As much as many people may hate it, or rather it is perceived to be hated, email is still an effective way to not only communicate with your customers, but also drive sales for your retail business. There are a variety of stats and figures to the contrary to show that email marketing is STILL an effective way to increase consumer engagement and potentially drive sales for a business.
Perhaps the most startling stat we've come across in our readings is from ConvertandConvince.com. According to the website, 44% of email recipients made at least one purchase last year based on a promotional email. Imagine the impact this could have on YOUR business if nearly 1 in every 2 people you sent an email to over the course of the year made a purchase in your retail store!
The 5 Step Guide to Getting Started
Completing effective email marketing campaigns in today's retail environment is about as easy, and inexpensive, as it has ever been. No, you don't need to be a web expert. No, you don't need to be a database development expert. If you can use a computer, have a little bit of experience on the web, then you, too, can set up effective email marketing campaigns for your tennis retail business.
1. Choose an Email Marketing Service
There are several email marketing services in the marketplace today that make it simple and cost effective to create email marketing campaigns. Most of these services provide email marketing templates and database management tools as a part of their offerings (some are completely free). A few we recommend you consider are:
- Constant Contact
- Campaign Monitor
(Please note the above are recommendations and not an implied endorsement by the TIA.)
2. Build (or Expand) Your Consumer Database
First and foremost, you can't communicate with your consumers via email if you don't have their email address. Building your database of consumer email addresses is as simple as requesting the consumers email address at checkout, or placing a sign-up sheet in your store/shop for consumers to complete to receive emails from your business.
Tip: Make sure to collect the consumers first & last name, email address, gender, and birthday (if possible). Having this information will not only allow you to personalize your email campaigns (services mentioned above have easy methods for personalization), but also allow you to segment your database for send-outs to specific consumer groups. For instance, you may have a special promotion on women's skirts, therefore, no need to send an email to your male customers (unless they may be buying them as gifts). Segmented and personalized emails often get much higher open rates than normal emails.
If you have a website, consider adding an "Opt-In" function on your homepage for consumers to receive updates on promotions and offers from your business. This is a simple, yet highly effective way to organically build a list of potential customers for your business. Again, many of the services above have features that allow you to seamlessly integrate an opt-in feature on your website for your consumer email database.
3. Time Your Campaign and Your Messaging
Sure you've heard it, "it's all about the timing." This is especially true when creating effective email marketing campaigns. So what does it mean for your tennis retail business? To start, consider targeting your email promotions around new product releases. For instance, a major manufacturer(s) may have just launched a new line of racquets to the market and there is a large consumer marketing effort on the part of the manufacturer and player endorsements are getting a lot of attention in tournaments and in the media. Take advantage of this "free" national advertising support by reminding your customers they can find these products in YOUR store. Now, not only are they seeing the messaging on a national scale, but it "hits closer to home" when it comes directly from your business.
Another idea for tennis retailers to capitalize on is to send email campaigns during special events in your area. For example, the local high school's tennis season may be gearing up. Let your customers know they can find all their team uniform, equipment, and accessory needs in your store. If you want to offer them a discount, include it in your email!
There are other great examples of "good timing" for tennis retailers to send effective email marketing campaigns:
- At the start of a season
- When products go on sale
- When consumer interest in tennis is high in your area (i.e. during local tournaments, peak tennis season in your area, tennis is in the mainstream - US Open and other grand slams)
- Restringing reminders - if you know about how often consumers need to restring, consider sending them email reminders
4. Pick Your Email Template or Customize Your Own and have a Straightforward 'Call to Action'
With the variety of email services out there offering hundreds of templates to choose from, it is really simple to craft an aesthetically pleasing looking email to send to your customers. Most of the templates provided by these services require no HTML coding experience and let you "point, click, and type" the information you want to send to your customers an editor not that indifferent from one you would find in programs like Microsoft Word or Pages.
Tip: When selecting an email service, pick one that offers quality looking templates that are also formatted for mobile devices. More and more people are checking their email on a mobile device. If your message is hard to read on that device the likelihood of receiving an action from that email is minimal.
Tip: K.I.S. - Keep it simple. Don't convolute your message with too much text or splintered messaging. The most effective emails are to the point, easy to read, and have a straightforward "Call to Action."
Your "call to action" is what you want the customer to do. Ideally, that call to action for a retailer is to buy a product. But, this is not always necessarily the case. Maybe you just want to make them aware of sales going on in the store. Your call to action can be as simple as "visit the store today to check out our newest products." Have a clear and concise call to action will help customers remember exactly what it is you want them to do.
Tip: Your subject line can include a "Call to Action." Subject lines are extremely important to open rates. Telling your customers what you want them to do right in the subject line may help improve open rates and campaign effectiveness.
5. Send Your Message
It's the moment of truth. Time to send your message. But first, make sure you test it! Send yourself a copy, click through all the links. Does it make sense? Do all the links work? Is my message clear and do I have a clear "call to action?" Does it look OK on your phone too? Once you've considered many of these questions, go ahead and hit that send button!
Don't worry if the response isn't immediate. Stats show that 85% of email opens happen 2 days after the send out and 32% of purchases take place up to 2 weeks after!
Email marketing can be a challenge, but it doesn't have to be if you follow this 5 step guide to getting started. There are thousands of resources out there on best practices and tips. If you're considering delving into the email marketing world, give more than one a read, and glean your "pearls of wisdom" from each of the resources that you think will work best for YOUR business and help incite a positive reaction from YOUR customers.
by Ryan Melton
Ryan Melton is the TIA's Research and Operations Manager, focusing his efforts on both trade research as well as operational management for the association, which also encompasses digital communication. If you have questions regarding this article, or how the TIA can help you grow your retail business, please contact Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at (843) 473-4490.