Long copy or short copy? That is the question.
And an eternal debate among copywriters when faced with any type of text, especially when writing sales pages is whether to use short or long copy in emails.
But what about email marketing for ecommerce?
Well, as in so many other areas of marketing, the star answer is: it depends.
We are going to look at a series of factors to take into account when deciding the length of the copy of our emails and a list of best practices that we should not overlook if we want our copy to be really effective.
1. Length of the copy: considerations to take into account
Deciding whether the copy of our email marketing campaigns for ecommerce will be more or less short is not a matter of preferences, chance or how inspiration strikes us that day.
Regardless of our preferences, there are a number of factors that come into play and that we must keep in mind when writing the copy of our emails, whether long or short, to meet the objective we pursue with each campaign.
These four factors help us to decide the exact length of each of the emails we write.
A. Know our audience well
It may seem obvious, but this is one of the fundamental pillars of any marketing action. We need to know our ideal client perfectly: their needs, their desires, their dreams, their frustrations, their hobbies. Only when we have well defined the profile of this ideal customer we can be clear about how to communicate in our emails, what kind of language to use to connect with this audience reflecting the tone of the brand for which we write and what length may be appropriate for our emails.
In some sectors, this ideal audience will need a lot of information before pulling out their card and buying the products we offer them. In other sectors, simply highlighting a few product benefits may be enough to achieve our objective.
This is also influenced by the level of awareness that these customers have of the brand and the products. Since a customer gets to know us and joins our mailing list until they decide to buy for the first time, they may go through different stages (the customer journey). The exact point where the customer is in that journey will determine the focus of our emails and also, of course, the length of the copy.
Reviews from existing customers who have tried the products we sell are a wonderful resource to inspire our ecommerce email marketing campaigns. Knowing how these customers rate our products gives us a lot of information and even the exact words they use to describe what they want and need when they buy them.
These are the emotions we need to target when we write our emails and they will also help us to adjust the length of our copy.
b. Stay true to the objectives of each campaign
Each email that we send within our email marketing campaign for ecommerce has a different objective: to welcome you to the mailing list, to confirm a purchase, to recover possible abandoned cart sales, to inform about brand news, to give tips and advice on different products or activities related to the philosophy of the brand… And, of course, to sell.
We cannot lose sight of the fact that each of these emails has a different objective. This objective is key to establish the length of our copy. Remember what we said in the previous point about the customer journey.
A customer who has just bought a product expects to receive a confirmation, more details about when they will receive their order, a tracking number. Or even a cart abandoned email just gives out enough information about the product left in cart and a couple of CTAs. This type of email is usually short and direct.
On the other hand, an email in which we explain how a certain product works is an ideal opportunity to awaken the reader’s desire to know more details about the product and, of course, to buy it. Here it makes sense a longer copy focused on connecting with the desires and emotions of our audience, listing the benefits of the product, presenting an offer to buy it…
C. Let the copy do the heavy lifting
In ecommerce email marketing campaigns, the balance between copy and design plays a key role. At Hustler Marketing we know this well and we take care of every last detail in each and every campaign we create.
But in this combination of text and design, the copy has to do the “dirty” work. A beautiful email is useless without the right text that directs the reader towards the objective we are pursuing with the campaign. Every word we write has to make the reader want to read the next word and culminate in a call to action (CTA). All our email marketing campaigns for ecommerce have to include a CTA that helps the reader to perform the action we want to achieve with that email.
And our copy will be longer or shorter depending on what we need to communicate to achieve the objective of the CTA.
Depending on the type of email, the target audience or the tone of the brand, among other factors, these CTAs can be more generic (SUBSCRIBE, BUY NOW, TRY FREE…) or more specific and aligned with the products and the brand.
D. Make emails scannable
We don’t read on the internet in the same way we read a book, but we scan the page to quickly locate important information (the so-called F-pattern). Obviously, this way of reading on screens also influences the length of texts.
How can we make our emails more scannable and easier to read?
Here are some elements that help us to achieve this:
- Write short sentences and paragraphs.
- Use headings and subheadings to delimit different sections of the email.
- Use bulleted lists and numbered lists (like this one).
- Use a design that is in harmony with the text and that makes it easy to read.
This way of formatting the text can make an email with little copy end up being long. But long and easy to scan (and read) is preferable to short and chaotic.
2. Nailing the right subject line, preheaders, and the CTA
There are four elements that make up an email: subject lines, preheaders, the body of the email and the call to action.
And there are also ideal lengths for each of these elements. We are going to call them “best practices” because they are not fixed rules that cannot be broken, but rather general recommendations that we can adapt according to the needs of our ecommerce email marketing campaigns.
A. Ideal subject line length: 28 – 50 characters
Increasingly, we prefer to use our mobiles to perform tasks that we used to do on the computer. Shopping and reading emails are among them.
Knowing whether our mailing list readers read our emails on the computer or on the mobile is important in determining the length of each subject line.
The mobile phone shows fewer characters than the computer, so they can be cut off. And let’s not forget that subject lines are essential to capture the attention of our readers and get them to read our emails.
As a general rule, it is best to keep subject lines as short as possible. Keeping them under 40 characters ensures visibility in mobile environments, although according to a 2019 Backlinko study, subject lines between 36 and 50 characters can improve response rates by 30% over shorter subject lines. Check out our handy guide on 200+ subject lines to take inspiration from.
B. Ideal preheader length: 40 – 100 characters
The preheader is often used as a summary of the email or as a complement to the subject line. It may or may not appear in the body of the message, but it will always appear behind the subject line before the email is opened.
This space, especially on the computer, is larger than the subject line. This allows us to use more characters. Ideally, to be read in full, especially if it is not included in the email, it should be between 40 and 100 characters.
But as in the case of subject lines, we can follow the general rule of the shorter the better.
C. Ideal length of email copy: 50 – 200 words (20 lines)
200 words can sometimes seem short, but in other cases it will be more than enough for your ecommerce email marketing campaign. We have already discussed throughout the post all the factors that influence when deciding whether the copy of our emails will be longer or shorter.
Can you use more or less? Of course, everything will depend on the objective of our campaign, the audience we are targeting and everything we have already mentioned above. It is not the same to present a new product to the list of subscribers, its benefits, etc., as it is to announce a specific offer. A newsletter with tips related to the customer’s niche or with suggestions on how to get more out of a certain product is not the same as a welcome email to the list.
D. Ideal length of CTAs: 2 – 5 words
Short and sweet. That’s the best definition of what our CTAs should be. Simple, direct and easy to understand. And, of course, action oriented and reflecting without a doubt what the customer is going to get when clicking on them.
Between 2 and 5 words may be enough to achieve this.
3. When in doubt, A/B test
As you have seen, there are many variables to consider before deciding whether the length of the copy of your email marketing campaigns for ecommerce will be shorter or longer.
In marketing, not everything is black and white. What works for one customer or niche does not necessarily work for another, even in the same sector.
If we are not sure whether to write a long copy or a short copy, we can always do an A/B test and analyse the results to better understand the behaviour of each list. In this way, we can better understand the preferences of our customers and gradually adapt the length of our copy until we find the ideal size for each of our emails.