When it comes to promotional emails, you don’t just want to be – you know – that guy.
We all know this guy from somewhere. He’s the loudmouth who won’t stop talking. It’s not as though he’s chattering away about interesting topics (that would be awesome), but instead uses two thumbs to point at himself continuously saying, “Who’s got something important to say?!”
“This guy!” he responds, to his own question. If he’s not self-promoting his latest vacation, it’s some questionably hilarious experience at the Starbucks around the corner. Talk about tiresome and boring.
Yes, you want to avoid embodying this obnoxious email personality. Conversations, like brand relationships, will tolerate some promotion, but they should be rooted in meaningful exchanges between both parties. Simply, customers won’t hang around if they’re being sold all the time.
The best promotional emails are targeted calls-to-action that are effective at driving revenues and engagement with your brand. Your job as a marketer is to regulate the frequency, creativity, and impact of your messages relative to your marketing messages.
So let’s discuss how to succeed with promotional email marketing. Read on to see promotional email samples and winning campaign case studies from leading consumer brands.
We’ll also review industry statistics that showcase the power of promotional emails when used by savvy marketers. By the end of this post, you’ll understand how and why a bit of promotion – at the right time and place – can deliver engagement and revenues in a way that your customers appreciate every time.
What is Promotional Email Marketing?
Promotional email marketing is sending a message that’s focused on driving a purchase or conversion. These emails are either triggered or sent manually, but the hallmark is a clear call-to-action in order to convince viewers to take the desired action. These messages are part of a campaign aimed at generating revenue and helping customers move forward with your brand.
The best promotional emails drive the recipient to take immediate action. All things considered, the copy and design of promotional emails move the reader quickly through a persuasive process towards the end, whether that’s a sale, a download, registration, or sign-up. Most often, these are presented within a specific timeframe.
If you’re hooking the reader with an appealing, valuable idea that speaks genuinely about your brand, you’re on the right path. For example, limited-time-only events. But be cautious about the frequency of your promotional messages. Sending too many can erode consumer engagement and retention, as overwhelming an inbox is simply annoying.
Once a week, or even twice a month, is a better rate of delivery. This way you avoid spamming and harassing people’s inboxes. Setting a reasonable delivery schedule keeps your brand in mind, yet doesn’t consistently undercut the value of your product or service. These sparse emails are a treat by comparison, part of a rewarding brand experience. Less is more with promotional email.
Promotional emails are effective because:
- They’re affordable. Emails are cheap and only become cheaper the more you send. According to DMA, email marketing has an ROI of 3800%
- They’re targeted. Emails let you address customers by name, design messaging to meet their needs, and deliver whatever type of promotion suits you. Segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue, says the DMA report.
- They’re engaging. Emails allow you to engage and develop a 1:1 relationship with customers. According to eConsultancy, 74% of marketers say that targeted personalization increases customer engagement.
- They’re trackable. Emails can be connected to analytics, which shows the number of opens, clicks, and other engagement stats. This way you know what’s performing or needs further optimization. Email subscribers are 3x more likely to share your content via social media than visitors from other sources, according to QuickSprout.
- They’re far-reaching. Email is entirely digital and everyone has one, if not multiple, email accounts where you can reach them – even on mobile devices. About 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices, says Campaign Monitor.
- They’re flexible. Email allows you to send text, links, pictures, and video unlike any other. If you’re creative, emails can become a unique aspect of your brand experience that consumers look forward to instead of avoiding or deleting. Email marketing drives more conversions than any other marketing channel, including search and social, according to Monetate.
Promotional Email Case Study – Zachys
Zachys is a New York wine merchant that wanted to bring wine time online with a promotional email campaign. Aside from the “live sales” auctions, of which the merchant runs a handful throughout the year, the online retail website is their only sales channel beside the one brick and mortar. Incoming e-commerce director, Victor Castro, couldn’t palate how the online presence was just an afterthought to in-store sales.
The challenge was managing and marketing the content on the website and driving sales across the web store. There was huge potential, he said, with “a very robust set of low-hanging fruit across all different channels — with probably email being one of the most important ones, in terms of our site and an ability to execute quickly.”
The campaign at hand was to overhaul the email program, then use email to improve retention and sales. Castro saw that trigger programs based on customer behavior “would be the next big thing that we could do to optimize that communication channel and increase our brand recognition … to be top of mind for customers looking to purchase wine.” However, the initial conversion rates on promotional emails fell flat, considering a customer lifecycle from web awareness to purchase being around 90 days.
This was because their triggers were lacking relevant customer data. But after some time collecting customer behavior onsite, Zachys was able to get a full view of customer behavior around wine. This meant developing beyond just what type of, say Malbecs, a customer was looking for – but also segmented by region, critic score, and price point.
The objective was to reach customers with triggered promotional emails while Zachys was still on their mind. The first email went out within an hour of the website action. The next behavioral promotional email went out 23 hours after the action. The thought here was if “they have time to shop at this specific day part today, they will have probably the same time to shop the next day,” said Castro.
A cart abandonment campaign of two emails was also added, the first more generic and the next being personalized to address specific items in-cart. “We have great performance on that program. I want to say it’s about a 30% conversion on it between the two emails. And we think that with a third email we can probably capture another 10% or so if we execute it properly,” he said. In the end, Zachys came to understand that promotional emails across the shopping experience were an effective way to drive sales.
“One of our main takeaways was the recognition that timing and messaging matter as much as product and relevancy in our industry as it pertains to email,” said Castro.
- Since Castro came on in 2013, e-commerce has grown 53% and now represents a 23% share of Zachys revenue
- Cart abandon emails saw a 65% open rate, 14% click-through rate, and $16 revenue per email
- Browse abandonment emails saw a 64% open rate, 10% CTR, and a $6 RPE
- Search abandonment emails saw a 57% open rate, 10% CTR and a $5 RPE
Promotional Email Case Study – Dannon
Dannon sought to acquire new customers while re-engaging inactive email subscribers with their promotional email campaign. Using the Activia email club database, the campaign would drive awareness and traffic with a combination of email and social sharing.
The challenge was to reach beyond their list and drive awareness with new consumers for in-store purchases.Customer acquisition was the key goal through campaign social sharing so they could grow their CRM database. The last essential piece was re-engaging inactive users in the database.
This promotional email example would be delivered throughout a one-month period and utilize rewards-sharing software to facilitate engagement. The goal was to provide inactive database users with a $1.00 discount coupon for a 4-pack of Activia yogurt. To boost the appeal of the offer, these users were incentivized to share across social channels to receive another promotional offer, $1.50 off the same product. Both sharing behavior and customer loyalty were the key metrics to watch.
At the end of the month-long promotion, data showed top-performing retail locations and redemption rates. This was superb, as it allowed marketers to segment the database and assisted with future targeted promotional email campaigns. Dannon’s coupon-sharing promotion was an effective cross-channel program for driving sales and awareness while developing a deeper understanding of customer behavior.
- 30,000 additional customers in the database
- 70%+ promotional traffic from new customers
- 250% increase in traffic to promotion
- 40,000 shares on social media
- 22,000 redemptions
- 90% of new customers are Dannon email club subscribers
- 5% of current inactive database re-engaged
Promotional Email Case Study – Doggyloot
A flash sale site for canine lovers, Doggyloot leverages shopper’s pets to fill out their customer profile. Instead of focusing on shopper data, the marketing team at Doggyloot segments and personalizes promotional email based upon “doggy data.” Namely, the size of the dog. For example, the owner of a Chihuahua receives different product promotions than the Greyhound owner.
“We can send a customized email for large dogs to a customer, which should have a better conversion rate because it’s more relevant.”
— Jeff Eckerling, CEO, Doggyloot
The marketing starts by collecting “doggy data” on the website. Visitors are prompted to answer “How big are your dogs?” when they land. The next step: an email address. Visitors are barred from seeing the flash sales until they register this information. Not your average, but effective nonetheless, as users who responded to surveys didn’t seem to mind the offer-gating in order to access discounted prices.
The challenge with segmenting came from getting users to provide more in-depth doggy data. “We knew if customers gave us more relevant information, we could deliver better products to them at the right time,” said Eckerling. The team added a “My Dogs” page to the user profile, complete with pet birthday, gender, size, breed, and name.
The email campaign started by offering the subscriber a $5 credit to share a dog birthday. The CTAs brought subscribers to the My Dogs page. Learning more about customers would enable Doggyloot to provide better sales, yes, but also offer more targeted promotions. The marketing team segmented the email list by size, as in small dogs, medium, and large. After all, a Terrier and a Rottweiler want for a bone of a different size.
Next came the automated email for dog birthdays (dog birthday cake anyone?). Owners were eager to spoil their pets at this relevant touch point. Cart abandon promotional emails were key as well, especially incentivized and time-sensitive for the flash site. An hour after leaving the site, the triggered email would arrive, declaring their product “almost sold out.” To make the cart conversion, each email was fitted with the product image and a clear, action-oriented CTA.
- A 28% open rate for happy birthday emails
- A 750% increase in clickthrough rate on triggered happy birthday emails
- A 16% contribution to daily total revenue
- A 10% open rate for emails targeting large dog owners
- A 410% higher than average click through rate for promotional email sent to large dog owners
- A 13% contribution to daily total revenue
The Last Word
Email promotions reach subscribers in a targeted way in a personal space. This means that a data-driven promotional email campaign is effective if crafted with persuasive copy and linear calls-to-action. As we’ve seen through these promotional email examples, the best promotional emails are always relevant to the customer segment.
Brands can use triggered messaging to drive engagement, product sales and activate inactive customers. The first step is developing a clear view of the customer, using the existing customer database and their profile details (purchase, website, and email activity)
Next, design a visually appealing email with concise copy that drives action. Lastly, segment your email messages with personalized attributes so your messaging is relevant to your customer and fits the context of their shopping experience.