Modern Email Marketing Best Practices for Retail & D2C Brands

Over the past few years, shifts in consumer behaviors and preferences have significantly impacted the strategies marketing teams must leverage to ensure success for their brands. With a rise in popularity of emerging digital channels and soaring numbers of social commerce strategies, a majority of savvy marketing professionals are looking to traditional marketing channels like email to make a more significant impact on their customer bases and increase their ROI.
Despite the ever-growing consumer call for transparency in marketing and the changes in data privacy like the iOS 15 update significantly disrupting traditional email marketing strategies, agile teams know that email is one of most impactful ways to reach and engage with customers. The key to a successful modern email strategy is staying ahead of trends and implementing current best practices to ensure marketing methodologies are both meeting consumer needs and resonating with your audiences in ways they haven’t before.
Working with a variety of clients across a number of industries, Theorem’s experts are able to formulate a holistic view of the emerging email marketing trends that modern brands are leveraging to increase customer engagement, deepen customer loyalty, and help to scale lifetime value of their customer. Here are four modern email best practices proven to yield success for retail and direct-to-consumer brands. 

Optimize Onboarding

First impressions count whether in person or virtual and they can make or break customer relationships. To ensure first-time customers become lifetime customers, brands must optimize their email onboarding experience. For new customers, that means tailoring messages to the individual consumer based on their buying behavior and the contextual data surrounding it. Modern personalization strategies involve more than just adding a customer’s first name to the email greeting or subject line. They also call for looking at a customer’s journey, lifecycle, and behavior holistically and tailoring your messaging around that specific consumer’s preferences every step of the way.

According to a survey by Ascend2, 65 percent of US marketing professionals reported that more personalization was the best approach for improving the effectiveness of email programs.

What does a modern customer onboarding experience entail?
The onboarding experience includes an email series that welcomes new customers after they make a purchase, often encouraging the customer to sign up for the brand’s loyalty program or including discounts for future purchases in hopes of turning that first-time customer into a repeat customer. Although all onboarding emails should lead with a friendly tone, they should also convey a sense of urgency to engage customers while your brand is still fresh on their mind.
In addition to the utilization of loyalty programs and discounts, storytelling is one messaging format that our retail email marketing experts have found to be highly successful. Rather than simply telling a singular generic brand story, keep the customer’s interest at heart by telling a story that will feel more personal to them based on their browsing or buying behavior. 
Let’s say, for example, a customer browsed your site and stumbled on a pair of snazzy sneakers and a matching workout set, but only ended up buying the workout set. As part of your welcome series, you could consider sending an email that features a story of a happy customer who swears by the sneakers and other athletic wear that your brand sells. You can include candid photos of the products in use along with a personal, real-life story to help your new customer imagine themselves with the product. 
Get started by thinking about your buyer personas and mapping out a series of emails that will inspire loyalty and future purchases across each persona group. 
Keep in mind that optimizing may not always mean you need to add emails to your welcome series. It may also mean taking away emails that are too long, detailed, or simply not resonating. Review your key metrics — such as open rates and in-email clicks — to gauge which messages and formats are working, and which aren’t, and adjust your email strategy accordingly.

Streamline Data

Establishing a real-time data and insights strategy is a major element of modern email optimization practices. Gathering and aggregating real-time data can help boost business agility, improve campaign performance, increase operational efficiency, and enhance understanding of your audience. All of these benefits are now necessities — not just nice-to-haves — for brands hoping to engage customers effectively and grow. 

58 percent of business leaders around the world say they’ve seen marked increases in customer retention as a result of real-time data analytics, according to Harvard Business Review.

Luckily, retail and DTC brand marketers tend to have more access to first-party data than those in other areas of the company since they are so close to customers. By tapping into the gold mine of data at their fingertips, these marketers can make educated decisions to guide personalization and engagement strategies throughout every email touch. 
Additionally, email teams can and should leverage the tools that are often right within their email platform to collect data in a way that’s efficient and effective to learn more about customers’ preferences. It’s essential that teams not only collect this data but also house it in a way that unifies it to tell a story that makes sense to their business so they can apply findings to any current and future marketing and business initiatives. 
No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, letting data lead the way is a foolproof tactic to guide your email strategy to success. Without data, email building and optimization is simply a guessing game.

Quality Over Quantity

Our experts have found that sending less emails that are more relevant and personalized is a much more successful tactic than sending an abundant amount of generic emails to a large swath of recipients. Retail and DTC marketers can get more engagement and ROI out of every email by ensuring that the messaging ties back to the customer’s behavior, which includes what actions they do take in addition to what actions they don’t take. 

As a rule of thumb, before sending an email, marketers should always ask themselves — “What am I hoping the customer gets out of this email? Why am I sending this?” When you answer these questions, you’re allowing quality to be the guiding force behind your email communications rather than quantity. 

Let’s step into the customer’s shoes for a moment. Would you rather: 

A) Receive a flood of daily emails from a brand that contain products and messaging that don’t interest you 


B) Get less frequent emails that showcase content and products that you care about?

It would be hard to believe that every person who consumes products in any way, shape, or form wouldn’t choose the latter.

Developing more tailored segmentation strategies for customers and email content that is hyper-personalized around their purchase and browsing history makes the emails you send more relevant to customers who receive them. This will result in higher engagement rates across your email sends and most likely increase the lifetime value of your customers.
For a long time, marketing teams struggled to keep up with the number of emails they were tasked with producing or the numbers they were expected to hit in terms of reach. This led to “batch and blast” becoming the tactic many teams utilized to deliver emails to massive customer bases on an increasingly frequent basis. But the consumer shifts of the pandemic changed all that. 
With the widespread adaptation of automation technology taking over many facets of marketing campaign processes, teams can now eliminate the tedious and repetitive elements of their existing workloads to AI and automation solution providers. This allows today’s email marketing teams to spend more time aggregating and understanding customer data to develop strategies and messaging that is more robust, personalized, and engaging for their customers.

Lean Into Loyalty

Over the last few years, our email subject matter experts have noted that many brands are leaning into customer loyalty strategies to scale email engagement with much success. Loyalty perks and programs not only help give brands a perceived edge over competitors, but they also help improve a customer’s willingness to engage with brands on a regular basis. In addition to increasing engagement and customer lifetime value, leveraging loyalty programs allows marketing teams to request and aggregate first-party data information from customers — like their email address or phone number — as a part of the loyalty program enrollment processes.

According to Sailthru, 80 percent of consumers are willing to share personal data with brands in order to earn loyalty program benefits.

In exchange for their information, loyalty customers are provided access to exclusive deals, events, and content. From highlighting members-only events and value-based perks to integrating loyalty program education into new customer onboarding emails, the options for appealing to loyal customers via email are endless. 

However, all roads lead back to data in the current marketing landscape, and brands that are not leveraging that data to optimize their loyalty programs and email content strategies to appeal to their customers wants and needs will not see the success of those that do. In other words, brands can develop and send the most beautifully designed and curated emails that include an awesome loyalty program, but if they don’t utilize their customer data to tailor those messages accordingly, they won’t resonate with their key market or drive the ROI the team is trying to achieve.


When done well, email can be an extremely powerful, relationship-building communication tool between retail and DTC brands and their customers. These best practices, along with more strategies to gain and retain customers, will set up email marketers for great success. Remember, the quality of your emails is often more important than the quantity sent, and you only get one chance to make a positive first impression. The key to success is letting data and loyalty lead the way, ensuring that your email marketing initiatives are engaging the right customers and increasing customer lifetime value for your brand.
Above all, remember to always remain compliant with the ever-changing data privacy laws that specifically affect email strategy. These changes are not something to fear. They’re a chance for marketers to showcase their agility and optimize strategies for a future world where zero-party data reigns supreme. When brands invest in email done right, they can strengthen customer relationships and fully embrace all of the new opportunities that are sure to arise as a result of their efforts.

You may also like...

Subscribe to Our Blog

Subscribe to receive an email when we publish new content!

    Ready To Empower Your Business?

    We can help you future-ready your business with customized, innovative solutions designed to foster sustainable growth.



    Meto is a tech-based nonprofit intent on making access to quality higher education a reality for all students. We have a special focus on creating scholarships for low-income students.

    In 2018, Meto was founded to connect African students with university opportunities. Along the way, we have learned that all students can benefit from our innovative model, wherein universities make the first move and invite good-fit students to apply. So, in 2023, we opened our platform to students across the globe.


              Nikhil Badlani Foundation

              The Mission of the Nikhil Badlani Foundation (the “Foundation”) is to enhance the lives of underserved children in West Orange, NJ and neighboring communities through music lessons, scholarships, and traffic safety education for all.

              Since the Foundation was established in 2011, Theorem has consistently been an annual sponsor of and team participant in the STOP for Nikhil 5K Run/3K Walk. This event intends to raise traffic safety awareness and to serve as a way to remembervbgfc ≈ and honor those who have been killed or seriously injured in traffic accidents. We recognize the importance of raising awareness and road safety amongst teenagers and parents alike, especially in the local communities of our Chatham, New Jersey office. Learn more about the Nikhil Badlani Foundation at

              Diversity and Inclusion

              Theorem actively aids in the ongoing fight against systemic racism and discrimination, realizing the importance of ongoing discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion.

              By contributing to organizations such as Black Girls Code and the Anti-Racism fund, we aim to be a fundamental supporter of diversity in the workplace and beyond. These organizations specifically speak to Theorem’s role as a leading voice in the technology innovation space and we avidly support their missions. The vision of Black Girls Code is to empower girls of color, ages 7-17 to become innovators in STEM fields and encourages them to be the builders of their own futures. The Anti-Racism Fund serves as a response to the inequities experienced by the African-American community. It provides monetary support to a dynamic portfolio of curated organizations as a way to inject and enable social change.

              Feeding America

              Feeding America is the largest charity working to end hunger in the United States. By partnering with local food banks, food pantries and other community food programs, Feeding America looks to advance change across the country and ensure equitable access to nutritious food.

              As a long-standing contributor and sponsor of Feeding America, we deeply believe in their vision of an America without hunger. The need for and importance of organizations like Feeding America has has become more and more prevalent as communities face more hardships as a result of the pandemic and the current economy. Theorem is dedicated to its continued contributions to Feeding America to do our part to empower and strengthen our communities. Learn more about Feeding America at

              Grameen America

              Grameen America is dedicated to helping entrepreneurial women who live in poverty build businesses to enable financial stability mobility.

              Since their founding in the United States in 2008, Theorem has supported Grameen America’s mission, which seeks to build upon the legacy of Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Through financial contributions and event participation, Theorem has contributed to Grameen America’s cause. As an immigrant entrepreneur himself, our CEO Jay Kulkarni is especially eager to support the organization’s mission of aiding underserved communities. Learn more about Grameen America at

              Vision Spring

              VisionSpring is making the wonder of clear vision possible for all by helping provide affordable and quality eyeglasses to those in need. For many, lack of access to affordable eyeglasses leads to loss of employment or less educational opportunities.

              VisionSpring partners with organizations who join them in their mission of supporting livelihood initiatives, enhancing potential for all. Learn more about Vision Spring at Theorem has consistently partnered with VisionSpring to organize free events, such as eye check-ups, across multiple villages in the Mysuru, India region, impacting over 3,000 rural residents. We stand with VisionSpring in their mission to increase accessibility to quality eyewear and eye care.

              Covenant House

              Covenant House provides housing and supportive services to youth facing homelessness, helping young people transform their lives.

              For more than 5+ years, Theorem has supported Covenant House with corporate sponsorships, leading career-building workshops at their Newark, NJ shelter facility and participation in the organization’s fund raising Sleep Outs. Covenant House utilizes these Sleep Outs to raise funds and help shine a light on the injustice of youth homelessness, inspiring communities to step up and protect the vulnerable. We are proud to support Covenant House’s programs, which are designed to empower young people to overcome and rise above adversity, today and in the future. Learn more about Covenant House at

              Contract Type



              Job Title

              Contract Type



              Job Title

              Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.