Comparing social media marketing to email marketing is like comparing cats to dogs. They both have their pros and cons, and some people have clear preferences for one over the other. However, if you had to compare the two, how do the metrics stack up? (hint: this is a trick question).
Keep reading and we’ll answer this question as well as offer 5 strategies you can implement today to drive sales on your e-commerce email marketing campaigns.
Email Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing
According to Mailchimp’s analysis of billions of emails sent, the average open rate for email advertising across all industries is 21.33%, with 2.62% average click-through-rates (CTRs).
Compare this to Hootsuite’s 2022 Q2 Digital Trends Reporting, which shows the average social media CTR on paid social media advertising is only 1.1%, with average engagement rates (i.e. likes, comments, shares) for Facebook and Instagram content even lower at 0.06% and 0.68%, respectively.
In other words, if you run an email marketing and social media campaign targeting 1,000 users each, you will get 213 people who will open your emails vs. only 11 who will click on your social media ads. These numbers track well with my experience at Rakuten, where email marketing regularly saw 20-30% open rates vs. the 2-5% CTR seen on social media ads. However, the point here isn’t to say that email marketing is superior. When you take metrics like conversions into account, the data becomes murky.
For example, how do you attribute this conversion journey: someone discovered your brand via your social media ad, went to your brand page, signed up for your newsletter, received an email from you, and then clicked through to buy your product? Many marketers will use a last click attribution model, giving email the full credit. (Related: 5 Excellent Ecommerce Email Marketing Examples to Learn From)
However, this entirely ignores how you got the email in the first place, which brings us to our first strategy.
10 Best Ecommerce Email Marketing Strategies to Drive Sales
Let's get started.
1. Leverage Social Media to engage with Valuable Customers (by Email)
Rather than pitting your email campaigns against your social media campaigns, look at the channels as complementary. Treat social media as a mid-level funnel and email marketing as a lower-level funnel that feeds off one another.
For example, if you’re a food e-commerce company, a social media recipe/photo contest followed by free giveaways for those who give you their emails is a perfect way to grow awareness but also feed your email funnel.
Email gating your contests helps grow your email lists, which should be treated like a loyalty club. Loyal customers tend to buy more from you. Treat loyal customers with personalized attention. Don’t forget to let customers know via email who won the contests, or offer them a consolation prize for not winning. Respond when they reply or complain to you.
2. Offer Value and have a Voice
A subscriber who gave you permission to email them may easily have forgotten they did so, and will just as quickly mark your emails as spam or unsubscribe. Don't spam them with irrelevant content. It’s also okay to space emails days or even weeks apart.
Besides providing clear value, your emails should also have a point of view and voice, even when automating. Don’t be afraid to infuse a little personality into your emails, and most importantly of all, deliver a little extra value that changes your customer’s perspective or offers them more than just a discount.
If you’re selling a B2B service, maybe an exclusive invitation to a webinar from a sought-after expert, or a one-off free trial or discount may motivate users to actually open and click through that email. Advanced email marketing software such as Omnisend will also allow you to gamify your email campaigns, giving your customer a hit of adrenaline and value.
3. Always Automate and Sequence your Emails
There’s always a lot of pressure in sending that first email. However, if you automate and sequence your emails, you don't have to worry about this.
The first automatic email you should set up is the welcome email introducing your brand story, best products, or even a welcome discount. The second automatic email you should set up is the abandoned cart email.
According to Klaviyo, abandoned cart emails in their datasets have some of the highest open rates (41.18%), generating an average of $5.81 per recipient. That’s money you’re leaving on the table.
4. Re-engage, Retarget and Personalize your Email Audiences
Email marketing software has gotten quite advanced, meaning you can do just about any kind of segmentation and retargeting you can imagine, including integration with social media campaign audiences.
Don’t forget to re-target and re-engage with your audiences. For example, you can automatically send out emails to customers who previously purchased from you during your last holiday sale, but have yet to engage or buy anything in the current sale campaign. This is something that’s hard to do manually, but email software makes this a breeze.
Besides purchase history, you can also re-target users by average purchase amount, browsing behavior/interests, which leads they signed up for, as well as their email open rate activity.
Offer personalized discounts. Even a nominal 5% discount on that particular product they browsed, or a different spin on the benefits could be what pushes the customer to buy. There are a billion ways you can segment and personalize your email audiences. Experiment and see what works for your customers.
5. Pick the Right time to Send your Emails
Another reason to automate your emails is timing. This is especially important if you have international customers when you’re not awake. According to Mailchimp, Monday-Friday at 10am is the best time to send your email campaigns. This makes sense during COVID, when remote employees are probably online shopping during that one-hour Monday team standup.
However, you may want to also segment and time your email campaigns by country if you’re an international business. In Japan, the day after the 25th (payday) of every month is ideal timing. In some EMEA countries, weekends (the worst time to send email campaigns) often fall on Friday-Saturday.
6. Keep Subject Lines Short
An image may say a thousand words, but it may say nothing if not formatted properly, especially on mobile devices. As an e-commerce brand, it might be important to be visual, but it doesn’t hurt to double check if your emails are readable. Apple (57.97%) and Gmail (28.13%) are the dominant email clients globally.
7. Use Templates and always Preview
Email software such as Omnisend offer no-code responsive email templates, as well as instant preview – a feature that’s great for editing subject lines. You’d be shocked to find out how many brands have confusing subject lines that are often bizarrely cut off. That’s a sure-fire way to get users to swipe left on their iPhones.
8. Text is sometimes More
Also, a well-written text campaign may actually perform better than an image-heavy campaign.
In my experience at Rakuten, text actually performed just as well, if not better than HTML/image-heavy campaigns. Large images may trigger spam filters, load slowly, and look different across devices. The best rule is to keep your writing engaging, template clean, and call to action compelling.
9. Monitor Metrics such as Open and Unsubscribe Rates
With software, you can also monitor your subscriber’s unsubscribe or open rates. Watch out for pesky emails that lead to high unsubscribes or low opens – there could be something annoying your customers. Bad subject lines often lead to lower open rates, and spammy images often cause high unsubscribes.
10. Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
Lastly, there’s no perfect secret when it comes to email marketing. Experimentation is best, as your customers may respond differently than how you anticipate. A/B test your content: not just your emails, but the type of content (i.e. images, text, CTAs, etc.). Find out what works and double down on that content (without being spammy, of course!)