A Beginner’s Guide to Sales Emails

Letters 'Sale' hanging with a chain and displayed in white against a red backdrop.

Sales are often heralded by holidays, changes in season, or just because — the idea is, though, that discounted merchandise will draw customers to your store’s website and encourage them to purchase. While in retail sales often mean signs in the window and special clothing racks, sale strategies are a little different for ecommerce.

How many emails should you send when ramping up to a sale?

How many emails you should send ramping up to your sale depends somewhat on the magnitude of the sale itself. A Black Friday sale, for example, could warrant weeks of buildup — Amazon started sending Black Friday emails as early as November 1st. While sending these reminders too early could be overkill, if you’re not running a flash sales, there’s no reason not to give your subscribers a heads up about what’s to come so they can mark their calendars.

While generally stores choose to send one reminder email day-of, some may choose to send two. This practice is especially effective around holidays, and we observed a number of ecommerce giants (Amazon included) send two emails on Black Friday. If you would like to send two emails day-of, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t want to bombard your subscribers.

So, if you do send two, remember to send them at disparate times of day (i.e. in the morning and evening), and consider segmenting based on behavior. If a subscriber opened your email at 9AM and made a purchase, for instance, don’t send them another one at 7PM, since it’s incredibly unlikely that they’ll be inclined to make two separate purchases on the same day.

Which segments should receive the sale message?

While we’re on the topic of segmentation, some companies may choose to run different sales for different tiers of their customer base. Say you have a VIP segment — you may choose to offer them a special deal to reward them for their loyalty.

Alternatively, you can adjust the frequency of your emails for certain segments. If you’re having a sale on shoes and you have a segment of customers who have historically purchased shoes, you could send them a follow-up email day-of in addition to your initial reminder email.

In general, though, it’s best to take broad strokes when it comes to running an online sale. The more subscribers you’re able to reach, the better.

What about the subject lines and creative for the sale email?

Your subject lines should definitely indicate that you’re having a sale, but don’t go too overboard. Below are some good sale subject lines, versus others that might raise some red flags.

Good Subject Lines Questionable Subject Lines
Take 15% off your next purchase. Sale Sale Sale
Limited Time: Sale On All Boots LIMITED TIME ONLY
Purchase before 2/14 for free shipping! Buy direct

The preview text is also a great place to elaborate on a sale — try putting the specifics, like “15% off all orders before 2/14,” in the preview text, if you don’t include them in the subject line.

How preview text looks in an email:

How it’ll look in an inbox:

Lastly, as with any email, you should include all important information before the fold. Usually, this comes in the form of a high-res image, compelling copy, and CTA that leads to the desired page on your website.

Do you have any additional tips for sending sales emails? Let us know in the comments.

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