DTC and eCom brands are going to have to pivot from paid social heavy customer acquisition strategy and focus on email. Some ideas and playbooks on building a high quality and engaged email list
2020 has seen eCommerce as a sector grow at a blistering pace, recording 10 years worth of growth in a single quarter.
If you are a small or a medium-sized eCom/DTC brand relying on the paid social playbook to acquire customers and grow sales, 2021 isn’t going to be pretty.
- The brick and mortar retailers and conglomerates have been forced to become DTC players almost overnight. Now, hundreds of millions of their dollars are edging out your ads from search pages and newsfeeds.
- Facebook has truncated the attribution window from 28 days to 7 days, making it impossible for you to track the medium and long-term impact of your ad campaigns.
If you are wondering what the hullaballoo about iOS14 is, the fine folks from Common Thread Collective has you covered. In the context of eCommerce, it gives the user an ability to opt-out of Facebook (or any other third party app tracking), effectively kneecapping the pixel’s ability to collect user activity data.
But all isn’t doom and gloom. You still have email.
The rise (and rise) of email marketing
For the underdogs in eCommerce, email might just be their knight in shining armor.
All customers love email. Even gen Z, who have grown up on social media prefer personalized emails (95%) over even text messages (85%) (data from Sendgrid).
Email just doesn’t give you a direct line to your customers without relying on the whims and fancies of social media algorithms. It:
- has a higher ROI even for eCommerce.
- doesn’t have to fight for attention like an ad in the newsfeed does.
- feels more personal to users, compared to a social media ad.
- is way cheaper than a social media ad.
For me, personalization will always be email’s killer feature compared to paid social.
As it stands, you can’t at scale automate and personalize a social media ad to incorporate variables like:
- last purchased product.
- other recommended products.
- most frequently bought items.
- product bought 3-6-12 months ago.
All these factors add up to experienced eCommerce marketers’ intense focus on email marketing.
All these results come with the caveat that you treat email marketing with the sophistication it demands.
Firstly, use the proper tool. For eCommerce email, nothing in the market beats Klaviyo.
Secondly , quality>>>>>> quantity.
The two-pronged email list building playbook: lead with desire…
Building a high-quality email list is critical to your email marketing success, and there are thousands of articles talking about how.
Here’s one that talks about list building using discounts and different opt-in forms
Another post has some juicy stats on the conversion rate of different email pop-ups.
But these are just tactical tips and tricks. Consequently, they won’t really help you to build a high-quality list unless you are able to really answer one question:
Why should people give you their email?
To answer this question, I like to refer back to Eugene Schwartz’s Desire Framework.
For a long version of The Desire Framework (interspersed with Office gifs) check out this thread:
Here’s the short version:
THE DESIRE FRAMEWORK
Harnessing desire doesn’t just make for high-performing ads. It can also lead to high converting email forms or pop-ups. Here are the different ways in which you can persuade people to offer up their email:
- Simply present your product’s claims
- Show the claim in action
- Include the audience
- Show your claim being tested
- Display the benefits over time
- Bolster your claims with third party proof
- Use expert approval
- Compare and contrast with the competition
- Show your product in a better light
- Highlight the convenience of your product
- Use imagery, metaphors, anything to gut the boredom
- Lead with your guarantee
The Desire Framework is a mental model used by the ace direct response copywriter and advertising great Eugene Schwartz and documented in his classic “Breakthrough Advertising”.
This framework can help you work through the actual micro-copy that you will use in your email signup form.
“But why use desire as an emotion?” you ask. “Why not also use fear or greed to get people to sign up?”
Fear, greed, and other negative emotions actually WILL drive higher conversions in terms of emails collected, but you will end up with a noxious list.
For instance, giveaways play on greed, offering users a chance to win something coveted like the latest iPhone in exchange for an email.
You can use giveaways to grow your list to 1000s, or 10s of 1000s of emails.
However, only a tiny percentage of those emails are actually going to result in a sale.
This graphic based on Klaviyo data lists out the problems associated with a greed-driven list building strategy using giveaways.
This transactional list is made up of people who don’t really care about your brand or what you are selling.
Now check out the characteristics of a list primarily made up of previous customers and people who have given their email because they desire your product.
Which list would you rather have? I know I would go for the second one, even if it is 10% of the first.
…and follow up with the right context
Once you have the psychological scaffolding ready, look for context. I like to rely on the customer lifecycle journey, which looks like this (image source: Klaviyo)
This image can help you understand the motivations of a customer at different stages of their lifecycle.
Here’s how you can collect emails combing both these concepts:
|User activity||Call to action|
|First time user from a Facebook ad||Show a content upgrade related to the product page in exchange for an email|
|Clicked on an out of stock product||Ask for an email to notify when the product is available, with possible early bird discounts|
|Guest user, about to abandon the cart||Offer a discount coupon for 10% to email on an exit-intent popup|
You will need to create different popups at all possible points of interaction of the user with your website, and accordingly design calls to action.
2021: The inflexion point for paid media led growth?
Big Tech, especially social media platforms are having a bad time right now.
According to multiple Pew Research surveys conducted in 2020:
- 47% of Americans want the government to increase the regulation of major tech companies.
- 64% of US adults say social media has a negative effect on the country.
- 77% of Americans don’t think it’s acceptable for social media companies to use their personal data to show political ads.
Major antitrust cases filed against Google and Facebook in the US, while the EU and UK announced several new laws regulating, among other things, how social media giants use customer data.
I am going to stick my neck out and predict that there will be significant changes in the near future over how digital advertising works because of these legal and regulatory actions.
Most of these changes will burden small businesses. As a result, their margins will be slashed further by compliance costs and inefficiencies of the ad platforms.
With email, you are no longer a gnat but the captain and master of your fortune.
In conclusion, here’s what your eCommerce growth strategy should look like:
- use traffic from multiple sources,
- focus on email list building,
- run a dope email marketing program,
Go forth and prosper.