The Ultimate eCommerce “Follow-Up E-mail” Guide

If you run a Shopify or any eCommerce store, it's really important to have a solid follow-up email sequence.

Even though many new marketing channels have emerged over the years, the good ol’ e-mail marketing has not lost its effectiveness. With statistics estimating that the number of worldwide e-mail users will reach over 4.2 billion by the end of 2022, it can be said that e-mail marketing is not going to be dead anytime soon – as many have been predicting for years.

There is no denying the fact that e-mail marketing is an effective tool for generating leads and gaining new customers. However, today we are going to talk about how you can use it to develop and maintain strong relationships with your potential and existing customers.

In simple words, this article is about maximizing the potential of follow-up e-mails to increase your sales!

Sent to your customers, both existing and potential, after they hit a significant point in the buyer’s journey, follow-up e-mails are used to provide or collect information and/or to encourage an action. Follow-up e-mails can be sent to:

  • Your subscribers and existing customers to inform them about new products or services
  • Get feedback from users who have downloaded a piece of content from your website
  • Users who signed up for a free trial of your service to inquire about their experience and to encourage them to opt for the paid plan
  • Simply to touch base with the participants after an event

No matter which of these immediate purposes you use them for, the ultimate goal of follow-up e-mails is to drive more sales.

Should You A/B Test Follow-Up E-mails?

Let’s face it – we all receive multiple cold e-mails every day and we delete most of them without even opening. The reason? We know that most of them are spam or mindless sales e-mail sent to promote a product or service.

While no e-commerce business wants its e-mails to end up in the spam folder or get deleted without even being opened, sadly, it happens to most of them. The reason being they don’t put in effort in planning and drafting their follow-up e-mails, let alone customizing them.

If you don’t want your follow-up e-mail to suffer the same fate, make sure it hits the right chord with your audience from the beginning i.e. the subject line.

A/B testing cannot only help increase open and click-through rates of your follow-up e-mails, but also help drive desired actions by enabling you to make your e-mails more relevant to the receivers.

From figuring out the right length and style to what you should include in it, a/b testing can help you come up with winning formulas for different types of follow-up e-mails, for different segments of your audience. In other words, it can help you lay the base for a strong customer-brand relationship.

A/B Testing Follow-Up E-mails – What To Test

There are different types of follow-up e-mails used for a variety of purposes. Whether you are using them to keep your brand at the top of your audience’s minds, to create a strong bond with them, to improve user experience, or to increase sales, here are some a/b testing ideas to improve the performance of your follow-up e-mails:

1. The Subject Line

This is a no-brainer! The subject line is the first and often the only thing the recipients of an e-mail read. As the sender of the e-mail, you want to make sure that the subject line is interesting and gripping enough to make the reader want to open your e-mail and read its content. Otherwise, all the efforts that you put into drafting and designing the e-mail will go waste.

There are a variety of elements that you can a/b test in subject lines. The most important ones include:

Length

What is the ideal length for an e-mail subject line? This has always been one of the most debated questions in the world of e-mail marketing.

While there is no definite universal answer to this question, the available data can offer some help and guidance.

In 2019, AWeber analyzed 1,000 e-mails from 100 top marketers to figure out how long were the subject lines that they were writing. They found out that 82% of the subject lines had 60 or fewer characters. However, the average character count for an e-mail subject line, sent by experts, was found to be 43.85 characters.

The findings are in accordance with the display limit rules most e-mail platforms have in place. Most e-mail platforms have a maximum display limit of 60 characters for desktops and 33 to 43 characters for mobile devices. Subject lines that are longer than these limits get cut off.

Here’s the summary of AWeber’s findings:

While the statistics tell that a subject line less than 60 characters is fine, the researchers recommended to either keeping the subject lines at 20 characters or less or more than 60 characters.

71.1% of all the analyzed subject lines had between 21 and 60 characters. Therefore, it would be difficult for businesses to make their e-mails stand out with similar subject line lengths.

However, since longer subject lines are going to get cut off by most e-mail platforms, they are likely to lose their effectiveness. On the flip side, only a very few marketers use subject lines with 20 or fewer characters. This means, your e-mails are more likely to stand out if they have shorter subject lines; 20 or fewer characters.

The experts at Marketo, however, came up with a different conclusion. According to the researchers at the leading marketing automation software developer, 41 characters or 7 words appears to be the sweet spot for the length of an e-mail subject line. The results were drawn on the basis of the subject lines that had the best overall engagement rates.

While the research studies can give a direction, their findings are not guaranteed to work for everyone. This is why you need to a/b test different lengths to find out the right length for yourself. An important thing to mention here is that you are not likely to find one optimal length for all your follow-up e-mails. What works for one type of follow-up e-mail or a segment of the audience may not work for the other. This means you will have to continue to perform a/b testing to figure out the best subject line lengths for different types of follow-up e-mails.

Statement vs. Question

E-mail subject lines phrased as questions have been found to perform better than the ones phrased as statements.

Asking direct questions has long been known as one of the best ways to pique readers’ curiosity. Hence, e-mails that ask questions in their subject lines are likely to have higher open rates. To further increase the chances of your follow-up e-mail to get opened, make your questions interesting and relevant. Also, make sure that they are not too simple or obvious to answer. You want your readers to open the e-mail to find the answer to the question in the subject line.

Word Order

It may seem weird, but the order of words in a subject line has been found to impact its performance.

According to Epsilon, a leading marketing company, a subject line should present the most important information in the beginning. Depending on the purpose of sending a follow-up e-mail, the most important information could be:

  • A discount offer
  • Big brand names
  • Trigger words
  • The benefit a user is going to get from the e-mail

E-mail subject lines with the most powerful words, in the beginning, have generally been found to have higher open rates. However, it is worth testing to confirm if the strategy also works with your audience.

Personalization

According to research, e-mails with personalized subject lines can have up to 50% higher open rates and 58% higher click-through rates than the ones that have generic subject lines.

Personalization of subject lines makes the recipients feel that the e-mail is specially tailored for them. There are several ways to personalize a subject line. You can add a receiver’s name, talk about something that the recipient is interested in, give an offer based on the customer’s buying history, and a number of other things. However, research shows that adding the recipient’s name drives the best results. Not to mention, it is also the simplest way to personalize an e-mail subject line. LinkedIn generally uses this personalization strategy to reach out to its users. But, will it work for you? A/B test it to find out!

2. Copy

A powerful subject line can get your follow-up e-mail opened. However, only a strong copy can drive real action from a recipient. Whether you are using the follow-up e-mail to get feedback, up-sell, promote a new product or offer, or spread the word about an offer, you need to make sure that the copy of your e-mail strikes the right chord with your audience. For that, you need to a/b test the following elements in your e-mail copy:

Length

With decreasing human attention spans and multitasking becoming the norm, there’s an increasing trend among marketers towards shorter content forms. This particularly applies to e-mail marketing because it’s an unsolicited offer from your end. Unlike blogs and downloads, here you don’t know if the person reading your e-mail is interested in your offer. Therefore, you would want to put your message across as quickly (and of course, in an engaging manner) as possible.

But, how short your follow-up e-mail should be? And will a short e-mail copy work for all your products?

You will have to a/b test to find out!

Personalization

Just like with the subject line, you would also want the copy of your e-mail to make recipients feel it’s specifically written for them.

Use your knowledge and data about the audience to add a bit of personal touch to your follow-up e-mails. This may seem like a difficult task in the beginning, but it’s totally worth the effort. According to an estimate, personalized e-mails can cause about 14% and 10% increase in click-through and conversion rates, respectively.

Try using different details that you have of your leads and customers to personalize your follow-up e-mails and a/b test them to find out the best working ones for your business.

3. Visuals

While visuals have always played an important role in marketing campaigns, they’ve become all the more important ever since research found that the human brain processes visuals about 60,000 times faster than text.

Most marketers use different types of images in follow-up e-mails to get their message across in a better way. But, surprisingly, not all of them get the same results.

SitePoint, a web design and development website, experienced a slight decrease in e-mail click-through rates after adding images. Therefore, you need to a/b test your follow-up e-mails for images to find out if this tactic works for you or not.

4. Call-to-Action

This is again a no-brainer! You’re sending a follow-up e-mail because you want the recipients to perform a specific action. It could be anything from signing up for your offer to buying a product or filling out a feedback form. Whatever your goal is, you’ll have to ask your audience for it.

Just like with all the other elements, you need to make sure that the Call-to-Action (CTA) of your e-mail is strong enough that the recipients can’t help, but follow the course of action you want them to. Here are a few things to a/b test in CTAs to increase the click-through rates of your follow-up e-mails:

CTA Format – Button vs. Text

There are two major ways to use CTA in marketing e-mails – using hyperlinked text or a CTA button!

In general, CTA buttons have been found to perform better than the links. But, some businesses have also got amazing results from the text links as well. Therefore, you will have to a/b test both the formats of CTA to find out the right one for yourself.

CTA Copy

While the format is important, the copy of a CTA is the most important element and has the most impact on the click-through rate of an e-mail.

A strong call-to-action is short, crisp, clear, and uses action words. It should clearly tell your audience what you want them to do and also push them to do it now!

Stay away from using generic CTAs, like Read More and Click Here to Find Out.

Examples of Follow-Up E-mails A/B Tests

Here are a few examples of ecommerce businesses that improved their e-mail engagement rates through a/b testing:

HubSpot

HubSpot experienced 0.53% and 0.23% increase in their e-mail open and click-through rates, respectively, by personalizing an e-mail. The only thing they changed was to replace the company’s name with a person’s name as the sender.  

Even though these appear to be minor and insignificant increases, they helped the company gained 131 more leads.

Now, imagine the results if you apply this tactic to a wider segment of the audience and continue to improve personalization via repeated a/b tests.

Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor managed to increase the click-through rates of their blog notification e-mail by a whopping 127% through a/b testing. This is what their old e-mail looked like:

And here’s the revised e-mail that increased the click-through rate by 127%:

The increase, however, was the result of multiple a/b tests.

But, just to give you an idea about how they benefited from a/b testing – the company experienced a 28% increase in click-through rates just by replacing the text-CTA with a CTA button.

Conclusion

Follow-up e-mails are all about reaching out to the people you know are interested in your offers, based on their buyer’s journey, and building a strong and long-term relationship with them. Since user behavior is unpredictable and often keeps changing with time, you can only stay on track with regular a/b testing. So, continue to test your follow-up e-mails to keep getting the desired results.

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