Show Off Your Product Knowledge in Retail Email

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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7 Responses to “Show Off Your Product Knowledge in Retail Email”

  1. Brent says:

    Very good blog post. Most of my clients will push sales only emails day after day and while they may work well for a while, the customers soon get tired of them and they are no longer effective.

    I agree that with each email you need to try to build rapport, trust and most of all you need to keep the customer engaged and this will build your brand.

    Sometimes it hard to get this point across to my customers that just want to make sales numbers week in an week out.

  2. Peter says:

    Bought my first pair of Ecco shoes 8 years ago when I moved to New York City. Thought of it as an investment due to all the walking. That pair is still going strong and I’ve added several since. 80% of my shoes are Ecco.

    Great blog!

  3. Sarah says:

    I think you may have been mistaken about what time of the day to buy shoes. You are suppose to buy shoes at the end of the day because your feet would be widest and a bit swollen.

    • Funny, that’s what I was told for years. I just researched it on the internet and it seems the end of day is the best, but not from a medical source. Maybe I’ll measure tomorrow :)

  4. This is very true. 99% cases your product is dependent on multiple different things that your consumer should know about to use it optimally. Pretty simple in case of matches but shoes is good example. Laptops is incredibly fine example because of so many use cases…

    in other words there’s very logical idea of letting your consumer know about all that, instead of “how cool it is owning this thing”.

  5. scotty says:

    Morning is best for “selling” women’s footwear… their feet are smaller so they feel better squeezing their foot into a smaller shoe. For performance oriented footwear late afternoon/evening is always best as the foot has swollen and the metatarsals have relaxed and slightly spread.

    feet aside… thanks for a great post (interesting informal poll too: it appears more than a few marketing people used to sell shoes!)!

    • The information about when it’s best to try on shoes is tough to find. The internet says try shoes in the evening when feet are swollen – I suppose this is true about swollen feet if you’ve been on them all day, but I was told that in the morning your hands and feet are more swollen. I tried this morning to get my ring off my finger and my fingers are definitely swollen. I have no problems slipping it on and off at other times of the day. Not very scientific, I know, but that’s my experience.

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