According to an eMarketer survey, 80 percent of retailers credit email marketing as their best tool to retain customers (followed by 62 percent for organic search and 44 percent for social media).

And the majority of these customers (75 percent) read email on their phones. So email is not only a vital tool to reach people at home or work; it now allows you to capture their attention while they walk the dog or wait in line at the post office.

So how can email marketing improve customer connections for your business?

Make your email strategy about connection, not sales.

Sure, there are lots of cool plug-ins, fancy designs, and segmentation tools that are easily accessible through MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, or any number of email marketing platforms. But all of that doesn’t add up to much if you don’t first get to know your audience and let them learn about you.

Take your company hat off for a moment and put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What will they find interesting? Would you want to open and read this email as a customer? They probably aren’t all that interested in hearing technical talk about the website bugs you’ve fixed or inventory processes you’ve streamlined. Start by asking who they are and what they care about, and then consider what problem they need you to solve.

Case in point: Exercise company Peloton sends its loyal patrons a monthly summary of their workouts, plus recommendations for future rides. It presents content that is directly relevant rather than asking customers to buy something immediately. This approach allows companies to let down their hair a bit.

Keep marketing emails simple, short, and sweet.

The secret to keeping your audience’s attention is to get to the point. Emails should be made up of short paragraphs enhanced with bullet points so readers can easily scan them. Try to keep the whole thing shorter than 500 words, and always close with a P.S., which is where people’s eyeballs naturally go.

Do you want your readers to check out the latest blog post? To schedule a call with a sales rep? To buy a hot new item? Figure out what you want them to do and make that the primary focus of your message. The easier it is to do that thing, the higher your conversion rates will be.

Short-and-sweet begins with the subject line. But that doesn’t mean the subject should be generic. If you’re having a sale, say what’s on sale. If you need customers to act by a certain date, make that clear.

Show them content that is relevant and personalized. 

Gone are the days when every member of your email list received the exact same pitch. Modern tools make it simple to populate your message with targeted offers informed by a customer’s purchase history or self-identified interests.

Are your customers in the northeast seeing unexpected snowfall? Maybe it’s time to see if any of them need a new coat. Another sweaty summer on the Gulf Coast? Push those shorts, tanks, and flip flops.

Stand out in their inbox with great visuals.

Of course you want your emails to be filled with great content and useful offers—but it helps if they look good, too. In today’s marketplace, there’s no excuse for a dull, drab message that is ultimately forgettable (and deletable). Harness the power of your brand with vibrant, powerful visuals.

Here are a few tips to give your messages maximum impact:

    • Don’t overdo it with images. A big part of effective email visuals is knowing when not to use an image. The message should make sense with or without them.
    • Use alt text with every image. If your pictures don’t load for some reason, alt text explains what was supposed to be there and prevents the reader from getting confused or discouraged when they see a broken image link.
    • Embrace white space. Don’t overcrowd things with too many images or too much text. A little breathing room between elements makes the whole thing easier to read and more appealing to click.
    • Optimize for mobile. Mobile generally means smaller screens, which is yet another reason to keep things short and sweet and minimize the number of images.
    • Check your links. It sounds simple, but double-check to make sure all links work on desktop and mobile. Nothing turns off a potential customer faster than a broken link.

Make the path to purchase quick and simple.

You’ve written stellar copy, used stunning images, expertly segmented your audience, and sent the email at just the right time. Now what? Be sure to have a connected POS system like Poynt at the ready to handle their purchases.