Six essential things you need to do to grow and retain your email database

By Phill Manson, Director, PAASE Digital.

Email marketing is an essential tool for e-commerce businesses. Despite its reputation as an outdated marketing tool, it’s a channel that could successfully increase your revenue by 1,662%.

But a good strategy is nothing without a good database. And you can’t grow a database if it’s leaking. As a business, it is essential that you understand who is buying your product and where the opportunities are, so that you can effectively grow and retain an email database that has revenue potential. Here are six essential things you need to think about if you are to grow and retain your email database:

1. Focus on quality

Yes, we are going to bang on the ‘quality over quantity’ drum. Many businesses fall into the trap of believing that a large database will result in a significant growth in revenue. Which could be true to some extent, but if the right people aren’t on your list, all you have to show for it is a vanity metric. After all, 10,000 subscribers who aren’t remotely interested in your product will not result in a sustainable email marketing strategy, but if you have 1,000 good quality subscribers who have already shown interest in purchasing your product or are already loyal customers, you are more likely to drive growth long-term and retain these subscribers.

So how do you attract these high quality, high intent subscribers? Utilising tools like social media advertising, paired with a powerful lead magnet will result in the type of people you need on your list. Social media should not be overlooked as a tool to target and search for your ideal customers.

2. Use segments, not lists 

Far too many businesses manage their database with lists rather than segments. Not using segmentation is a missed revenue opportunity to engage the most dedicated subscribers.

Optimise your database by identifying which of your subscribers are most engaged, then isolate them. The same goes for identifying which subscribers are not so active, so you can reduce the sending frequency or change up your methods and hit them at the right time with an irresistible offer. Segmentation ensures that you are not sending irrelevant emails to your subscribers, which can result in a higher retention. 

3. Grow your list in a relevant way 

This is essential to attracting the right subscribers. Grow your database in a way that feels authentic and relevant. The ‘Refer a Friend’ schemes work really well for some businesses, but for others it doesn’t make sense. Facebook retargeting, social media collaborations and co-branded campaigns or competitions are all great methods to grow your database in theory, but if they aren’t relevant to your business they won’t feel authentic to your audience and you won’t attract the right subscribers, or you’ll risk not attracting many people at all.

For example, if you are running a co-branded campaign, you need to work with a brand that compliments your business and whose customers are likely to be your customers. For example, an airline collaborating with a suitcase company, shoe designers collaborating with clothing, dog food collaborating with dog accessory brands… You get the picture. It gives potential customers a double incentive to sign up.

4. Give something back 

To avoid putting revenue at risk, merchants need to own their data by implementing zero-party data collection technology in their stores, like the Shop Quiz and Conversational Pop-ups. Based on these rich datasets, stores can have segmented and personalized conversations with customers across their website, email, ads, SMS and Messenger. Brands that collect data through these direct online interactions will be empowered to build a stronger relationship based on trust and deep personalization with consumers.

A powerful lead magnet is an essential part of any email marketing strategy and ultimately needs to incentivise potential subscribers to part with their email address. Whether it’s a website pop-up featuring a tempting special offer for first time customers - you need to make it strong and relevant for your business. When you’ve hit them with your lead magnet, it’s time to nurture them with a strong welcome sequence that makes them feel more invested in your brand.

Don’t forget using a Quiz (such as Octane.AI) can also allow you to drive a more personalised experience to your customers by giving them relevant results AND also drive email capture. 

Building on this Quiz experience with an integration with a Marketing Tech tool such as Klaviyo also allows you to build out enhanced customer profiles without requiring a customer to have made a purchase (remember that previous purchase behaviour doesn’t indicate a future habit)

5. Send useful emails

It’s a no brainer but if you are going to retain the subscribers on your email database, you need to send useful emails that result in sales. Fitness brand, MuscleSquad is a great example of how ‘back in stock’ notifications can grow a database. MuscleSquad began using ‘back in stock’ notifications in December 2020, and their email list has grown from 2,000 (August 2020) to 15,000 (March 2020). This works because high intent subscribers who are poised to purchase are added to the database. The list can be segmented based on what product they are interested in and how quickly they move to purchase so they can be hit with targeted emails that are relevant to what stage they are at in their journey. It’s a win-win for customers and for the brand.

6. Optimise your opt-ins

Are you capturing emails from customers when they check out? By optimising your opt-ins and pre-ticking the box, you could grow your email list by 40%, just like Sophie Allport did. Many businesses are missing a trick by not using soft opt-in. This area often feels like it lacks clarity in relation to the regulations, but making it easier for people to opt-in to your email marketing is a sure fire way to grow your email list, whilst still complying with ICO regulations for PECR/GDPR. 

The guidelines state that you must not send emails to individuals they have specifically consented to receive emails from you; or ‘they are an existing customer who bought (or negotiated to buy) a similar product or service from you in the past, and you gave them a simple way to opt out both when you first collected their details and in every message you have sent’. Providing that businesses are clear about their intention to send email marketing communications and the opt-out is clear - i.e please untick this box if you wish to not receive communications - soft opt-in is a very straightforward way to grow a high quality database with customers who are likely to engage with your product or service again.

Remember, Pre ticked boxes are only banned for the legal basis of consent, not soft opt in, which is the PECR equivalent of Legitimate Interest. For soft opt in, both ticked boxes and unticked boxes are valid and legal. However, to tick to opt out of something, seems completely counter intuitive. It's safer to have a pre ticked box for soft opt in, as it's more obvious what someone needs to do and what the result might be.

To conclude

Email is here to stay, but so many brands are missing a trick by not doing these essential activities to help grow and retain customers within their email database. Without a high quality database, revenue opportunities are being missed and growth is only ever going to be short term.

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