7 Step Email Marketing Checkup for Retailers

Given the importance of email marketing for retailers, your email strategy needs to be up-to-date. Here's a seven-step checklist to see how you're doing.

What’s the best way to stay in touch with your retail customers? According to a recent study, email blows all other marketing methods out of the water. Respondents of all generations, from Generation Z to Baby Boomers, prefer email communications from retailers by a wide margin.

How wide? Overall, 68 percent of consumers surveyed prefer to receive brand communications from retailers via email; just 6.9 percent prefer the next most popular method, in-store communications. (Rounding out the list, 5.6 percent prefer text messages and 4.5 percent prefer communications via Facebook.) This is one instance where the generation gap is quite small: 73 percent of Baby Boomers prefer email communications from retailers, and 62 percent of Millennials do, too.

Given the importance of email marketing to retailers, your approach to email needs to be on point. Take this seven-step email marketing checkup and see how you’re doing.

Email Marketing for Retailers Checklist

1. Are your emails segmented? Segmenting, or separating your email subscribers into different lists, helps you deliver more relevant emails. Subscribers may segment themselves based on how they opt-in to your emails, or you can segment them based on data you gather. You can segment subscribers in many ways, including:

  • Demographic information, such as age, gender, marital status, children
  • Location
  • Transaction-related information, such as how often they buy from you, when they tend to purchase, and their average purchase amount
  • Behavioral information, such as what pages they view on your website, what emails they open and what previous email offers they’ve acted on.

2. Are your emails personalized? Personalization is key in getting results from your email marketing. It’s also part of what customers like about email: For example, 64 percent of Millennials in the survey say email is the marketing channel that feels “most personal.”

The basic element of personalization, of course, is using the recipient’s name in the body of the email and/or in the subject line. Email marketing programs make it easy to personalize your emails this way; you can even add references in the body of the email to things like a recent purchase or visit. However, you should also personalize emails based on how you have segmented your customers (see above). For example, if you own a boutique that sells infant and children’s clothing, you might personalize emails differently based on whether the recipients are parents or grandparents.

3. Do your emails offer perceived value? One company whose emails I subscribe to sends multiple emails per day — each touting an offer such as “20 percent off today only!” or “$10 off your purchase today only!” It’s blatantly obvious that these “one-day only” prices are not really deals, and I’ve begun simply deleting the emails altogether.

In order for your emails to be perceived as valuable — rather than pesky annoyances — make your offers meaningful. In addition to discounts or sales, also send emails with useful information. For example, the infant and clothing retailer I mentioned could create a list of “10 top kids’ fashion trends for 2017,” complete with photos of products you sell in your store. Don’t have time to create such a list on your own? Then link to an article elsewhere online — it’s fine as long as you credit it properly.

7 Step Email Marketing Checkup for Retailers

4. Are you using triggered emails? E-commerce companies use triggered emails frequently. For example, if you’ve ever abandoned an online shopping cart, you probably got a reminder email asking you if you still wanted to make the purchase. Brick-and-mortar retailers can use the same principle, creating triggered emails based on customer behavior. For instance, if a customer who used to visit your shop regularly hasn’t come in for several months, send a “We miss you!” email with a tempting offer. Collecting customers’ birthday dates and sending emails with a discount good for the birthday month is another smart tactic. Or take a cue from cosmetics retailer Sephora and offer a small free gift during the birthday month — no purchase needed.

5. Do your openers get attention? Focus your copywriting energies on creating good subject lines that clearly sell the benefit of the email and its value to the customer. Because the first line of an email’s body text often displays before it is opened, make it powerful, too.

6. Are your emails mobile optimized? More than half of all survey respondents primarily check email on their smartphones. The younger the respondent, the more likely they are to do this: 59 percent of Millennials and 67 percent of Generation Z primarily check email on their phones. Make sure that your emails display well on smartphones, with enough white space to be readable, and buttons or hyperlinks that are easy to click on. Equally important, any links that take customers to your website should go to a mobile-friendly webpage.

7. Do you make it a priority to build your email lists? Getting new customers to sign up is essential to maintaining a healthy email list. Always ask customers at checkout if they’d like to sign up to receive emails from your store. While you should never make this a requirement for the sale (or make customers feel like you’re being pushy), you can incentivize sign-up by sending them a discount offer as their first welcome email or explaining that by signing up, they can get digital receipts instead of or in addition to paper ones. Provide a sign-up sheet near checkout or, for more accuracy, use a point-of-sale system that enables customers to input their own email addresses.

Checklist ItemDescription
1. Are your emails segmented?Segment your email subscribers based on demographic information, location, transaction history, and behavioral data to deliver more relevant content.
2. Are your emails personalized?Personalize emails by using recipient names, referencing recent interactions, and tailoring content based on segmentation (e.g., parents vs. grandparents).
3. Do your emails offer value?Ensure that email offers provide genuine value, including discounts and useful information, rather than inundating subscribers with frequent, insignificant promotions.
4. Are you using triggered emails?Implement triggered emails based on customer behavior, such as abandoned carts, lapsed customer visits, or birthday discounts, to re-engage and retain customers.
5. Do your openers get attention?Create compelling subject lines that clearly convey the email's benefits and use impactful opening lines to grab recipients' attention even before they open the email.
6. Are your emails mobile optimized?Optimize emails for mobile devices, ensuring they are readable with sufficient white space, and include easy-to-click buttons or hyperlinks that lead to mobile-friendly webpages.
7. Do you prioritize building lists?Actively encourage new customer sign-ups by offering incentives, such as welcome discounts, digital receipts, and convenient sign-up options during checkout or through a point-of-sale system.

7 Step Email Marketing Checkup for Retailers

The Power of Feedback: Engaging with Your Retail Customers

It’s not just about pushing your message to your customers; it’s also about listening to what they have to say. Gathering feedback from your audience can provide invaluable insights that can be used to refine your email marketing strategy and improve the overall customer experience. Here’s a quick guide on how to effectively seek feedback:

  • Surveys & Questionnaires:
    • Periodically send out short surveys asking customers about their experience with your brand, their preferences, and any suggestions they might have.
    • Offer incentives for filling out the survey, such as discount codes or entry into a giveaway.
  • Feedback Buttons in Emails:
    • Include a quick “Was this email helpful?” button in your communications. It provides an instantaneous way for customers to give feedback on the content you’re sending.
  • Product Reviews and Ratings:
    • Encourage customers to leave reviews on the products they purchase. It not only helps potential buyers but gives you insight into what’s working and what might need improvement.
  • Open a Two-Way Communication Channel:
    • Allow customers to reply to your emails. Sometimes, the best feedback comes in freeform where customers can express their thoughts without the confines of structured survey questions.
    • Designate a team or individual to review these emails regularly and categorize feedback for actionable insights.
  • Analyze and Act:
    • Regularly review the feedback you receive. Look for patterns and trends that can help you identify areas of improvement.
    • Make it known that you value customer feedback. When you implement a change based on customer input, let them know. It fosters trust and a sense of community around your brand.
Feedback MethodDescription
Surveys & QuestionnairesPeriodically send short surveys to gather customer feedback on their brand experience, preferences, and suggestions. Offer incentives like discount codes or entry into a giveaway to encourage participation.
Feedback Buttons in EmailsInclude a "Was this email helpful?" button in your communications to provide an instant feedback mechanism for customers to express their thoughts on the content you send.
Product Reviews and RatingsEncourage customers to leave product reviews and ratings. This not only assists potential buyers but also provides insights into what's working well and areas that may require improvement in your offerings.
Open a Two-Way CommunicationAllow customers to reply directly to your emails, enabling them to provide freeform feedback without structured survey questions. Designate a team or individual to regularly review and categorize this feedback for actionable insights.
Analyze and ActRegularly review the feedback received, identifying patterns and trends that can help pinpoint areas for improvement. Show customers that you value their feedback by implementing changes based on their input, fostering trust and brand community.

7 Step Email Marketing Checkup for Retailers

The Evolution of Retail Interaction: Integrating Social Media and Email

In the age of digital interconnectivity, combining the forces of social media with email marketing can offer unparalleled advantages. While email remains a top preference for consumers to receive communications, social media platforms are where they freely express opinions, preferences, and engage with their favorite brands. Let’s delve into how you can integrate the two to fortify your brand’s online presence:

  • Social Media Sign-ups:
    • Use your social media platforms to encourage email sign-ups. This could be through a simple post, a swipe-up story link on Instagram, or an embedded sign-up form on Facebook.
  • Exclusive Access through Emails:
    • Offer exclusive content, discounts, or early access to sales to followers who sign up through your social media links. It’s a win-win: you get their email, and they get something valuable in return.
  • Shareable Email Content:
    • Include social sharing buttons in your emails. If a subscriber finds a particular piece of content or offer intriguing, they’re likely to share it on their social media, amplifying your reach.
  • Highlight Customer Testimonials:
    • Use your email platform to highlight customer reviews and testimonials shared on social media. It reinforces trust and showcases genuine user experiences.
  • Interactive Campaigns:
    • Launch campaigns that run simultaneously on email and social media. For example, a photo contest where customers share photos of them using your product, with winners announced via email.
  • Retargeting Through Social Ads:
    • Use the data from your email interactions to create targeted ad campaigns on platforms like Facebook. If a subscriber opened an email about a particular product but didn’t make a purchase, you can retarget them with a social media ad for the same product.
  • Feedback Loop:
    • Share feedback you’ve received through emails on your social media to show potential customers that you are responsive and value customer input.

7 Step Email Marketing Checkup for Retailers


The power of email marketing in the retail sector cannot be overstated. The data speaks for itself: a staggering 68 percent of consumers across all age groups prefer to receive brand communications from retailers via email. This preference underscores the importance of a well-executed email marketing strategy for retailers.

To make the most of your email marketing efforts, consider the following checklist:

  1. Segmentation: Tailor your emails to different subscriber groups based on demographic, location, transaction history, and behavior.
  2. Personalization: Make your emails feel personal by addressing recipients by name and customizing content based on segmentation.
  3. Offer Value: Ensure that your email content offers genuine value, including discounts, informative articles, or useful tips.
  4. Triggered Emails: Implement triggered emails based on customer behavior, such as abandoned carts or special birthday offers.
  5. Compelling Subject Lines: Craft attention-grabbing subject lines that highlight the email’s benefits.
  6. Mobile Optimization: Given that a majority of consumers check emails on their smartphones, optimize your emails for mobile devices.
  7. List Building: Actively build your email subscriber list by offering incentives and convenient sign-up options.

Moreover, engaging with your retail customers should extend beyond sending messages; it should involve listening and gathering feedback. Surveys, feedback buttons, product reviews, and two-way communication channels are essential tools for understanding your customers better and improving their experience.

Additionally, integrating social media with email marketing can create a powerful synergy. Use social media to encourage email sign-ups, offer exclusive content, make email content shareable, highlight customer testimonials, and run interactive campaigns that bridge the gap between email and social platforms. Harnessing the feedback loop, sharing customer input on social media, and retargeting through social ads based on email interactions can further solidify your brand’s online presence and customer engagement.

In a digital age where customer preferences evolve rapidly, a well-rounded approach that combines the strengths of email marketing, customer feedback, and social media integration is the key to retail success.

Email Photo via Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.