Most marketers today feel the sting of shifting social media algorithms and the decline of third-party cookies in their digital efforts. While social channels remain crucial for customer engagement, retailers must acknowledge the risks of ‘borrowed media’ and diversify their marketing strategies.

Email marketing is one of the best ways to ensure reliable engagement with customers. Unlike social media, email provides the opportunity for highly personalised communication and boasts an unmatched return of investment (ROI) of $36 to $45 for every dollar invested.

This is only growing. In a 2023 survey, 52% of global marketers reported a 2x improvement to their e-mail campaigns’ ROI rate when compared to 2022. This is likely due to the rise in advanced email marketing tactics such as audience segmentation, automation and personalisation.

When a subscriber opts in, it is a direct invitation into their inbox. Businesses must honor that by delivering valuable content that aligns with recipients’ interests. This mindset shift is fundamental to fostering meaningful connections and nurturing long-term customer relationships.

With that in mind, let’s dive into practical tips for maximising your impact with email recipients:

Segment audiences and personalise communications

Identifying smaller groups within a larger audience enables retailers to send more personalised emails. Building personalisation into email marketing can help create brand resonance, strengthening the relationship between a business and its customers.

In fact, segmenting an audience for personalisation can significantly increase click-through rates and e-commerce order volume. According to a recent report, customers are more likely to open an email if it’s personalised to them, with 71% more inclined to purchase from companies that send such personalised messages.

Email lists can be segmented based on factors such as actions taken, purchase history, interests, age, location, and more. Some of this information can be collected as part of the sign-up process, while other data points may be gathered through ongoing interactions and engagement with subscribers.

Utilising behavioural data is crucial for effective segmentation and personalisation in email marketing. Instead of simply dividing into generic groups, understand and leverage customer actions to create highly tailored communication strategies. 

Retailers can then personalise emails to cater to each group. For example, they may share details about a pop-up event to people who live in a specific geographic area, or product recommendations with people who showed interest in similar items. The use cases are limitless.

Automate for continuous engagement

An automated email marketing strategy goes hand in hand with personalisation and segmentation. It is another essential aspect for maintaining strong subscriber engagement.

By leveraging automation tools that trigger email sequences based on real-time customer actions, marketers can enhance the delivery of timely, personalised content.

This approach not only fosters a deeper connection with the audience, but also increases the likelihood of continued engagement, driving conversions and loyalty.

Optimise emails with A/B testing

While most retailers have a good idea about what type of content will resonate with their segmented customer groups, tiny tweaks to subject lines, content, sender name and time can sway the effectiveness of an email. This is where A/B testing can help.

We saw Canadian company MovingWaldo achieve great success through A/B testing. In one example, the company tested a sponsored newsletter about telecom services by sending to two different audiences: people in the process of moving and people who had already moved.

The first audience had a 42% open rate; a stark difference from the 19% open rate for recipients who had moved at least 45 days earlier. Given this significant difference, MovingWaldo could adapt their strategy for the optimal send time to maximise engagement.

Gain subscribers by being where they are

Gaining new subscribers isn’t as complicated as it might seem—as long as you’re showing up in the right places. Adding a pop-up form on the homepage can give website visitors a quick, convenient way to subscribe. Mailchimp users have seen their lists’ growth rate increase by an average rate of 50.8% after adding a pop-up form to their site.

Providing exclusive content or a discount can motivate hesitant individuals to share their address and sign up. To retain these subscribers once you gain them, personalised early interactions are crucial. Since email is personal, welcome emails should align with the subscriber’s initial interest and explain the perks of joining the community.

Lastly, it’s important that retailers prioritise authentic growth and ethical practices when expanding their email marketing lists. This means only contacting users who have agreed to receive marketing content. Being careful with these will not only help retailers avoid legal penalties, but also reputational damage and reduced effectiveness of email marketing efforts.

Maximise email ROI with proven tactics

Building and maintaining an email marketing list can help insulate retailers from the uncertainties of borrowed media. However, there are a few best practices that retailers should employ when it comes to growing this list and keeping subscribers engaged.

While convenience and ethics are important at the first touch point, it’s the personalised approach to email marketing, facilitated by segmentation and A/B testing, that will ensure each message resonates with its recipients — maximising engagement and driving the desired outcomes.

In short, the aim is to provide each audience segment with content that is timely and relevant for them, so that they feel understood, connect more deeply with the brand, and convert into paying and loyal customers.

Dee Dunne is senior director of lifecycle marketing and operations at Intuit Mailchimp.