Every day, our inboxes get flooded with messages from companies we’ve done business with. But, how many of these do you actually open and read? We’ve been trained to skim the list of subject lines for click-worthy content and to avoid anything that isn’t. As marketers, we’re constantly striving to rise above the clutter of the inbox and get our content read. Subject lines tease what’s inside, but once you get people in, are you giving them anything worthwhile?
It’s time to go beyond the surface of predictable product-focused emails and start sending something worth your customer’s time.
What is an email newsletter?
Email newsletters are a way of communicating and engaging that businesses send to people who have opted in to receive their messages. Usually, newsletters are filled with content that promotes and provides information on their products and helps build engagement in their community. As consumers get savvier, companies have to compete with one another to grab consumers’ attention and keep them engaged, companies have to earn their right to send them messages.
Most of the email newsletters we receive from DTC brands are just reminders of the benefits of their products, with a CTA to buy now. If you’re lucky, there will be some additional value, such as a discount code or gift with purchase. But we’re not always in the mindset to buy… especially these days.
Let’s be real for a moment here and ask yourself this: How many emails do you delete from your inbox every day without even reading them first? It’s probably quite a lot.
So how do you keep your audience engaged and actually reading your emails?
The key is to treat your audience as a group of like-minded people. You all have at least one similar interest after all (your product and/or what your product represents). You need to show them that you care about more than just them making purchases. You have to show that you actually care about them sticking around and being invested in who you are and what you’re doing.
It’s not that hard to show your customers that you value them and their choice to opt in and receive your messages. Sharing your knowledge and building a community around your shared interests will nurture your connection with them. Actionable tips, insights, or news related to your industry or niche, can help you establish yourself as a thought leader in your field, and organically build loyalty with your customers. You’ll become more than a provider of a certain product, you’ll become a trusted resource and someone they enjoy hearing from.
Email newsletter design
We all strive to create beautiful emails. They’re nice to look at (there’s no denying that), but the effort you put into bespoke designs may not achieve the results you’re after. In fact, consistent, meaningful outreach is much more effective than flawless design.
As far as broadcasts go, a couple of different email templates that offer flexibility in how you serve up content can be the most effective tools in your arsenal. They help you to execute quickly, and omit the need for long development cycles, ultimately allowing you to be nimble and scale with a fair amount of ease.
A strong template has more than enough options to suit your copy and image needs. You should also have a few different templates in addition to your typical product/promotional email. These are a digest-style template and a letter format. The digest template should have strong visuals that pique interest, the letter format may have one container for images, but it isn’t necessary. Using a real signature and a small image of the person who wrote the email is a nice touch.
Here are some best practices to follow when creating email templates:
- Mobile-first design - We recommend 600px wide
- Make sure it’s easily scannable - Create a strong hierarchy using text size, color, whitespace, and font-weight
- Make sure the majority of your text is live text inside of HTML elements
- Be concise
- Use bulletproof buttons vs. images to make CTAs actionable even with images off
In the end, a clean and simple layout not only feels more sophisticated, but it’s also just plain easier to read. (Learn more about this.)
Email newsletter strategy
Now that you have the style, you need the substance. Coming up with the content actually isn’t as hard as you think. Here’s a tip from our content experts that will help - think like a magazine publisher vs. a retailer. And if that makes you go “Huh!?” don’t worry, keep reading.
Here’s an easy strategy to help wrap your mind around this - organize different types of content into categories that make sense for your business, product, and audience. Some content categories that can apply to just about all DTC businesses are:
- Latest news in your industry or category
- Social media highlights
- Blog highlights
- A monthly letter from the founder, or have a different staff member write it each month
Then you can start to brainstorm newsletter ideas that fall under each category.
You want to curate a publication that prospective customers can connect with on a regular basis, even if they have no intention of buying from you. Frankly, their intent to buy doesn’t matter. If you connect with them month in and month out, for years, they will buy… eventually.
When you consistently serve up content that is interesting and entertaining, your audience will look forward to your emails hitting their inbox. Remember, consistency is key.
Here’s an example: HVMN sends a podcast email every Friday, announcing the guest of that week’s podcast along with a few bullet points from the episode. Whether the customer was interested in adding another podcast to their rotation doesn’t matter. There’s enough interesting content to pique their interest, wondering what, or who, next week’s podcast is going to feature. Also, seeing the rotation of guests and topics is a subtle way of introducing them to your brand ethos and community.
Email newsletter content ideas
The beauty of content-focused emails is that there are so many ways to curate content, and it’s fairly easy and really fun to do. Here are some examples of curated content emails you could do for your brand that your subscribers are sure to love, and that may fit outside of the content categories provided earlier.
This may arguably be the most fun you’ll have putting together an email newsletter. Curating a themed playlist that fits your brand is also one of the easiest content-based emails you’ll do…although you’ll run the risk of going too deep down a rabbit hole, finding the perfect songs for your list! It’s as simple as creating a playlist on Spotify, and writing a few lines of content around the theme and how it ties to your brand and you’re done!
If you have the kind of brand that gives you the opportunity to have in-person meetups, you can start a newsletter that organizes and sponsors these regional gatherings. Or, if you regularly attend conferences, arrange a small event or gathering for your customers in that area where you’ll be. If you have brick-and-mortar spaces, you can host fun monthly events, like Peak Design.
Digest emails are an easy way to generate content with substance. This can be a recurring theme that is based on your brand, for example, if you sell probiotics, you can do a monthly digest of articles on the microbiome. Or you can pick a theme every month. It can be seasonal, or interest-oriented, if you’re a brand that sells outdoor apparel your themes can be anything from best hiking resources to how to build a fire pit or shopping lists for your camping trip
Photography & Art
Instagram is an amazing resource! Search hashtags that are in line with your brand, and feature content from these accounts in your email newsletter. Make sure to check to see if their account is public. If so, you can feature their content, and give credit in the email by including the account handle and a few words about them or their account.
Recipes are some of the most appreciated and regularly used content out there. It’s content that is actually helpful in their day-to-day life, and who isn’t looking for something new and tasty to add to their repertoire? Recipes don’t just have to be for brands that sell food or kitchen tools. Recipes can fit in with a number of brand categories (health & wellness, outdoor, lifestyle). Using seasonal recipe content makes it easier to tie it into your brand if you’re doing a newsletter about the seasons or holidays. For example, almost everyone will enjoy a good Pumpkin or Apple Pie recipe for Thanksgiving.
Email newsletter growth strategies
There are a million ways to use emails to grow your engagement and revenue. Here are some ideas that with the proper thought behind, will bring you good results.
Referral programs are usually executed through referral software or apps that work with your online store software. Existing customers are incentivized to refer their friends and family to purchase. Much of this is automated through the referral software, but creating specific campaigns to boost referrals is a good way to go. It gives you the opportunity to highlight aspects of the program that will make people want to do it.
Partnering with another like-minded company is a win-win! Here’s how it works - you each send emails to your audience talking about the other product and offer a discount code.
It’s important to focus on companies that truly fit with your brand lifestyle and ethos, otherwise, it will mostly end up being a confusing experience for your customer with poor results.
Affiliate marketing is having a huge moment right now. The success of affiliate programs in the past hasn’t always been stellar, but thanks to apps like TikTok, more brands are seeing real success with this type of marketing. This typically works best when partnering with people who get high engagement with their social followers, and audience size matters less than it used to. They promote your product with their own branded discount code so you’re able to track their impact with actual conversions. You can help support them and their efforts and provide fun content to your audience by featuring them in a newsletter.
This can be a really clever way to grow your list. Using social audiences to target your most relevant prospects, you can create ads that simply offer a discount for signing up to receive newsletters. When defining your target audience, start by identifying characteristics of your ideal customer, in addition to demographic information, think of what hobbies or interests your ideal customer has. If you sell kitchen appliances, you want to find people who love to cook or bake or follow farmer’s markets.
Giveaways are really tricky, but there are a few ways they can work. There are platforms that do all the work for you, and then you can do it on your own by partnering with other companies that are either in your space or complement it. You each contribute to the prize package and promote the giveaway to your audiences via email, social media, and SMS.
In the end, all the emails collected get distributed to each partner and you add them to your newsletter list. If you do this on your own, it’s imperative that you have solid Terms & Conditions for your giveaway that state that people who enter are giving consent to receive marketing emails and SMS from each partner.
The other key to success here is when you get this email list, create a specific welcome series that thanks them for entering the giveaway, and offers them a discount as a welcome gift. These contacts need context as to why they’re hearing from you, as they most likely will not associate it with their entry into the giveaway. If the giveaway wasn’t with a partner who is highly relevant to your brand, expect a lot of churn with these contacts. Also, to gauge performance, keep this list separate for about 30 days, and track their email engagement.
Ecommerce email newsletter examples
The following retailers are taking their newsletter content to the next level. Their different content approaches can serve as inspiration for businesses of any kind.
Ridge - The Switch
If you haven’t heard of Ridge, it’s time to start paying attention to them (especially if you’re an ecommerce company). Ridge started off making wallets, but has since evolved into making other products with the mission to “improve all the items that you carry every day.” Not only is that a very succinct and effective (and cool) mission statement, they really took it to the next level with their approach to email and customer engagement.
There are two different emails you can opt into on Ridge; promotional emails for Ridge, and something called “The Switch.” The Switch is their weekly newsletter that is simply about the things that they’re reading, watching, and wanting. It doesn’t sell anything, it’s just pure entertainment. And the list of subscribers is enormous (hundreds of thousands) and, according to them, churn is almost nonexistent. They’re so successful at it that you could say that they’re a publisher that also happens to have an ecommerce business.
Sign up for The Switch here.
Western Rise - The Diversion
Western Rise is another company that’s producing next-level email newsletters. They produce a weekly newsletter called “The Diversion” that is not unlike The Switch which is “...our favorite things we’ve been learning, watching, listening to, and eating this week.” The layout is beautifully simple and easy to scan and does a great job of pulling you in. The difference here is that Western Rise smartly puts a CTA to shop in this email. It’s subtle, and in no way takes away from the other content they’re highlighting.
Sign up for The Diversion here.
House of Spoils
This fine art photography gallery in Venice, CA has a very strong ecommerce presence and a stunning email newsletter. Their newsletter content artfully lays out who they’re following on social media, what they’re listening to, what prints are selling in the gallery, and what they’re reading. This is definitely an email that people anticipate the arrival of in their inbox.
Sign up for House of Spoils here.
Men’s clothing and outdoor gear retailer Huckberry also takes an editorial approach to emails, blending product highlights with editorial content. From the latest series to watch/binge to beautiful architecture, Huckberry is a true lifestyle brand that understands how to make it all flow seamlessly.
Sign up for Huckberry here.
When you think of products that represent a lifestyle, motorcycles probably come to mind. In this case, British Customs, who designs and hand-crafts high-quality aftermarket parts for Triumph motorcycles, taps into a shared love for the road in their Redline email newsletter. They stitch together updates on what they’re currently working on and updates from HQ, with reviews, articles, albums they’re listening to, and Instagram accounts they’re following in a really streamlined and beautiful package. The vibe is strong here, and it will suck you in.
Sign up for British Customs here.
And speaking of vibe, Bittercube is making its mark in the cocktail scene with its artisanal bitters, cocktail recipes, and lifestyle newsletter. Every month has a theme that relates to cocktails and anything from travel, brunch, music, you name it.
Sign up for Bittercube here.
Peak Design makes award-winning bags and camera gear, and they’ve built a pretty incredible community through things like their offline events, and use amazing eye-catching and inspiring newsletters to promote them. In this example, they’re hosting National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale at their New York store for an artist talk. There’s many levels of genius going on here, you’ll notice that at the end of the email they say that every weekday, they transform their store into a co-working space. That’s taking brand community building to a whole new level.
Sign up for Peak Design here.
Content newsletter examples
Like what you’re seeing? If you’re starting to think about doing this yourself, take cues from what true publishers are doing. Their product is their content, and they literally must acquire new subscribers in order to grow.
The Hustle started off as a digital media startup (daily email, podcast, and premium research content), with over 1.5 million subscribers but then was acquired by Hubspot in 2021. The two coming together have now expanded the reach of The Hustle, and have empowered Hubspot users (and beyond) with relevant and educational content.
Sign up for The Hustle here.
This daily newsletter covering business, finance, and tech in easily digestible bites is meant to be enjoyed over your morning coffee, hence the name. If you go to sign up on their website, you’ll soon discover that they have layers upon layers of offshoots and other media to consume. Mostly topics appeal to businesses, and they have a smattering of more specialized content newsletters (Tech Brew, Marketing Brew, HR Brew) and podcasts (Money with Katie, Business Casual). In addition to well-written concise articles, a sense of humor helps keep people engaged and coming back for more.
Sign up for Morning Brew here.
Want learning content with expert insights from the world’s biggest thinkers? Big Think serves up 2 different weekly newsletters that are sure to get your wheels turning and give you a boost of inspiration. This content-only platform has a robust website, and features content from the best of the best in fields from finance to psychology, with some other cultural tastemakers like Margaret Atwood and Henry Rollins in the mix. Their weekly emails feature the latest articles and they even have a sister site called Freethink that tells the stories of innovators, entrepreneurs, and activists.
Sign up for Big Think here.
Measuring newsletter success
If you’re an ecommerce marketer, it’s in your DNA to look at revenue and conversions as a measurement of success. But would you consider a newsletter that gets consistently high engagement a failure because it doesn’t directly produce conversions? Absolutely not. Content-based newsletters are all about engaging your audience and keeping them in the fold, making them more savvy and educated consumers, who will purchase from you at some point.
Long-term retention > Revenue
There are a few simple ways to track your success here, and that’s with retention. Here are some ways to track your long-term email newsletter success.
This is something you should be tracking for ecommerce anyway, but this is an especially good thing to track once you’ve implemented a content-based newsletter. Track this month-over-month to see the rate at which you’re growing.
Hold out test
This is really important in establishing how effective the long-term success of your email strategy is. Depending on how large your audience is, suppress about 10 - 20% of your audience from receiving your new content-based newsletter, and track their web visits, purchasing behavior (rate to repurchase, AOV, LTV), and email engagement compared to the group that gets your content-based newsletter and dig in to see how one group measures up against the other.
Email to email performance
Granted there’s a pretty big difference between a promotional email and a content-based newsletter but there’s a lot to learn about how each generates clicks, web traffic, and overall revenue. First, establish a baseline for what a typical day’s web traffic and revenue are like when there is no email going out. Then track those things when you send out each kind of email; promotional and content. Do this over time to see the patterns in customer behavior based on the different types of content they receive, and soon you’ll be able to get really sophisticated with what you send, when, and why you send it.
What to do now
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Want more examples on email marketing strategies you can use that will keep your audience delighted? Read 11 Customer Retention Strategies to Reduce Churn in 2023.
Like what you see? Schedule a free strategy session with us to learn more about how Rejoiner can help bring your email marketing to the next level.