Jake Rheude
November 23, 2021

2011 to 2021: eCommerce Emails Over The Decade

eCommerce Email

The rise of digital marketing changed the way businesses run, bringing eCommerce to center stage. Globally, eCommerce sales were $572 billion in 2010, and according to UNCTAD, they skyrocketed to $26.7 trillion in 2020.

This stark evolution is largely attributed to digital marketing, which includes email marketing. The advent of email marketing allowed business owners to build relationships with customers in an entirely new way.

ECommerce emails took off in 2010, and their popularity has only grown since; adapting and responding to the needs of businesses and their clients. Responsive email templates, mobile shopping, and the rise of direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands are just some examples of what began in 2010 and led email marketing to earn its place amongst the top marketing strategies for businesses.

These developments followed the influence of social media and the launch of Facebook in 2006. The eCommerce sector saw an evolution in customer expectations, as C2B interaction rose, impacting the way brands market their products. Messaging is always at the heart of digital business growth, and perhaps the most consistent method has been email. So, let’s look at the importance of email marketing and its changes over the past decade to see what businesses should know and learn the foundation for what’s next.

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2011

The invention of responsive email templates in 2010 made it easier for brands to deliver personalized, interactive experiences. The popularity that templates gained in 2011 is quite telling about their usefulness to companies.

Attractive email templates increased the likelihood of customers reading emails, as opposed to the messages sitting in their inbox. The advent of email marketing also made it easier for customers to click links in their emails, increasing click-through rates. As a result, companies using a responsive design saw 58 percent of their click-throughs from mobile devices.

2012

By 2012, almost half of all emails (40%) were opened on mobile devices.

This development occurred alongside the advent of exit-intent technology, which allowed marketers to track a visitor’s mouse movements and detect when they would leave a site without converting. The advancement provided brands with the data they needed to update their email marketing strategies, encouraging brand development.

Source

Following these developments, brands increasingly valued data, and segmentation became more relevant. This focus on data changed the way that marketers used emails for eCommerce. They began to focus on the needs and wants of their clients, which helped to increase brand loyalty and conversions. And a majority of marketers (72%) believed that emails were a good way to develop active customers.

2013

Time is money in eCommerce, and the rise of email automation in 2013 helped marketers save both. As of this year, 25% of Fortune 500 B2B are using email automation. According to the Epsilon Email Institute, over time, companies found that these automated messages had a significantly higher open rate (70.5%) and click-through rate (152%) when compared to the “business as usual” marketing messages.

2014

This year, Canada updated its 2003 CAN-SPAM act. The federal law dealt with electronic threats to promote eCommerce by preventing email spam and other types of online commercial representations that were misleading. The law aimed to help businesses become competitive in the global eCommerce space.

2015-2017

Over this period, mobile shopping grew exponentially. Customers responded to mobile-friendly designs and found it easier to interact with the emails. As mobile technology developed, faster internet speeds became widely accessible, and online payments became more convenient.


A typical eCommerce email from Acustom Apparel in 2015 | Source

Around this time, interactive email designs increased in popularity. Businesses saw the significance of this preference, as it increased their audience engagement. According to the Martech Advisor, it led to a 73% rise in the click-to-open rate and when businesses add videos to the emails, the click rate rises to 300%.”

2018

In 2018, the EU implemented its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The law is considered to be one of the world’s strictest privacy and security policies. Although it was passed by the EU, it impacts organizations everywhere when they collect data on or target EU citizens.


A typical email footer in 2018 that included unsubscribe and privacy elements | Source

However, despite GDPR’s implementation, U.S eCommerce sales continued to rise. By the end of 2018, it reached $517.4 billion, which meant that there was a 313% increase in revenue growth from 2010.

2019

By 2019, email marketing had solidified its place as an effective tool for businesses. The Wall Street Journal even went as far as to say that it’s the “only guaranteed-delivery option the internet has left.” Marketers firmly believed that email marketing was their most effective online media channel, despite the existence of social media marketing, content marketing, search advertising, and other traditional strategies.


Salesforce highlights the full engagement email can create | Source

2020

This year, the black swan event of COVID-19 affected the eCommerce industry dramatically.

According to UNCTAD, as lockdowns “became the new normal, businesses and consumers increasingly went digital, providing and purchasing more goods and services online, raising eCommerce’s share of global retail trade from 14% in 2019 to about 17% in 2020.”

The impact of the pandemic on the global supply chain and business operations made online interactions essential. Brands had to keep their customers up-to-date on the changes and developments to retain them.

This reliance on digital communication meant that email marketing further established itself as an effective marketing tool, with Forbes reporting that “66% of businesses surveyed say they use email marketing to promote their businesses or communicate with leads and/or customers.”

And by the end of 2020, 20% of eCommerce transactions were linked to email marketing, and it’s believed that the email conversion rates will only grow from there.

These improved conversion rates didn’t come out of the blue, though; the pandemic changed the way that brands interacted with their customers. Businesses adjusted their tone and brand voice, prioritizing considerate emails to sympathize with their customers and show empathy.

Businesses use email marketing to convey their understanding of the tough times that befall their customers.

2021 and Beyond

  • A/B split testing gained momentum as customer preferences developed and changed. Companies need to collect data and test for performance to ensure they create marketing strategies that reflect evolving consumer trends.
  • Agile email marketing is gaining prominence as businesses try to reach out to users; batch and blast emails are less popular.
  • Accessible emails will become the norm, as email technology allows businesses to support users with hearing disabilities or visual impairments. Email tools will start to detect accessibility issues within the email so that the developers can identify and solve them.
  • 2021: Google introduced their Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for Email. The email design trend opens up a lot of possibilities for users to interact with emails without leaving the page. Programmers will design email messages with website-like features so that clients can make emails even more interactive. For example, AMPs let you directly execute call-to-actions incorporated in the email. The AMP evolution boasts tremendous potential, especially as email use is projected to grow by 48 percent from 2017 to 2022.
  • Email marketers ramped up their use of micro-segmentation. This micro-segmentation allows businesses to define subscribers and targets into smaller groups based on activities. It’s a general improvement over past options because of analytics that try to understand and segment behavior and motivation.
  • It’s also likely that we’ll see more consent-first marketing as government policies implement stricter opt-in policies. Brands will need to keep an eye out for spam filters that have more powerful and technical traps for filtering recipients’ emails. A double opt-in method may become the norm, to protect customers from spam emails.


Covid and safety messaging dominated the early 2020s | Source

Key Takeaways

The decade has seen many developments in marketing strategy, and there are many more to come in the future. What’s clear from these advancements is that email marketing was and will remain a powerful tool for eCommerce.

These developments came as technology advanced; realities changed to require better B2C interactions and the customers’ demands and expectations increased. As a result of these developments, emails went from a way of mass marketing to a strategy that could help them with customer retention and brand development.

The decade saw a rise and growth in the personalization, segmentation, and automation of emails. Email templates, in particular, made it easy for marketers to design custom templates for cultivating customer relationships.

Companies made their emails more responsive, interactive, and later empathetic to encourage customers to read the emails and buy their products. This shift was aided by the development of abandoned cart emails, where customers were sent an email reminding them about the items they left behind.

Email marketing strategies were executed while ensuring that email marketers developing their subscriber base meet the standards of policies like the CAN-Spam Act and GDPR.

In the future, eCommerce brands will work to create more user-friendly emails by taking advantage of Google’s AMP software. AMPs help remove friction from the buyer’s journey by reducing the steps customers have to take and providing a more interactive experience. Marketers are also working to create emails that aid customers with disabilities and provide increased protection to customers and their data.

While the eCommerce space evolves and newer strategies like SMS marketing gain popularity, email marketing will continue to be the backbone of eCommerce marketing strategy.

And the most key takeaway of them all?

Email marketing drove around 20% of eCommerce transactions nearing 2020’s end. As email conversion rates continue to climb, the medium may eventually become more rewarding than paid search ads.

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Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of eCommerce. He has years of experience in eCommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.

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