The Secret Formula for a Successful Ecommerce Newsletter

The Secret Formula for a Successful Ecommerce Newsletter

Author: Lucy Barfoot

Marketing Automation whizz and creative entrepreneur. I love analysing what visually works (and what doesn't) in the marketing industry and helping people to devise marketing campaigns from a creative angle.

Do most newsletters from ecommerce brands land in your inbox then immediately get deleted? 

Sadly most brands don’t have a successful ecommerce newsletter because they see their newsletter as an opportunity to shout about themselves, and that's more than just a little boring for their audience.

Another boring ecommerce newsletter

*Yawn* Another boring ecommerce newsletter

Newsletters that don’t add value to your list will lower your email engagement rather than improve it - so if you’re going to create an email newsletter for your ecommerce company, do it really well or don’t do it at all.

In this blog, I’m going to share what you need to create successful ecommerce newsletters. Including:

  • How you might define ecommerce newsletter success
  • Why most newsletters are a total waste of time
  • Suggestions for ecommerce newsletter content
  • What makes an engaging newsletter (with real examples)
  • Common ecommerce newsletter questions
  • Quick rules for email Newsletter design and copy

Let’s begin with an important question - 

What do we define as a successful ecommerce newsletter? 

The definition of success for each company is likely to be quite different. Here’s what success could look like for you, and what the success indicators may be:

Upping email engagement 

  • The more link clicks, the more interesting, relevant and useful your content is to your audience
  • Email engagement can be validated by totalling link clicks

Building trust 

  • Your audience feels like your biz is customer-centric, that you care and can be trusted
  • Hard to validate with quantitative data

Adding value to your brand in the mind of your audience

  • They feel like you’re sharing useful information with them, you’re the experts, your brand is high-value
  • Hard to validate with quantitative data

Newsletter subscription rates are high

  • People want to receive it, perhaps they have heard good things about it by others sharing it
  • Easily tracked by monitoring sign up numbers within a timeframe

Receiving replies

  • People are driven to reply which validates your ecommerce newsletter as personal and engaging 
  • Counting the number and logging the content of any replies can be a great success indicator

Have a think about what newsletter success might mean to you, and if it’s trackable, track it! 

Why are most ecommerce newsletters a total waste of time?

Being in touch with your list builds a relationship, but if you’re sending nothing but sales emails, that relationship can get damaged. 

Your audience will see through sales emails which are pretending to be valuable - which is actually a great way of summing up how most companies design their newsletters. And it’s often thinly veiled! 

Most ecommerce newsletters I receive feel quite impersonal, share little to no value and don’t build my relationship with the brand.

How can you make a successful ecommerce newsletter?

Done right, ecommerce email newsletters can be an excellent tool in your arsenal for ecommerce success

If you offer great value in your newsletter, you’re likely to be seen as useful, entertaining and insightful. 

People will want more.

Give me more of your ecommerce newsletter

The connection to your brand can be strengthened with a good ecommerce newsletter - your audience can get to know who you are - as a person, as a business, (ideally both!) and trust will be built. 

Suggestions for successful ecommerce newsletter content

Your newsletter content should position your business as the experts in the field. Yes it’s ok to share some content around what you’re up to - but you mustn't make your newsletter ALL about you. Don’t humble brag too much, it’s kinda annoying! 

Share value pieces

Sharing content which helps your audience out with common issues they might have is super useful for them. So is helping people make the most of your products. 

Best thing I can do here is to give you some tangible examples - I’ve suggested newsletter content for 4 types of ecommerce business here: 

A natural fibre clothing ecommerce business:

  • Talk about how to wash your natural fibre garments properly
  • Give a genuine review of a new brand of laundry detergent
  • Share a tutorial on how to make sock puppets from old socks

Sustainable makeup brush business:

  • Share resources for eco-friendly recycling/donating of makeup
  • Talk about how best to organise make up collections for efficiency in the morning
  • Share a tutorial on how to wash makeup brushes and talk about why it’s important

Orthopedic shoe business:

  • Give bunion advice!
  • Curate a list of the best foot massage places in different cities
  • Behind the scenes - share some ideas/sketches behind the latest range and include some science

Houseplant delivery business:

  • Share strategies for the best plant care for x plant
  • Share warnings on plants toxic to cats/dogs
  • Link to a ‘what plant are you’ quiz.

These suggestions are what we call ‘value pieces’ - these are tit bits of content - usually on websites other than your own - (it’s perfectly ok to share other people’s wisdom - it doesn’t have to be all your own) - which make for interesting, consumable  content for your audience. 

Get organised!

Setting yourself a regular time slot to collate these value pieces is a great idea - create a bank which you can dip into when you put together your newsletter. 

On the periphery of ‘value pieces’ are sharing some amusing / insightful things which you think they’d enjoy - even if they don’t relate to your ecommerce offering itself. There could be a LOT of variety here - here’s some quick ideas -

  • A joke which really made you laugh 
  • A recipe you tried out and loved
  • A book recommendation
  • A Ted Talk which inspired you 
  • A life-hack

Feeling a bit shy about sharing yourself like this? A great device is to have a header of ‘‘We liked this’.  Something about that wording just works when you’re sharing more intimate things you personality love. 

What makes an engaging newsletter?

I want to focus on the look and feel of a good newsletter briefly - these are not ecommerce newsletters specifically, but they are excellent examples of how to engage your reader with  a newsletter email.

I’ve chosen three example, each sourced from the fantastic resource that is Really Good Emails.

Click the image to see the Newsletter, and read my points on each - because they are indeed Really Good, there’s not much in the ‘don’t’ column for each! 

Lonely Planet Newsletter

The Good Points

  • Beautiful top image which brings Iceland to life and immediately draws you in. Love the rounded edges - feels very friendly and those are repeated throughout the email
  • ‘Jump to’ section allows quick navigation and pushed reader to site
  • I like the editors letter style - leading with that, and including an image of the Lonely Planet Director makes it personal
  • Little design elements like the blue scribble
  • Bullet points really make the content easy to consume
  • Logo section is very pleasing to the eye
  • The content is excellent - such a lot of value within this newsletter. I want to go to Iceland!

The Not So Good Points

  • Too many links in the first paragraph. Three links… and the links don’t really describe what I’m going to be clicking on. I’m encouraged to click rather than read
  • First and second paragraphs are also quite hard to read - quotes in italic would help the eye? And more paragraphs.

Apple Podcasts for Creators

The Good Points

  • Image heavy works here. Lots of showing what the product looks like on-screen
  • Headings to break up the content
  • The background block sections are pleasing to the eye!
  • Their core branding is reflected in the minimalist style

The Not So Good Points

  • No personal sign-off - the email just ends 🙁


The Good Points

  • Bold graphic to kick off the newsletter
  • Bold (yellow or black background) sections to showcase some content
  • Nice bold buttons - all very on -brand with the black and orange
  • Love how the content blocks are left-aligned, then right-aligned, a visual feast which mirrors the playfulness of the brand
  • Clever little ‘voting’ image at the bottom of the email. Makes me want to interact with the email. 

The Not So Good Points

  • No personal sign-off - the email just ends 🙁

And if you liked this critique, you might be interested in this blog I created where I focussed on just that. Email newsletter examples: An in depth critique - again, they’re not specifically for ecommerce, but there’s lots of helpful tips in there. 

Common ecommerce newsletter questions:

How much Call To Action should I include in a successful ecommerce newsletter? 

You’ll hopefully have CTAs where you’re linking to  pieces of useful content rather than lots of sales CTAs… which we REALLY recommend in a newsletter. 

This is NOT the place for lots of sales messaging. You’re giving your readers value, sharing information and building trust. 

Should I include products in my ecommerce email newsletter?

Yes, you can - but don’t lead with it. 

And alternatively, if you don’t include any sales messaging like including links to products, you’re providing value-only, and your consumers will like that! You’ll stand out as a brand who doesn’t push it - and that’s rare to come by. 

Non salesy ecommerce newsletters are very nice

Here’s an example of what this could look like:

  • P.S. Heads up! The price of our x product will be increased next month - if you wanted to stock-up, now is the time. 
  • P.S. We got some incredible feedback on our x product - it’s too good to not share!

Share feedback

Have you received some great feedback on a product? Sharing a screenshot from social media platforms can be a great thing to share in your ecom newsletter.

Yes, sharing feedback can dip into humble-brag territory, but done right, it can lead to sales.  

If you do want to include a tit-bit of product, here are some subtle ways to do so:

Bestsellers List

Something which might bridge the gap between sales and useful info is including a ‘bestsellers’ list. Bestsellers of the month, quarter, year - any time frame you like. 

Customers are quite interested in what’s popular - it can create a ‘I’m part of the club’ feel - “I love that product too” or a little FOMO  - “I should try that if other people love it”. 

Including bestsellers can suit people’s curiosity and get you some sales, without being too ‘salesy’. 

Post Scriptum

After you sign off your ecommerce newsletter, you could pop in a little P.S. which mentions a product. This feels subtle and gentle.

And, because it’s not you raving about your own product, rather it’s a happy customer, it dials down this feeling too sales-heavy. 

The golden rule 

So in conclusion to the question of including products in your ecommerce newsletter or not, the golden rule is to remember that newsletter emails should stand miles apart from sales emails. 

Don’t try to create a hybrid.

Include a little taste of your products, but no more than that - this is not the place!

Quick rules for successful ecommerce newsletter design and copy

Include your logo

You want your brand to be recognisable in your newsletter. Your logo could be shown in the email header (be sure to make it clickable so it takes them through to the website), or on the footer to bookmark the end of the email, or perhaps inside your email signature… 

Make sure you check the logo dimensions to make sure it shows nicely and doesn’t clog  up your email! 

Consider dark mode for both your logo image and for other graphics within your email  - sometimes people might be viewing your email with a black background, so think about how your logo might show up if that’s the case. 

Envelope copy

This is a blanket term for the stuff that shows up in your inbox before somebody opens the email. It consists of sender name, subject line and preview text.

Sender Name

What’s the name and email address you’re sending your newsletter from? We recommend that you send it  from a personal, branded email address - x @ x company.

Subject line 

To differentiate your newsletter email from other emails your biz sends, we recommend Giving your newsletter a ‘series name’ - e.g. Ninja News / The Ninja Monthly / Marketing Happenings / Radical Roundup… this makes it stand out and feel special. 

The ‘series name’ should then be preceded by the subject line - and here we have three types of ecommerce newsletter subject line you can pick from:

1 - Blind Subject line

Example: [Ninja News] It’s worth it

Not telling anybody what’s inside the email. No hints! Relying on intrigue to get that email opened (great for increasing open rates, but not great for click through rates - you’re not pre-qualifying the people, you’re relying on their curiosity and they may not be interested in the email content. 

2 - Curiosity Based Subject line

Example: [Ninja News] Marketing conundrum - can you guess the answer?

Hinting, perhaps with a question. High open rates, but can perform poorly on the click-through rate, because of that lack of pre-qualification again. 

3 - Direct Subject line

Example: [Ninja News] The Summer marketing round-up + goodies for your eyes

This subject line tells you pretty much what’s inside the email . Not as exciting, but perform the best on click-through. Everybody opening that email is pre-qualified and hopefully interested in what’s inside! 

A final tip on subject lines - think about the length of your subject line, how you want them to feel - inspired? Motivated? Excited? Convey that in your subject line copy. 

Preview Copy

You can select the first line of copy which shows up next to the subject line in the inbox. Use this! 

Some people use it just to paste in the first bit of the email, but some use it to create an extension of the subject line - push the message deeper a little, or increase that curiosity to encourage opens. 

Should I track link clicks in my ecommerce newsletter?

When link clicks (in any email type!) are not tracked - or the data isn’t being used, you have no idea what your audience is showing interest in… 

The benefit of seeing their interest with link clicks is this:

  • If a topic is consistently not engaged with very much, you know what to include less of in your newsletter
  • You can be segmenting your audience based on engagement - ie. If you have an ecommerce business centered around pregnancy products, and they clicked on an external link to an article about how to maintain a good skincare routine in pregnancy, it’s an indication that they may be interested in hearing about your pregnancy skincare offering. Handy to know for future sales segmentation!

Graphics in an ecommerce newsletter

We like image and graphic-heavy emails. Images can really connect with your reader, bring your words to life, and can make your emails exciting. 

And we’re not just talking about images depicting something. In a newsletter, a great way to jazz the email up is to include header graphics for different content sections. 

By including a graphic like the below as a header within your email, you have more options than just size, font, colour which you’ll have in your email builder (if you’re not hard-coding that is). 

The secret formula for a successful ecommerce newsletter3

In an ecommerce newsletter,  your content is likely to be quite varied, and if you’re introducing different topics with a header, make it sexy - make it a graphic.

Signing off your ecommerce newsletter

Please make sure you sign off your newsletters. Make it personal! A nice personal ‘thank you for reading’ is human and friendly. 

Your sign off  could be from a person or the whole company - it’s up to you, but make it friendly and personal! So many brands don’t include this and it irks us! 

In conclusion...

I hope that this blog has given you a good feel for the type of content you can create or share for including in a successful ecommerce newsletter.  

Remember that the first step in creating an email newsletter is to think about what success looks like for you, which may be something other than the suggestions I wrote at the very start of this blog - success looks so different for different business. 

Start collating those great value pieces, get into the routine of it. Your audience will love it! And if they don’t, you’ll know about it because you’ll be tracking the link clicks, right? 

And don’t be tempted to get too salesly - it’ll only detract from the success of your email newsletter. Keep at the top of your mind that you’re sharing what your audience wants to consume rather than that they might want to buy!  

Looking for more successful email newsletter tips? I’ve got you! I wrote another blog on this topic - Email Newsletter Tips so go forth and expand your newsletter knowledge further.

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