Retail email marketing is one of the most successful tools at your disposal for building relationships with potential customers and encouraging them to shop with you again. The average return on investment for email marketing is about $36 for every dollar you spend. If you’re not using this strategy to promote your business, you could be missing out on customers.

Why retailers need email marketing

There are three main benefits of email marketing: it’s dependable, affordable, and effective. When done effectively, your retail email marketing strategy can help you:

  • Improve sales
  • Get customer feedback
  • Retain customers

Improve sales

Regularly contacting your customers through personalized retail email helps you build relationships with them. These relationships are important to boost your brand and keep your existing customers. Staying in touch with your customers keeps them from forgetting you.

When you send out emails with links to new products and promotions, your email can remind people that it’s time to restock, and you will be top of mind.

Get customer feedback

Send out requests for feedback to your email list. Sending out surveys quarterly or bi-annually helps you gauge how happy your customers are with your products. You can use this feedback to improve your inventory, find new products to carry, or refine your customer service process to make customers happier.

Retain customers

Personalized retail marketing emails, sent to targeted segments of your list, help your customers feel valued. When you send out high-quality content they find relevant, it helps you make a good impression. Your customers will get to know you better, and you will build trust by sharing valuable, engaging content in your emails.

What is an email marketing strategy?

An email marketing strategy is the series of steps you will take to achieve your goals for each email campaign. A retail email marketing strategy will help you create the right messages for each person on your list, improve open rates, and build better relationships.

Setting up your email marketing plan saves you time in the long term. Creating a strategy helps you brainstorm ideas and makes it easier to stick with your email schedule. You can use slower seasons to develop topics for each of your email marketing goals. Draft them ahead of time and schedule them to go out on a certain date. Or just save the draft so you can clean it up and send it later. 

Since you’ll have your emails ready to go, you won’t have to waste your time drafting and sending emails during busy seasons. But you can still keep in touch with your customers.

The main goal of email marketing for online retailers

Your primary email marketing goal is to motivate more people to buy from your store. The online retail space is crowded, with many businesses competing for buyers’ attention.

Your email marketing strategy helps you connect to current and potential customers. If you’re already marketing to customers through social media and other channels, email helps you make another point of connection, solidifying the relationship. 

Retail email marketing tips

On average, 361 billion emails are sent daily. These retail email marketing best practices can help you stand out among the crowd instead of ending up in the trash.

Begin with a mailing list

Your mailing list is ground zero for each email campaign. Whether your goal is to improve sales or reconnect with people who haven’t shopped with you in a while, you can reach them through your list.

The easiest way to grow your list is to add a sign-up form to your website. For retailers, it’s common to include a popup window with a special discount offer for people who sign up for your email list. When they sign up, they receive a welcome email with a discount code or digital coupon. 

You can also encourage people to sign up with Facebook retargeting ads. To create these ads, you can add a Facebook Pixel to your website, which captures data from people who have visited you. Facebook will show targeted ads to these users who already know you. Make a retargeting ad telling people to sign up for your emails.  

Segment your list

Once you’ve set up your list, break it down into categories. Sorting your contacts into groups with similar characteristics will help you personalize your emails. For example, you can create a category for prospective customers who’ve visited your site but haven’t purchased. 

You might send this segment emails about upcoming sales or new customer offers to encourage them to take that step from prospect to customer. Alternatively, you could have a segment of your most loyal customers. Treat this group to exclusive deals and bonus content that makes them feel valued.  

Make your subject lines stand out

These days, customers expect personalized content. If you’ve segmented your list, you can draft your subject lines by your target customer. If you’re sending an email about the same promotion to multiple segments, tailor the subject line to appeal to each.

For example, if you have a list of infrequent buyers, your subject line might say, “We miss you. Let us reintroduce ourselves with these great deals.” For your most loyal customers, you could say, “Because you mean so much to us, shop these deals early.”

You can make a specialized coupon code for frequent shoppers and include it in the version of the email that gets sent to this segment.

These subject lines encourage readers to click on the message and learn about the sale, but the first one serves as a reintroduction while the second serves as a reward.

Use automated messages to your advantage

You want to engage people as soon as they sign up for your email list. Automating a welcome message lets you reach out to everyone on your list as soon as they sign up. Your welcome email is your chance to make a good first impression.

In your welcome email, thank your contacts for signing up and give them an overview of what to expect from your emails. Make them look forward to receiving these messages.

Abandoned cart emails are another critical contact point you should automate. These messages are sent to anyone who visits your site and adds merchandise to their cart without finishing the transaction. Most customers will leave your website before completing their purchase.

Abandoned cart emails remind customers about the merchandise they didn’t buy, prompting them to go back and finish the sale.

Optimize your emails for mobile and test your message

Over half of your customers read their emails on smartphones or other mobile devices. If they can’t read your emails on their phones, they will probably send you right to the trash. When you draft your emails, send a test to yourself and look at it on your phone.

Check all links to make sure they work. Make sure any promo codes in your email are activated and work correctly before sending them to members of your email list. To make your emails more mobile-responsive:

  • Keep the subject lines short
  • Put your calls to action in a clickable button that’s easier to click on a smartphone
  • Use short paragraphs and white space so mobile users can read the email
  • Talk to your customers using conversational language
  • Look at your images on a mobile device before you send the email – make sure they fit on the screen and don’t overlap your text

Learn how to photograph your merchandise

High-quality images can make your emails more interesting. Make sure you have permission to use any photo you put into an email. The best way to help ensure you’re not breaking any copyright rules is to use your own photos.

Watch tutorial videos or take classes on how to light and shoot your products to make them visually appealing. Set up photoshoots to create engaging content that you can put into your emails.

Retail email marketing examples

If you’re ready to start an email marketing strategy for your store but are unsure where to start, here are some retail email examples to inspire you. These email marketing retail examples feature companies who are doing it well. Use them to develop ideas for your retail email marketing strategy.

Beyond Polish

This email from Beyond Polish features eye-catching imagery that promotes a new spring collection while getting the reader excited for the season itself. It offers a twist on typical spring pastels by pairing them with classic expressionist paintings.

The promotion is followed by a call to action to shop the collection. The email features links at the top leading to a full range of spring collections and the blog.

retail email marketing example of a top-of-page CTA
Keep your readers entertained with interesting twists on the same old seasonal merchandise. Add links at the top of the email so they can click to your site without scrolling.


This email promotion informs customers about Chipotle’s enhanced loyalty program. The email itself is simple, featuring large text on a black background. It is a nod to old-school video games, which is a cheeky reference to the name of the promotion itself.

The email offers tweets from current loyalty members, generating interest in “Guac Mode.” People who receive this email might be intrigued to click on the promotion and find out more about the loyalty program and what they can get from it.

If readers aren’t interested in reading the entire email, there’s a button that they can click upfront to bypass the message and go straight to the Chipotle website.

retail email marketing example that's directed at reward members
Keep your design simple to generate interest. Add testimonials from existing customers to create a sense of exclusivity. Image credit: Really Good Emails.

Road Runner Sports

Road Runner Sports sent out an email campaign to offload old merchandise to make room for the new. However, the email creates a sense of urgency by reminding customers that these styles are about to become discontinued.

The email includes a call to action encouraging customers to use their rewards points to grab these styles before they’re no longer available. As a retailer, you’re better off selling old merchandise than waiting for it to become discontinued and pulling it off the shelves.

But this email appeals to people who like certain shoe styles and want to get them before they’re gone. It also appeals to reward members by encouraging them to use their points to get a discount on yesterday’s styles.

FOMO retail email example
Create a sense of urgency with your email copy. If you need to sell older inventory, frame it as a limited-time offer.


Here is an example of a successful welcome email from the artistic card retailer Lovepop. The top of the message features a short and simple thank you message with a link to the website inviting new customers to start shopping. It’s an effective option for anyone who doesn’t want to scroll through the whole email to learn about the benefits of being on the list.

However, detail-oriented customers can keep scrolling to learn more about the brand and its products. Each section offers a call to action with a clickable link, so customers can hop onto the website whenever they’re curious. They don’t have to navigate through the entire email to find a link.

welcome email with cta
Include the most important information up front so readers don’t have to scroll through text to get to your website. Offer links to your site in multiple places. Image credit: Really Good Emails.

Your best email marketing strategy

Whether you’re operating an online store or a small retail location, a well-thought-out marketing strategy can help you get more customers. Email marketing is cost-effective and offers a high return on investment.

If your shop isn’t using email marketing, you could be missing out on sales. Email marketing helps you build a relationship with current and potential customers. You can keep in touch with them so they’ll remember you next time they’re shopping for one of your products.

Start your retail email marketing strategy by building your email list. Add a sign-up form to your website with a call to action urging visitors to join your list. Include language highlighting the benefits they’ll receive when they sign up.

Next, segment your list into sections. You can personalize your emails with subject lines and content that speaks to each segment. Keep your copy simple with a call to action at the front, and optimize your messages for mobile users.

After you’ve sent out your first few email campaigns, you can use what you’ve learned to refine your strategy and start building a meaningful relationship with your customers.