B2C email marketing strategies for retail brands

A young man is holding multiple shopping bags and looking at his phone as though he is reading a marketing email from a retailer

B2C email marketing is an essential sales strategy for retailers. You can promote products and sales, showcase your items in action, and build a loyal customer base that gets excited to see your brand appear in their inbox. Find out everything you need to know about retail email marketing, including the benefits, how to measure your results, how to personalize content for your audience, and strategies to boost online sales. 

Why retailers need email marketing

There are a number of benefits that come with B2C email marketing strategies for retail brands. You can engage your customers and leads throughout the journey and set them up for repeat purchases by utilizing a strategic B2C email marketing campaign. Here are six reasons why retailers should incorporate email marketing as part of your overall communications plan.

  1. Personalize your messaging & engage with your audience: Personalization is a table-stakes strategy for effectively engaging your online audience. By tracking customer profiles and segmenting your email list, you can deliver a truly custom experience. You’ll send the most relevant product details, promo codes, and follow-ups. You can go beyond embedding just their names and leverage deeper intel – like their browsing history or recent purchases – to maximize the user experience in each of your emails. 
  2. Improve sales: Email is a preferred form of communication for many consumers, and it’s an extremely low-cost way to engage leads and former customers. The return on investment potential is huge. According to one estimate, retailers can expect a $40 ROI for every $1 spent on email marketing.
  3. Send transactional emails: Whenever a purchase is made, a detailed email sequence lets customers know exactly what to expect throughout the purchase. Delivering receipts, processing times, and shipping updates all contribute to a seamless user experience with your brand. Plus, these email touchpoints can lower your customer service requests because customers know everything about their orders. 
  4. Encourage repeat purchases: Enticing previous customers to purchase again can lower your overall customer acquisition costs. They’ll already feel confident in the purchasing process and are less likely to return items. There are many strategies to reach this audience. You can upsell or cross-sell products that complement their previous purchase. Or announce new upgrades or features available (like a product with additional colors available). Another strategy is to offer a discount code for their next purchase, or launch a rewards program that incentivizes existing customers to come back and buy more. 
  5. Get customer feedback: Continue to engage customers by asking for feedback in the form of reviews or surveys. Verified reviews are a great way to leverage user-generated content that provides social proof to new buyers. Sending out a survey once or twice a year lets your customers know you care, and it gives you the opportunity to improve the sales experience and encourage retention. 
  6. Improve customer loyalty: Consistent email outreach helps to build a loyal following, too. You can also launch a customer loyalty program where they can get early access to new product drops and earn points to gain discounts.

According to one regularly cited estimate, retailers can expect a $40 ROI for every $1 spent on email marketing.

Retail marketing KPIs for email

An email marketing strategy gives you a lot of metrics to track, especially when you’re working with a big database like many enterprise retailers are. Use these five key performance indicators to find out how well your current email strategy is doing and what areas need improvement.

  1. List growth: How much your email list grows each month can indicate how well your other online marketing efforts are doing. If database growth is stagnant, you may consider adjusting the type of content you’re producing. Or you may need to increase opt-in opportunities to drive greater traffic to your email signup form. The easiest way to grow your list is to add a simple pop-up on your website landing pages. And while list growth doesn’t necessarily track how effective your email marketing is, it does shed light on your overall marketing ecosystem.
  2. Click-through rate (CTR): Click-through rate (or CTR) is a hugely important KPI for retailers to track. It reveals the percentage of recipients who open an email and click on a link within the message. Measuring this information lets you know what type of messages and calls-to-action are most meaningful to your audience. One method to improve your CTR is to A/B test different types of emails or structures. If one has a significantly higher CTR, you know to replicate that template moving forward.
  3. Conversion rate: Your email conversion rate measures how many recipients take a desired action, such as clicking a call-to-action button or making a purchase. Ultimately, you can decide what your conversion metric(s) should be for each email campaign. A summer sale, for instance, is pretty straightforward — you could track the percentage of people who purchased an item featured in that sale. Alternatively, you could track app downloads or saved items that came through the email. Identify what you want to track for each email (it can be more than one metric), so you can accurately measure conversion rates and see what’s most effective for your brand. 
  4. Deliverability rate: Your deliverability rate tracks how often you’re landing in the inbox rather than the spam folder. The average deliverability rate is 80%, so if you find that your rate is below 80%, you’ll have some work to do. Pay attention to your list hygiene (which contributes to deliverability). If too many emails are fake and bounce back, your emails are more likely to be sent to spam for other legitimate contacts. Keeping clean data ensures a healthy email list of people who want to hear from your brand. Factors that impact deliverability include:
    • Sender reputation
    • Server reputation
    • Domain reputation
    • Email engagement metrics
  5. Return on investment (ROI): Measuring your email marketing ROI gives you a sense of how much extra revenue your efforts are bringing in. In order to find your ROI as a percentage, follow a simple math formula. You’ll need to know your total revenue brought in and your total email marketing spend. From there, subtract your spent budget from your revenue. Then divide that number by your spending budget again. The result is your return on investment. Let’s look at an example.
    • Say you launch a summer sale email marketing campaign, and you spend a total of $5,000 and bring in $25,000 in revenue.
    • Here’s the equation to find your ROI: ($25,000 – $5,000) / $5,000 = 4
    • Your return was four times your investment, making that email campaign quite a successful one!

How to use big data to personalize your B2C email marketing

When you’re leveraging big data, a solid email marketing strategy is a crucial component of segmenting your audience and delivering personalized experiences. Here’s how to use it for your own retail business.

  • Create customer profiles: Before personalizing your emails, you’ll need to create customer profiles using the data you’ve already collected. This information helps inform your customer journey. Track where they enter your email list, what products they’ve shown interest in, where they abandon carts or exit the website, and more. All of this data helps to create a robust profile of what certain customers are looking for and what pain points they’re experiencing.
  • Segment different audiences: As you collect data to create these customer profiles, you can segment them into separate categories to send personalized emails based on their behavior. For instance, you can send abandoned cart reminders and product recommendations based on their shopping history. You can also reach out separately to active customers versus inactive customers. Another strategy is to send personalized emails for events like birthdays, which adds a personal touch and makes your list members feel special.
  • Create a call-to-action for each audience: As your customers move through the sales funnel, customize their call-to-action based on where they are in their journey with your brand. For instance, after purchasing a product, follow-up emails with style tips or demos could be helpful. An abandoned cart CTA could include a discount code to encourage an actual purchase.
  • Test and update your strategies: The final part of the segmentation process is to actually test your emails and update your strategies accordingly. Perform A/B testing to see which versions perform better for behaviorally-triggered email sequences like abandoned carts or return purchase codes. Find what produces the best results, then tweak your campaign and replicate what’s working as much as possible.

Top email marketing strategies

As you think about your retail email marketing strategies, choose some of the most impactful opportunities to start with. Here are a few common B2C email campaign examples. 

Abandoned cart: Following up with an email after a lead or customer abandons their cart, like the one below, gives you the chance to reconnect and make the sale.

Abandoned cart email example

There are actually a few different approaches you can take:

  • Incentives: Offer a specific reason to make a purchase during a certain time frame, such as a time-sensitive discount or free shipping. 
  • Customer service: Follow up and simply ask if they need any help with the transaction. Perhaps they had a technical issue or a payment problem. Find this out so you can make the user experience better for them and future customers. 
  • Create urgency: Create a sense of a deadline. Maybe a time-sensitive sale is ending or inventory is running low. 
  • Add information: Provide more details on the product to help your potential customer make a decision. Or maybe give them information about your flexible return policy or price match guarantee — something that gives them the confidence they need to hit the buy button.

Retention: Retaining existing customers is one of the smartest business moves you can make, and your email list is one of the best ways to facilitate the process. Retention marketing is less expensive than acquiring new customers, and you’ll develop super fans who market your product on your behalf. 

Successfully executing 1:1 personalization is a huge part of retaining customers. Continue collecting data and incorporating custom content that speaks to each individual. Other strategies include loyalty programs (see the example below!) and cross-channel communications that keep your brand at the front of your customer’s mind. 

Loyalty email example

Transactional: You can continue to sell and promote your product, even in transactional emails that contain order status information. For example, embed additional products recommended for that specific audience segment based on their purchase history. 

Transactional email example

In-store foot traffic: Brick-and-mortar stores can utilize email marketing tactics to attract online customers into the actual store. Incorporate photos and videos of products in the store. Also consider hosting in-person events to increase foot traffic. And of course, any type of discount or face-to-face benefit can also get people in the door.

Email example encouraging in-store shopping

Retail brands can boost revenue and retain customers with a comprehensive B2C email marketing strategy. Segment your audience to personalize communications as much as possible. Then incorporate appropriate calls-to-action that are triggered by behaviors, like abandoned carts or repeat purchases. If your retail brand is new to email marketing, you can start off with just a few elements and increase the complexity of your email strategy later on. 

MessageGears Consumer Engagement Report 2023

About the Author

Will Devlin

A 20-year email marketing veteran, Will has focused on marketing strategy and execution for MessageGears since 2014. He has extensive experience on both the retail customer and service side of email marketing, and he’s interested in helping businesses better understand how they can make the most of the work they put into their email campaigns.