5 Retail Email Campaign Ideas to Boost Sales and Customer Engagement

If you’re in retail, email marketing campaigns need to be part of your overall marketing strategy. Here are five retail email marketing ideas you absolutely need in your email marketing plan. They work for luxury, fashion retail, and just about any other retail type.

1: Celebrate someone else in your email marketing

Don’t we all hate going to dinner with someone who only talks about themselves. It’s the same if you’re too promotional in retail email marketing. Don’t only focus on new products and sales events.

Email does really well when you take a fresh approach and tell a story. Even better, someone else’s story. Talk about someone great, show why they’re great and how the story aligns with your brand and philosophy.

TrackSmith is arunning gear and apparel company that uses its email marketing to tell the stories of its customers.

They tout their email eNewsletter and a couple products in these emails. At the same time they show you the images and allow you to click through to a deeper read about the story teased in the email subject lines.

tracksmith retail email example

This shows you son’t need to sponsor a champion for your retail email campaign. If you have testimonials for your products, see them as case studies. Reach out to those whose lives your products have impacted. Ask them if they’d be willing to share their story!

Example retail email campaign from Brooks sports

Brooks Sports, a running shoe and apparel supplier celebrate wins as well. In this email campaign, it highlighted 2018 Boston Marathon champion, Desiree Linden, who was the first American woman to win the event in over 30 years.

The whole campaign revolves around her accomplishments. How she got there, her power, strength and commitment.

Brooks sponsors Linden, so that’s absolute media gold. But remember the emails focused on her story, not selling.

We all love a feel-good story. Chances are your customers are waiting to open one. You can still highlight your value, without a hard sell.There is a tie in to the product with a CTA at the bottom “See Desiree’s Go-To Gear.” That’s it.

Then, all you have to do is listen.

2: Use triggered retail email marketing to boost store and ecommerce sales

Median email marketing open rates in retail ecommerce hover around 18%. But triggered emails can reach four times that.

A triggered email is one you create in response to a customer’s action. They can be in response to someone filling out a form, signing up for an event, a purchase, or something else. Confirmation and follow-up drip emails are triggers and an even bigger chance to boost sales of products like gadgets, various office or school kits, same goes with upsells on digital downloads. You can sell lightroom presets, ebooks, audiofiles, online courses, etc.

An order confirmation email can boost add-on sales by simply displaying complementary products. An event sign-up confirmation email can talk up products at the event.

Clothing retailer Jack Wills launched their autoresponder abandoned cart email. These emails aren’t pushy either. In the copy they even say “life’s busy and we all get distracted”.

The visuals show what is in your cart and customers can jump back into the sales experience.

jack willis email campaign retail fashion


In these emails you can also sweeten the deal with free shipping or give 5% off. Offer a few additional up or cross sell items they might be interested in. Retail abandoned cart emails target customers who considered buying from you. It’s up to you to re-start the conversation.

Cell phone accessory ecommerce store Caseco uses trigger emails. They start by offering a 5% off coupon right before checkout. The customer is already ready to buy. That’s a great time for a retail website to grow that email list. And customers are happy to share their email for that extra 5% off.

Caseco sends product suggestions in follow-up emails after the sale. In the daily follow up autoresponder series are products that compliment the initial purchase. Cart abandonment email marketing is about using clear retail email subject lines to convey what’s inside.

A campaign around triggered emails can also give you a closer look at your customer data. Has this person shopped with you before? Do you know what they like? Use that information.
Most retailers know 80% of future profits comes from 20% of repeat customers. Triggered email campaigns let you tap those warm leads ready to buy from you again.

3: Offer the right birthday deal

Admit it, on your birthday you probably want two things: someone to wish you a happy birthday and a free meal at IHOP. Hey, even just a free cup of coffee will do for many of us.

Even the grumpiest people love a little love on their big day. So, take advantage of this customer event and send a targeted deal or message.

The beauty of birthdays is that you really don’t need a big, splashy offer. A lot of times, 5 bucks off, free Joe, little gestures, win.

Back to the customer data piece again. If you gather purchase data with your POS system at your brick-and mortar or email check-out data, you’ll know more about your b-day target’s habits. To be able to use segmentation, targeting and personalisation to make your message even more interesting. Offer the deal on their birthday, even earlier. Then send a reminder email later.

One of the great things about birthday offers is they require no explanation. This DSW birthday email campaign has practically none. Clever. Simple. To the point.

dsw triggered birthday email campaign

“Fill up on cake, ice cream & shoes! … $5 off your purchase”

Your customers expect a birthday deal. So, be direct, and give it to them.

4. Use conversation starters, and follow up with value

Retail subject lines with questions can be a great conversation starters when used correctly. If this strategy works for you to increase the interest and open rates, don’t let people down when they open your email.

Value the customer by offering valuable content when they open. Video marketing is huge. You can use animated images in your email, AMP for email to reacte interactive emais, add tutorials and FAQ’s , whatever works for your retail email marketing program. In this example, Wool and the Gang teased a conversation and delivered.

The subject line is “Plans Tonight?”

retail email example wool and the gang

After you open, there’s a text-style exchange to introduce the subject of crochet-ing. It’s clever, easy to understand. The company then adds value with a video on how to crochet the cool sweater worn by the person in the email.

Valuable content is a great way to build your brand. It is an ideal WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) for your retail shoppers. Not costing any margin or high production costs, but customers love it when they can count on a retailer for meaningful how-to, fun message or other content driven email marketing message that hits the right spot. It’s a refreshing change from the direct sales approaches they see daily.

5: Take some risks with your seasonal promotions

Retailers know to target customers with email newsletters for the holidays and high-volume seasons. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain and buck what 99% of the retail world does sometimes. Especially if it fits your image.

You don’t need to kidnap Santa, but a fresh take on the usual helps. Apparel company Patagonia is a great example.

The company isn’t afraid to tackle hard issues. It knows a lot of its customer loyalty comes from people equally passionate about the environment and consumerism.

Its Anti-Black Friday stance is a case study in taking a (calculated) promotional season risk. The brand’s anti-consumerism stance was backed by action. Building sales based strictly on a product discount is a no-no to Patagonia brass. It’s core to the consumerism and unnecessary spending that plagues the country, the company asserts.

So, not discounting a thing on Black Friday is the plan. But saying anything you buy, 100% of profits go to environmental organizations is genius.

Clearly there’s more involved than an email campaign here. But it’s a bold move for sure. Other retailers like REI so this as wel.The take-away is to look at holidays and seasons differently. Sometimes, you need to do what others aren’t doing.

The move doesn’t need to be big and bold. It can be as simple as how you craft your retail email subject lines and pull them in. Barnes & Noble used this reflective take on Shakespeare to talk about the summer reading season. You kind of didn’t know what was coming. But it was enough to at least make you want to peek inside.

And don’t forget to keep an eye out for weird holidays like National Science Fiction Day, Carrot Cake Day, Umbrella Day, Pajama Day. If you sell the products that fit, let everyone know.

Tip: You might avoid National Work Naked Day.

Impactful retail email marketing tips

Use the time and urgency wisely (it’s not what you think)

Some brands absolutely kill it when it comes to creating urgency in their email campaigns. Yes, there’s the heavy-handed “act now while supplies last” that still has a place. But think of something more subtle like “this is just in” in your subject line or header.

Retailer Uncommon Goods is a master at using time in its email campaigns. You have options to “pre-order,” find out about “new this week,” all mixed in with the more on-the-nose sales copy about sales going on this month or this weekend.

It’s not the ticking clock “sale ends today” kind of urgency. But you’re talking about action, even if it already happened. It’s enough for customers to want to know. And something like “Next week’s fall arrivals” works too. You’re referring to time windows that are close, happening now or in the very near future.

Not to mention, anyone on the company’s email list will also see plenty of other content. You’ll read about community support efforts, employee profiles, and plenty of personal stuff. Which leads us to …

Clarity. Variety. Value.

Retail email marketing campaigns face a mix of customers with different needs. You won’t please or entice everyone all the time. You have those email subscribers itching to hear about new products. Others want to learn more about you or the people who work for you. Others just want the best quality at the best price.

Some campaigns just perform better than others. And there’s some head-scratching when you think one will absolutely nail it but doesn’t. That’s OK. You have to keep tinkering with the formula. Take the time to study others. Make changes and find what works for you. In the meantime,

Your customer seeks value. People don’t want to be deceived. They want to know what they’re buying is right for them. And they want it at a fair price.

Demonstrate value with thoughtful content about your brand’s value. Mix in relevant how-to’s and other content where it’s natural. Be clear. Be genuine. Mix it up. Have fun. If you show your customers you’re always trying to give them value, there’s a good chance they will pick up on it. It’s not a guarantee of success. But you increase your chances of enjoying more hits than misses.

Ray Ko

Ray Ko

Ray Ko is the Senior Ecommerce Manager at ShopPOPDisplays, located in New Jersey, shopPOPdisplays is a retail displays manufacturer of point-of-purchase displays. Ray is an expert in formulating and implementing e-commerce strategies to drive site traffic, improve user engagement, and increase revenue.