What is the Most Powerful Medium of Communication in Retail?

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by Dimitris Tsapis

February 5, 2021

Since the rise of the Internet, customer engagement has changed completely. Not only has Social Media become the foundation of most marketing strategies, but customers also expect a more personal communication approach.

As such, brands today are not simply looking to sell a product. They want to form long-term relationships, while shifting their focus from “selling” to “helping”. This way, customers turn into fans and a brand becomes more than just its product.

In this article, we take a look at the average engagement rate of different channels to discover what is the most powerful medium of communication in the retail industry.


What is the most powerful medium of communication in retail?

When it comes to digital marketing, there are certain channels that perform better than others. Let’s compare the average engagement rate for the most popular communication channels in the retail industry:

  • Instagram Engagement rate: 0,67%*
  • Facebook Engagement rate: 0,08%*
  • Twitter Engagement rate: 0,03%*
  • Email marketing engagement: 2,25%** (CTR)

*Information from Social Media Industry Benchmark Report, by RivalIQ.
**Information from
Email Marketing Benchmarks by Industry, by Mailchimp.

While Instagram saw lots of engagement success since the introduction of Carousels and Shoppable posts, Email is still the king of personalised communication with your customers.

Why you should use email as a communication channel

Many marketing experts fail to understand the true power of email marketing. Consider the following benefits:

  • It’s much cheaper than paid advertising - Email marketing tools are very cost-efficient, with the upper pricing limit being $250-$300 per month (for email lists that exceed 100.000 addresses)
  • It is more personal - Social media channels are packed with so much content that it’s hard to focus. Users simply scroll through it. The same is not true with email. One’s personal inbox is usually reserved for more important information.
  • You own your list - Only you decide how you use and what you send to your email list. With Social Media platforms, third parties decide who sees your content, if at all. The recent events of COVID-19 are the perfect example. Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter posts that went against newly created community guidelines were instantly deleted without warning. Many users were even banned as a result.

How to engage customers in retail using Email marketing

Big brands have been utilising the power of email marketing for years. But this channel has a lot more potential than simply sending a weekly email and a discount code on your customers’ birthday. Here are 5 tips to increase engagement levels with your audience.

1. Segment your email list

Segmentation is the process of dividing your main list into multiple smaller subgroups. Each of these groups contain email addresses of users with common characteristics. Segmenting your email list can be done in two different ways:

Segmentation by subscriber-based criteria

This entails personal information related to the subscriber and the way he discovered your list (e.g. demographics, location, mobile or desktop user, etc.)

  • Why you should do this: To send targeted product recommendations, avoid ending up in the spam folder, and improve communication in general.

Segmentation by activity-based criteria

Activity-based criteria include the actions a user takes when interacting with your email. You can use open rates, click-through rates, or unsubscribes as criteria.

  • Why you should do this: To better understand common trends with your audience. Also, to determine which segment would benefit from a reactivation campaign.

The best way to keep track and quickly segment your audience is by using email marketing software. Most of these platforms will integrate with your CRM, blog, or eCommerce store. Here are a few great options to consider:

  • Hubspot - Free to use with 99% deliverability and personalisation options.
  • Mailchimp - All in one solution with more than 300 integrations (cost-free options).
  • Omnisend - Great if you want to add more communication channels to your automation workflow.

2. Create drip campaigns

The email marketing tools shown above will also help you create a sequence of pre-written emails that are triggered based on different criteria (actions, dates, etc). The main purpose of these types of campaigns is lead nurturing. Here’s an example:

Essentially, email drip campaigns give people the information they need, when they need it most.

For example, when someone subscribes to your list, they receive a “welcome” email instantly. Two days later, you may send a followup email with your most popular products. Or, if a user clicks on a Call-To-Action button to download a brochure, he might later receive an email with a discount on a particular collection.

  • Why you should do this: To expose your prospects to your brand’s name multiple times - build brand awareness - with relevant emails.

3. Make your emails personal

When a new subscriber joins your list, they give up their personal information. Maybe it’s just their name and email address at the start. The longer they are part of your list, however, the more you can learn from them.

  • Personalised emails can lead to 6 times more transactions than non-personalised emails.
  • Consumers open emails with personalised subject lines 50% more often than emails with non-personalised subject lines.
  • Personalised promotional mailings have 41% higher CTR than non-personalised emails.

Here’s a useful resource to help you improve the personalisation elements of your promotional emails.

  • Why you should do this: Personalised emails will help you create a stronger bond with your audience. This is the first step of building a fan-base.

4. Offer real value

Very often, marketers forget the importance of value-packed emails. In their efforts to maximize efficiency and automate as much as possible, they sacrifice the details that matter most. As a result, both open rates and click-through rates drop.

Here is a good question to ask yourself before sending an email:

“What would it take for the reader to save this email for future reference?”

The contents of your email don’t necessarily need to have a Pinterest-style design with the latest sales and discounts. Instead, they should offer compact value. This means that they should be as short and useful as possible.

Create a niche-related ebook or a downloadable template. Inform them about your upcoming Q&A session, or host an exclusive giveaway for your list. All these gems can be part of your regular newsletter.

  • Why you should do this: Value-packed emails will help you establish a positive reputation with your audience. The more value you offer, the more your emails will be opened.

5. Add GIFs in your emails

Believe it or not, moving images make a big difference when it comes to clicks and conversions. The Email Institute found that GIF emails have a 26% higher click-through rate. In a case study made by Dell, conversion rates more than doubled when sending emails that contain GIFs. The same study showed an increase in open rates and CTR as well.

  • If you are looking to add a humorous touch to your emails, GIPHY is a great place to start.
  • You can also create some custom animations, like Last Call did.
Last Call email newsletter
  • Why you should do this: Adding GIFs to your emails is a great way to deliver your message with less words. It also adds more visual elements to the reading experience, making it more pleasant. Finally, it increases engagement levels, making GIF emails a great way to improve communication.

Wrapping up

So, what is the most powerful medium of communication in the retail world? When looking at the industry’s current engagement metrics, Email marketing is clearly the winner.

And while this may seem obvious to many, it is still a rather untapped communication channel. A weekly newsletter for your audience is the bare minimum. There are so many more options to consider when it comes to email marketing opportunities.

We hope this post gave you a better idea of the possibilities and acts as the starting point for further research.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you are still wondering what is the most powerful medium of communication in retail, make sure you read the FAQ section below.

What are some popular retail email trends in 2020?

There are three email trends that retailers should keep in mind.

  1. Personalised emails - Up to this day, most big retailers found it difficult to create personalised emails or kept doing things the way they were always done. This seems to be changing now, as millennials prefer personalised emails.
  2. Ask for consent - The recent roll-out of consumer data regulations like the EU’s GDPR and the US’s CCPA can affect the personalisation elements of email campaigns. Before using your customer’s data to create targeted emails, make sure you ask for permission.
  3. Control the frequency - A recent study found that US-based internet users want more control over the promotional content that they receive. But only 10% of retail marketers are currently meeting this expectation.

How can I build a consumer email database?

To start the process of building your own list, you will need to add an opt-in box to your website. This subscription box can be built and embedded using most email marketing software platforms. Here is how the process works when using Mailchimp:

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