During the quiet holiday time between 2023 and 2024, I went into a deep dive into apparel B-corp email strategy.
9+ newsletters later, I found 6 key areas for them to improve on that can be worth dozens of thousands in direct revenue from email marketing.
(And can later bring in even more money thanks to building smart early on.)
Not a part of a B-corp? Don’t worry!
These findings are applicable not only to B-corp brands. When implemented correctly, those are relevant to any eComm brand out there and can transform your entire email marketing program.
*In case you’re interested, among other brands, the ones I analyzed are: The Good Tee, Scamp & Dude, The Common Good Company, Atelier Jolie, endelea, Pitod, The Re-Pete Project, Mantis World, Toastie Kids.
(Or lack of it)
I get it, we all hate pop-ups… when done wrong.
When a pop-up doesn’t ruin the user experience, it can actually be damn effective.
Effective pop-ups are ones that don’t jump at you right when you just land on the home page, aren’t blocking the whole screen (but maybe slide from the side), and give an easy way to dismiss them.
According to multiple studies on the topic, the average conversion rate of a good pop-up can range between 3.1% to 11.09%.
Which begs the question - why do more than 50% of the brands I analyzed don’t have pop-ups at all? (the unintrusive kind).
A good pop-up with a good incentive to join the email list can be a literal money maker. Not having one in place, or having a bad one, means that you’re leaving pasta on the wall to dry slowly and painfully.
The sign-up form
(AKA too much or too little)
With or without a pop-up, most sign-up forms on these brands’ websites presented too many missed opportunities.
2024 is the year when third-party cookies are going to phase out of our lives. I was surprised to see that around 70% of brands didn’t ask for anything (as a mandatory field) other than the email address in their sign-up form.
Only one of the brands made the first name field mandatory (smart move), and actually used it to personalize their welcome email.
However, some brands asked for what could be perceived as “too much information” from the get-go: birth dates, country, or company name (huh??). While some of that data is more understandable than others (birthdays, for example), you need to explain why you’re asking for that information.
The company that asked me for my country (as if I had one!) didn’t give me any good incentive to provide that information and I’m still confused about how they’re using it to their benefit.
One brand went one step further and embedded a somewhat hidden subscription form on their homepage which asked for SO many mandatory fields that I didn’t even bother to sign up. They could’ve converted so many new subscribers if they asked for half of these details and gamified this whole process as a whole (one question at a time, while giving visitors a real incentive to power through such a quiz).
Another one I need to point out is a pop-up that promised a coupon code on the first order, and only asked for my email address. When I clicked on “subscribe”, I got to a secondary screen that required me to put in my phone number to get the promised code. Sure, SMS marketing is powerful, but I felt deceived and didn’t finish my subscription there. But I did find a similar subscription form at the bottom of the page that didn’t ask for my phone number at all. It also meant that I didn’t get the promised coupon code.
To sum it up:
Your signup form needs to collect as much first- and zero-party from your new subscribers as possible, but without it feeling intrusive. In other words, you need to ask for as much info as you can in this initial stage of getting to know your subscriber, while asking a minimal number of questions.
Mentioning why you ask for that extra info and what’s in it for your subscriber to give these details is crucial. Easiness and effortlessness are also important here, so don’t make it feel like a heavy task to complete.
(Or: why I kept screaming WHYYYY at my screen)
I’m absolutely shocked to see how many B corps, who are committed to social and environmental change and doing things differently, are sticking to the “good old” coupon code as an incentive.
It would’ve been alright if they tested this offer against another one in the past and got to the conclusion that it performs best for their audiences, but I’d argue that this isn’t the case here. I don’t know it for a fact, but what we see here is yet another “monkey see, monkey do” marketing - it worked for others, and that’s what everyone else is doing, we might as well do that too.
As a result of that, the subscribers attracted to those lists aren’t necessarily the right fit for those brands - they’re there for a “good time”, not a long time. In other words, they’re the kind of subscribers who seek the best price, and not necessarily the best value. Once all coupons are off the table, those customers tend to disappear, and quickly.
Don’t get me wrong - discounts are not a dirty word. They can be extremely effective when used correctly and at the right time. But what ends up happening is that the profit margins of the brand (that are already small, and getting smaller by the day) keep on shrinking, and the list quality continues to decrease.
The solution here is simple but not easy:
Those brands must start talking with their top-tier customers and understand their motivations - then reflect that in their incentive to sign up. Are they there for the best price, or do they actually care about high quality and high impact and are willing to pay good money for it? Are they attracted to exclusivity? Are they looking for a community of like-minded people? Or maybe they’re after more information about the products?
You don’t have to use discounts to attract the right subscribers to your list. And it can be a win-win situation for everyone.
The thank you message
(Try again later?!)
The most overlooked part of the whole welcome experience by A MILE.
If you don’t train your subscribers from the get-go and set the expectations early on, the likelihood of them interacting with your emails in the future is lower.
A staggering ~80% of brands left it at a simple “thank you for subscribing”, or “you are now subscribed to our list”. That’s all.
The cherry on top was when one brand’s pop-up broke (but did process my subscription) and told me that “An error occurred. Please try again later” - and all I could think was “Yup, and you know it. Too many errors occurred here”.
You need to SPELL IT OUT for your new subscriber to check their inbox. As a species, we avoid any mental heavy lifting, and yes, that includes filling in the gaps of “what to do next” when subscribing to a new list, even if we’ve done that 100s of times before.
The solution here is super simple, easy to implement, and can easily be worth thousands - “Thank you for subscribing. Look for our email in your inbox”. That’s literally it.
The welcome email(s)
(Or lack of)
Let’s start with this - about 40% of the brands I checked never sent me a welcome email.
When you consider that only 57.7% of the brands in the world do send a welcome email (according to MailModo), that stat above is not surprising, but still disappointing.
The brands that did send me a welcome email used their ESP’s templates. They offered me the promised coupon code (one of them gave an expiration date, which was already pushed forward by their next welcome email, which was all about - surprise surprise - the discount expiring. Ironic much?), presented their clothes in vibrant photos, and mostly talked about themselves. They put minimal effort into emotionally connecting the new subscriber to their mission, ethics, or commitment to change.
I’ve seen all of that before. Too many times to count.
Again, if the aim here is to just be an eComm brand that just happens to be a B-corp, mission accomplished. As you were.
But if the goal here is to attract mission-driven, socially aware, caring individuals (or businesses) who plan on sticking around for a long time and investing in the brands’ products on repeat - those welcome emails didn’t give me that indication whatsoever.
It pains me to write this, but for companies looking to create social and environmental impact through better solutions, I did not get an exciting or innovative email experience.
Brands like these, who push the envelope with their products and solutions, can’t rely on “more of the same”. Sure, we’re still talking about eCommerce, but that doesn’t mean that you have to follow the “best practices” and be one of the herd.
If anything, the audience of such companies expects to be treated more equally and see something different. It seems to me as if those brands are just throwing pasta at the wall and seeing what sticks - if something does, great. If not, no harm and no foul…
But email marketing is perhaps the most personal channel out there - once you lose the trust of your subscribers, it’s extremely hard to get it back.
Innovative brands can’t copy+pasta other eCommerce strategies blindly - they need to talk with their audience and understand what are the communication expectations from them.
If they do want “more of the same” treatment, by all means, do that. But you can’t expect to see the revenue potential from your emails come to life if you’re just following the same old shticks, which aren’t necessarily as effective or even ethical to begin with.
Long story short, apparel eComm b-corp brands are still far behind where they could be with their direct email revenue, list quality and health, and even overall signup rate and conversion.
The solutions to all of these issues are getting feedback from your audience, paired with relentless testing to see what works best, and then developing your own “best practices”.
If you want to increase your sign-up rate, list quality and health, and convert more of the right subscribers on repeat, I can help. Let’s talk.