Email Marketing

Acquisition email for retail: The missing omnichannel link that can boost sales

The retail landscape has never been more dynamic, or competitive, as it is today. Retailers everywhere are still reeling from the tremendous after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive shifts in consumer shopping behavior that it sparked. At the same time, as consumer attention fragments across digital platforms, retailers are scrambling to ensure their media and marketing plans account for the full spectrum of consumer touchpoints.

Email has long been a staple within retailers’ multichannel marketing strategies, but many are not fully taking advantage of the opportunities within this tried-and-true channel. Those looking to gain a competitive edge going into the busy holiday season can do so by expanding their email plans beyond their standard retention and loyalty programs to tap into another of email’s superpowers: acquisition.

Acquisition email among retailers represents a vastly underutilized tactic for identifying and engaging new prospects who might otherwise not be seeing a retailer’s messaging. Let’s take a look at why (and how) retailers need to rethink their approach to email within the context of their broader acquisition programs.

The fundamentals of acquisition email for retailers

In 2023, retail industry digital advertising spend in the U.S. is expected to hit $66.64 billion, up from $57.2 billion this year. At the same time, to compete in an increasingly digital world, 95 percent of retailers expect to boost their technology investments to offer a cohesive omnichannel experience that is immersive and personalized to each customer.

As retailers increase their digital ad spends and focus on omnichannel personalization, they shouldn’t overlook the pivotal role that email can play in this process. After all, retailers know that it takes multiple touches to convert a consumer into a customer. Acquisition email in particular represents a great first touch to get your brand on a consumer’s radar before you reach out to them via other channels. However, many retailers to date have shied away from email as an acquisition channel due to misconceptions about the privacy and compliance of email lists for prospecting. Let’s put some of those misconceptions to rest for retailers:

What is acquisition email? Acquisition email targets prospects with whom a retailer does not already have a relationship. From an email standpoint, that means reaching beyond a retailer’s own CRM to find a compliant data partner that can “introduce” the retailer (via email campaigns) to the prospects who are most likely to be in the market for what the retailer offers. When you work with a partner like Data Axle, acquisition email is 100 percent compliant with privacy regulations because the contacts used for acquisition campaigns have permissioned to receive third-party solicitations.

How does it differ from CRM email? As the name suggests, CRM email fosters communication and conversion among known contacts within a retailer’s own database, particularly when it comes to loyalty efforts. In other words, CRM email is all about retaining and maximizing value from existing prospects and customers. On the flip side, acquisition email operates within an entirely different realm of the marketing funnel—raising awareness and acquiring new customers outside of a retailer’s known set of customers and prospects.

What does measurability look like with acquisition email? Retailers leveraging acquisition email gain full visibility into how their campaigns are performing, right down to the direct impact on sales. In fact, with Data Axle’s attribution reporting, brands can see who received an email and in some cases, opened and clicked in their emails, as well as tie recent sales and other conversion events back to individuals who received the retailer’s email.

Why acquisition email is more important than ever for retailers

Acquisition email is an important tactic to consider for any organization that’s looking to improve the ROI and effectiveness of their broader acquisition efforts. But for retailers today, it’s particularly vital. That’s because acquisition email enables retailers to address many of the core challenges facing their marketing programs today, while aligning with key trends that are driving the retail space overall. Consider the following:

The omnichannel nature of retail. An overwhelming majority (73%) of people prefer to shop through multiple channels. In other words, omnichannel isn’t a growing trend. It’s the current reality. And that means today’s retailers need to be diversifying their channel mix across all fronts—not just where and how people can buy, but in terms of how people are hearing from and discovering new retailers of interest to them. A recent study found that every generation—from Baby Boomers to Gen Z—prefer to communicate with brands over email. That means acquisition email for retailers isn’t just a potential channel for expanding acquisition efforts—it’s actually the channel consumers would prefer when hearing from retailers with something to say.

Retail media on the rise. Many retailers today understand the power of their valuable first-party data on customers and are extending its influence by launching retail media networks that enable brands to connect directly with their shoppers. This is an area of fierce investment (and competition) for retailers right now, and it requires long-term thinking to ensure newly launched networks are as well-rounded and attractive to brands as possible. By incorporating acquisition email into a retailer’s larger marketing and growth strategy, organizations can ensure they’re always delivering fresh customers and insights to fuel the growth of their own retail media networks.

The importance of segmentation. Retailers know how important it is to personalize communications with their customers. This imperative extends to prospects as well, and acquisition email can serve as a valuable segmentation tool in this regard. Individuals who open and engage with acquisition emails represent exceptionally strong prospects for a retailer—ones worthy of investment when it comes to extending outreach and conversations into other channels. By tapping into the transparency of acquisition email, retailers can uplevel their segmentation strategy across all channels.

The expectation of DTC. The rise of direct-to-consumer brands upended the retail landscape as we know it. But these days, it’s not a battle between DTC brands and retailers. The most successful brands and retailers have realized that they can exist together in a harmonious relationship that puts the consumer at the center and enables them to choose where, when and how they shop. Acquisition email is a powerful way for retailers to establish a direct line of communication with new prospective shoppers and remind them of the wealth of brands to which they can open the door.

The ubiquity of subscription services. Along with the DTC model, today’s consumers have embraced the concept of subscription services over the past decade in a way we’ve never seen before. Whether it’s meal kits, replacement razor blades or their daily medication, consumers today want to know that the items they need will show up on their doorsteps before they even have to worry about adding them to their shopping lists. This isn’t a phenomenon that’s happening outside the realm of retailers. It is, in fact, one of the greatest retail opportunities out there right now. For those retailers that can tap into consumer desires for regular reorders and deliveries of the items they need most, there’s nearly limitless opportunities to unlock seamless recurring sales. In this regard, acquisition email can play a tremendous role in finding the right audiences for new subscription and auto-order options. After all, these audiences might not be the ones who are already familiar with a given retailer’s offerings—but these audiences are more than eager to meet new retailers that can make their lives easier.

Social shopping for the win. The number of U.S. social commerce buyers will grow to 96.1 million this year, with an expectation of topping 101 million next year. Again, this isn’t a trend that’s occurring outside of the regular retail experience. It’s one that shoppers would prefer to tie into their larger omnichannel experiences. For retailers, that means enhancing and developing new opportunities for people to shop for their offerings via social media. But perhaps even more importantly, it’s about aligning those new opportunities with audiences that are hungry for them. Acquisition email can help retailers uncover and reach those new audiences—the ones who have a demonstrated interest in social shopping experiences but might not, to date, have been made aware of a certain retailer’s offerings in that space.

For retailers, the opportunity to improve awareness and expand a company’s customer base through acquisition email is one that cannot be ignored. Today’s shoppers have made it clear that they demand omnichannel experiences that adapt to their desired way of purchasing at any given moment. If a retailer is failing to show up in one of consumers’ preferred channels for brand communication, they’re missing a huge chance to connect, engage and foster conversion and loyalty.

Data Axle knows how to leverage acquisition email as a part of a retailer’s omnichannel marketing program and can provide you with strategic guidance on everything from strategy and audience development to creative and execution.

We’d love to talk! Contact us to learn more.

Natasia Langfelder
Content Marketing Manager

As Content Marketing Manager, Natasia is responsible for helping strategize, produce and execute Data Axle's content. With a passion for writing and an enthusiasm for data management and technology, Natasia creates content that is designed to deliver nuggets of wisdom to help brands and individuals elevate their data governance policies. A native New Yorker, when Natasia is not at work she can be found enjoying New York’s food scene, at one of NYC’s many museums, or at one of the city’s many parks with her two teacup yorkies.