If you’re anything like the average consumer, you probably spend more time unsubscribing from email lists than joining them. But recently, the marketer in me asked myself an important question: “What could I learn if I subscribed to 99 email lists and studied the patterns from top retailers?”
When it came to figuring out which email lists to sign up for, I knew I had to pick a single niche. So I chose the most popular (and my favorite) ecommerce niche: women’s fashion. I tried to cover everything from clothing, lingerie, maternity, and plus sizes from countries all over the world – Canada down to Australia.
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I Signed Up for 99 Email Lists. Here’s What I Learned.
1: Make Your Email Opt-In Form Stand Out
When I started adding myself to email lists, I noticed how hard it was to subscribe. Why? Because I just couldn’t find the opt-in form! Some email list subscriptions were buried at the end of an account registration process. Others were so hard to find that I had to turn to Google and enter keywords like “[brand name] + subscribe email” leading to zero results. And if Google can’t find their opt-in forms, there’s no hope for me. Like this one buried in a register form on Pretty Little Thing’s website:
The distinct trait of some of the top brands is they included email opt-in forms in more than one place. Most fashion brands, whose opt-in forms were easy to find, had a form or a link to one in the footer or just above the footer. Some also had a pop-up to improve their chances of getting opt-ins.
The smart thing about having a form directly in your footer is that it ends up on every page of your website regardless of which page your customer lands on when they visit. That way you increase your chances of getting subscribers.
Out of the 99 fashion email lists I signed up for,
- 63 percent have an email opt-in form or link in the footer
- 41 percent have a pop-up email opt-in form on their website
- 39 percent have two or more opt-in forms on their website
- 32 percent have an opt-in form on the homepage above the footer
- 28 percent personalized their email form by asking for more than just an email (for example, name, gender, clothing size, pregnancy due date, etc.)
- 26 percent of fashion brands used discounts to entice potential subscribers
While subscribing to the lists, I also noticed the call-to-action wording for the “subscribe” button. Surprisingly, “subscribe” wasn’t the most popular one. These were some of the most common call to actions used by brands:
Email Opt-In Examples
Here are a few examples of opt-in forms you can use as inspiration when crafting your own for your online store.
Footer Opt-In Form
Discount Offer with Personalization
Pop-up Example with Unique “Subscribe” button copy
Spin to Win Discount with Personalization
Thank You for Signing Up Confetti
2. Craft a Friendly Welcome Email
Naturally, when you sign up for 99 email lists at once, your inbox gets flooded. Most emails came either immediately or within the first couple of hours of signing up. Some brands had a few introductory emails that helped introduce new email subscribers to their brand.
The welcome messages that poured in shared a few similarities. Here are some of the most noticeable ones:
- 32.3 percent of emails included the word “welcome” in the subject line
- 29.3 percent of emails included the name of the brand in the subject line
- 15.1 percent of emails included a discount code or hint of an special offer in the subject line
Now you might be wondering what type of content was included in the average welcome email. Here’s a list of the most popular additions:
Keep in mind that not a single brand included every single item in the list above. It’s just a compilation of the most common features throughout all the emails, so you can pick and choose the type of content that works best for your brand.
The focus of the welcome email is mostly to introduce the brand to the email subscriber and get them connected on their other marketing channels such as social, blog, app, referral program, etc.
Almost all brands had links to either specific products or collections so that people could start shopping when they receive their first email.
3. Lessons About Spam and Email Volume
Over the span of 17 days from January 25th until February 10th, the inbox was flooded with 625 emails (including spam). Some brands sent emails almost daily while others never sent a single one. Here are a few statistics about the emails we received:
- 15 percent of all emails went to spam
- 10.1 percent of brands never sent a single email
- 26.2 percent of brands sent 10 or more emails during the period
When it came to the type of content that regularly appeared in spam, there was no clear-cut pattern. However, here are a few types of content that did end up in spam folders:
- Abandoned cart emails
- Content in foreign languages (i.e., French)
- Multiple “shop now” links
- Paid survey
- NSFW content (bare buttocks for lingerie brands)
- Aggressive sales tactics and scarcity
- HTML content instead of text-based
4. Lessons About Discounts, Emojis, and GIFs
When it comes to email marketing, I was fascinated at how marketers would draw a person in. From enticing with a discount code to using an emoji in a subject line to including a GIF to make a promotion pop. Here are a few statistics about what I found:
- 17.9 percent of all emails had a discount offer in the subject line
- “20 percent” was the most common discount offered across brands
- When higher percentages used, for example 70 percent, it was often included with another number such as “from 40-70 percent OFF”
- 10 percent was the lowest discount offered, 70 percent was the highest discount offered
- 21 percent of all emails had emojis in the subject line 😍
- 19 percent of all emails had at least one gif inside the email
- Fun fact: Victoria’s Secret used a gif in every email they sent (including abandoned cart emails)
- 63 percent of brands that used emojis in their subject line included a gif in at least one email
- 15.1 percent of all brands used discounts, emojis, and GIFs
Emoji Subject Line Example
Discount Subject Line Example
5. Get A Little Personal
We all know that personalization is a massive trend in email marketing, but just how common is it? Well, over 28 percent of the fashion brands used some form of personalization while collecting and sending emails.
Personalization was approached differently by various brands. For example, a couple of the maternity brands we looked at requested the mother’s due date on the email opt-in form. Here’s an example from Motherhood Canada. By tracking the due date, the brand is able to promote the appropriate products based on the mother’s stage of pregnancy. It also tracks the child’s birthday so that they can know the child’s age after he or she is born.
Brands who sold women’s fashion as well as men’s fashion often asked for the gender when collecting emails. For example, Forever 21 asked whether you’d want to subscribe to their Women, Men, Kids, or Plus Sizes email list. Each demographic has their own needs for the type of content they’d want to see. They also ask for your zip code so that they can personalize offers based on your location. Notice the use of color to emphasize the email preferences even though filling it out is noted as optional.
Some brands, such as Lululemon, offered a more comprehensive personalization process. Not only do they want to know what gender you fall into, they’re also interested in knowing what type of products you’re interested in seeing. For example, “water” or “run” will have a very distinct product collection. By knowing what type of fitness apparel you’re after, they can better tailor the type of products shown in their emails.
When it comes to personalization, here are a few of the most common types of information brands asked for:
- First name
- Last name
- Zip code
- Body type (for example, hourglass)
- Clothing size (for example, plus size)
- Product collection preference
- Pregnancy due date
6. Abandoned Cart Email
Unfortunately, some platforms thought I was a bot due to the fact that I was triggering a lot of abandoned carts so I was only able to compile data for 80 stores in this section. Here are some of the interesting stats around cart abandonment:
- 31 percent of brands sent at least one abandoned cart email
- Brands that sent abandoned cart emails sent between one and four emails
- 24 percent of brands who sent abandoned cart emails offered a discount at some point in their abandoned cart email funnel
- All discounts offered in abandoned cart emails were between 10 percent-15 percent
- 92 percent of brands who sent abandoned cart emails included a picture of the product in their emails
- 16 percent of brands who sent abandoned cart emails had at least one of their emails sent to a spam folder
Here are a few examples of abandoned cart emails:
SIR Abandoned Cart Email
Lulus Abandoned Cart Email
Dutil Abandoned Cart Email
KharaKapas Abandoned Cart Email
Sadly, not everyone who subscribes to your email list will want to stay subscribed. And while I had a blast looking at some amazing fashion emails over this process, I knew that understanding the unsubscribe process was important. Here are a few things I learned about the about how fashion retailers deal with unsubscribes:
- 18.1 percent of brands encouraged changing email preferences instead of unsubscribing
- 15.1 percent of brands automatically unsubscribed you when you click the unsubscribe button in the email
- 35.3 percent had a shop link or redirected to the main website to encourage shopping after unsubscribing
- 20.2 percent of fashion brands asked for feedback during the unsubscribe process
What’s fascinating is seeing the high volume of brands who encourage shopping at the unsubscribe section of their website. With a high volume of people unsubscribing from email lists every day, this is actually a brilliant way to encourage a few extra sales from a highly visited page. Some brands included a “shop now” link on their page or redirected to their store’s homepage. However, it was pretty clear that the goal is to keep the customer even if the customer decides not to stay on their email list. So, be sure to include a shop now link or a homepage redirection to encourage shopping.
Also, several brands asked for feedback after the unsubscribe process. Most asked the same types of questions to better understand why someone wants to unsubscribe. The “other” option can give some valuable insight into the exact reason why people were unhappy with your email list. Was the frequency too high? Were the emails inappropriate (like the NSFW ones I found in my spam folder)? Did you use aggressive sales tactics? The more insight you can get from your subscribers, the better you can become at creating a successful email list. And don’t worry, unsubscribes are common across all brands. Plus, giving people an option to unsubscribe is one of the simplest ways to ensure compliance with GDPR rules.
There are a lot of moving parts to build an email list that helps you increase your sales. You can split-test the top call to actions brands used: sign up and submit to see which helps you build a bigger list. Or you can create a better welcome email to introduce your brand to customers in the most strategic way possible. You might find yourself adding more emojis, gifs, and discounts to your emails like some of the fashion brands in this study. And even if you find your unsubscribe rate to be higher than you’d like, you can optimize your page to direct people back to your website so you continue to get a boost in sales. Email marketing can play an enormous role in your success as store owner. By learning from some of the biggest fashion brands, you inch closer to building one yourself.
What type of marketing case study would you like to see us do next? Comment below!
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