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7 Types Of Emails That Will Build Unbreakable Relationships With Retail and eCommerce Customers

  • Updated: 17 February 2021
  • 8 min read

There are mountains of data to support the claim that email marketing is more effective than social media at building and retaining customer relationships. Whether you measure this through engagement metrics such as click-through rates, demographic preferences (even Millennials prefer to be contacted via email), or ROI, email is king when it comes to marketing. 

Depending on what your company’s intention is, you can use email in a variety of different ways to boost engagement and strengthen the relationship customers have with your brand. Selling, of course, is a priority, but it isn’t always and shouldn’t always be the main goal. What should be clear after reviewing these seven examples is that email is a flexible medium with a wide range of possibilities, regardless of whether your company is an established mall retailer or exclusively in ecommerce. Especially when you automate a campaign, email can play a useful role throughout the journey down the funnel. 

Let’s look at how email can help you build an unbreakable bond with your customers.

#1 An informative newsletter with lots of creative ideas

Source: Houzz

Before a sale happens, your customer is probably going to spend many days researching, especially if it’s a major purchase. When they end up on your email list during this phase--say, because they filled out a contact form on a landing page to get a quote on a house remodel--it’s important to take it slow and avoid the hard sell. Taking an educational approach should be a top priority, especially for new leads who may still be in the process of researching your product or services. 

Depending on your niche, an educational, informative newsletter will look quite different. To use this email newsletter from Houzz as an example, it should offer several articles for the prospect to click on and read more. There are design tips for various home makeover projects, detailed reviews of products central to a remodel such as lighting fixtures and tile, plus sumptuous photos that tantalize the recipient of this email to read the full article directly on the company blog.

A customer who is in the market to buy from you but is still in the early phase of research will appreciate a newsletter like this because they want inspiration, new ideas they haven’t thought of, and clarification on a subject they’re not an expert on. After all, that’s why they subscribed to your email list in the first place: because your company is the expert they trust. An educational, thoughtful newsletter will help you build trust and eventually make the sale.

#2 Clear and readable shipping order with tracking number

Source: Samsung

One area of business, particularly in eCommerce, that gets overlooked too often is the shipping and inventory management side of the whole operation. Once a customer has placed an order, it’s easy to assume that as long as they love your product they’ll come back to you again and again. 

Do yourself a favor and shake off that complacent assumption. The moment they make an order, send them a confirmation email letting them know you received their order. Send them another email, like this example from Samsung, notifying them that the order has shipped and is on its way. Including the order number in the subject line and FedEx tracking number in the email itself is a really smart move for a couple of reasons:

1) If the customer has a question about the order and replies back to Samsung, their customer service team can quickly input that internal order number into their system to check on its status. Your team will really appreciate this because it eliminates the move of having to manually enter an order number into your inventory management system each time they get a reply; copy-pasting is a big workflow win for them.

2) Including the full tracking number with a button that takes the customer directly to the carrier’s website (in this case FedEx) makes life that much easier for them when they want to check where the package currently is during transit, as well as what the ETA will be.

Particularly during rush periods when shipping is delayed—which we’ve seen happen all too often because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the sort of small gesture that will make your customer just a tiny bit happier and a little less stressed out while they wait for the package to arrive. 

#3 Honest expectations for late delivery

Source: H&M

Continuing the theme of late orders, don’t keep your customers in the dark. Be honest with them and let them know when your eCommerce store is struggling with backorders

It’s not pleasant hearing from X Company that the item you ordered from them three days ago won’t be delivered for another week, but that’s better than hearing nothing at all. This email from H&M, sent in late October during the prolonged run-up to Black Friday 2020, does an excellent job of setting expectations accordingly. 

It makes it clear that a primary reason for the delayed shipment is for safety. Many fashion retailers staged protocols to allow for the downtime of returned items in their warehouse to minimize the potential for contact spread of the virus (not nearly as likely as an airborne spread) before sending inventory out to different customers. 

You’ll notice that “increased order volume” is still mentioned as a reason for the delay, and truthfully this could be more of a cause than safety. But that’s why this is such a good example of this type of email. Blaming a virus and your company’s high safety standards is a much better excuse than admitting you didn’t have the capacity to handle so many orders. Your customers will probably be more forgiving for the former than the latter. And they’ll be more appreciative of the heads up that their order is running late than if you don’t tell them anything at all.

Here are five more email automation tactics for your website:

#4 Popular item restock email 

Source: Girlfriend Collective

If your customer has fallen in love with a particular item that was out of stock when they tried to put it in their shopping cart, they will definitely appreciate an email notifying them that it's back. 

This email from sustainable women’s apparel brand Girlfriend Collective is a winning example of a restock email. It starts with an eye-catching subject line that tantalizes the customer into the opening, then leads with an image of the popular item in question (in this case a sports bra that’s won rave reviews for comfort). Going with big, bold images of product shots to a targeted audience that is on the market for that particular product is the right move here.

A targeted product email like this can be sent out to a narrow selection of people on your list by cross-referencing abandoned shopping carts and newly-restocked items. Especially if you allow them a 24-hour head start to nab that product before non-subscribers (and make sure to tell them of that exclusive benefit), your customers will fall in love with you.

#5 A sale email disguised as a fun quiz

Source: Travel Cat

 At this point in the customer journey, it’s likely that this email is being sent to an existing customer or a prospective lead who has done enough research on cat carriers to know they want one that can double as a backpack. How do you get them to buy? 

If you want to avoid shoving a product sale in your customer’s face but aren’t sure how to get their attention, making a game out of the typical sales email is a great method to try. A quiz like this one from Travel Cat takes some of the pressure off of customers who don’t want a hard sell. 

What is especially brilliant about this email is that while it’s clearly an attempt to lure the reader to their store, they present their products in a way that makes it about the cats and their owners, not the cat carriers. Will your fat cat need more space? Do you plan on going for long hikes that might require an extra water bottle? Do you want to look as stylish as possible despite hauling your dumb housecat on your back for everyone to see?

The customer should be at the center of the buying journey, not your product. An email like this is crafted to make the customer laugh, but also to help them imagine themselves and their feline friend having a great time. And naturally, once they take the quiz, there will be a cat backpack recommended based on their feedback.

#6 A referral email that gets straight to the point 

Source: Go Puff

Word of mouth recommendations is critical to growing your customer base and therefore your business. From a relationship-building standpoint, they reward existing customers to go the extra mile by vouching for you to their personal contacts. 

While you don’t have to incentivize this by throwing money or store credit at them, it can certainly help.

A type of audience that is heavily engaged with you has bought from you repeatedly, and has expressed high satisfaction with your product is probably the best target for a referral email send. They’re the most likely to tell their friends about your brand. 

This email from Go Puff (basically DoorDash but for convenience stores shopping) gets right to the point. It fits their brand persona, which is extremely casual, by being direct straight from the subject line, using all-caps and an alert emoji to get the reader’s attention. The designers of this email are under no illusion that this is the type of message that is a low priority to be opened and read. Once the email is open, a CTA button auto-generates a unique referral code that can be forwarded to a friend or copied to social media that appears front and center. “Get Money” is as blunt and obvious as it gets. 

The brand voice of this email is screaming and loud and that might not align with your own company’s image. The big takeaway here should be that customer referral emails can and should be part of your repertoire, so long as you tweak the subject line and design accordingly. 

Also, learn how you can set goals and grow sales using email marketing:

#7 The last email you send

Source: Imperfect Foods

Inevitably, some of your customers will cancel their subscription, stop buying your product, or demand a return or refund. After enough time passes and their (hopefully not too hot) temper has cooled, it’s worth reaching out to see if they’ve had a change of heart. 

Maybe they miss your product. Maybe they actually liked it, but it seemed too expensive for them at the time that they canceled. 

Sending them an email that tries to win them back is worth a shot. After all, the worst thing that can happen is they unsubscribe (which is actually a good thing). The upshot is they might come back. Structuring a win-back email starts with an eye-catching subject line like this one from food box company Imperfect Foods. 

“Sneak peak” implies exclusivity, the eye emojis make it a little silly and light-hearted, and most importantly, a generous 25% discount code makes for a compelling reason to give them another chance. 

If you don’t try to reach canceled or one-and-done customers at least once via email, you’re potentially passing up a small yet important number of long-term relationships that will end up happening with competitors. Sending a win-back email as a Hail Mary, even if the likelihood isn’t great, is worth a try. 

But if you maintain a steady flow of well-timed and clever emails along the entire customer journey, who knows? You might not have to send many win-back emails at all.

What's Next?

  • Access the email marketer's survival guide for 2021 here.
  • Catch tips to succeed with IP warm-up in this article.
  • Read how brands win with MoEngage's Email Builder 2.0.
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About The Author
Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.
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