There's a mantra that all email marketers should chant.

In shortened form (my favourite), it's simply 'Who cares?'. The longer form is 'What does this email do for my customer?'

You see, metrics such as click-to-open rate can mislead marketers - it's not simply a game of shepherding the reader on to your website. A/B testing can only tell you so much.

Emails convert well in ecommerce, of course they do, because they reliably reach your entire database of known customers who have already opted in. They also regularly carry incentives.

But what emails should do before anything else is deepen the relationship between you and your customer. They should be welcomed, even enjoyed.

That's why a balance between content, product and incentives should be found.

Here are some AO.com emails I have received over the past few months. Let's look at how AO.com's strategy relies on storytelling, whether by email or on site.

At no point is the user left thinking 'what the heck am I doing here?'

Link to landing pages, not category pages

Below is an email from AO.com featuring KitchenAid, with the call to action 'Discover KitchenAid'.

If this CTA had linked to a filtered category page, the journey for the customer could not be described as an educated- or soft sell.

Yes, there is some text to warm up the customer within the email, but for the verb 'discover' to ring true, the page this links to should entice the customer to explore further, not just buy off the bat.

That's what AO.com does, using its KitchenAid landing page (AO.com/kitchenaid). I've also screenshotted and linked to this page below (apologies that my screenshot plugin occasionally messes up at the fold).

Clickthrough and explore the landing page and you'll see there's enough lifestyle imagery and background brand information to prepare the customer for the hard sell of the category pages.

Note, there are no prices on this landing page. The whole effect is one of AO.com's knowledge of its (somehow now desirable) subject. Mixer anyone?

Other examples linked to in emails include this interactive Neff oven landing page, and a particularly smart Great British Baking lifestyle page that sells across categories.

AO.com email

ao.com email featuring kitchenaid

AO.com KitchenAid landing page (linked to from highlighted feature above)

ao.com kitchenaid landing page

Use buying guides

For any product, users may have a vague idea of what they want, even if the idea has only been implanted by an email arriving out of the blue.

But helping your customer zero in on exactly what they need will help with conversion and, more importantly, overall satisfaction once the product arrives.

Users will often use category filters to distill down what they're after, but a more effective primer is the buying guide. These can be very simple indeed.

If you're confident in your buying guides' calls to action, send your email database here first.

Buying guides are particularly useful for enlivening boring product types, such as tumble dryers in this AO.com example.

AO.com email with 'find your perfect tumble' feature

ao.com email featuring tumble dryers

Tumble dryer buying guide (click to view)

tumble dryer buying guide 

Don't feel obliged to link your site

All this linking back to site can get a little tiresome. If you really want to educate and entertain your customer, why not send them elsewhere.

You could send users to a particularly salient social post, or even to another publisher's website, perhaps a product review.

This may not drive a sale you can attribute, but if the content is good enough, it's worth it to reinforce the idea that you are the company that's truly interested in customer satisfaction and lifestyle.

This is a good tactic to balance out a particular salesly email. So, if you've linked to a product page with one email pod, why not feature a YouTube video in another.

That's what AO.com does below, balancing two category page links with a link to a video demonstrating how to iron the perfect shirt. It's a surprisingly good video (though purely theory for me).

AO.com email featuring YouTube video

ao.com email featuring ironing video

Video highlighted above.

Use blog content

A fairly obvious one here. Why not include blog content if you've gone to the trouble of creating it.

The aim for AO.com is to retain its customers until the next point they need to purchase some white goods or electronics.

By including editorial in emails, the user will be less inclined to unsubscribe. Who knows, maybe with the example below (a recipe), they'll start baking and realise they need a new oven?

AO.com email featuring recipe blog post.

ao.com email featuring baking article

Chocolate cupcake recipe snapshot (click to view)

ao.com choc cupcake recipe

The rule of three

This isn't really a rule, but it's an observation from all these nicely pitched AO.com emails. At least one pod of content to every two of product or category promo.

That feels like a good ratio to me and will help lead your customers back into the sales funnel, even for a product as relatively dry as a tumble dryer.

What do you think? Got any examples of emails that balance content and product?

Ben Davis

Published 19 November, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)

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Camilla Zajac, Copywriter at Green Light Copywriting

Great post, thanks!

over 2 years ago

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