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Buying In: Build Better Sales with Email

Heral Patel shares tips and tricks on what works for his agency's clients, what doesn’t, and why the most important factor in selling online may be trust.

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Over the years, digital agency AnnexCore has narrowed its focus to just 3 major tools: WordPress, WooCommerce, and Mailchimp. As founder Heral Patel explains, these 3 tools are powerful, flexible, and easily integrate with one another. They’re also very client-friendly.

AnnexCore has used these tools to help e-commerce clients successfully launch new products, craft highly effective nurture campaigns, and more. We recently spoke with Patel about what works, what doesn’t, and why the most important factor in online sales and marketing may be trust.

What strategies do you think are the most successful for e-commerce?

It’s hard to pin down, because every client has a different goal. Someone who wants to make their brand better known is needs a different approach from someone who’s trying to boost online sales.

When most clients come to us, they have a strategic idea already in mind, usually around sending a series of emails. What we almost always suggest is to start small—send 3 or 4 emails and evaluate your success. You don’t want to commit yourself to a 10-email series, because you’re going to have data well before that 10th email goes out as to whether or not it’s working. And if it’s not working, it makes no sense to keep plowing forward.

We like to start small, and we like to evaluate quickly. Mailchimp is a great tool for testing your strategy because A/B testing is so easy to deploy. And as that testing generates data, we can refine the solution and use what we know to set up better email campaigns based on what’s working.

If there’s any overall strategy that everyone in e-commerce can benefit from, that’s probably it—constantly test what you’re doing and refine your campaigns based on results.

"If there’s any overall strategy that everyone in e-commerce can benefit from, that’s probably it—constantly test what you’re doing and refine your campaigns based on results."

WooCommerce also provides a lot of actionable data, correct?

The WooCommerce integration with Mailchimp is great, because it basically sends over all order data. You can instantly pull up information on how many times a client has made a purchase, how much they spent, whether they abandoned their cart. Right away, you have information you can use to segment your audience based on shopping patterns, or even non-shopping patterns. You can track visitors who haven’t made a purchase and then target them with specific campaigns to nurture them along and entice them to buy.

Promo codes are another good way to use that data. Say you have an abandoned cart situation—we’ll set up a series of emails that culminates in a coupon or promo code to entice them back to complete the purchase. Mailchimp has a promo code feature, as does WooCommerce. It’s something people respond to really well, especially if they’re shopping around for the best price. Discounts convert.

What about the non-customer? Someone who hasn’t even abandoned a cart yet?

In a case like that, nurture campaigns are more appropriate. For instance, we helped one of our clients set up a campaign with the primary goal of educating subscribers on the products and the brand itself, telling the brand’s story. The reason you do a campaign like that is to establish trust.

Look at a brand like Amazon. They’re as successful as they are because people trust them. Even when a product on Amazon isn’t the cheapest, customers trust the company to be competent and provide a smooth transaction experience.

A nurture campaign is a chance to talk to people about your brand and to tell your story. It’s also a chance to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy. It may take a while to get those subscribers to convert, but when you put in the time up front it’s ultimately going to pay off.

What do you suggest to your clients when a campaign isn’t going well?

First we look at the analytics and review the results of our A/B testing, but obviously that won’t tell the whole story in every case. We’ve had clients who set up a bunch of emails that just weren’t converting, and what we suggest is to reduce the number of emails in the campaign. You do have to remember that you’re sending emails to human beings. It’s good to be excited about your brand, but you have to consider your audience and how often they’ll want to hear from you.

Another thing to consider is the email template and design itself. Sometimes a client will come to us with an email they’ve coded, and we’ll take a look and discover it’s not following best practices and is inadvertently tripping spam filters. We actually do a lot of coding and design, because it’s one of those things that can be difficult for clients to do on their own. Making sure your templates and designs follow best practices can help your emails stay out of the spam folder and also convert better.

How much should the customer’s experience play into how we think about e-commerce?

To sell successfully online, it’s important for the experience itself to be pleasant. One of the things we like about WooCommerce is that it keeps things easy for both our clients and their customers.

But a lot depends on your following. We’ve seen clients with really ugly websites that aren’t particularly user-friendly do well because they have a good product, and they really take the time to nurture their following. We’ve also seen clients with awesome looking sites and no sales because the product they’re selling just isn’t connecting with anyone.

You have to have both: a good user experience and a product that people want. If you’ve got that balance, email is your best friend. It’s the best tool to keep your product in front of your customers and to nurture those followings. If you’re doing any kind of e-commerce, you need to be doing good email.

Quick tips for your nurture campaigns

It’s easy to talk about the importance of good nurture campaigns, but they can be tricky to execute. Finding the right tone, frequency, and design all play critical roles in connecting with your audience. Here are a few tips from Heral Patel that will help you nurture your audience and increase sales.

Tip 1: Tell your story as a story.
“People will buy into your story if it’s communicated well,” Patel says. “Talk about your brand, where you came from, and where you want to go.” People love hearing a story well told. Learn what makes your brand story interesting and tell it in a compelling way.

Tip 2: Share your good deeds.
“What is your company doing to help people out? How are you being a force for good? Let your audience see you doing good and they’ll want to hear more from you,” Patel says. It might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but as people understand how you give back, they’ll be more inclined to trust your brand.

Tip 3: Speak only when you have something to say.
“It’s easy to overwhelm people with ads and offers,” Patel says. “We most often tell clients to send fewer emails, not more.” If you want your subscribers to keep reading your emails, make sure you’re not bombarding them with information. Sending email judiciously is a good way to keep interest.

Tip 4: Balance text and images.
“People don’t want to read a block of text,” Patel says. “But your email also has to be more than a flashy illustration.” To keep your readers hooked, your copy and graphic elements should be both compelling and complementary.

Illustrations by Kitkat Pecson, a Filipino American illustrator and designer in New York City. 

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