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How TOMS Turns Email Marketing Basics Into A Revenue Machine

TOMS shoes started as a simple idea that came to founder, Blake Mycoskie, during a trip to Argentina in 2006. Now, more than 10 years later, TOMS has become known for one thing:

When you buy a pair of their shoes, your purchase helps give a pair to a child in need.

Today, this idea of get-one-give-one may not sound all that new and exciting, but at the time of their launching this for-profit business model was unheard of and has since sparked a parade of new companies that have used this model to copy the success TOMS has achieved.

TOMS’ unique selling point sparked a lot of notice and customer loyalty, but the company didn’t plan to settle and let customers do all their marketing for them.

Instead, the company implemented a robust and effective marketing strategy that every business can learn from.

That is especially the case with their email marketing.

In this case study, we’re going to take a deep dive into how TOMS uses email marketing throughout their marketing strategy.

Using Email Marketing Basics To Build A Revenue Machine

As we go through the type of emails TOMS uses and how they’re likely triggered, you’ll be quick to notice that they haven’t reinvented the wheel in terms of email.

Much of their success comes through their email marketing, but they have really stuck to the basic framework for email marketing success and grafted it to their brand.

This is actually really great news!

Many times, we try to think of some newfangled idea to help crack open more growth or revenue in business. And if you’ve ever been stuck in a marketing meeting staring at a blank whiteboard, you know how abysmal those brainstorming sessions can be.

But when it comes to email marketing, you can get a lot of great results by sticking to foundational basics and using it as a canvas to make your own.

TOMS is a great example of this, so let’s pull back the curtain to take a closer look at this engine.

1. The New Visitor Incentive

Email capture is a vital part of any email marketing plan, and it’s certainly a focus at TOMS, but it’s not something they overcomplicate.

When a new visitor comes to their website, they show a pop-up a few seconds after they land on the home or landing page.

This simple incentivizing offer is the only style popup that TOMS has on their website, but it’s not the only time that it’s triggered.

If a new visitor doesn’t initially sign up with this first pop-up, there is also an exit-intent pop-up that triggers when the cursor moves outside of the browser window signaling the intent to leave the site.

Aside from these welcome mat style pop-ups, there are a few other places where email capture forms exist on the site.

The main one is in the site footer, while the others exist in places like their rewards program page.

Really though, that’s about all there is to it, and yet it works incredibly well.

How do you know that’s the case?

Because at this point, if it wasn’t working for them then this wouldn’t be what they use.

Key Takeaways For You

  1. For email captures, keep it simple. There’s a lot of conversation out on the web about what is best for capturing emails but that can sometimes lead to us complicating something that can be rather simple and straightforward.
    The ecommerce world does have a slight advantage in the email marketing game since offering a product discount tends to be what works best. However, that leads back the initial point of keeping things simple.
    Look to your industry and see what is working, then use that as a benchmark to start so that you have something to test against later.
  2. Don’t overdo it. TOMS doesn’t throw an email capture form in your face every chance they get, and that’s a good thing. You don’t want to annoy visitors with a lot of these as it can hurt your site experience which potentially hurts your SEO efforts.
  3. Use Exit-Intent Pop-ups. While it’s easy to remember to show a pop-up when someone comes to your site, many often forget to show it again when someone plans to leave. Placing the pop-up at this point can help gain even more contacts that you would have likely lost otherwise.

There are a lot of email capture tools available that can help you create forms and pop-ups for your site. Some email marketing providers like Sendlane have the ability to create opt-in forms that you can easily place on your website.

However, for a pop-up opt-in like the ones you see on most websites, you’ll likely need to find a third-party email pop-up tool that will integrate will your email provider.

I’ll leave it up to you and your business needs to find the perfect match.

2. The Welcome Series

After you sign up to the TOMS email list, you are soon-after greeted by their first welcome email.

This first message in their series focuses on their One for One brand movement:

If a potential customer is unfamiliar with their company values and how a purchase funds good across the globe, this email gives them a chance to learn more about it.

As you’ll notice with most emails from TOMS, this email is heavy on images or GiFs that do well to capture the emotions of a reader while also connecting that emotion to business.

With this email you’ll see the 3 pictures shift from a set of photos with the products to a new set showing how these products help people in need.

Quite honestly, it’s rather genius and exactly the type of thing that helps a brand stick in the minds of people. While this welcome email could be all they sent after the initial email capture, TOMS takes a more proactive approach.

Not too long after that first email, they trigger a second email:

This message offers a discount on the next purchase at TOMS.com and are sure to include links to the various sections of their site:

  • Womens
  • Mens
  • Kids

The fact that they send these two emails back to back is an important tactic in their strategy.

By having these emails set to trigger a few minutes after that first signup, they’re making sure these messages reach someone when they are most interested and probably still on their site.

Since many people coming to the site are likely in a “buyers mindset,” the discount offer is usually just enough to tip the scales in the favor of a purchase.

I mean, come on.

Everyone loves a deal, especially when it comes to shoes.

In total, there are five emails that come through in their welcome series, most of which focus on their brand’s mission and how customers play a key role in carrying the good the company wants to do.

This is a great reminder that you can do more than one email in an automation sequence like this, especially when you have an interesting angle.

Key Takeaways For You

  1. Create an automated welcome email series. (Please, please do it.) More often than not, I see brands failing to do this and it bugs the heck out of me. People have shown some genuine interest in your brand or products.
    They obviously cared enough to give you their email address.That makes this the start of a conversation and you don’t want your side to end in crickets. TOMS uses their welcome emails to tell their story and offer an incentive to grab a sale or two.
    You should try something similar by sending automated emails that highlights aspects of your story, your brand initiatives or that invite them into a conversation on a social network.
  2. In ecommerce, discount offers work. Use them. This may feel a tad redundant, but it’s worth stating as a standalone point because it’s easy to overthink ways to bring in more revenue through email and forget the things that work. While you can and should test various methods for this, simple offers can still be the most effective so use it as your benchmark to test against.

If you need help creating an automated welcome email, we’ve got you covered. You can follow our full walkthrough for how to do this on Sendlane, right here.

Also, keep in mind that while discounts are a good way to help bump up your sales, you should only offer a discount or incentives that makes sense for your business.

This article on Shopify gives a great overview of ways to do this and how to see the whole picture before you settle on your offering.

3. No Promo Is The Same, And That’s A Good Thing

If you do them correctly, email promos can be one of the best ways to generate income from your email list. TOMS sets a prime example of sending these type of emails in a way that feels non-conforming and inviting.

This section is one we’re going to spend a bit of time in because there’s a lot to pick apart and learn from their methods here.

One thing you’ll learn from TOMS is that they tend to change the style, colors, copy and layouts in each of their promos. By that that I mean, each email related to a promo is usually entirely different from the previous one, even if it’s regarding the same promotion.

For example, these emails are about the same shoe release.

The email on the left has a photo of a girl wearing the new product and a few other examples of what the shoes look like.

The email on the right is a two-fold email. This one is letting me know about a sitewide coupon I can use and it’s also showing me the newest product that the first email told me about a week or so earlier.

You’ll notice that while the colors in each email are similar, the visual layout is different. Each one highlights a different selling point about the shoe too.

The first one is more about the fashion angle and the second one is highlighting the comfort factor they built into the shoe.

Another really important thing that TOMS does that you wouldn’t notice right away is the personalization of the content they send out.

That first email sent out has a picture of a girl wearing the product. That’s due in large part to my personal user behavior. Being a woman who is quite the loyal TOMS wearer, I show my interest mainly in shoes for myself.

A photo of a woman in the email relates better to me because I shop for myself. Had I been a guy who shops on this site, this initial email would have likely changed to show a man in the photo instead.

It’s subtle, but a vital marketing play.

Changes in layout and or content isn’t the only thing that TOMS does to shake up their promos. They also do a fantastic job of sending different types of promotions and news to their email list.

Here are some examples of what I mean by that:

Sitewide Promotions. These are emails that go out to everyone on the list because they apply to everyone.

Follow Up Promo Email. There’s a good chance that someone will forget about a sale on a website. This type of email reminds contacts about the promotion going on. The example below is to let a contact know that today is the last day to take advantage of a current deal on the website.

Rewards Program. TOMS has adopted a rewards program called Passport which allows customers to earn points on various purchases or actions that they can apply towards the products on the site.

If you have yet to become a member, you’ll receive emails about joining and there’s often an incentive for doing so.

If you’re already signed up for the rewards program, then you’ll get email exclusives that go out only to members on this list and you won’t be bothered with a reminder to join.

Re-Engagement Emails. This email triggers when someone on their email list hasn’t made a purchase in awhile. Instead of letting that lead go stagnant, TOMS sends out an email like the one you’ll see below.

Pay some attention to that subject line in this email. Notice how they call out the fact that it’s been a bit since the last time I came to their site.

They know it. I know it.

And they even miss me. (Ahhhh!)

The discount for getting back in and buying something is a great touch and helps to re-engage me as a past customer.

Key Takeaways For You

  1. Change up the style of your emails. It’s easy to get in the habit of sticking to one or even two templates for your emails and promotions, but over time, this will become predictable and boring for you audience.
    Switching out the layouts, colors, and images while making sure to stick to your brand is a great way to keep your audience excited about what you’re going to send next. This doesn’t mean that you can’t reuse layouts and styles, but that you should try to have enough variety that keeps things interesting.
  2. Remind contacts using automation. TOMS is not shy about using automation in their promotion efforts. Some of their emails are triggered based on whether or not an email was opened or if there was a click-through. Others are triggered to send to everyone when a sale is coming to an end.
    Either way, this tactic is powerful for generating revenue from your email list and could be a missing element in your own strategy that is worth testing.
  3. Track user behavior and preferences. Every customer is different. But if you keep track of what email each contact is interested in, it makes it much easier to serve them up the type of content they prefer and are more interested in purchasing.
    You’ve seen evidence of TOMS doing this and if you have the right email marketing platform then doing this should be a feature that is easy to use.
    We’ve recently released a new Deep Data integration for Shopify stores that simplifies tracking user behavior so that you can send highly targeted, personalized emails, all on autopilot.

    Personalization is a powerful yet generally underused marketing tactic. But with a feature like this in your toolset, you’ll be able to get an upper hand on your competitors while sending emails that your customers can’t wait to open.
  4. Use UTMs in all your links. Which link in your emails get the most click-throughs? How much of your traffic comes from your email list? If you’re using UTMs correctly, you’ll easily be able to answer these questions.
    TOMS uses UTMs in every link of every email. Collecting that data will helps them make better decisions across their marketing strategy and it can help you do the same. If you would like more information about how to do this, this article should help.

4. Don’t Miss Out! (a.k.a. The Abandoned Cart Email)

We’ve all been on one site or another, filled our cart with a few products and then got distracted before making the purchase. According to one finding, 3 out of 4 customers leave a site without finalizing a purchase.

Globally, this accounts for billions of dollars in lost revenue. You can help get back some of that money by sending abandoned cart emails.

With TOMS, when you don’t follow through on a purchase, they send you two automated emails like this.

The first has the headline in the form of a question and it reminds you about items left in your cart.

The second is sent only if you don’t follow through in a purchase from the last email. This email is the same in that it reminds you about your items but hinges on the selling point of FOMO (fear of missing out).

 

Both emails take you right back to your cart to pick up where you left off, but if you don’t go through with things after these two emails then that’s all the reminders you’ll get.

Sending abandoned cart emails are one of the basic practices of ecommerce email marketing and even though TOMS is a large, well-known brand they implement this into their strategy.

Key Takeaways For You

  1. Keep your abandoned cart emails basic. These are meant to be friendly reminders and you don’t want to overwhelm your customer with too many options. TOMS uses simple copy and keeps the CTAs to a minimal.
  2. One isn’t enough, but three is probably too many. Two reminders sent about an abandoned cart seems to be the sweet spot for TOMS and that could be the case with you. If you already use these emails in your strategy, try adding another one to the sequence that triggers if someone doesn’t open or finish a purchase from the click-through.

Sendlane makes visually designing these automated messages very easy, and with our new Deep Data feature for your Shopify store you can make sure to send the right email at the right moment to increase your email ROI.

Basic Can Still Make You Extra (Money, That Is)

TOMS email marketing engine uses all the basic building blocks of ecommerce email marketing and yet it’s proving to be a high yielding revenue stream they can rely on.

While they are indeed starting off with a basic framework they have still managed to make this marketing section their own in a few ways:

  • By sticking true to their brand ethics
  • Through telling their brand or customer stories
  • By using engaging visuals and layouts
  • By carefully mixing user behaviors with email automation to create more personalized emails

TOMS has not reinvented the wheel here and yet what they are doing is working. The good news is that since these basic practices for ecommerce marketing are working for such a large brand like this, then they can work for you too.

Perhaps one of the biggest contributors to their email success is how they masterfully track behavior and use it in tandem with email automation. All that data is there and if you can ethically collect it, understand it, and then use it to better serve your audience, then you should try to do that.

If you’re looking for an email marketing platform that can help you do that, then be sure to sign up for a free trial of Sendlane to access our new Deep Data for Shopify.

What about TOMS email marketing strategy did you find most interesting? Let us know in the comments below.

Kristen Dahlberg

Content Manager at Sendlane
As a member of the Sendlane content marketing team, Kristen focuses on everything from organization to content curation and process improvement. She enjoys variety and the challenge of learning the best way to accomplish each new goal.

Outside of work, Kristen spends as much time as possible at the beach, soaking up the San Diego sunshine!
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