10 Email Marketing Ideas for When You Need Some Creative Inspiration

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Sometimes we all need some new email marketing ideas to fuel our digital marketing inspiration.

Email has cemented its position as one of the profitable marketing channels, boasting 3x higher conversion rates than social media marketing. Tactful, personalized emails help eCommerce brands reduce abandoned carts, improve customer retention, drive repeat purchases, and explore new opportunities for brand growth.

But constantly producing high-value emails can exhaust your creativity. We all go through dry spells where it seems like we’ve had our last great email idea (until the next one pops up at the most unexpected time).

Sometimes, you just need some creative inspiration to get your brain gears turning again. This roundup of 10 email marketing ideas looks at a few new and established favorites that may get you started. Remember, inspiration is the jumping off point and there are plenty of opportunities to combine or build on what you see.

“Customers don’t read” is something of an exaggerated inside joke in retail. And while it may be far from the truth, leveraging visuals and media is a great way to capture your audiences’ attention and liven up creatives.

Knowing your audience helps you incorporate more relevant, engaging media formats. For example, if your customers respond well to entertaining media, funny gifs could give them a laugh. If you’re running a campaign, such as for a new product launch, you might want to consider media for presenting vital information. Videos and infographics make it easier to digest key information. For example, you could include a graphic illustrating your product’s key features, or a short video that showcases it in action.

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Now, when you’re going the visual route, remember to add in the alt-text for everything. You want people to see your message whether or not they’ve got images blocked in their email view by default. Something as simple as “the best-looking marketing team you’ve ever seen says ‘hi’” can get people to click and see the image. 

Be playful when your brand allows and think about what might make someone click. The one element to avoid is making a promise. Never make a promise you can’t keep and don’t create false hope. Keep things uplifting and light to avoid that trap.

2. Deliver answers 

Answering your customers’ questions improves their experiences and strengthens their relationship with your brand. It’s your way of showcasing that you’re aware of their questions and concerns, and are proactive about answering them.

The best FAQ campaigns are data driven, which means don’t rely on what you think customers want to know. Instead, investigate and find out what they’re already asking or hoping to learn more about. If you receive a support request or a question from one customer, there’s a good chance that many other customers have a similar query. Many customers shy away from opening support tickets or asking for help, so those that reach out to you reflect a larger pool of inquiry. 

Beyond support requests, you can also leverage zero-party data (like polls or surveys) and scour social media for questions your audience is asking. Incorporating your findings into an effective FAQ email campaign can help your campaign succeed. Many FAQ items can be repurposed into social and other content, too. This means your email campaign can be turned into visuals and a social campaign that reinforces your brand.

Stick to answers that are relevant for your audience and their needs. If you’ve got established customers, then a basic FAQ may not be helpful as an email campaign. Instead, dive deep and offer advanced support. If you’ve split your email list to segment out new subscribers, they can be started at an earlier level or more basic element.

3. The retargeting ‘You left something in your cart’ email

Abandoned carts are the bane of eCommerce conversions, and present-day abandonment rates are unnervingly high. The classic “You left something in your cart” emails remain one of the most effective means of combating abandoned carts—they can help you recover more than 10% of those sales on average.

You can get creative with your abandonment emails and even include incentives to increase click-throughs. For example, here’s an interesting cart recovery email by ThinkGeek:

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This email is fine-tuned to the brand’s voice and buyer’s persona, catering to its “geek” audience. It’s creative and succinct without compromising on conciseness, and inspires the reader to take action. Nearly every eCommerce store has this email now. Don’t worry about setting yourself apart from the competition with it; instead you want to use this to reinforce your brand and get customers to remember why they visited you in the first place.

4. Send personalized invites

You can’t go wrong with email marketing ideas that help you build a deeper relationship with your subscriber, and that is the power of personalized email marketing.

Are you launching a new product soon, or maybe hosting an informative webinar? If so, you’re likely looking to maximize attendance, and email marketing is great for driving up the headcount. 

When designing an invitation email, personalization is crucial to get the best response. And while graphics and visuals can help you catch customers’ attention, you’ll need stellar copy to entice them to attend. 

In your email copy, some important points to cover are:

  • Why your customers should attend (especially if this is a Zoom event)
  • What do they get out of it
  • What to expect from the event 
  • The webinar’s breakdown and which formats are going to be used (e.g. live video or recordings, too)
  • Who the speakers are
  • The essentials, including the time, topic, date, and a link to join 

Here’s an example of an informative webinar invitation email by Litmus:

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The email has concise, compelling copy that clearly communicates the value customers will get from the webinar, and the call to action is prominent and actionable. Additionally, the footnote encourages readers to sign up even if they can’t attend, because they can still receive value. This extra touch is a great way of showing your audience that you’ll go to great lengths to add value to their lives. 

5. Teach something

Remember when a  McDonald’s fries hack went viral? A Twitter user pointed out that the fries box’s flap could be used as a ketchup holder. Did that increase fries sales? Probably not, but it was great publicity. And consumers responded with great interest to the hack.

You can cultivate a similar interest in your own products by teaching users in your emails. If you have some hacks or tips to share, consider compiling them in a creative format and sharing them with your email list. The hacks you share don’t even need to be product-specific features. Different use cases could provide your audience with both value and entertainment. For example, if you’re selling kitchen appliances, you can share recipes that users can make with your products.

And the recent pandemic taught us that sometimes you need to teach customers about broader issues. That can cover health and safety, company updates, community concerns, or even a little on the supply chain when orders get delayed. Teach something to become a valuable partner or friend, especially at times where you’re not trying to push a sale.

This differs from your FAQ-type content in that you’re working to give someone knowledge they may need that’s new, situation-dependent, or not related to your core business. Like the link above, a fulfillment company would never write a shipping delay email to the end-consumer. But, just about every partner that fulfillment company has would need such an email. Guidelines, templates, and how-to’s are all useful in the B2B space as long as you keep the use case in mind.

6. Gather insight

Apple’s iOS updates and Google’s pending ‘cookiepocalypse’ are severely limiting our opportunities to collect third-party data. As privacy restrictions are only expected to grow from here on, it’s important for eCommerce brands to shift focus to other sources of data collection. Like zero-party data – i.e., collecting data from your customers directly. 

If you’re short for email marketing ideas, consider launching a “data collection” campaign with surveys or polls. You can add some entertainment value or provide customers with incentives to participate, and simultaneously gather meaningful insights. 

Here’s a great example of a survey collection email from InsideHook:

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The email uses a relatable photo to capture the reader’s attention, and InsideHook clearly details:

  • The email’s purpose
  • Why readers should participate (while assuring them that it’s not a long survey)
  • How to take the survey

Simple, effective, and easy to complete. These actions work best if you’ve already got an established or engaged audience who are willing to see what you offer. Don’t forget to pair some kind of rewards with these if they don’t already provide a clear value to your email subscribers.

7. Invite a friend

Referred customers are invaluable for eCommerce stores. Statistically, they spend more and are more loyal to your brand. But encouraging your customers to invite their friends isn’t easy. 

If you’re trying to increase referrals, it’s important to contact your most loyal customers—the ones who have the highest likelihood of promoting your brand. You can leverage a separate Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey to identify your most loyal customers and segment them. If you’re just getting started, consider adding this to your welcome and shipping confirmation emails to build the relationship early.

After identifying loyal customers, you can encourage them to refer friends by:

  1. Giving them incentives, like rewards or store credit
  2. Making it easy for them

You can make referring easy for customers by providing them with a done-for-you emailing option. Here’s an example of how Advancement Courses makes it easy for customers to invite their friends:

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The brand’s email provides customers with clear referral incentives and makes it easy for them to invite friends through their preferred channel. Social media sharing and email forwarding are just a click away. 

8. Seasonal surprises

Sometimes just looking at your calendar can give you inspiration for new email marketing ideas.

New seasons and the holidays are great times to launch new products and surprises. Unfortunately, your competition might have the same idea, and you’re left fighting for your customers’ attention.

But you can leverage your email list to get customers excited about your product before the launch. Generate hype and enthusiasm with special teaser content before the launch. 

Here’s a great example of a teaser email by Tom Raffield:

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Here, the brand not only sparks customers’ curiosity, but encourages them to engage and guess what the “secret” is. Again, fun and creative examples like this can help you think about ways you can have fun in your email too. Write something that engages you, and it’ll be more likely to engage your target audience.

9. Celebrate birthdays

Birthday emails are one of the best types of email marketing to show customers you care by providing them with a hyper-personalized experience. Their click rates are also 179% higher than that of promotional emails, showcasing their strong engagement potential.

And from a technical standpoint, birthday emails are relatively easy to set up. You can create a standard birthday celebration template and use First Name and Date of Birth tags to personalize it.

Don’t forget to throw in a birthday gift. A product or discount code/coupon can go a long way in delighting your customers on their special day. Here’s an example of Sephora nailing their birthday celebration emails:

sephora happy birthday email example
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10. Share top sellers

Did someone say FOMO? Of all of these email marketing ideas, leveraging FOMO just might be the most powerful one.

Sharing top sellers is a great way to leverage gentle peer pressure to nudge your list into making purchases. The drive behind the fear of missing out is so high that more than 60% of customers will purchase within 24 hours because of it.

So don’t shy away from rounding your store’s top sellers up and showing your email list what they’re missing out on. Here’s how Bombas leverages best seller lists to increase conversions:

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The brand has kept the text minimal, relying on attractive, strategically positioned visuals and concise copy. And best of all, they’ve put the products right in your face to showcase what you’re missing out on. 

You’ll want to limit the offer here to up to two core products. Target your biggest seller with the larger CTAs and buttons. However, you can try to tackle some slow-moving inventory in secondary calls to action by highlighting deals, creating scarcity, or using a “Customers also liked” banner. It gives you options to reach multiple types of customers just in case the core offer doesn’t resonate.

Last Word on Email Marketing Ideas

Marketing channels have diversified significantly in recent years, but email marketing remains at the forefront of eCommerce strategy. And while eCommerce marketing tools have evolved over the years, giving us access to more data, tools, and flexibility, creativity is still the lifeblood of email marketing. 

Brands that have the most successful email marketing are hyper-aware of their audiences’ preferences and excel at delivering personalized experiences. These brands experiment with creative angles and continuously innovate. 

One of email marketing’s greatest draws is its flexibility. You can delight customers with a simple birthday celebration email, or drive conversions in a less personalized way by leveraging FOMO-inducing strategies.

If you’re looking for more email marketing advice, check out these posts:

Hero photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Author Bio

Jake Rheude is the Vice President of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of eCommerce. He has years of experience in eCommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others. 

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