10 Email Best Practice Tips for Independent Retail Stores

Maintaining an up-to-date email list is often an important tool for small business marketing. Independent retailers rely on direct engagement in order to drive repeat business into their stores. Facing stiff competition from big box chains that may compete on selection and price, independent shops have to offer a unique experience and superior service.

Given that objective, it’s important to think of email outreach as driving the shop’s public image. In addition, federal legislation makes it illegal to mislead your recipients, so it’s important to craft every email with care and not risk receiving a fine. Adhering to some basic rules will also help ensure your email is seen and stays out of the spam folder.

  1. Identify Yourself
    To comply with the CAN-SPAM act, you have to make it clear who’s sending the email. You also want your customers to know it’s you. Use the store’s name and an individual name if you like, such as the shop owner, e.g. “Jessica from Beadworks Craft Shop.” Be mindful of the fact that only the first few words may show up on some email providers.
  2. Write a Compelling Subject Line
    You want your recipients to open your email, but it’s vital you don’t deliberately mislead them. Be explicit about the contents of the email or retain a bit of mystery without being deceptive. For example, a phrase like, “Thank you to our loyal customers” could indicate an in-store event, a coupon, or just a note of appreciation. In any case, it is honest while still piquing curiosity.
  3. Spell and Grammar Check
    Even if customers will only skim your email, you have to stay professional. Proofread to look for errors and correct before sending. A typo will stick out to your readers and detract from your main message. If you’re able, show the email to a couple of staff members before distributing it to your list.
  4. Choose Images Wisely
    Images make for compelling emails, but customers read your emails on all kinds of different devices. Pictures may not show up on all phones or laptops and may trigger spam filters, so make sure your main messages are in the non-image text. Avoid using background images, use .jpeg or .gif format, and optimize size so pictures show up on smaller devices.
  5. Use Consistent Branding
    The last thing you want is your customers to forget you. You also have to be realistic that they may not remember your name right away, especially if they signed up for your list after making a spontaneous purchase while walking by. Make sure your brand logo, including font and key messaging, is part of the email so it jogs the recipient’s memory.
  6. Include an Unsubscribe Link
    By law, your customers have to agree to be on your list and have a way of getting off of it. At the bottom of every email, create a link to a page where they can manage their preferences. You can keep it simple and offer them the choice to just outright unsubscribe, or you can ask them to choose what kinds of emails they want to continue receiving. You can also include an optional survey asking them why they’re asking to be removed from your list.
  7. Keep it Short
    Your emails should be like your in-shop experience. Customers know where to go to find what they need, and it’s easy for them to spend time browsing. Your emails should similarly be easy-to-navigate. Don’t take too much time getting to the meat of the email. If you’re having a 50 percent off sale, let readers know within the first sentence or two.
  8. Clear Call to Action
    You typically want your customers to take action after reading your email. It’s a great way to keep them engaged and a way for you to measure the ROI of your marketing strategy. Place your call to action in a colored box or prominent piece of text. Even if you’re holding an event at a later date, an RSVP request can give you insight into the effectiveness of your email marketing.
  9. Ask to Add to Whitelist
    You want to make sure all of your emails end up in recipients’ inboxes. To avoid being labeled as spam, include a note at the bottom requesting that your customers add your address to their safelist. Usually they can use the options given by their email provider in order to take this step.
  10. Social Media Links
    At the end of your email, include a call to action to follow your social media pages. Again, this not only increases your chances of getting your message out to customers, but also helps measure the effectiveness of your email marketing. Remember to use the site logos, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which are easily recognizable to customers.

Email is a cost-effective way for you to develop your customer following. Since inboxes fill up quickly, however, it’s vital to make your message direct and compelling so customers are motivated to take action. Whether they download a coupon, attend an end-of-season sale or visit your online store, you want to make sure their experience is positive and leads to repeat purchases.

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