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The Incredibly Practical Guide to Email Marketing for E-Commerce Brands: Part 2

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We’re back today with part two of this email marketing for e-commerce brands guide. If you missed part one, we suggest you turn around and start there. We’ll be waiting for you when you return.

In last week’s post we discussed three reasons why email marketing is such an effective business promotion tool, and the five email marketing platforms we recommend you build your email empire on.

We also walked you through a few different strategies you can use to up your subscriber count and quickly mentioned the importance of list segmentation.

Today we’re going to get down and dirty with your actual emails: writing them better, designing them sexier, and optimizing them more effectively. We’ll also cover the main types of campaigns your e-com brand needs to be sending.

Just like in part one, our aim is to make every bit of advice we share with you today extremely actionable. Let’s get to it.

Email Goals

Oop, we lied. We will teach you how to write and design better emails, but first we need to talk about email goals. This is the foundation. Without a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve, your email marketing efforts will never be as successful as they could be.

Before writing a message, ask yourself, “what do I want my subscribers to do after reading this email?” Do you want them to buy a product, sign up for a free giveaway, follow you on social media? These are all noble goals. Your job is to know which one you’re trying to accomplish.

Next, ask yourself who you’re sending this email to (recall last week’s section on segmentation), and why they should care about what you have to say.

You wouldn’t want to send a “buy my product” message to a subscriber who already has — even if increasing sales is your main email marketing objective. Instead, send these subscribers different content that will better resonate with them. Make sense?

Cool, now that we’ve covered goals, it’s time to get writin’!

Write Better Emails

Can’t seem to make email marketing work for your e-commerce business? We’ve all struggled to “get it right” at one time or another. One of the biggest issues we see companies make when it comes to email is sending poorly crafted messages.

We don’t want this to happen to you, too. Fortunately, if you adhere to the following guidelines, you’ll be able to write much more successful marketing messages and unleash the emailing superstar inside.

Subject Lines

Without a doubt the most important element of your email in the subject line. After all, if your messages don’t get opened, you’re not building relationships, engaging subscribers, or making any money. No bueno.

Here’s how to get your subject lines right:

Use the 4 U’s Technique

Your email subject lines need to imply that your message will be useful, unique, ultra-specific, and urgent — or at least three out of four of those.

Why should a subscriber open your email? Because they understand that it will contain useful and unique information on one specific topic. If you can give them a reason to open now rather than later (urgency), even better.

Use a Familiar Sender Name and “Power” Words

Your subscribers will be much more likely to open your emails if they recognize your business as the sender. So don’t get clever or constantly change who your messages are coming from. You’ll easily confuse your audience.

Also, the use of “power” words is known to increase open rates. What’s a power word, you ask? Simple: a word that triggers an emotional response in the reader and makes them want to take action. “New,” “Last Chance,” and “Ultimate” are good examples.

Be Professional

That means you need to AVOID THE USE OF ALL CAPS — nobody likes to be shouted at. Also, please check your spelling and leave excessive punctuation at the door!!!! See how annoying it is? Refrain.


Great, a subscriber opened your email! Now what? Hopefully you have some kind of call-to action (CTA) in place to get them to your website. Let’s talk about how to win at CTAs:

  • Answer “Why”

    Your CTA needs a strong value proposition. Why should subscribers click on your link? Because they can clearly see that they’ll get something valuable. Make sure your CTAs give subscribers a legit reason to click.


  • Use the Right Perspective

    CTAs written in the first person give your subscribers ownership of your offer. For instance, “Download My Checklist Now” is better than “Download the Checklist Now.”


  • Keep It Specific

    Not many people appreciate the unknown. If you want people to click on your CTA, then you need to be very specific about what will happen once they do. A CTA that says, “View My Full Report Now” is a perfect example.


  • Make It Pop

    There are two ways to design a CTA: as a bunch of hyperlinked words or as an image or button of some sort. For most e-comm brands we recommend the “image” route. Make your link look like a button. And make sure your button is a different color than the rest of your email so that it stands out. You know, make it pop!

Body Copy

Let’s talk about the actual words inside your emails. What the heck should you write in there? Well, we can’t tell you exactly what content to create. That completely depends on your business type and target market. But we do have a few tips:

  • Keep It Short

    Now is NOT the time to write a NYT best-seller. Get to the point, always offer value, and definitely make sure your audience understands why they should click on your CTA. Once you’ve accomplished all that, get outta there.

  • Make It Visually Appealing

    This isn’t true for every e-commerce business. But for the vast majority of them, visuals are important. Fortunately, most email marketing software comes with beautiful templates. Try a few of them on for size.

  • Format Your Emails Correctly

    Staying with this “visually appealing” theme, make sure to break up your paragraphs. Your readers will be intimidated by large blocks of text and will quickly delete your message if it looks like too much work to read. White space is your friend. Use it.

An Eye for Design

We’ve covered a few design tips already. Remember what we said about CTA buttons and using white space in your body copy? You should; it was literally thirty seconds ago. Well it turns out there are other design and layout best practices you should know as well.

Subject Line Emojis

Emjoi use in regard to email subject lines has been hotly debated for a while now. The data supports claims of increased engagement levels, but naysayers are quick to point out the downsides to this strategy as well. What’s an e-commerce brand to do?

You need to know the facts so that you can make an educated decision for your business. Here they are:

  • Your Customers LOVE Emojis

    From text messages to social media posts, emojis are unavoidable because the general population is utterly obsessed with them. Major companies have even updated logos to make them more emoji friendly.

  • Emojis Can Increase Open Rates

    A report by Experian showed that 56% of businesses sending emoji infused subject lines experienced higher open rates.

  • Support for Emoji Needs to be Ensured

    Your subscribers use a smattering of different email providers from Outlook, to Apple Mail, to Gmail. Each of these services render email differently. Before using an emoji in your subject lines, you need to test how it will appear on multiple platforms.

Take these facts into consideration when assessing emojis and your subject line strategy.

Layout Techniques

Once you get subscribers inside your email, your next mission is to get them to click on the CTA. The layout of your message plays a crucial role in whether you’re successful in this mission or not. Here are three proven layouts to try:

The Inverted Pyramid

This layout starts with a great, value-packed headline, continues with strong supporting body copy, and ends with a distinct call-to-action. When these three elements are structured in an inverted pyramid design (see picture), they prove especially effective.

This layout catches the reader’s attention and gently guides them through the email, while subconsciously encouraging a click. Pretty cool!



The Zigzag

The zigzag is another email layout format. Instead of creating an inverted pyramid, though, messages are structured to contain multiple CTAs, set in a descending, side to side pattern (see picture.)

To better utilize this zigzag formation, create angles using different, complementary colors, and images.

email marketing for ecommerce


The Single Column

This is the most basic layout technique, but it’s still very effective. The single column design works great on both mobile and desktop devices, and doesn’t confuse readers with too much information or multiple next steps.

email marketing for ecommerce


Get Your Images Right

Let’s talk images. First off, should you even use them? That may seem like a silly question given that this entire section is about design. But it’s still worth asking.

Many argue that HTML emails (the kind that contain pictures and other design elements) have a lower deliverability rate than plain text messages. Also, many of your subscriber’s email providers will block images by default.

Even with all this in mind, we still recommend most e-commerce brands use images in their email marketing. You’ll just need to follow these guidelines:

  • Always Use ALT Text

ALT text is simply the words that display if an email’s images are blocked. It helps communicate an email’s message when its pictures fail to render. This is super helpful and every image totin’ email needs to include ALT text. Just add an attribute to the image tag.

  • Size is Important

The size of your images, that is. Large files take an eternity (in internet time) to load. Even longer on mobile devices. And since a majority of your subscribers read emails on their phones, this could pose a major problem. Do your email marketing efforts a favor and make sure your images are sized correctly.

  • Don’t Rely on Images Alone

In our Instagrammable, snap-happy culture, it’s easy to forget that images aren’t everything. Don’t rely on them to the point of neglecting text all together. Email Monks recommends that 20% of your email be composed of pictures and 80% text.

Optimize Or Die

Once you send your email campaign you can kick back and relax, right? You followed all of our directions in this post. Now the sales will just start rolling in, yeah? If only.

So far we’ve given you a solid email marketing for ecommerce foundation. But we’re not done yet. You need to optimize your efforts.

Even the greatest email marketers in the world don’t get everything perfect on the first try. In fact, the argument can be made that they’re the best at email marketing because they take optimization so seriously.

The good news is that the optimization process really isn’t that complex. You simply try something, measure the results, and then try something else. Most email marketing services come with analytics dashboards. Study this information and look for ways to improve.

You can also test multiple emails against each other before they’re sent to your entire list. This is known as A/B testing.

A/B Testing

To A/B test your email, you need to create two versions of it. One will be the original, the other will have one (only one!) distinct change. Maybe you rewrite the subject line, or use a different image in the body copy.

Both emails are then sent to a small segment of your subscriber list. The message that performs better — more opens, click-throughs, etc. — is the winner. You then send the winning email to the rest of your list.

What Should You Optimize?

Just about any element of your email can be tested and optimized. But the ones that will likely have the most impact on your e-commerce success are subject lines, CTAs, body text length, and image use/design.

Email Ideas for Ecommerce Brands

Have a couple more minutes? We want to share a few “email perfect” scenarios with you. Send messages when these occasions occur and you won’t regret it.

The “New Subscriber” Scenario

Every new subscriber deserves an email, if not an entire sequence. This message should thank them for joining your list and attempt to begin building a relationship. You can do this by telling new subscribers the history of your business and why you do what you do.

You could also send a few follow up messages linking them to your most popular blog posts, or offer a special discount on their next order. Whatever your strategy, make sure your email content is valuable to new subscribers.

The “Abandoned Cart” Scenario

Roughly 70% of digital shopping carts are abandoned. If that doesn’t make you all kinds of depressed I don’t know what will. But there is good news, this time in the form of abandoned cart emails.

These messages can be automated to send anytime a potential customer fills their digital shopping cart, but leaves before purchasing the items. And studies show that emails of this kind can boost conversion rates by an average of 12 to 15%.

Make use of abandoned cart messages and put some green back into your pocket.

The “Confirmation” Scenario

Does your ecom brand send out order and shipping confirmation emails? This is perfect real estate to get creative and attempt to sell more of your goods.

Your company is much more likely to see repeat buyers than brand new ones. As in 60 to 70% more likely. Why not take advantage? In your order confirmation message, include a discount coupon on their next purchase.

In your shipping confirmation email, ask your customer if they’d be interested in purchasing the same product for a friend or family member. If you get creative, you might be able to make more sales.

The “Regular Update” Scenario

You should be emailing your list on a regular basis. That way you can build a relationship with them, they’ll begin to trust your brand, and you’ll make more sales.

But what should you email your subscribers? How about the occasional, subscriber-only discount code? Contests and giveaways, and company updates can make for great email content as well.

Your Turn

Email marketing for e-commerce brands makes so much sense it’s ridiculous. And now you have the tools to do it effectively. You’re welcome!

Remember, this whole process is made possible by email marketing software. Companies like Robly, MailChimp, and Aweber allow you to collect subscriber email addresses and message them at scale.

Once you’re set up with the tools of the trade, use the tips outlined in this guide to grow your subscriber count, write better emails, and optimize your entire operation. If you do that, you’re sure to win at email marketing.

Have you been using email to market your e-commerce business? Why or why not? Do you think this guide will help you be more successful in the future? Let us know in the comments!

Jacob Thomas is a freelance copywriter and content marketer based in Bend, OR. His professional writing approach has helped numerous businesses gain more traffic, leads and sales. To contact Jacob, visit

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