How Retail Marketers Can Craft Better Email Offers

Finding the right message depends on the business goal

Author: Jeremy Kressmann

March 16, 2017

Retail email marketing is a delicate balancing act. Marketers send emails hoping to boost awareness, generate leads or drive sales, but many also worry their messages will cause readers to unsubscribe or lose interest. The challenge is especially acute for retailers hoping to use emails to drive purchases. What kinds of offers work best to ensure retail emails get opened, and that consumers take action?

The type of incentive or offer retailers should consider including in emails depends on their business goal, according to a recent study by Yes Lifecycle Marketing. For those hoping to get their messages opened, less overt sales messages with no specific offer (open rate of 15.6%) or loyalty incentives (14.6%) had the highest open rates. But among digital retailers hoping to create sales conversions, Lifecycle’s findings from Q4 2016 suggest retailers should focus on messages like free shipping (7.6%) and “percentage off” discounts (7.9%), as these led to the highest conversion rates.

How should retailers sort out these conflicting performance results? The truth for retail marketers is that they don’t necessarily want to pick between one goal or the other, and getting messages opened is often just as important as driving sales. The unfortunate reality, however, is that many in the retail sector don’t have a good answer to this question.

For example, a February 2017 survey by Coherent Path examined the percent of emails sent by US retailers that included discounts or promotions. The results suggest that US retailers’ approach to email goals is still all over the map: 26% of respondents included discounts or promotions in at least three-quarters of their emails, while the same percentage included discounts or promotions in less than one-quarter of their own email communications.

What does all this tell US retailers about how to boost the performance of their email efforts? The answer depends largely on the intended business goal, and the data suggests that trying to include too many messages in the same email message can be counterproductive. Start with a single objective and work from there. Trying to “do it all” in a single email message can ultimately backfire with consumers.