Jan 21, 2016

How Sticker Mule Combines E-Commerce and Email

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Sticker Mule makes stuff to stick onto other stuff. Designers upload their creations and place orders through the Sticker Mule website, and sticker fiends peruse the Marketplace for the new creations to slap all over everything in their lives. But when it comes to the company’s email marketing, blank space rules the day.

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Most emails from Sticker Mule contain just a few lines of black text on a plain white background—no fancy HTML, no images. And subscribers love it.

“I joke with our co-founder that, per character, we probably have the highest grossing email on earth,” says Tyler Vawser, the New York-based company’s VP of content.

“We’ve done some testing, like a high-graphic HTML email versus plain, and the results are either the same or the unstyled version does better,” he says. “It feels a little bit more personal. People can see through emails where there’s 50 images and it’s clear that it’s selling you something. An unstyled email just feels a bit more like an old college friend hopped on Gmail.”

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Sticker Mule’s sending schedule is equally minimalist. They email their subscribers only when there’s something important to share, like a new product launch or an improved ordering system. And Tyler prefers to forgo discounts and coupon codes in favor of direct—if unusual—calls-to-action.

“Anything that’s new, we test it, and then we’ll ask for a flood of orders and give people a break on it—maybe they get free rush production, things like that,” he says. “We get a lot of orders, but it also teaches us a lot about how to make the system better, so that when customers come back each time they’re seeing the product and experience improve.”

But keeping it simple isn’t for the faint of heart. Describing the process of writing a Sticker Mule email, Vawser invokes the famous quip of French philosopher Blaise Pascal: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

“We spend a lot of time figuring out how to make those emails as short and concise as possible,” Vawser says. “What probably looks like it took 5 minutes took an hour, because we really wanted to get the words right.”