5 Inspiring eCommerce Email Campaigns and What You Can Learn from Them
by Ron Dod
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Guest post from Michal Leszczynski, Content Marketing Manager at GetResponse.
Standing out in your subscriber’s inbox takes more than coming up with a new idea for a flash sale campaign or offering yet another discount code.
It certainly pays off to follow the email marketing best practices, such as when is the best time to send your email campaigns or whether it’s good to use emojis in the subject line.
But the truth is, the audience you’re targeting is probably going to be different from your average Jane.
They may value and respond to other things, like the story behind your brand and the products you make.
To inspire you to do something different with your eCommerce email campaigns, I’ve gathered five brands I admire along with some of their noteworthy newsletters.
Take a close look at what they’re doing and how they’re communicating their unique value proposition.
Notice that discount codes, flash sale campaigns, limited-time offers and other tactics that are meant to convince you to buy something quickly play second fiddle.
These emails convey a message and are powerful instead.
Hope you’ll enjoy them! ☺
1. United by Blue
If you’re anything like me, sitting in the office, looking at the picture of El Capitan on your desktop wallpaper, absentmindedly dreaming about being out in nature, you’ll love the United by Blue newsletters.
Apart from the obvious things–like camping gear and clothing that they sell through their shop–in their emails, you can often find some extra stuff like:
Beautiful photos from the brand’s Instagram fans
Interviews with inspiring travelers
Stories about places worth visiting
On top of that, they also talk about upcoming cleanups and other events they organize.
Their emails aren’t just about the products. After all, mugs or jackets aren’t particularly unique.
Their emails sell the feeling of adventure. They inspire you to go out there, spend time in the woods or mountains and visit picturesque places.
And they’re not faking it while doing so.
They talk about the places they plan to visit and other travelers they admire. They organize cleanups and, for every product sold, they remove one pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways.
Through all of this, they can reach a specific target audience–those who love traveling, those who enjoy hearing about it and those who care about Mother Earth.
Arguably, these people won’t mind that the brand’s products are slightly on the pricey side.
Nor will they expect to receive discount codes in every second email, which is why United by Blue can afford to send such inspiring email campaigns.
I’m always intrigued by eCommerce brands who are able to market products that could be considered hard to sell.
Products that are either undifferentiated, somewhat boring or a bit embarrassing.
In my book, underwear ticks all those boxes.
Surprisingly, MeUndies was able to turn this product into a fun one.
The underwear they make is playful and colorful. The same goes for their campaigns and how they use emails to present their product.
They don’t hide their underwear. They take pride in it.
In their newsletters, MeUndies uses several key elements:
High-quality images showing their products in full detail
Funny GIFs that successfully capture attention
Contrasting colors and visible calls to action
On top of that, it seems that they don’t retouch their models.
This approach makes their campaigns more trustworthy as some might argue that it’s not difficult to make someone look good wearing your product if they’ve got a perfect body.
It fits perfectly with the message they’re trying to convey: Even something as ordinary as underwear can bring you joy and make you feel good.
3. Design By Humans
Many marketers still obsess about the size of their email list.
After all, your boss wants you to report on growth across all your marketing channels and activities.
But having a big list of inactive email subscribers isn’t something to be proud of.
Studies have shown that marketers with smaller lists tend to achieve higher engagement rates from their email campaigns.
Those with lists between 5,000 and 9,999 saw an average open rate of 20.07 percent and a CTR of 3.14 percent.
The overall tendency is that the bigger the list, the lower the average results from email marketing campaigns.
There are multiple reasons for this, but the two major ones are:
Marketers with larger lists are unable to engage email recipients effectively because they don’t know them too well anymore and running large-scale personalization is time-consuming.
They aren’t actively managing their email list’s hygiene–i.e., removing inactive contacts and paying attention to opaque list churn.
One brand that does pay attention to that, however, is Design By Humans.
They not only run reactivation campaigns but also do so in a funny manner.
As you can see from the image below, this automated email aims to bring customers back to their store by offering them a 15 percent OFF discount.
They noticed that I became slightly inactive, but didn’t assume I was mad at them (which I’m not). That’s why Design By Humans decided to give me one last chance to return by offering me a good incentive.
The good thing is that whatever I’d choose, this eCommerce brand would win. If I decided to buy something, I’d be reactivated and made them profit. Had I not responded, they’d have removed me from their email list and gotten rid of some of the dead weight.
Why should they bother though?
While email deliverability is a complex topic, it often comes down to this:
The fewer people engage with your communication, the lower your chances of reaching your subscribers’ inboxes. And this refers not only to those who are inactive but also all your email recipients, even those who’ve just joined your newsletter subscription.
4. American Giant
While eCommerce giants show us repeatedly that operating on low profit margins is possible and it’s a great way to grow, this isn’t the right path for most SMBs.
The good news is that judging by what we can see on the streets and in marketing reports, people are slowly becoming more interested in buying products that are either natural, more durable or sourced in an ethical way.
That’s why consumers are no longer surprised to see premium-priced products, even if at first, they may seem undifferentiated.
I mention at first because for this strategy to work, eCommerce marketers need to make sure they communicate their product’s unique value proposition in a way that’s understood and accepted by their customers.
One company that does that pretty well is the American Giant.
In the two emails you can see below, we’ve got some great things which you don’t usually see in eCommerce newsletters.
The first email is a form of a teaser campaign. It announces a new line of products they’re in the process of making. Yarn-dyed flannel shirts, which haven’t been made in the U.S. for over 40 years, produced locally in South Carolina.
The email talks about what the process of yarn-dying involves, where they’re currently at and why this is so important.
Their copy, preceding the call to action button, supports this well:
“If you’d like to join us in changing the tide and making better things, you can place an order for a Frontier Flannel.”
One additional element that is also noteworthy is the quote from The New York Times that you see on the page once you click through. It acts as social proof:
“In an industry that has been waging a 40-year global economic war of attrition, and mostly losing, it is heartening to see an apparel company committed to America.”
As you can see, their automated follow-up–aiming to recover those who’ve left a product in their online basket–doesn’t go the easy way and starts by offering a discount.
Instead, it focuses on the qualities that make their brand trustworthy: durable products, lifetime warranty, free returns at any time for any reason.
Judging by how American Giant communicates, it’s safe to assume their customers trust that their products are in fact made to last and manufactured locally.
User-generated content is a powerful thing. And some brands are better than others at activating their audience to generate that content for them. MVMT is one of such eCommerce brands.
I’ve come across this brand reading one of the case studies of the Marketing Sherpa blog.
What struck me was that they claimed a lot of the photos used in their email campaigns came from their customers. The reason for this choice was that photos taken by your target audience are more trustworthy and relatable.
I wanted to see this for myself, so I’ve signed up for their newsletter.
Long story short, I’ve bought one of their watches. But why did I do it?
Mostly due to how they communicated and how active their customer base was.
The watch I wanted to buy had over a few hundred reviews, and while some of them weren’t all that praising, I trusted MVMT. They weren’t hiding these comments and the things people complained about the most weren’t a big deal for me (e.g., not being able to see the time during the night).
Below are two examples of emails they sent to their audience. The first one explains how they’re able to gather so many reviews and the other one is the direct result of their audience’s high engagement.
The survey email is a super simple way of gathering feedback almost without even your subscribers having to leave their inbox. Only when they click the submit button are they taken away to the site where they have to confirm their review.
The second email summarizes a campaign they’ve run. MVMT asked their email subscribers to show how they live their lives on their own terms.
I hope that among your takeaways from this article, one will be that eCommerce email campaigns don’t have to be all about aggressive sales-oriented tactics.
They can be inspirational and build a positive image for your brand.
Don’t be afraid to follow your brand values, even if everyone else is focused on short-term effects and generating quick sales revenue.
Now, I’ve got a question for you.
What’s the one eCommerce brand that you admire and why?
Michal is the Content Marketing Manager at GetResponse. He develops data-backed and SEO-optimized content that helps marketers excel at their work. He’s a big fan of email marketing and marketing automation–the two topics he regularly writes about on some of the top marketing blogs.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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