Welcome to the fourth blog in our ‘Ask the Expert’ interview series, where we bring you industry experts to talk about outstanding practices in email marketing.
Karen Talavera is the founder and principal of Synchronicity Marketing, a data-driven digital marketing consultancy. She is a global expert with 20 years of experience in email and digital marketing. Karen has contributed to eCommerce performance improvements for brands in DTC, financial services, travel, healthcare, retail, and tech, such as Google, Disney, Kendo Brands, Lenovo, City National Bank, and many more.
In this Q&A blog, Karen talks about proven strategies for using email marketing to target customers at different stages of the customer journey and explains how eCommerce brands can ensure their emails are relevant and engaging for each stage.
1. Tell us about your journey as a marketer – what inspired you, how did you develop a passion for email marketing, and how did you start your career in marketing?
Evolution and innovation have always inspired me. I was always drawn to being on the edge of what was new. My initial passion was for writing and journalism, so I got a BA in Communication, but the job opportunities in marketing and advertising were more lucrative and interesting at the time. After college, I moved into product development and management roles at a leading data-driven marketing company (now Experian). My unplanned venture into email marketing happened in 1999 when I went to work at an early–stage version of one of the first ESPs. At the time, email marketing seemed to me a perfect storm of speed, affordability, tech innovation, and accountability in marketing that no channel had delivered before. I was hooked, and the rapid digital transformation of the early 2000s kept me passionate about the space as I witnessed the birth of mobile marketing, social media, smartphones, eCommerce, and more.
2. Email marketing is a crucial part of marketing strategies for nearly all types of businesses, but it’s particularly essential for eCommerce brands seeking to establish strong relationships with customers and drive product sales. As an expert in this field, could you share your insights on the pivotal role that email marketing plays in the eCommerce ecosystem?
When it comes to eCommerce, email marketing is the engine that delivers sales and bottom-line revenue faster and more affordably than any other marketing channel – period! It always has and likely always will. That’s evident for B2C and D2C companies, but even B2B – Publishers, Financial Services, and other verticals benefit from email as the “connective tissue” that both pushes content to audiences and pulls them to it, links online and offline sales channels, integrates into the omni-channel marketing mix, and transcends all device, location and space constraints. It’s hard to imagine eCommerce functioning without email.
3. What are some strategies for using email marketing to target customers at different stages of the customer journey, and how can businesses ensure that their emails are relevant and engaging for each stage?
Each stage of the customer lifecycle naturally lends itself to specific messaging aligned to the needs, motivations, and inclinations of its members. Using the power of automation to create multi-touch journeys – within email and across channels, too – is the key to keeping communication relevant, engaging, and useful to customers at every stage. For example, welcome and onboarding email journeys create goodwill, inspiration, and motivation for new subscribers, familiarising and incenting them to buy. Browse and Cart abandonment series recover lost revenue by nudging and rewarding subscribers to complete a purchase. Content drip campaigns warm up new prospects or keep active customers engaged. Automated multi-touch journeys intentionally sequenced and triggered to begin at unique stages progress prospects to customers, and customers to brand loyalists; they can even reactivate defecting or inactive buyers.
4. How can eCommerce businesses use email marketing to drive repeat purchases and encourage customer loyalty? What types of messaging tend to be most effective in this context?
Loyalty programs work best to encourage repeat purchases and reward customer longevity. Emails inviting participation in loyalty programs, then continually informing members of their status and offering exclusive rewards for loyalty program members, pay dividends over the long haul. Apart from loyalty programs, a mix of both promotional and content-rich emails creates value for subscribers and customers. As an email marketer, don’t be “the friend who only calls when you need something” by constantly asking for the sale. Serve up interesting, educational, or funny content too.
5. What are some of the common mistakes/pitfalls for eCommerce marketers to avoid in their email marketing campaigns?
First, not leveraging the power of email automation by creating life cycle-specific orchestrated journeys. Related to that, failing to attribute revenue to email by tracking online purchase data and integrating it into a CRM, CDP, or MA platform for proper analysis to determine which programs, individual messages, CTAs, and attributes are performing or under-performing. And third, relying on the sheer volume and repetition of “blasted” emails over well-targeted, timed, and personalized messages. Think quality over quantity. Both are important, but there’s no excuse for a lack of strategy.
6. How can eCommerce businesses use automated email workflows to engage with customers and drive sales, and what are some best practices for setting up these workflows?
One of the best things brands can do is to listen to customer behavior. That means identifying signals which indicate activity or change. There are intent signals, defection signals, loyalty signals, dissatisfaction signals, etc. Measuring activity like time on site, recency/ frequency/monetary amount of purchases (RFM), time to repeat purchase, connection with and interaction on social media, mobile app downloads, and usage – all of these behaviors signal a spectrum of involvement from curiosity to interest to loyalty to defection. When you’re listening to the right signals, it’s easy to craft automated email journeys that reach customers at exactly the right time with the right message. That’s 1:1 on the scale. The best email marketing workflows mirror the real-world path of how customers make buying decisions by motivating, building trust, answering questions, removing barriers, alleviating hesitation, and reducing friction.
7. What is the future of AI-powered eCommerce email marketing, and how can eCommerce brands prepare for an AI-centric world?
AI is already affecting email and eCommerce on two fronts: predictive analytics and creative (copywriting and image development). Algorithms and data models have long analyzed customer behavior, preferences, and purchases to make product and next purchase recommendations in CRMs and CDPs, plus predict when a customer is most likely to engage. This isn’t new, but what’s interesting is how quickly algorithms are getting “smarter” with more data and behaviors to consume. When it comes to site optimization and automated email, eCommerce brands would be mindful to test into built-in predictive automation to see if it yields greater revenue and engagement. If not, realize that AI is not (yet?) an all-seeing, all-knowing force – it’s a tool to empower better strategy. And it’s only as good as the strategist or user driving it.
8. How are rising trends in eCommerce and email marketing changing the landscape, and how can brands stay ahead of the curve in this fast-evolving field?
Trends in email – like AMP (accelerated mobile pages) are making it interactive to the point where browsing, feedback, and even purchase can happen within an email vs. a website or mobile app. The UX of eCommerce is becoming more predictive and personalized. Both result in flatter, faster paths to purchase and rising consumer expectations – that shopping and buying online should be easy, quick, and seamless. When it’s not, consumers are quick to bail or head to your competition. So the bar is constantly being raised for us to get it right the first time. That means integrated tech stacks, data, and holistic strategy. The Netcore Cloud MasterClass series is one free education resource to help brands stay ahead of the curve.
We hope you enjoyed reading the blog and will benefit from the takeaways. Email marketing can give an impressive boost to engagement, conversion, and ROI in eCommerce.
Feel free to get in touch with us to know the latest innovations in email marketing and how you can leverage them to outpace competition. Benefit from our expertise and experience – we send over 20 billion emails a month on behalf of 6500+ businesses across 40 countries.