Marketing Transformation

3 Brands That Are Rethinking the Typical Email Marketing Strategy

By Liz Alton on August 1, 2019

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There was once a time when you couldn’t open your inbox without being bombarded with these formulaic brand correspondences. But not today.

In the last few years, the companies’ email marketing strategies have become more sophisticated. No longer are brands resting on publicizing promotions and discounts. Instead, they’re using these emails to feature content consumers care about, shopping integration, re-engagement sequences, and much more.

So if you’re still reserving this format for promotions only, think again. Here’s how to shake up your email marketing strategy, inspired by three bold brands that definitely didn’t take the easy route.

Integrating Content and Retail: Goop

As brands invest more heavily in content creation to reach a wider variety of customers, it’s important to link editorial efforts back to sales. One brand that does this especially well is the designer retail site Goop, which doubles as a lifestyle publication.

Each week, the Goop email hits inboxes with a range of stories covering everything from health concerns and alternate spirituality to food trends and green beauty. For its target audience, the content lands at the intersection of different interests and provides a source of entertainment and information, while still connecting them with related products they may want to purchase.

Of course, the brand makes money through its retail site—and the newsletter fuels that development. For example, they’ll take content that’s focused on a designer and her story or outlook, and then make signature pieces created by that designer available to their customers through the email and the website. In another example, they might write about environmentally friendly hair care, and then share links to their favorite products.

For retailers, this offers an interesting take on how to engage customers. By focusing on how products benefit them or fit into the larger context of their lives and goals, it’s easier to create an interesting framework for urging them to make the purchase. An accounting software solutions provider might create an article on 10 ways to streamline your record keeping for tax time, and then link to a variety of products from a mileage tracking app to an expense-tracking solution.

The retail email marketing strategy takeaway: Map your content to your products, and then make the conversion easy based on what your customers are interested in learning.

The Power of Recommendation Emails: Amazon

Amazon has been called a recommendation engine, and its approach to retail has revolutionized the way we shop. The same could be said about their retail email marketing strategy. One of the most powerful creative email marketing examples that Amazon offers is its recommendation emails. Based on your browsing history, your purchase history, and other information, Amazon can pretty accurately recommend products you’ll love.

person using a laptop

Photo attribution: Christin Hume on Unsplash

The average retail brand may not have this depth of information, but it is important to ask how you can use your knowledge of customers to better target your emails. For example, how often do companies flood you around Labor Day with back-to-school emails? If you can be more strategic than competitors that are doing the same thing as everyone else, you’ll really show customers you can meet their needs.

Consider the case of a writing coach I worked with. She offers a variety of classes, services, and other products. I bought into her funnel with her introductory $99 class. It was extremely useful, and in turn, I signed up for her mailing list. Based on the course, she later targeted me with her advanced course mailing—and again, I signed up. Later, she released a book on the topic, and used a segmented email approach to reach out to people she knew were interested in productivity for writers. How did I learn that? Because she targeted me as a multiple-touch-point buyer and let me know about a discount coaching offer—which I of course signed up for.

By anticipating what your customers want and recommending relevant products, you can quickly turn them into valuable repeat buyers.

Using Gripping Exclusive Content: The Pipster Report

Recently, a client asked me if he could count a dry promotional email as “exclusive client content.” While there’s no final authority, it’s smart business to ask if customers are going to be excited about what you’re sharing. Does it engage, entertain, or educate in a real way? It can be challenging to strike a balance—but when you do, the payoff can be substantial. One example that does this well comes from the world of publishing and independent authors.

Romantic comedies: people either love them or hate them. Personally, something about the intersection of laughing and happily ever after gets me every time. Imagine my delight when I discovered Pippa Grant, an author who burst onto the scene in the past couple of years and has hit Amazon’s Top 10 with some of her books. Grant’s books have compelling covers, cheeky titles, and exactly the kind of tropes that readers of this genre are looking for. Where Grant’s connection with her audience really shines though is through her marketing newsletter, The Pipster Report.

Here’s how she describes it: “Get exclusive bonus scenes and epilogues, a secret look into Pippa’s life, Dear Pippa, cookie recipes, and so much more! Pipster Reports arrive every Friday for your weekly dose of laughs! Already signed up? Check your last Pipster Report for the secret link to the bonus epilogues!”

Marketers might think that novelists have an edge on engaging content, and that’s fair. But brands that create content that links to and supports the consumer experience are more likely to engage. For example, let’s say you hosted a podcast with an expert who is of interest to your audience. Consider supplementing the podcast with an exclusive Q&A on a hot topic in your industry.

Email marketing is an essential strategy for connecting with customers, and for busy brands working on driving demand, updating your retail email marketing strategy can result in a boon for your business. It can help you drive immediate sales, foster stronger relationships, and help you stand out from the competition. And with these creative email marketing examples in mind, you can breathe some new life into your strategy so you can put the attention-grabbing sales language on the back burner where it belongs.

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Author

Liz Alton

Liz Alton is a technology and marketing writer, and content strategist, for Fortune 500 brands and creative agencies. Her specialties include marketing, technology, B2B, big data/analytics, cloud, and mobility. She's worked with clients including Adobe, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Twitter, ADP, and Google. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MBA. She is currently pursuing a master’s in journalism from Harvard University.