Analyzing 12,500 emails from eTailers
This is a case study of over 12,500 eCommerce emails from 200 different eTailers in 15 different industries from March 2013 to May 2014. (15 months) “Mostly a horde of eCommerce images with captions”
What I Hoped to Learn From These eCommerce emails:
- The Average Number of Emails eTailers Sent Every Month
- How eTailers conducted Onboarding Series (Welcome Emails)
- What eCommerce stores were doing about Shopping Cart Abandonment?
- Were eTailers missing opportunities when consumers unsubscribed?
In September of 2012, I started this study with no intention of writing a post or performing a study, following eCommerce emails because it made me more successful at selling advertising. When I was at Catalogs.com, we had 2 main programs, a traffic driving program and lead generating program, so I made a special email account “luizcentnews [at] gmail.com just to receive eCommerce email campaigns. (Thanks Amy) Feel free to subscribe me to any eCommerce campaign, all others get sent to to spam.
eTailers that were sending out marketing emails excited me because once I had the owner or VP of eCommerce on the phone I would compliment them on their “amazing email campaign”. eCommerce stores experimenting with automation were already attributing dollar values to each of their opt in email subscribers, I recall Richard Slater from Medex Supply attributing each opt-in email as an $8 value to his company.
After analyzing trends in eCommerce email marketing I realized the top companies were engaging in practices that were subpar. Thus I opted in to every campaign I saw and never opened a single email.
In total there are 170 eCommerce companies that have been sending me emails for 1 year resulting in over 12,500 eTail emails and below are my findings.
Over 70% of eCommerce Companies Aren’t Sending Emails Based On Behavior
- 132 eTailers continued to send me emails for a year even though I hadn’t opened a single one
- 38 eTailers stopped sending me emails after a certain period of inactivity. (Most cleaned their list in December and January)
- Some companies email every day, some once a month, others just wing it – the average number of emails sent is about 6.73 emails per month, so roughly an email every 4 or 5 days.
- In addition to the ones that have been active sending me newsletter campaigns, there are 8 eTailers who completely forgot about me. They sent me a welcome email and they never emailed me again!
- There are also about 30 eCommerce email campaigns that I never confirmed my subscription to.
The eCommerce Companies That Don’t Deserve Your Email
I found some scary stuff prospecting eCommerce companies that need and still need help. I can’t blame them completely, these eCommerce marketers and owners had to learn SEO to bring in organic traffic, which social media channels to utilize for referral traffic, and now email to retain loyal customers. Even though every eCommerce company should have an in house email marketer, the $50,000 a year salary doesn’t always meet the budget. Thus, my explorations began.
Analyzing An eCommerce Site
There are a few steps I take when looking to see if an eTail store would be an ideal partnership for eCommerce Cosmos.
1. Analyze The Site With Wappalyzer
This will allow you to see what kind of technology the eTail merchant has. It is not 100% reliable as it won’t detect everything but from shopping cart platform to tracking scripts, to email campaigns we want to know what technologies they are currently using. There is even an extension that you can install on Chrome and Firefox. We streamlined this process using Sendbloom who is saving us about 20 hours every week.
2. Analyze the eCommerce Checkout Process
We want to work with companies who are going to succeed long term, conversion optimization testing and shopping cart best practices are essential. Barriers to checkout like captchas, and pop ups shouldn’t be used during checkout. Ideally, users enter their email where they are prompted to continue to billing and shipping preferences and voila you have captured the email.
3. Sign up for the eCommerce Email Newsletter Campaign
The best way to get new partners is to give examples of how they can improve their email campaign with no expectation in return. We have acquired some of our most valuable clients by giving tips that resulted in improved click thru rates and higher revenue per email sent. Our entire team signs up to each prospect’s eCommerce email campaign, we compliment them on the good and give advice on what should be improved. Our goal is to give email marketing a better name so as long as better emails are being sent we done our job.
4. Complete the eCommerce Checkout
It’s staggering to me how many companies aren’t testing their checkout process. With nearly 70% of all eCommerce shopping carts being abandoned it was interesting to see what some companies were doing to mitigate abandonment.
This was my 12th hour of analyzing emails, I ran out of Café Bustelo and was borderline delusional so I decided to have a little fun.
Contacting the eTail store Owner or VP of eCommerce
So this is the fun part, usually we rely on referrals from happy customers but there are times that I feel compelled to connect with the people in charge. I’ll typically start with the Founder or VP of Marketing and the conversation flow will go something like this.
Most companies I contacted had no problem getting on the phone and talking strategy about their eCommerce emails, whether or not they were a client I was glad to help as the goal is an email disruption. We want people to enjoy opening their emails, and by people we mean your eCommerce customers!
Preview Text Jacked Up For Days
Studying 15 months of eCommerce emails all at once led to great insight, so many companies are just trying to sell, sell sell! Instead they should be delivering value to their consumers through educational emails that let them make the decision themselves.
Also notice the fantastic preview text, if I wasn’t familiar with iCuraco I would think this is spam. It’s not as if we don’t make mistakes, we test and break things all the time, heck I just found out that using names in the subject line is not an optimal practice especially as the first word as users will glance right by it.
It seems like preview text was one of the most common errors, and it made a big difference when companies did it right. Even Skymall a terrific eCommerce company has room for improvement here.
This wasn’t happening only on Bronto, Constant Contact and Mailchimp… Listrak and Hubspot campaigns were also not tested for quality assurance. Apart from the subject line this is the most important part of getting the subscriber to open your email campaign.
The Welcome Email
Its profound that eTailers don’t utilize this opportunity to build closer relationships with the customers. Most companies start the email relationship horribly wrong, or invest little time and end up branding their ESP better than themselves. Next week we will go over the optimal way of setting up a welcome series that makes your customers happy to receive your emails.
In addition to seeing 11 firstname.lastname@example.org email addresses another great way to tell consumers you do not care about them is to not ask the most important question; What are you unsubscribing from? There were numerous campaigns that were sending me daily emails and as soon as I click unsubscribe boom, you have been removed from the list.
Some did a little better by taking me to a page where I could modify my preferences or confirm my opt out their eCommerce newsletter but this is still bad practice.
Overall this was a tremendous learning experience, and by no means are we perfect but we enjoy staying on top of the trends, and we live by ABT, always be testing. If anyone has an eCommerce email strategy that has worked well I would love to hear about it as well as follow the campaign.
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