April 23rd, 2009 | 3 MIN READ

Show Off Your Product Knowledge in Retail Email

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

The etailing group's 8th Annual Merchant Survey asked 190 senior executives about their e-commerce merchandising and marketing practices. Regarding email, execs were asked about what kind of content their emails use. The number one answer was "sales and specials" at 86%, with "their own branding" (83%), "seasonal messaging" (79%), and "new product introductions" (77%) following close behind.

"Useful information" did not make the list.

Last week I shared a shared a tip my manager gave me when I worked at a shoe store - when the store is "dead" - make a mess. Make it look like stuff's going on in your store.

Another pearl of wisdom from my Al Bundy days is to "give customers free information." I had a bunch of general and product specific facts in my shoe-salesgirl arsenal that I would casually drop in conversation with a customer. This would build rapport, trust and keep the customer engaged. Because I wasn't a pushy salesperson - customers would spend longer time with me and were more open to my suggestion for cross-sells and alternatives. Even if a sale didn't happen on the spot, I was sowing seeds in hopes the customer would be more likely to come back to our store, and more likely to approach me for help than other sales people.

Here are some examples of tidbits I would share. Some were product/brand specific, others were general:

  • Certain shoes use vegetable dye which is more environmentally sound but is likely to bleed color the first time you wear it. So make sure to wear dark socks for the first couple wears, and consider spraying the inside with suede and nubuck protector.
  • Suede and nubuck protector is like the all-purpose protector except with a finer mist so it penetrates the material better and covers more surface area.
  • Rather than gluing the upper to the sole, Ecco shoes inject their rubber around the upper, so it's near impossible to come apart. They also have removable antibacterial insoles that can be washed in a washing machine.
  • Liquid shoe wax will dry out the leather so you want to use leather cleaner to remove old wax before piling on new wax or the leather will crack.
  • The best time to try on shoes is in the morning when your feet are the widest.

When someone opens your retail email, it's like they've entered your store. There's no commitment to buy and they're not even sure what they want to buy. Rather than just pointing people to the sale bin, or your new arrivals, or even the best seller - why not mix in some free information? This may help build rapport, trust and keep the customer engaged. Customers might spend longer time reading your email and be more open to your product suggestions. If a click/sale doesn't happen, the customer may be more willing to open future emails from you and choose your store over others.

Use your product knowledge to "romance" featured products, including at least one interesting characteristic or useful benefit. LL Bean does this very well. You rarely see a featured product that doesn't include some key benefit. For example, in this email: "Tailor made for warm weather, our cool, breathable Tropicwear Shirts block UV rays, wick moisture and stay wrinkle free all day long." There's even a link to a video for more information:

Check out more LL Bean email examples here.

What general and product-specific knowledge could you share in your emails?

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