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The Digital Business Kit for Retailers

Learning Outcomes

Retailers will understand how they can use eMarketing strategies to sell products and services online. [printfriendly]

mod-arrow Direct Email

emailmarkDefinition: Email marketing is directly marketing a commercial message to a group of people using email. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing.

It usually involves using email to send ads, request business, or solicit sales or donations.  These emails are meant to build loyalty, trust, and/or brand awareness. Email marketing can be conducted with either cold lists or a current customer database. Broadly, the term is usually used to refer to:

  • Sending email messages with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of a merchant with its current or previous customers and to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business.
  • Sending email messages with the purpose of acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately.
  • Adding advertisements to email messages sent by other companies to their customers.
  • Establishing a thought leadership position in an industry/space.

Typical uses

Special promotions, new product launches, brand announcements, ongoing customer engagement, etc. See more about email marketing here.

Strength: Useful to access current and prior customers already in your database and those who have opted in to receive emails; particularly to communicate to customers who are not on other marketing channels.

Weakness: Unsolicited emails are often seen as spam, which works against building your brand image. Such emails may be ignored or caught by spam filters due to large volume of spam email.

Newsletters are a popular and specialised form of email marketing.

Examples of platforms used to send marketing emails

Personal email client:

An email client is a computer program used to access emails and send emails day to day. Popular web-based email clients include: Outlook.com,  Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Lycos mail.


  • Free and easy to use


  • Not a professional image
  • Receiving email servers may reject high number of BCC (suspicion of spam)
  • Limited tracking without adding a number of apps
  • Minimal or no reporting of campaign results

3rd party service of application

A subscription to software or increasingly web based systems/ Software-as-Service (SAS) such as Constant Contact. (Constant Contact helps SMEs with online marketing)


  • Professional appearance
  • Templates available
  • Tracking and analytics provided
  • Reporting
  • Use of 3rd party server ensures better send-process
  • Mail list merge & scheduling
  • Typically includes all the functions to comply with legal requirements such as an unsubscribe function whereas this must be added manually to personal email clients.


  • Fee for service
  • Learning to use a new system (with SAS)

Best practices

  1. Subject line: An email unopened is pointless. Choose an interesting and compelling subject line and avoid words (e.g. free) that may be flagged by spam filters.
  2. Provide value: Find out what your potential customers value. Is it coupons, industry statistics, “how-to’s”? This type of content will keep them opening your emails and hopefully sharing them.
  3. Content: Not too much text content. Visuals can help, but be aware that this can load up the storage size of the email and will not be visible to those who view emails as text only.
  4. Action items: Call to action. Give them a reason to open the email and to go to your website… now!
  5. Pictures and videos: Will engage 50 – 70 % more clicks than text.


DO NOT send emails to individuals who have not agreed to receive emails from you through an opt in process, such as checking off “join email list” on paper record or through a sign up form on your website or other list to which they have opted in. There are regulations, guidelines and laws related to sending emails. It is also recommended to NOT buy email lists.

How to build an email marketing list

Collect emails from your website, blog, social media, in store, contests, trade shows and newsletters.  Refer to Why eMarketing?.

email markWhy would a customer open your email?

  1. They know your brand or business name.
  2. The subject line is exciting and or informative.
  3. The offer is attractive.
  4. If you have done your job on the first 3 points, make the body of the email informative and straight to the point.