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The Evolution of Ecommerce: From Box Stores to Inbox…

Shopping online is a pastime that many have enjoyed since the very beginning of the process. Who knew that, when Amazon first launched back in June of 1994, it’d become the internet’s number one stop for just about everything?

The evolution of ecommerce is an ever-continuing process, and, with more big-name retailers moving from brick-and-mortar stores to online shops, it’s a trend that won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

What is ecommerce?

Before looking at the evolution of ecommerce, it’s vital to understand exactly what ecommerce is.

Ecommerce: defined as both internet commerce and electronic commerce.

This term refers to the selling and purchasing of either goods or services using the internet. Ecommerce falls under the larger umbrella term, ebusiness, which refers to all aspects of running an online business. Ecommerce, however, refers specifically to the transaction of services and goods.

What typically sets ecommerce brands apart from other companies is the fact that ecommerce focuses heavily on a sale as their end goal. Non-ecommerce brands, however, focus heavily on informing their audience while encouraging an action, such as a purchase or subscription. This is easily seen in the following comparison of two very different newsletters.

Ecommerce newsletter vs. Non-ecommerce newsletter

Source: Really Good Emails/Really Good Emails

In the image to the left, we see a typical ecommerce newsletter. It’s appealing to the eye and catches the reader’s attention, but it’s clear that the action the sender wants you to take is to make a purchase. In the image on the right, the newsletter is purely informational, focusing on informing the reader of upcoming events and opportunities to meet the team.

How ecommerce became the booming industry it is today

While many consumers will identify the beginning of ecommerce as the time when Jeff Bezos shipped his first-ever Amazon online book order in 1995, others claim it was the purchase of a Sting CD in August of 1994, when a man sold the CD to a friend through his website NetMarket.

Since those humble beginnings, ecommerce has since grown to a $501 billion industry. The overall revenue brought in from the ecommerce industry is only expected to continue to grow moving forward, as more and more consumers prefer the ease of online shopping and having their goods delivered right to their front door.

Ecommerce revenue in the U.S. expected to continue to grow yearly

Source: Statista

Now, the numbers above strictly represent the United States, but these numbers are expected to continue to grow exponentially across the globe in the coming years.

So far, in 2019 alone, retail ecommerce sales worldwide have amounted to $3.53 trillion. By 2023, that number is predicted to double to nearly 6.54 trillion.

Retail ecommerce sales worldwide

Source: eMarketer

With these numbers only expected to continue rising, marketing teams everywhere are looking for ways to grow their online presence. While brick-and-mortar stores are great, moving online in some fashion is the way of the future.

Can ecommerce brands benefit from email marketing?

One ideal way to get your brand online is to invest in email marketing. While you may not be focusing a ton of time and attention on an online store, having a completed and detailed email marketing strategy in place can and will get you noticed by the right people. Not only that, but email marketing is the best channel for generating ROI online, bringing in an average of $38 for every $1 spent.

Email delivers the highest ROI for marketers

Source: Campaign Monitor

Now, we mentioned that you don’t need to have an impressive online store for your ecommerce brand to benefit from email marketing; however, that can and will play a massive role in overall customer engagement.

While many brick-and-mortar stores indeed utilize email marketing to stay in touch with the customers, ecommerce brands need to take things up a notch and have an online store available for their audience to browse.

Once your storefront is all set up and running, you can start focusing your attention on your email marketing campaigns to not only catch your audience members’ attention, but get them to make the conversion from browser to customer.

Why email marketing works for ecommerce brands

Still not convinced that your ecommerce brand needs to add email marketing to your digital marketing strategy? Here are a few key stats that may help convince you:

  • Transactional emails average 8 times more opens and clicks than any other type of email, which can help generate 6 times more revenue overall. – Experian
  • Typically, an average of 75% of email revenue is generated by triggered campaigns, such as transactional emails. Automated email campaigns also account for nearly 21% of all email marketing revenue. – DMA
  • Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. – McKinsey
  • Seventy-two percent of people state that they prefer to receive promotional content through email, versus 17% of those who prefer social media. – MarketingSherpa
  • Email marketing campaigns drive more overall conversions than any other marketing channel, including search engines. – Monetate
  • An ecommerce email message is 5 times more likely to be seen than a Facebook message. – Radicati

3 examples of excellent ecommerce email marketing at work

The evolution of ecommerce requires that marketers have a solid understanding of digital marketing, and that requires at least a basic understanding of ecommerce email marketing campaigns that should be included in your marketing strategy.

Read on to discover a list of excellent ecommerce email marketing examples to help you gain a clearer idea of what email marketing campaigns you should include in your brand’s personal evolution of ecommerce.

1. Ecommerce welcome email by Seafolly

Seafolly is a beach and swimwear company from Australia, and they’ve done an excellent job of not only welcoming their new subscribers to the brand, but catching their eye with their welcome email. What makes this email stand out is the fact that the ecommerce brand keeps it super simple for their subscribers.

Instead of featuring all sorts of products, they include one hero image with a simple welcome message to their readers. The image itself intrigues the reader, while the warm welcome makes them feel at home on the site. This encourages visitors to go ahead and use the navigation at the top to browse at their leisure.

This is an excellent way to welcome your new subscribers, while not forcing a sales pitch on them during their first real contact with your ecommerce brand.

 Welcome email from beach apparel company Seafolly

Source: Campaign Monitor

2. The personalized/segmented email

Both email personalization and segmentation play vital roles in the success of your email marketing strategy, even as an ecommerce brand. While many non-ecommerce brands can easily slip the name of their reader into an email message, ecommerce brands have to get a little more creative with how they choose to segment and personalize their messages to customers.

Some of the best ways to segment and personalize your ecommerce emails are by creating lists based on the following information:

  • Contact activity
  • List membership
  • Geographical location
  • Gender
  • Birthday
  • Subscription date
  • Other personal preferences

One excellent example of personalization and list segmentation can be found in the following example by Adidas.

Adidas uses gender as a way to segment their email list and target specific audience members.

Source: Campaign Monitor

For this email, they decided to create two email campaigns and send them out to subscribers based on their gender preferences.

A segmented email campaign such as this can help your customers out quite a bit, especially when it comes down to the time they spend browsing for specific products. Many consumers know what it is they’re looking for, especially if a particular product was advertised in your most recent email message to them. So, by segmenting by gender or a specific style of clothing, you’re helping your subscribers get right to what they want, with little to no friction involved. Remember, the less friction and frustration, the more likely your subscriber will follow through with a purchase.

3. Product/inventory updates

Whether it’s new stock notices or product updates, your ecommerce brand should include product and inventory updates as part of your regular email marketing strategy.

Think of it this way; your subscribers have come to you because you have something they find of value. Instead of making them wait for updates on new or out-of-stock inventory, why not send those updates directly to their inbox?

Adidas does a great job of that in their inventory update email to their customer, who was in search of a very specific shoe. This update is useful for several reasons:

  • Customer doesn’t have to continue browsing the site for something that’s still out of stock
  • The email gives them some recommendations for similar products
  • Doesn’t waste the consumer’s time with unnecessary information

Adidas ecommerce inventory email update

Source: Really Good Emails

Again, these messages can be tailored to meet many needs, including:

  • Product launches
  • Product updates
  • Brand updates
  • Service updates and more

Wrap up

With the evolution of ecommerce comes changes in what’s required for brands to stay relevant in the minds of their audience. Not only is having a workable website a must, but your ecommerce marketing team needs to investigate other channels for reaching out and staying in contact with your audience. One of the best ways to do so is through email marketing and sending campaigns such as:

  • Welcome emails
  • Inventory/product updates
  • Personalized/segmented emails

Is your ecommerce brand looking for an email marketing product explicitly tailored to your needs? We’ve got you covered. We’re thrilled to announce the launch of our latest product designed for ecommerce brands in mind. Want more information? Check out our CM Commerce page today.


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