E-commerce Link: The Power of the Inbox
If most of your emails are promotional, please take the time to read further. I want to talk about the power of newsletters to engage your customers. If you already send newsletters, I hope you'll get some new ideas to enhance your program.
The Big Question: Why?
Newsletters provide value-added content and are a great way to engage your subscribers. If all your emails focus on products and offers and arrive to an already crowded inbox, you stand the chance to become just another email, lost in the clutter. True, your loyal audience may be engaged with your content, but your casual followers may be left in the dust. Content can tilt the balance with inactives and get them to open and read your emails.
Consider sending one newsletter a month and include interesting factoids, tips, helpful information, videos, quizzes and more.
The Wine Enthusiast is a good example. Its TopShelf e-newsletter is loaded with content and supports the e-commerce site, as well as the paid content site Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
A recent email included tips on how to pick and prepare salmon, an interview with a top chef and a video with tips on appropriate wine pairings with food.
King Arthur Flower uses a hybrid approach. Almost every email from the company includes a recipe that uses flour. Here's a company that sells a very simple product, but by including value-added content, King Arthur Flour increases the odds that recipients will open emails.
Doctors Foster and Smith, a purveyor of pet supplies, found that using value-added headlines in emails increased open and clickthrough rates. For example, the company tested two headlines to dog owners with the balance of the email the same: "Joint Care on Sale" versus "7 Steps for Easy Arthritis Maintenance." MarketingSherpa reported clicks, sales and average order value increased.
6 Tips for Newsletter Publishers
If you agree you should use e-newsletters to engage customers, then congratulations, you understand the importance of content! You've identified your industry niche and are providing content to entice your readers. Here are some tips to optimize your e-newsletter:
• Use a snippet at the top of your emails to highlight additional topics not covered in the subject line.
• If you have a table of contents, use anchor links so readers can easily click to the article of interest.
• Check your width. With so many people reading emails on a mobile device, you want your content to be accessible. Keep your width as close as 500 pixels as possible.
• If you use columns, make sure the important information is in the larger left-hand column. Some mobile devices will only show the upper right-hand part of the screen.
• More than 40 percent of emails are read on a mobile device; therefore, you need to rethink font sizes. Headlines should be a font size of 22 and body copy should have a minimum font size of 13 to ensure certain browsers will not resize your copy. Any call-to-action buttons should be 29 x 44 pixels with 10-pixel padding.
• Sharing is important! Friends and colleagues are influencers. With newsletters, it is likely that you want to include sharing icons after each article to maximize exposure.
2 Effective E-newsletters
The first example is from StrongMail, an email infrastructure provider.
• The company uses anchor links for its "In This Issue" table of contents so recipients can click immediately to items of interest.
• The e-newsletter has two columns, but all the important information appears on the left. This means all the main content is more likely to display on mobile.
• The company also is using the power of viral marketing. The share button under the main article allows readers to spread information via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+.
• From a design standpoint, you can see StrongMail has a cohesive template in terms of colors and typography.
The second example, Catholic Relief Services, has a robust program to communicate with those interested in its mission.
• The pre-header addresses administrative issues rather than capturing attention. It talks about adding the nonprofit to your address book.
• The top black navigation bar is useful, but perhaps included too soon. Readers can forward the email to a friend, as well as share on Facebook or Twitter. However, readers have not yet engaged with articles and content and this call to action might be too soon.
• There are no opportunities to share with a friend or colleague after any content articles.
• The email is narrow, so a mobile viewer should have a better chance of seeing the entire email.
• I like that there are images of real people. Perhaps this is easier to do for a nonprofit, but any time you can show individuals using your products (maybe testimonials) this should be a win for you.