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What Is Ecommerce?

Before speaking about email marketing for ecommerce, let’s first find out what ecommerce actually is. Roughly speaking, ecommerce (electronic commerce) is any commercial activity that aims to sell your products or services over the Internet. Ecommerce also refers to companies themselves that are engaged in online selling. For example, Amazon, Alibaba, eBay or Shopify are sone of the biggest ecommerce markets that operate worldwide.

However, you don’t have to be a retail giant to be an ecommerce store. Even a brand selling local foods within a small neighborhood can be called an ecommerce store if it uses online marketing (own website, marketplace, social media, etc.) for commercial purposes. Any kind of business – B2C, B2B, D2C – can do electronic commerce.

The Covid-forced lockdowns have made most businesses turn to ecommerce, so this format is becoming a prevailing business model. Fortunately, modern technologies allow you to make a smooth switch to digital commerce without losing your customers. Nowadays, most people (especially in the developed countries) have a gadget with access to the Internet which makes online purchases a full-scale equivalent to physical shopping.

What Is Email Marketing for Ecommerce?

Since ecommerce operates online they need solutions for digital communication to attract new customers and communicate with the existing audience. Email is one such solution, and is by far the most versatile one. Its multifunctional characteristics allow it to fulfill many tasks:

  • Educate about new products or services;
  • Send deals and offers with personalized promo codes;
  • Reactivate inactive users;
  • Drive back visitors who abandon their carts;
  • Send transactional emails that help complete a purchase (order confirmation, delivery status, payment approval, etc.);
  • Collect feedback;
  • Collect customer data;
  • Notify about changes in company policies or personal profile management, and more.

The reason why emails can do all these jobs is their flexible format. An email can be a plain text reminder with a couple of sentences only. It can be a blog newsletter with links to the articles and videos. It can be an order confirmation with all the details on the completed purchase. Or it can be a long new-arrivals promo featuring product images, user-generated reviews, blocks with recommendations, and more.

Types of Ecommerce Emails

As you’ve read above, emails have different purposes: education, promotion, reactivation, retention, etc. But in terms of the recipients whom you send to, emails are divided into bulk and transactional.

Bulk

Bulk emails (mass emails) are emails that you send to your entire contact base. They include promos, new arrivals, hot sales, event invitations, holiday congratulations, digests, blog newsletters, website or system updates, etc.

Transactional

Transactional emails are emails sent in response to an action (registration, subscription, purchase payment, review submission, password reset, etc.) of a particular customer. They include welcome emails, all kinds of confirmations, alerts, subscriptions renewals, abandoned browses and carts, birthday greetings, etc.

As a clarifying example, take a look at these emails by Masterclass. The first is a bulk promo to the whole contact base of the company’s subscribers. The second is a transactional payment confirmation sent to the customer who have bought the class.

Components of a Good Ecommerce Email

The versatile nature of emails makes it impossible to design a single success formula. There isn’t a fixed set of rules that would guarantee the effectiveness of your email campaigns. You create each email keeping in mind its purpose and the response it should prompt, thus following different copywriting and design principles.

However, there are pieces of advice applicable to almost all emails, and below we’ll take a look at the top 3 of them.

Relevant Subject Line

I understand that a relevant email subject line is a rather liquid term. But when I’m talking about relevancy I mean the correspondence of the subject to the content inside the email.

Look at the 6 examples below. They’re all different, but upon reading each you will understand what to expect inside – a story of an athlete, holiday sales, advice on makeup, or a webinar invitation.

Email subjects in Gmail on desktop

Clarity from the start is what you should aim for with all your emails. It doesn’t mean all subjects have to be boring and same-like. It means that distinctness should go before creativity. Of course, you have to come up with original lines especially for promos whose main aim is to catch attention. But don’t get too carried away and avoid some extra sophistication.

Also, I would recommend separating the subject and preheader from the rest of the copy (subject 1, 2, 5). This way, it’s easier to scan and digest. It would make more sense for visually challenged users who use readers to read your emails. Readers read subjects as straight text without making distinction between elements, so no separation after a preheader would make the whole thing sound too heavy and messy.

What’s more, apart from being clear and creative, try to make your subjects as short as possible. The main message should be contained in the first four to five words because the rest might be hidden, depending on the email client and the device used for reading.

Email subjects in Gmail on Android

Clean Text Copy and Logical Navigation

Whatever the content and design techniques, your emails should be easy to digest. How to build those?

  • Include minimum text. If you need to send text-heavy emails (policy updates, letter by a CEO), divide the text into small paragraphs of 3 to 4 sentences, add headings and subheadings, add numbered or bulleted lists where applicable. Your email isn’t a novel, and people will not spend more than 5 seconds viewing it.
  • Include enough white space and separators between sections;
  • Add different background stripes to differentiate between sections;
  • Add a corresponding CTA after every new offer;
  • Add quality images that describe the product or set the general mood;
  • Stick to your corporate style.

Take a look at the following Mother’s Day email by Fortnum & Mason. Although to some it may seem too simple and boring, the copy is user-friendly indeed.

  • Since the email is dedicated to a special event, they added the section Mother’s Day to the menu so that people can jump straight to picking presents.
  • The special offer below the menu is highlighted with a background color to catch the eye.
  • The further sections also have different stripe background colors – white and grey – that visually separate different blocks.
  • There is minimum text at the beginning and enough space between further lines.
  • Two different designs of CTA help diversify the copy.
  • The corporate styles are followed.
  • A block with the recipe might engage people who aren’t ready to shop right now.
  • Links to all social pages are also highlighted.

Of course, it’s not a sample to follow every time. If you send 5 to 7 emails per week, like most ecommerce stores do, you can’t deliver the same-looking campaigns all the time as people will soon get bored. But whenever you design a new template, keep in mind that you do it not to participate in the Email Design Award but to deliver your audience a satisfying experience. And sometimes less is more.       

Distinct Purpose of the Email

An email needs to have a distinct purpose. It can be to promote a new collection, to invite users to a new social media account, to confirm a purchase, to ask to fill more personal data, to drive back to the abandoned cart, etc. Don’t mix up several messages within one template and follow the golden rule of one communication per message.

Take a look at how Stance does it. They communicate with new subscribers without rush, introducing new activities steadily and giving people time to digest each offer, for example, follow on social media, shop for Valentine’s Day or join a live masterclass.

Surely, the format of email allows to squeeze all these communications, and even more, into one template. But extensive info may be too much to handle so send offers one at a time.

To Sum Up

An ecommerce email is a wide concept that covers numerous types of emails with different purposes. And although there’s no single recipe for all applications, following basic rules is always a win.

Start creating your ecommerce email with defining its purpose and what action you want to encourage with it. Stick to a clear structure, create user-friendly layouts and add distinct CTAs with direct commands. Avoid stuffing your emails with too much information at a time and make sure the subject line always resonates with what’s inside.

Author’s Bio

Iuliia Nesterenko is a technical writer at eSputnik. Her focus is on exploring current digital marketing trends and describing new strategies for email marketers.