C-4 Email & SMS Design Playbook for Ecommerce Brands 

 March 31, 2023

By  admin

This ecommerce strategy article is an excerpt from our new book, The Ultimate Ecommerce Email & SMS Playbook. We’re diving into our ecommerce strategy chapter focused on the C-4 Email & SMS Design Playbook for Ecommerce Brands. 

I remember sitting in meetings with our creative team and merchandising teams, hammering out a few new product announcements to our audience. 

Our merchant teams were super-passionate about the new products; they could rattle off dozens of fantastic new specs, features, and attributes.

Our creative team was excited to be able to showcase all those features with some mind-blowing graphics, bullet points, and banners. Considering there were a few product variations, the email would be a work of art, designed for easy scrolling and maximum readability. 

I could sense the passion in the room and stepped back to let the product and creative experts take the lead. Bear in mind I was only a few months into the role – I hadn’t even created my S.P.A.M. Strategy yet – and figured I’d listen more, talk less and defer to the seasoned vets.

After the campaign was whiteboarded, tweaked, erased, and whiteboarded multiple times again, the merchants and designers agreed on the approach. Email & SMS designs were mocked up, proofed out, and greenlit.

Results from the launch came in: 15% open rate, .5% click rate, and around $20K in sales from a half-million mailbase. Management had a hard time accepting those engagement metrics and sales numbers. 

We came into a post-mortem meeting, and the accusations flew; the creatives were too long, the product specs weren’t highlighted enough, the mailbase was too small, the product specs were highlighted too much, our competitors beat us to market, the price was too high, and so on. Fingers were pointed, and blame was distributed. 

From then on, I took a more active role. After all, OUR TEAM was tasked with revenue goals; if the revenue wasn’t growing, that would be a black eye on us. Luckily with email and SMS, the metrics for success are obvious – low clicks come from weak creatives, copy, and personalization – so I needed to be sure I could track every possible touchpoint that the customer experienced when I launched a campaign. 

Those touchpoints included the copy, the creatives, and the landing pages, so I needed to be sure I could orchestrate all those teams under one unified creative strategy for the sake of the customer and the business.

Copywriters will tell you that copy is the most persuasive part of your marketing. UX will tell you that the landing page and customer experience is the most important part of the journey. And your creative team will be adamant about why the creative is key to every sale. 

Having worked with dozens of teams, workers, and departments, as well as tested every possible variation of copy, content, creative, and conversion, I can confidently say that not one single creative option fully wins the customer over. This is why I created the C-4 Email & SMS Design Playbook.

Copywriters can persuade, but they may not get the click. Creatives may get the click but may not get people to convert. UX may get people to convert, but if the traffic isn’t there, thanks to great ad copy and clicks, there’s no scale. 

Every element must work together to attract, engage and convert the customer. The C-4 Email & SMS Design Playbook puts all the control in the hands of the customer-centric strategist; if you put the ownership into any one of the creative teams, you’ll get unduly influenced in one creative direction. 

Jeff I. Richards, a professor at Indiana University, said, “Creative without strategy is called art; creative with strategy is called advertising.” That line rings true for e-commerce marketing. With hundreds of creative tests under my belt, I’ve pieced together our C-4 Email & SMS Design Playbook to incorporate the top four strategic elements for great email & SMS marketing. 

The C-4 Email & SMS Design Playbook comes from the old action films back in the day where the bad guy always seemed to get their hands on some C-4, a highly volatile plastic explosive. Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger would always stop it from detonating, to the delight of moviegoers, but clearly, it was some highly explosive contraband.

Being a little cheesy, I decided to take our four-step email & SMS design creative process that would “explode” your sales and create another playful mnemonic for our clients to remember. Hence, the C-4 Design Playbook was created, and it’s provided fantastic clarity, buy-in, and results from every business, team, and stakeholder we’ve met.

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