6 Newsletter Mistakes Ecommerce Stores Can Easily Avoid

a person's boot on a road lifting up to show gum stuck to bottom denoting newsletter mistakes

Over the last year or so, I’ve averaged 175 emails a day and I’ve probably read a fraction of them – and I’m not alone: a recent article in Fast Company reported that the average person receives over 50 emails a day and 25% of people receive over 100.

In short, the inbox is competitive. By steering clear of these 6 easily avoidable mistakes, ecommerce stores can help make their emails stand out from the crowd.  You just need to make sure that your message reaches your customers who want to hear it amidst all of the noise.

1.) No Clear Call to Action

A call to action is the next step you want a recipient to take when they get your email, usually a link back to a page on your website.

If you think of this call to action as the “goal” of your email, it’s crucial that you make it very clear and compelling to drive as many people to click it as possible. Step into the customer’s shoes for a second and assume they’ll just glance at your email for a few second (because let’s be honest, that’s all you’ve probably got): will they immediately know what the next step is?  Is it compelling?

As a starting point, just including a clearly visible “Shop Now” or “Checkout the new Collection” button can significantly increase clicks.  A few more ideas for improving calls to action from this article on Econsultancy:

  • Size: Is it large enough to stand out?
  • Format: If it’s an image or button, is it clear that it should be clicked?
  • Content: Does the text on the call to action compel someone to take the next step?
  • Prominence: Is the call to action obscure by other content in the email?

2.) All 50% Off, All the Time

Email is a perfect tool for announcing special sales or pricing, but if you look through your email on any given day, it seems like 50% of the emails are for a sale or a 25% off discount.

Sales are great, but if every single email is discount oriented, you’ll lose the attention of customers. The boy who cried wolf is a great analogy – if you’re always on sale, then it’s no longer an exciting event.  The recent Saturday Night Live skits targeting Jos. A. Bank’s continual discounts are a great example of how this backfires.

One thing to note: some brands make a daily discount a core part of their brand (for example, Living Social), but keep it interesting by constantly varying what the special is.  This strategy can work, but for most Ecommerce stores, you run the risk of encouraging customers to wait until the product they want is on sale.

3.) Emails that Don’t Work on Mobile

We’ve all gotten these emails too – emails that are essentially a recreation of the website, small buttons and all, or that stretch way off the side of the phone.

With more than 50% of all emails being opened on mobile (according to a recent report by Litmus), an email that doesn’t look good on mobile is a huge missed opportunity. According to a study by ExactTarget, 42% of marketers aren’t yet creating responsive email templates despite a rapid shift about where customers are viewing emails.

There are easy solutions to this – either creating a responsive email that looks good on phones and other devices or using a pre-built responsive template as a starting point. The key first step is just choosing to see how your emails look on a phone and then fixing it.

newsletter mistakes

4.) Hiding the Unsubscribe Link

Your unsubscribe link is a way for customers to tell you they don’t want to receive your emails any more. It’s counter-intuitive, but an unsubscribe isn’t a bad thing – it’s an important signal.

If they can’t find it, they are more likely to report your email as spam or to just archive it so that it never hits the inbox – both of which hurt your deliverability over time (i.e. how likely your email is to end up in someone’s spam folder).

Unsubscribes are a valuable piece of data for you, typically from recipients who are already disengaged and it’s a way of keeping customers happier. Don’t be scared of the unsubscribe link – you’ll always see some people unsubscribe, but as long as you keep putting out good emails, you’ll keep making other customers happy.

5.) Emailing Too Rarely (or Too Much)

One of the biggest mistakes we see are stores who email too rarely (and so customers forget they subscribed and why they are being emailed) or too often (to the point that emails don’t provide anything new of value to customers).

A few tips:

  • Emailing less than monthly is usually too infrequent – unsubscribes will go up as customers forget that they signed up.
  • Do you have great things to say that your customers would like to hear that you aren’t sending?
  • Think like a customer – would you want to get your emails as often as you send?
  • Do you provide something unique of value to customers in each email?

6.) Not Testing Subject Lines

A/B Testing sounds complex but isn’t – all it means is sending two or more versions of your email to different parts of your list, seeing which one gets more opens, and then sending that “winner” to everyone else.

In short: no need to worry about whether you have the right subject line or to debate it – just send out a test and see what subject line actually does best.

A few subject line ideas to try:

  • Short, one word subject lines
  • Make them Humorous
  • Try different lengths
  • Use lists

Above all, a subject line that speaks to your reader about why they should open your email (and not the 50 others in their inbox) and reflects your brand is crucial.

There’s really no downside to testing – though as this comic from XCKD points out you do want to make sure your subject lines are still an accurate reflection of your brand and what you’re trying to say (no point in getting opens from people who aren’t interested in your content).

Learn by Doing

The great thing about email newsletters is that you get tons of feedback. From opens and clicks, to purchases and unsubscribes, you’ll see how your customers responded to each campaign.  As you keep emailing, you’ll keep learning about what works with your specific customers and your store’s unique voice will grow too.


Using Petitions to Send More Targeted Email



Q&A: 3 Experts on Real-World Lessons from Email Tests of the Past



How to Stand Out in a Crowded Inbox


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