5 Email Marketing Lessons From Amazon


Jeff Bezos and his team Amazon have been eCommerce pioneers for nearly 20 years.

Here are a few cool things about Amazon:

  • Amazon was founded in 1994.
  • They weren’t even profitable until 2001, when they had a profit of $5 million on revenues of $1 billion.
  • Amazon isn’t just a retail store. Amazon earns more than $2 billion a year through selling cloud computing services, Amazon Web Services (AWS).
  • Amazon has bought or invested in dozens of other eCommerce, shipping, and tech companies to further innovation. These include Zappos, Audible, Shopbop, and Kiva Systems.
  • Drones!

It’s an interesting company for sure, and one that definitely recognizes the importance of data and email to drive revenue. Sign up for the site yourself and you’ll certainly see how they use email to nudge you to make a purchase.

In this post, we’ll dissect their email marketing strategy  so you can learn what they are doing and apply their methods to your own site.

1) Track everything that happens on your website

So much for serendipity. Nothing on Amazon.com is left up to chance.

Every product recommendation, every product category, and every advertisement is tailored to you based on account information and past browsing and purchase behavior.

What’s interesting is how upfront Amazon is about its data collection. They actually encourage customers to participate in the process.

In your account management settings, you can review your recommendations and rate them. By doing this, you train Amazon’s algorithm by providing it with more information, so it can offer you better recommendations and so you can buy more stuff. It’s a crazy concept, but it works.

amazon recommendation image series

All of this data collection isn’t just for the on-site experience. Amazon uses this data collection to fuel behavior-targeted email campaigns and drive revenue.

Key lesson: Track what your customers do on your site and send that data back to your email service provider. If you use a marketing automation platform like Klaviyo, you can leverage these on-site events to set up drip campaigns and nurture customers towards conversion based on products they have expressed interest in.

2) Offer a consistent experience on all marketing channels

“Stay on-brand.”

That seems like obvious, elementary, marketing advice, right?

But if you look at how similar Amazon.com looks to Amazon.com’s emails, you notice a similar style in most of the emails.

  • The emails follow the theme of the site: Recommendations, product collections, product categories.
  • Call to action buttons have similar styles in the email and on the site.
  • The email header looks like the site navigation, and clicking on it leads you to the site.
  • They use my name a lot. It’s always in the top right hand corner of the website, and here it is in the email too. Sometimes they even put it in subject lines.

amazon email marketing example

Why does this matter? Well, a consistent experience breeds familiarity and trust. That makes you a) More likely to buy and b) More likely to participate in data collection that will generate more targeted recommendations, and hence, make you buy more in the future.

Key lesson: Test the click-through rate and revenue from email templates that closely resemble your website. This approach may work for you too.

3) Encourage product reviews from your customers

Research shows that 61% of customers read eCommerce product reviews before making a purchase, so including them on your site could be quite helpful in driving conversions.

Now, let’s be realistic. The most likely customers who will come back to leave a review on their own are the unhappy ones.

To bring out the positive reviews, you’ll need to do a little work and encourage reviews proactively.

Amazon does this quite well.

First, they send me emails that encourage me to rate my purchases.

Amazon product review example

When I click on the email itself and rate the item with the appropriate number of stars, I’m lead to a simple page on the site where that rating has been pulled in for that particular item. This page also lists out my other recent purchases, which makes it simple for me to rate and review those purchases, too.

How to get a review example

There is nothing else on this page other than my recent purchases, the ratings stars, and little boxes for writing reviews.

It is so simple. Since there are only four or five items listed, I know it’ll only take me a couple of seconds to do this.

Key lesson: Want your customers to leave reviews? Make it stupid simple to leave reviews. Not that I necessarily owe Amazon anything, but I think I’d just feel like a lazy person if I didn’t do something that took only two seconds to do. It’s almost a matter of pride. If you can think of providing experiences that are that simple for your customers, you’re golden.

4) Retain subscribers with granular unsubscribe options

The one-click unsubscribe option works great for some use cases. Take blogs for example. It’s pretty straight-forward in that case. Either you want the content or you don’t.

eCommerce is a little different.

I may want to hear about your seasonal promotions, just not your weekly promotions.

But if you only offer me one all-or-nothing subscription option, then I’ll probably just unsubscribe.

Given this reality, Amazon is wise to offer options for managing your email preferences. They make it simple to control the frequency of your emails and organize your subscriptions, but they also make the “Unsubscribe from All” choice a very clear and easy one to make if that’s what you really want to do.

amazon unsubscribe options

Key lesson: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Is your email subscription an “all or nothing” situation, or do you have something that can be subscribed to in a more granular way? Try to think of ways you can offer your subscribers subscription management alternatives that don’t include straight up unsubscribing.

5) Employ subtle urgency in the subject line of your email

We offer consistent advice entice a sense of urgency in the subject line of your email.

I still stand by that advice. But it seems like everyone applies it via hyperbole (“BEST SALE EVER”), exclamation points, uppercase text, and general obnoxiousness.

Amazon, however, takes a more subtle approach. One of my favorite ways that they do this is by positioning their discounts as truly exclusive offers.

Brands seem to throw around the word “exclusive” around for every sale.

However, something about this offer from Amazon in the example below did feel tailored to me.

Amazon coupon code example

Amazon created a coupon code specifically for one-time use. They aligned it specifically to my customer ID.

Granted, they probably did this for every Prime member. In that case, this wouldn’t be much different than any other “card members only” offer from a retailer. However, the way this email was positioned did feel very exclusive, and that makes me want to take action.

Key Lesson: Think through how you position your discounts, and position them in a way that matches the price point and brand of your product. In some cases, messaging the promotion as a flash sale will provoke people to take action. Other times, messaging it as an “exclusive offer” works better.


What’s the biggest thing you can learn from Amazon?

Sweat the small stuff.

They know that people remember the details, so Amazon relentlessly analyzes, crafts, and optimizes every single piece of the customer experience to drive more revenue. That’s probably the most interesting thing about their process and the greatest lesson of all.

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