If you own a retail business with a storefront, email marketing may not be of paramount concern to you. Yet, email can be one of the best ways of keeping in touch with your customers.

The vast majority of consumers prefer email as a means of communicating with their favourite retailers. At Cyberimpact, several of our retail customers have had success with email. They find they can retain customers and boost sales through a simple but well-executed email marketing strategy.

That’s all very nice, but what exactly can you do with email? To explain it as clearly as possible, I’ve come up with a hypothetical example. Here’s what I would do if I had a sporting goods store specializing in mountain sports (hiking, climbing and backcountry skiing).

Create a loyalty club

The first thing I’d do – which is central to my email communication strategy – is to create a loyalty club for my store customers. I’ll call it the Mountaineers Club. By joining the club, members receive occasional exclusive offers, they’re the first to learn about new products and they’ll receive handy tips and advice. All this content is communicated via email.

Who will join the club? The best customers! Those who love mountain sports, are interested in new products and are likely to return to the store frequently. 

Ask all customers if they want to join the club

Now that my Mountaineers Club exists, all I have to do is ask people who visit my store if they want to join. Every time a customer makes a purchase, I’ll ask him/her, “I see you love mountain sports. Would you like to join our Mountaineers Club? You’ll receive special deals, info on new products and expert tips and advice by email.” I can guarantee you that most people will say, “yes.” I’ll use this method, among others, to build my email list. 

Welcome new members to the club

When customers join the club, I want to welcome them as quickly as possible to initiate communication. I want them to get used to receiving and opening emails from my company. The best way to do this is to program an automated welcome email. Once this email is ready, it will be sent automatically whenever I add a new member to the list. 

Here’s what the welcome email could look like:

This email quickly initiates communication between the store and the new customer. Plus, it immediately rewards the new club member with a 10% discount. Welcome emails are among the most opened and read. People have just visited your store and joined your club – of course they’re going to open the email you just sent them. So don’t wait too long before contacting new members. “Out of sight, out of mind,” as the saying goes!

What to include in the newsletters

Now’s the time to think about what to include in your communications to club members. In my opinion, it takes a minimum of one email a month so that customers don’t forget you. Here’s what I would include in my newsletters:

  • Exclusive deals for members on selected products
  • Information about new products
  • Tips and advice about mountain sports

Here’s an example:

Contests to grow the number of subscribers 

Until now, my list of subscribers has comprised customers who visited my store and agreed to join the club. But is there a way to grow the number of subscribers more quickly? Is it possible to add people who don’t yet know my store? It certainly is! One method that works well in retail is contests. Here’s an example: I launch a contest on social media, asking people to complete a form to enter (they must indicate their dream destination for a mountain adventure). To enter, they must also provide their email address and can check a box to join the Mountaineers Club. I’ll formulate the question the same way I would in-store, “Would you like to join our Mountaineers Club to receive special deals, info on new products and expert tips by email?” To comply with Canada’s Anti-Spam Law, it’s important to add to my subscriber list only those who checked the box. 

Naturally, to get people to enter the contest, the prize needs to be attractive! In my particular example, I could give away an outdoors cooking set to the winner. If you want the contest to have more reach (and scoop up a lot of new club members), you have to motivate people to share the contest with their friends on social media. To achieve this, I need to set up my contest on a specialized platform, such as Woobox

The final ingredient to ensure a successful contest is to invest some money in Facebook ads to launch the promotion. Facebook allows me to set up a radius target (in km) around my store and target people who are interested in mountains, hiking and adventure travel.

In the past, this method has enabled me to add thousands of subscribers to newsletters of certain retailers. 

What more can be done?

The above plan is a solid one. If you decide to follow it, you’ll be using email better than the vast majority of small businesses. You’ll see a medium and long-term impact on your sales.

To take it further, however, another good idea is to send your customers emails suggesting complementary products to them. You can even automate this process. In my hypothetical case, if someone purchases a new tent, I could send them an email proposing one of our most popular mattresses with a special deal. I could automate this type of emails if my point of sale or inventory system can be connected to my email marketing platform (such as Cyberimpact).

Has this given you some ideas? How are you going to use email to build customer loyalty and boost sales? Your turn!