6 email templates small business owners can use to bring in customers and drive holiday sales

  • The busy holiday season can make it difficult for brands to stand out among the flood of emails consumers receive in their inboxes daily.
  • A low open rate is a major threat to business owners hoping to boost sales through email, said e-commerce founder Adii Pienaar.
  • Pienaar provides six templates for small business owners looking to create engaging email campaigns.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

This year, the holiday shopping season has started earlier and business owners face new challenges as consumer habits will be drastically different. Customers anticipate shopping online more, avoiding crowds, and making fewer in-store trips.

The pandemic triggered a surge in ecommerce and email marketing will be an important tool for messaging and promotions through the holiday season. But it's a highly competitive arena — getting customers top open your email is half the battle.

A low open rate is one of the main threats business owners face when trying to boost sales through email, said e-commerce founder Adii Pienaar. "If someone doesn't open an email, they're not going to take any further action," he told Business Insider. 

Pienaar is the vice president of commerce product strategy at email marketing company CM Commerce and he founded two companies. His first company, WooThemes, founded in 2007, sold website design and themes for e-commerce brands. His second company, Conversio, founded in 2014, was a marketing dashboard for e-commerce brands. Conversio was acquired by Campaign Monitor and rebranded as CM Commerce. 

Successful email campaigns should follow a "one action rule," he said. This establishes brand identity the minute a customer opens an email and prompts them to engage. Small businesses can do this by announcing a new product or sharing a link with customers via email, he said. These emails start with company branding at the top, have a striking image to peak interest, contain descriptive copy, and end with a call to action.

Pienaar suggested segmenting customers based on level of engagement. Customers who have visited the website but never purchased should receive different emails than customers who have purchased before. For example, customers shouldn't receive emails promoting a product they've already purchased, he said.

Businesses should engage customers with both automated emails, like abandoned-cart messages, or scheduled one-off emails, like newsletters. Pienaar shared six email templates small businesses can use to stay top of mind for customers during the holiday season. 

Follow up with first-time customers

First-time shoppers are worth a follow-up, whether they're visiting your site for the first time or making their first purchase. Sending a welcome email can be an effective way to engage potential customers while they consider a purchase. 

The body of the email should have clear branding to give shoppers an idea of what to expect from future emails. You can also include reviews or ratings to show what others are saying about your business, Pienaar said. 

If the customer hasn't purchased yet, this is a good opportunity to offer an introductory discount, like "10% off your first purchase." If they just made their first purchase, welcome them to a loyalty or referral program.

Send newsletters to spark interest

Sending newsletters on a regular basis is a good way to engage customers, show them what your company is about, and establish the lifestyle of your brand.

Share images, stories, and advice that your target customer cares about. If your business has already established a following, this can be a space to post updates and important announcements like sales and events. 

Pienaar suggested scheduling newsletters in advance, which will free you up to handle any unexpected challenges during the busy holiday season. 

Recover a lost sale with an abandoned cart email

Abandoned cart means a visitor added a product to their cart but left the site before purchasing it. It's a major threat for online retailers. CM Commerce told Business Insider its clients expect 70% to 80% of shopping sessions will not result in a purchase.

But some abandoned carts can be recovered. "You want a way to bring them back and re-engage them," Pienaar said. "A well set-up abandoned cart workflow can get you a recovery rate of anywhere from five to 15%."

Most abandoned cart emails are a simple reminder to the customer that they were about to make a purchase. The message can say something like "Did you forget something?" or "Still thinking about it?" with an image of the product and a link to purchase it. 

CM Commerce recommends a three-email approach: send an email one hour, 24 hours, and three days after a shopper abandons their cart. The first attempt is usually the most successful, the company said — their most successful brands get a nearly 40% open rate on the first email. 

Take advantage of post-sale communication

Your brand's interaction with a customer doesn't end after they checkout. Establishing a returning customer base is just as important as acquiring new customers. Receipts and order confirmations are a necessary step to closing the sale, so use them as more opportunities to engage with your customers.

Start the body of the email by thanking the customer for their purchase, then prompt them to give feedback or share their purchase on social media. 

If your customer's purchase requires shipping, the receipt email can be a good space to provide next step information like when they should expect tracking information or how to contact your customer support. 

Get feedback from your customers

Ask customers to review or rate their purchase one to two weeks after placing their order, which gives them some time to receive the shipment and try the product. You can then use these reviews in future email campaigns. 

Reviews and ratings can be done via email, directly on your site, or you can incentivize customers to post on social media. Many payment processors have feedback integrated into their tools, making it easier to send these emails for every order. For example, Square includes a feedback prompt in its receipt emails. 

Use feedback to generate more sales

Use customer feedback to market to new shoppers. Include ratings and reviews in your welcome or abandoned cart emails, or to promote a recent release or update. 

Customers may want to see your products worn or used by people who look like them, so you can embed social media posts or photos as visual reviews in your emails. 

CM Commerce clients who used reviews and social media proof in abandoned cart campaigns have an up to 10% bump in their recovery rate, the company said. 

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