Beyond the Sale: Using Email to Build & Strengthen Customer Relationships

By Sharon Shapiro

What’s the best case scenario when you send an email? You bring in revenue through purchases. But what if there’s more to it than that? The average 0.57% conversion rate Bluecore sees across emails reveals that only a small portion of your audience is ready to buy at any given time.

So what about the other 99% of your customers? Should you just not even bother emailing them? Of course not. You simply need to think beyond the sale.

Email as a Relationship Building Channel

As the chief online revenue driver and biggest customer retention channel for retailers, email is a powerful channel for sales.

But it’s also a powerful channel for staying top of mind with customers and building a relationship with them, even when no sale is involved. Taking this approach is especially important at a time when you need to put your customers first above all else.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Retail marketers can position themselves for success by prioritizing customers and creating a value-add experience for them, and that value needs to come ahead of making a sale. Because if you deliver that value, you will build a strong customer relationship and the sale will come. And not only will the sale come once, but because you’ve built a relationship with customers, they’re also more likely to buy again.

Further, consumers want to be informed. According to the Adobe Consumer Email Report 2017, 40% of consumers want email content to be less promotional and more informative.

How to Keep Your Customers Engaged Via Email

People still love email. After all, 68% of consumers still consider email the most personal channel for engaging with their favorite brands. However, if you constantly try to sell and do nothing else, your customers will tune you out. Worse yet, they may even kick you out of their inbox by unsubscribing.

So how do you keep people engaged and build an emotional connection that extends beyond transactions? It’s all about informing and entertaining through content.

Consider Pact, an apparel retailer known for its ultra-soft, eco-friendly cotton products and commitment to using Fair Trade Certified factories. Pact sends a post purchase email that doesn’t try to cross-sell or push any of its products. Instead, the email informs customers about how to best take care of their Pact clothing and offers tips for buying eco-friendly laundry detergent. And even though Pact doesn’t push its products, this email has brought in a steady stream of revenue nonetheless.

Other ideas include adding an educational twist to a browse abandonment email by sharing tips on how to style certain products or including the story behind your products to help customers establish a connection to your brand.

Regardless of the exact approach, retailers who send these types of emails see higher than average open and click-through rates due to the informative nature of their content.

3 Ways to Engage & Inform Customers Via Email

The best approach for using email to build and strengthen relationships with your customers depends on your brand and your target audience. That said, here are a few rules to live by:

1) Keep it Consistent

Consistency is key when communicating with customers. It’s important to establish a voice and style (Are you humorous or educational? Snarky or emotional? Whatever you decide, be clear about who you are and are not) and stick to it, even in your most basic transactional emails. Just think about how Pact turned a post purchase email into an opportunity to further engage and educate customers.

Additionally, think about how you can carry that style and voice across all of your channels, including your website, that way it’s clear what customers should expect when they sign up for emails. If you can give customers something to get familiar with and look forward to, then you can go a long way toward establishing a strong emotional connection.

2) Look for Opportunities to Mix Things Up

Wait, doesn’t this contradict the point above? Not if you do it right. While you want to maintain consistency in your voice and experience, you don’t want to send the same email or tell the same story over and over again. Mix it up by looking for opportunities to keep your communications timely based on the time of year, current events and each customer’s unique behaviors and interests.

For example, think of creative ways to resurface and reignite interest in products that customers have already seen. When you do so, instead of sending a standard browse or cart abandonment email that reminds customers they left something behind, try including tips about how to wear/use/style that product too. Doing so can offer the informational value customers want along with the push they need to make the purchase.

3) Keep it Real

Would you rather have a human in your inbox or a robot? That’s what I thought. Make sure that human element comes across in your emails, because it well help establish a much stronger connection with your customers.

Along the same lines, think about how you can provide transparency into your brand and your operations — both the good and the bad — to break down the anonymity about who’s behind the emails customers receive all the time. This transparency can also help take the edge off any email mistake horror stories should they occur (because let’s face it, those stories are a rite of passage for any email marketer).

Are You Ready to Think Beyond the Sale?

At the end of the day, retailers are in business to drive sales, and that’s never going to change. But you have to remember that only a small portion of your customers is ready to buy at any given point in time.

As a result, you often need to look beyond the sale and consider how you can use email to build and strengthen customer relationships. By doing so, you’ll find new ways to engage with customers and stay relevant, ultimately driving more revenue in the long run.

Intrigued? Check out our eBook on the email personalization problem for more on what it takes to engage with customers in relevant ways.

Sharon Shapiro

Sharon leads Bluecore's content marketing program, collaborating with top retailers and strategists to highlight the latest trends in retail marketing, spotlight industry leaders and share advice on how marketers can stay ahead of the curve. An experienced story teller, she has spent her career building content marketing programs for B2B SaaS companies. Sharon has had works featured in MarketingProfs and Content Science Review..