Ideas flowing Ideas flowing

10 ideas to keep your email content varied and fresh

As an eCommerce marketer, email is one of the most powerful tools you have to connect with existing and potential customers.  And the good news is: It’s how they want to connect with you, too. According to Statista, more than half of consumers say they want to hear from their from favorite brands via email at least weekly.

But—and this is a big “but”—people hate getting irrelevant emails. That’s why it’s essential to create interesting, engaging, relevant emails your subscribers want to receive. 

If you’ve ever run a blog, you know one of the hardest parts is coming up with ideas. It’s the same with emails. So, in this guide, we’ll share some of the basics rules for coming up with unique content for email marketing, and give some tips on different ideas you can use to craft your emails. 

Email marketing—the stats

First, some stats. There’s a popular misconception that email is obsolete, as brands can now connect with customers through social media, chat, or apps.

But email is still very much relevant. In looking at future email marketing trends, it’s clear that consumers of all ages still use email regularly, and that use isn’t slowing down. According to the latest email marketing statistics, more than 75 percent of people under 24 use email in everyday life—and the majority use it for “online purchases.” 

The stats also show that:

  • Around 58 percent of people check email first every day
  • Consumers like to communicate with brands via email
  • Email is more engaging than social media, with a whopping 22.86 percent average click through rate

Whatever age your target audience is, email remains one of the best ways to reach them. 

What eCommerce email marketing can do for you

Email can be a serious workhorse for an eCommerce business. Shopify found email marketing can help increase your customer base, encourage them to buy more, and boost average order value. In fact, email is 2.5 times more likely to lead to an order than a social media link.

Referrers by conversion rate.
Via: Shopify.

In addition, email marketing can help you:

  • Capitalize on website traffic to persuade visitors to become new customers
  • Increase awareness of your eCommerce brand
  • Strengthen your relationship with existing customers
  • Re-engage dormant customers (win-back emails for the win!)

In a nutshell, email marketing help improve both customer relationships and revenue, and that’s good for business.

What to include in your eCommerce emails

Though emails help you achieve sales, not every eCommerce email has to be all about the hard sell. In fact, it can be good to mix sales with interesting content—or even send a newsletter that exclusively (or almost exclusively) focuses on educating, informing, entertaining, and growing the bond with your customers.

Regardless of what you do with your email content, it’s wise to keep your emails short. Over half of all emails are less than 300 words long. Remember our usual caveat, though. The only way to know what works for your audience is to test your emails

As for the content of your email, here are some useful prompts—and examples of brands making the most of them.

Presenting 10 products in an email will, most likely, play to your subscribers as a pure advertisement. But if you frame your email as information—10 new products, our 10 best-selling products of the week, etc.—then you’ve created content around those products.

Barnes & Noble highlights some of its most popular books, letting customers know what’s trending and enticing them to come to the store.

2. Educate your customers

You can educate customers on how to use your specific products—but you can also educate your customers about your space. That, in turn, establishes your brand as an expert and a trusted source to shop from in the future.

For example, if you’re in the restaurant or cookware business, your email could share recipes, like Bon Appetit‘s recipe of the day. It helps customers by giving them a useful meal idea, but also encourages them to click through to the website where, who knows, they might be tempted to order something.

For educational email, consider linking to buyers’ guides, sharing relevant videos, or giving information about a particular product category, like Away does in this email about backpacks.

3. Include videos

Did you know that 79 percent of people say watching video has convinced them to buy? So, including videos in your eCommerce emails isn’t just good for engagement; it’s good for sales, too. And yes, email clients are finally starting to widely support videos.

It’s up to you whether you actually embed a short video, as Jambox does here:

Or use a screengrab of one frame of the video to encourage subscribers to click through to watch on your site, as Snowman does:

Either way, with online video taking an ever-larger share of web content, it’s an opportunity you should seriously consider. 

4. Show products in use

Showing your customers a picture of a product is good. Showing your customers a picture of a product in action is better. When you use a picture of someone using your product, it helps a customer envision how it could fit into their life.

If you’re in fashion or footwear, showing a product in use can be as simple as a picture of someone wearing it. 

You can make a product feel more “approachable” by showing it in action as well. Food52 does just that by showing hands holding a Dutch oven, evoking all the warm feelings that go along with freshly prepared food.

5. Let customers peek behind the curtain

A good way to build your relationship with customers is to let them look behind the scenes of what you do. It’s a way to show the people behind the products—and your company’s values.

Chipotle takes this approach in sharing information and a video about how it chooses and prepares ingredients.

6. Highlight user-generated content

One way to turn customers into brand advocates is to showcase how they use your products. User-generated content is a smart, organic way to do so: Share customers’ photos, stories, videos, and reviews to show other people how someone just like them is loving your brand. That social proof that helps encourage subscribers to buy your products and build their own bond with your brand.

Here’s a good example from Oros of using a customer picture and a few reviews to demonstrate the popularity of their parka:

7. Make subscribers feel personally special 

Personalization is a major component of email marketing—but there’s more to it than just using a subscriber’s name. Rather, it’s a matter of making emails relevant. 

One way to make a customer feel special is by sending personalized emails around special occasions. For example, Barkbox uses a pet’s birthday to suggest a birthday treat to its customers:

And Kikki K offers a free birthday voucher:

You can also make customers feel special with VIP or subscriber-only offers. In this example, Withings offers early access to its Black Friday sale. Since we’re all conditioned to know the best Black Friday deals sell out quickly, it feels like a legitimate VIP perk to get a chance at them before the masses.

8. Offer freebies or discounts

Never underestimate the power of the freebie to turn subscribers into customers. If someone’s on your list, tempting them with a deal can encourage them to take the next step. That’s exactly what Good Eggs does with the offer of a free meal kit:

Discounts also work. In this email from Moosejaw, they’re offering multiple discounts—the more you spend, the more you save. This is a way to try to push someone up to spending just a little more in their effort to get to the next savings tier.

9. Ask a question

You can get subscribers engaged—and learn more about them—by asking their opinion. Handy combines a quick survey with a discount offer and contest within the email:

Polls and quizzes can also engage subscribers. Here’s a good example from Harry’s, where subscribers have the option of taking the fun quiz, or exploring the online store. 

Harry's has a fun quiz.
Via: Milled.

10. Showcase your products and services

Finally, sometimes it is all about the product. Use your email newsletter to tell customers about new products and services, and to encourage them to buy. Here’s a good example from Jigsaw, featuring an upcoming sale.

Jigsaw's summer sale email.
Via: Pinterest.

But remember, if that’s the only kind of email you send, your subscribers will find it a turnoff.

Other places to get eCommerce email ideas

Now that you know some types of content to send, there’s one more issue: Keeping the idea well full. Here are some more places to find ideas for email content:

  • Your blog. If you have great blog content that highlights your expertise or solves issues for your customers, share the best of it in a newsletter. Some marketers prefer to include only a teaser to encourage people to click through to the website.
  • Your competitors. Get inspiration from your competitors’ emails. Subscribe, and you’ll soon see what they’re doing well, and what you can do better. Try subscribing to newsletters outside your niche for even more creative inspiration.
  • Your customers. Your customers are likely asking questions or leaving comments through customer service, on social media, or via email. Pay attention to what they’re saying, and you’ll know what interests or concerns they have so you can address those topics in your emails.
  • Current trends. Monitor trends and online conversations to see what people are talking about. This can provide a topical hook for your email content.

The examples we’ve shared fill different roles, but they have one thing in common: They all lead subscribers to your website so that there’s a possibility they’ll buy something. To make your eCommerce emails even more successful, check out our guides to improving email open rates and designing eCommerce emails

Key takeaways

It can be a big challenge to come up with a never-ending flow of content for your emails. But since email is such a crucial part of an eCommerce strategy—and those emails need to be engaging and relevant—it’s a challenge you have to take on.

Here are some different types of content you can put together to keep your customers opening, reading, and clicking your emails.

  • What’s popular. Share your popular products to guide your customers—and even frame your sales emails as content.
  • Educate your customers. Teach your customers how to use your products, or just educate them about your space to build authority and strengthen your bond.
  • Use videos. Video is now better supported by email clients, and it’s a powerful way to entertain and engage your subscribers.
  • Show your products in use. When customers see someone using your product, it helps them envision how it might fit into their lives.
  • Let customers peek behind the curtain. Show off the people and values behind your business to help customers better connect with your brand.
  • Highlight user-generated content. Your happy customers can be your best advocates—share their photos, stories, and reviews.
  • Make subscribers feel special. Send personalized emails to celebrate milestones like customers’ birthdays, and invite VIPs to partake in special offers.
  • Offer freebies or discounts. One of the best ways to encourage customers to shop is with a can’t-miss deal.
  • Ask a question. Engage your subscribers with a survey, poll, or quiz.
  • Showcase your products and services. While you’ll want to vary things up and not have every email give a hard sell, sometimes you can explicitly ask for the sale with a product-focused email.
Sharon Hurley Hall
Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. She's written for publications as varied as IBM, OptinMonster, CrazyEgg, Search Engine People, and Unbounce. In her previous life Sharon was also a journalist and university lecturer (teaching journalism, of course!) You can learn more about Sharon at sharonhh.com.

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