Ecommerce Email Marketing Guide for 2021

Ecommerce Email Marketing Guide for 2021

These unprecedented times have rocked the world of marketing. You’ve read this a couple of times, haven’t you?

You’ve also had enough of the word “unprecedented”. It’s just a fancy way to say we’ve never seen anything like the impact of this crazy virus before.

Anyway. It’s true that people are on their phones and computers more than ever now that they shouldn’t leave the house. And guess what? They have more chances of seeing that shiny email notification of yours. But chances aren’t certainties. No worries, we’re here to help.

Let’s start this article with an equally overwhelming, yet not nearly as deadly news as COVID-19.

One number: 293 billion. Ish. That’s the number of emails sent every day, from every single platform to all kinds of people, for a variety of reasons. Have you any idea of how many of these emails go out to your customers? A lot. Do they open all of them? Absolutely not.

Moral of the story: you’ve got to fight hard for the click and everything that comes after.

First Things First: Without Email Marketing, You Won’t Sell a Thing.

Opening any email (unless it’s from Harvard or something) is hard enough as it is. But if it does get opened, it should be a slippery slide towards the purchase.

But don’t get too excited. Your customers won’t necessarily buy your products after the first promotional email sequence you launch. A concrete buying decision can take months. That’s how email marketing does its best work. By firing the right emails at the right time to the right people in hopes to achieve just that. Plus, there’s a potentially huge ROI of $42 for every $1 spent.

We put together this guide to help you greatly increase your chances of getting your ecommerce emails opened, clicked on, and your products bought. Maybe they’ll even be used as examples in articles like this one. Trust us, we only share the good stuff.

Here you go.

From Now On, Only Use Responsive and Interactive Email Templates

To be more specific, kinetic email templates.

Your customers have probably interacted with one–but they have no idea what it’s called. It’s like listening to those famous classical music pieces and still not knowing who the hell composed it. All they know is that if they could choose, your customers would only see this type of email when buying anything.

Kinetic templates are fully responsive email templates with one difference: they’re interactive and look like a whole website in and of themselves. We could’ve just called them interactive designs, but whatever.

Anyway, here’s the ace in the hole: viewers won’t need to visit a bunch of pages to get where they need to be. If they need a carousel display to showcase many different products, they’ve got it right there. If they need to add contact information, multiple tabs, shopping carts, and the whole shebang, it’s there.

It’s much easier to buy something if there aren’t a lot of steps to go through, isn’t it?

Holistically speaking, the less they’ve got to do and the least tabs they need to open, the better.

Of course, these templates must be responsive, or else they’ll become a mess and their initial purpose goes down the drain. Emails should look great and flow easily regardless of the device. 46 percent of emails are opened on mobile, so if the Mobile First update still hasn’t jolted you awake yet, you’re lagging.

This interactive template from Adidas is mouthwatering. Here:


Let Artificial Intelligence Handle (More) Things

Every marketer knows the dreadful feeling of expecting news such as “AI has taken over the world. You’re all fired”. Every piece of news that remotely touches on how AI is worrying the authorities sends shivers down your whole body, doesn’t it?

The good news is, you can calm down for now. AI is the kind of robot we need, like the Iron Giant. Only, AI is sacrificing itself to give your ecommerce clickable and engaging emails. It’s been doing its thing for years, and without it, we wouldn’t have prestigious email marketing tools saving us hours of work.

Seize the opportunity to take advantage of AI through your favorite email marketing platform. When you use it right, you’ll make people interested in your ecommerce store because:

  • You’ll be sending emails that target customers’ current state (active buyers, occasional buyers, cart-abandoners) instead of bombarding them with what will eventually end up in the trash.
  • They’ll appreciate that you remember them on special dates like their birthday, or celebrate milestones with them (some of which they’re unaware of).
  • You’ll rock personalized campaigns! Segmentation devotees saw a 14.3% increase in open rates and a 100.95% increase in click-through rates. MailChimp said it, so it’s legit.

What’s more, AI allows you to do powerful CPR on your customers by creating specific retargeting campaigns. Customers who have been “dead” for a while still have the opportunity to return as active/occasional buyers. Or it might not work and you’ll lose them. Either way, you’ll have done your best.

The bottom line: embrace AI, and embrace your email marketing platforms. Not only does it boost engagement, but it might add extra zeros to your balance.

Create Accessible Emails

Has it ever occurred to you that some of your customers don’t see your emails because you don’t give them a chance to?

No, because you only think about yourself.

Think about it. How often do you see brands on Instagram captioning their pictures so that visually impaired customers might have a chance of seeing them, too? Not often.

How about emails? Maybe you’ve seen one or two, but didn’t even realize they were accessible. Pssst, that’s the goal.

Making emails accessible (as well as every piece of content you write) is your chance to make a difference. Especially when people out there neglect such an important matter. And it’s something you can do by tweaking a few simple things.

Here are a few things you can already apply to your next campaign to make it more accessible to customers:

  • Try and use contrasting colors for button background and text. Tools like WebAIM’s Contrast Checker will help you with this.
  • If you’re adding information to images, be sure to include titles and links with the same purpose. Don’t worry about it looking “repetitive”.
  • Use alt text as an opportunity to describe images in detail.
  • Use descriptive anchor text for links. It’s your chance to abolish the old “click here”.
  • Use content hierarchy. Your subscribers could be using screen-readers to read your content. And it’s much easier to prioritize sections and skim text when people know where to focus.
  • Create read-worthy, conversational text. Not only is it great for accessibility, it also scores SEO points and it’s one of the requirements for great voice search optimization.

When you give more people a chance to access your content–and if it’s interesting enough for them–they’ll absolutely appreciate what you’re doing. Do it not for brand recognition only, but also as a way to be kinder to your community.

Look at this example:

S.W.A.K lips

The image on the left is optimized for accessibility, while the one on the right is not. See how the button colors contrast with the background? See how there’s information on the image, but also a title and a CTA button right below it? That’s what we’re talking about.

Give User-Generated Content the Attention It Deserves

One of the most indispensable marketing books of all time was written by Dr. Robert Cialdini, and it’s called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. This book explains about the five “weapons” of persuasion, one of them being social proof.

Arguably, there’s no better social proof than user-generated content. Because let’s face it, if 9 out of 10 people chant “this product sucks!” to the four winds of the internet. You most likely won’t purchase the product in question and look for something else. After all, the people have spoken.

Brands are inherently biased. Potential customers want to hear from those who waited days or weeks for a product to arrive. They want to see the reactions of people who have touched it and smelled it and had a whole experience with it.

It’s no wonder consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic. Wouldn’t you?

These emails are perfect for when you need a boost in brand trust. Ironically, it turns the attention away from the brand, leaving the limelight to loyal customers. Here are a few expert to nail UGC in your upcoming campaigns:

  • Don’t be afraid to show off your best reviews.
  • Feature customer photos. You’ll want to avoid influencers for this one as we already know they’re paid to praise products. You’re looking for authenticity, and so are your skeptical customers.
  • You can also encourage them to use hashtags on Instagram if they’d like to be featured.

The following example from West Elm rugs aced two of the above.


In all cases, you’ll want to ask for permission to feature personal photos and reviews. Be sure to include the customer’s social media handle, as well. Just a heads up.

Focus on Customer Retention (NOT Customer Acquisition)

If you only think about earning new customers, you’re doomed. Customer acquisition is relatively difficult, five times as costly, and won’t guarantee any purchases. Though it’s not certainly not ignorable, customer acquisition shouldn’t be your priority. Now, customer retention should.

When it comes to occasional and recurrent customers, you can be sure they’ll be buying something eventually if you pull the right triggers. They’re the ones who have purchased from you in the past. And the fact that they know and like your brand is a huge opportunity.

They’re advocates who contribute immensely to your brand through word-of-mouth and sharing, which 76 percent of people are more likely to trust.

Also, these people are making you the money you can use to optimize your marketing strategy. So they deserve all the love and attention you can give.

We have a behemoth of an article that breaks down powerful tips you should take to retain customers successfully, examples included. You’ll want to have a look at that if you’re dedicated to turning your ecommerce email marketing strategy around.

The Takeaway

In the foreseeable future, use this guide for your ecommerce marketing endeavors.

Granted, email marketing strategies are always mutating like the Coronavirus itself, but it’s still the email we’ve known for years. We might have a few points added here and there. But the nitty-gritty will remain: giving the right customers the right offers, at the right time.

Would you add any tips to help fellow marketers achieve their longed-for ecommerce goals this year? Comment below.