi
Habeab Kurdi
Immersed in words and all things copy for 20+ years, Habeab is the in-house copywriting expert for GetResponse responsible for a wide breadth of projects. Beginning as an award-winning newspaper journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Austin American-Statesman, he has also worked as a social media manager, photographer, managing editor of a magazine, as well as getting his hands dirty in startup breweries, coffee roasting, and a gin distillery in his former home of Austin, Texas.