Case Study: What Lululemon Can Teach Us About Email Marketing

While there are many different ways for retailers to engage with consumers, email marketing continues to be one of the most effective. But in order to make the most out of this channel, it’s important to understand certain best practices. To get a clearer picture of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to email marketing, we’ve taken a closer look at one company that's really knocking it out of the park: Lululemon. Though it may be an activewear brand, there is so much retailers across all product categories can learn from Lululemon’s results-driven approach to email marketing. By optimizing its emails in accordance with consumer trends, the company successfully increased its open rates to 38.5% last year.

Why Market Via Email At All?

To start, let’s take a step back and examine why marketers should still care about reaching customers by email in the first place. Although marketers now have numerous avenues through which to connect with potential customers, develop brand awareness and prompt purchasing decisions, email marketing remains one of the most powerful ways to engage consumers. Though social media seems to be all the rage, it doesn’t reach everyone. These days, email has become a communication staple for consumers of all ages.

While it’s important for retailers to share clear and precise messaging through a variety of channels (including both email and social media), studies show that email marketing is still directly tied to revenue generation.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, “segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue.” Although email marketing is still alive and well, there is a specificity to how and what kinds of emails actually lead to revenue generation - and these best practices continue to evolve. Lululemon is succeeding, in part, because it’s keeping up with the trends and being realistic about consumer buying behaviors.

What Lululemon Does

  1. Keeps it short and snappy

In order to achieve the 38.5% open rate on marketing emails reported in 2017 by Gartner L2, Lululemon ensured that the majority of its email subject lines (86%) were 30 characters or less. With succinct subject lines like, “We’ve reimagined a favorite,” the emails begged to be opened. What’s interesting about this simple change is that, while it is known that the sweet spot for subject line length is between 21-30 characters, only 26% of subject lines in Gartner L2’s mobile marketing report actually measured 30 characters and under.

  1. Meets consumers where they live: on their phones

Though most purchasing conversions still occur via desktop, the number of mobile opens continues to rise, with Litmus reporting in 2017 that 60% of emails are opened on a mobile device. In order to garner higher mobile engagement and conversion, Lululemon optimized 93% of its emails for mobile by using striking hero images (the top banner portion of the email design) and keeping the most meaningful copy above the fold. That means that recipients don’t even have to scroll in order to get the gist of each email’s message. In order to spur more engagement, the mobile friendly emails also included an uncluttered footer template with prominent buttons and clickable options.

What You Can Do

If you’re looking to increase your email marketing open rates, a great first step is to survey what’s been working for your brand. Which emails receive the most open rates? Pull a list of your top 10 marketing emails that have received the most opens, then see what they have in common. From there, try implementing one to two of the characteristics emails with high open rates have in common within your new marketing emails.

The other approach is to study other brands that seem to be doing it right and implement the tactics that work for them. For Lululemon, this includes: more mobile friendly templates; shorter, punchier subject lines; headers touting appealing images; and clear copy with distinctive calls to action.

Of course, it is important to adjust the style of the email to your specific product and industry. Make sure to keep any data you’ve collected on your customers in mind when making decisions for a marketing campaign. Understanding your audience and their interests will always make a marketing campaign stronger.

Additional Email Marketing Best Practices:

  • Take a good, hard look at your email list: Did you buy your prospect list or did you use an opt-in form to generate it? People who subscribe to receive email from a company are more likely to actually open them. Though having a bigger mailing list may seem valuable, your emails will be more effective if they’re reaching people who are genuinely interested in what you’re selling.
  • Segment: By sending specific messages to specific groups, you are able to craft copy that is more relevant to their interests. Use buying patterns, location and age as data points to help you create segments within your list. People like emails that speak directly to their preferences.
  • A/B Test: As you start developing shorter and snappier subject lines, use the A/B test function to see which ones lead to increased open rates. Most email marketing platforms offer this function, which allows you to compare the success rate of emails with different variables. By focusing on just one element of the email per test (i.e. keep the body of the email the same, but try out two different subject lines), you can come to more exact conclusions of what works and what doesn’t.
  • Simple Visuals: What you’ll notice about the successful Lululemon emails is that they are clean and uncluttered. They use simple but compelling product images and limited copy to convey a straightforward message that is easy to absorb. Feature the best shot of your top sleep product and support it with copy that is simple but relevant and actionable. i.e.: Sleeping hot this summer? Our advanced temperature-regulating mattress will cool you down.

Read more herehere and here.

This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on June 28, 2018

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