Guest Column | November 8, 2021

Effective Email Marketing Is Key To Driving Retail Sales: How To Improve Campaign Deliverability

By Matthew Vernhout, Netcore Cloud

Custom Newsletter typing email

For many consumers, online shopping has supplanted the in-person retail experience as their preferred method for buying from their favorite brands. This trend has been many years in the making, but it accelerated during the pandemic as people purchased goods online at a historic rate. Online retail sales surged by more than 30 percent in 2020, and that trend continued in 2021 as eCommerce grew by 9.3 percent in Q2 2021

What’s more, no matter whether shopper’s checkout online or make an in-store purchase, the buying experience most often begins online. Nearly 90 percent of shoppers research products online, making digital a critical touchpoint for today’s retailers.

And yet, simply having an online store or a digital platform doesn’t guarantee success. Retailers are competing in a crowded online marketplace, making it imperative that they cut through the noise and reach potential consumers with timely, relevant, and compelling information that attracts attention and converts interest into sales. According to one web traffic survey, direct-to-site, email, and SEO were the leading traffic drivers for eCommerce platforms. 

With nearly nine out of 10 content marketers turning to email marketing to connect with potential consumers and more than 319 billion emails sent each day, online retailers have their work cut out for them. Of course, while attention-grabbing subject lines, compelling design, and unbeatable offers can heighten customer engagement, these efforts fall flat when online retailers fail to reach recipients’ inboxes in the first place. That’s why boosting email marketing campaign deliverability is the foundation of any effective email marketing strategy. 

Here are three ways that online retailers can begin improving email marketing campaign deliverability today: 

#1. Prioritize Data Collection Practices 

In the digital age, data is an abundant resource, and quantity and quality are not inextricably linked. Developing excellent data collection practices helps unify these metrics, allowing marketers to do more with their data. 

For example, consumers are more likely to open and engage with email marketing from brands they know and trust. Therefore, cold-emailing potential leads from purchased or poorly maintained email lists are less likely to deliver the outstanding return on investment (ROI) that email marketing can deliver. In fact, subpar data collection practices can generate misguided marketing efforts that waste customers’ time and erode brand reputation, diminishing current and future business opportunities. In some cases, it may also result in the blocking of your email and/or termination of services from your providers.

Instead, online retailers should develop excellent data collection methods that support deliverability and engagement. Most importantly, this means acquiring explicit consent to contact recipients using opt-in checkboxes, online forms, or in-store sign-up cards. 

#2. Remember That The Customer Is Always Right 

Today’s consumers demand a personalized retail experience, and email marketing is no exception. This is why an email marketing campaign should be a highly dynamic operation, applying data-driven user preferences to create more engaging content that continues reaching customers' inboxes because they love to open the email and discover the brand’s latest happenings. 

For starters, brands need to self-reflect. Is the email marketing campaign providing customers with timely, valuable, and actionable information that they want and need? While these questions deserve internal debate, they are also answerable by assessing message impact via the following metrics: 

  • What percent of marketing emails are recipients engaging with?
  • Which items, offers, or content fields are customers pursuing further? 
  • How often are customers making purchases from email promotions?
  • When are customers replying to or sharing marketing emails?

Use the data and metrics associated with a marketing email campaign to learn customer preferences while evolving content strategy to meet shifting consumer demands.

In addition, retailers can let customers dictate their preferences directly. Provide a preference center that allows customers to customize everything from message frequency to content type, further personalizing their experience.

In the end, some recipients will just not be responsive to email marketing no matter what you do. That is okay, and retailers shouldn’t be afraid to remove disengaged customers from an email list. Marketing email campaigns are intended to target a specific audience, and removing inactive or disengaged recipients produces better, more actionable insights leading to better email marketing moving forward. 

The retail industry is built on the maxim “the customer is always right.” When it comes to email marketing campaigns, letting the customer dictate the experience can meaningfully improve engagement and deliverability. 

#3. Don’t Skip The Technical Stuff 

Maintaining email authentication and validation records protects customers from spam and fraud and it prevents companies from associating their brand with cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Industry authentication and validation standards, including SPF, DKIM, and DMARC make email marketing much more effective by validating the sender, ensuring that messages are both authentic and deliverable. 

Incredibly, many companies fail to properly publish their authentication records, putting their reputation and their customers at risk. Maintaining updated authentication records is both an operational necessity and a brand differentiator, with customer trends firmly against companies that can’t or won’t practice security and integrity best practices. Privacy and security are no longer nice to have; they are now a brand differentiator.

At the same time, improving email marketing deliverability requires retailers to keep their domain reputation high. Excessive bounce rates or dead domain recipients can arouse suspicion from internet service providers (ISPs), which can diminish deliverability rates. Therefore, retailers should create a subdomain exclusively for email marketing, and a separate domain for transactional or informational emails. They should also regularly perform list management to keep this domain in good standing while optimizing recipient lists and reducing overall maintenance requirements. 

Moving forward, it’s clear that digital will continue to be a dominant experience in the retail space. Effective email marketing is a critical component of a successful online eCommerce operation, helping companies to cut through the noise to attract and retain customers with timely, personal, and engaging messaging. However, these benefits are contingent on email marketing deliverability. The aforementioned steps can help online retailers to begin optimizing these efforts, ensuring that their well-crafted marketing messages reach their customers’ inboxes and make an impact. 

About The Author

Matthew Vernhout is VP of Deliverability at Netcore Cloud, a customer engagement and experience platform that helps brands create exceptional digital experiences. Connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.