Retail Marketing Best Practices for Email

retail marketing best practices email

By Kat Dessenon, Persado Vice President of Campaign Management, North America  

Though it’s fun to go browse a brick-and-mortar shop, it should come as no surprise that online shopping continues to rise. Online sales are growing three times as fast as offline purchases, according to Translating the off-line experience — where you get to touch items and speak to a knowledgeable salesperson — is a constant challenge for marketers. At Persado, I have worked with retail and eCommerce clients on thousands of campaigns and though every brand is different, I‘ve noticed some important trends, aka do’s and don’ts. Consider this your quick-and-easy cheat sheet to retail marketing best practices for email. 


It’s no secret that consumers love coupons. From clipping them from the Sunday paper to apps that digitally store them, coupons are a time-tested driver of sales. Persado’s data shows that descriptive language that mentions a coupon or promo code generally outperforms mentions of “discount” or “savings.” This does not mean you should use this tactic all the time! If you constantly have sales and offer promo codes, consumers are likely to scoff at any full-priced item and wait until there is a coupon. A better strategy is to reserve heavy use of coupons either for peak sale times, such as Memorial Day or Black Friday, or for reactivation campaigns where you are trying to entice former customers to come back and shop. Perhaps all they need is a nudge with a coupon.


Speeling erors in yor sujbect linez. Inconsistent use Of Title case. Broken links. Oh my! If you’ve misplaced a comma in your content, odds are my team or I have taken note. Last-minute sales and rush campaigns happen but you should still always review your content in multiple passes to ensure that it’s going out 100% error-free. At the bare minimum, create a checklist of things to review before a campaign goes out. Have a coworker sanity-check your subject line to make sure you aren’t missing important words that could change the meaning of what you want to say. There are also amazing tools out there like Grammarly, Litmus and Email on Acid that will help ensure your content is readable, looks great in all browsers and gives your customers the best experience possible.

🙈 🙉 🙊

This year has been big for emojis in email! Looking through my inbox for the past few years, it wasn’t until about 2016 that I started to see these fun symbols pop up in promotional subject line content, where it was reserved to a few heart symbols. Today everyone is using emojis in all different ways. They call attention to the start of a subject line (“★ Memorial Day Weekend Deals”), replace words (“You’ll ❤ These”), or add emphasis to the end of a message (“Get Ready for Beach Season ☀ 🌊”). Our advice: Use them when contextually appropriate, don’t use too many and make sure they render! Even though new emojis are being added all the time (hello, avocado!), they may not show up in every email platform or browser your customers are using. is a helpful site that will help you understand whether you can translate your recipe for guac into symbol form for your next email blast. A safe bet: We’ve seen the smiley face emoji render in nearly every platform, AND it performs very well. 😉


Do you have a new item ready to be released? Make sure you draw attention to it! Ideally, you will have built up some hype around your latest product before it goes on sale — people respond well when they are expecting something new. Think about all the publicity before Nike launches a new shoe, especially if it’s a limited release. If you can, create a teaser series where you drop hints about what is to come. Utilize a countdown clock to build anticipation and excitement (our partners at Movable Ink can help!) For campaigns announcing a new product, we’ve seen language that centers on Fascination, which stimulates excitement or interest specifically related to a new experience or possession, to be very effective. Some examples of language you can lead with are “just dropped,” “debuting now” and “we’re pleased to present.”

Make it personal

Across all types of email, we’ve seen that including personalization generally works well. Whether it’s someone’s first name, city or an event they’ll like, making content more tailored to the recipient is a surefire way to get them to engage with your content. We suggest getting these details when you ask someone to sign up for your email list. If you don’t have their first name, here are some options to make your subscribers feel a little more welcomed:

  • Dear {store name} customer
  • Cardmember (if they have a store card)
  • Valued member (if they are part of your loyalty program)
  • Hey parents (if your target audience has children)
  • Loyal shopper

We classify all these phrases under Intimacy — to address or salute in a formal or informal way that implies some sort of relationship. There are likely other attributes you can discover about your customer segments and consider using as a greeting for them — we recommend testing to see what drives the most engagement!

Loyalty programs

It bears repeating that loyalty programs are good for your business — like, really, really good. According to, consumers have spent more than $2 billion dollars in the past few years on loyalty programs alone. So how can you make them work even better for you? Remind your users that you have one! For those subscribers that haven’t opted in, create a campaign that touts the benefits of being a member. For those that have joined your program, monthly statements help keep you top of mind and remind them of their status. Achievement phrases, which praise or reward a person for an implied accomplishment, are very effective for campaigns like this. “You’ve accumulated points” or “You’ve accrued these points” are top performers in this category. Finally, craft compelling email blasts that encourage current members to put those points/dollars they have been collecting to good use after they have reached a certain threshold. In these sends, Exclusivity phrases, like “You’re eligible to redeem your points” or “We invite you to exchange your points” work well here, as they imply or state one's unique privilege in receiving the message. At a time when more and more people shop around, give them a strong reason to spend their dollars with you.


About the Author

Kat Dessenon is the VP of Campaign Management, North America. Over the past seven years, she has designed thousands of marketing experiments in nine languages for Persado’s clients and now leads a team of 17 to deliver compelling, on-brand content to increase customer engagement. She firmly believes in the power of testing to improve performance. Her past work has taken her all over the United States and beyond—from San Francisco, CA to Athens, Greece—and she now resides in New York City where she spends equal time in the gym and scrolling through the Gmail’s Promotions tab for inspiration (sometimes simultaneously). She holds a BA in English from Douglass College.