In the digital age, especially for e-commerce businesses, email marketing is a cornerstone of establishing a direct relationship with customers. However, sometimes, you find yourself with a vast collection of email addresses from past business interactions, events, or other sources. How do you navigate this and effectively use these emails without breaching any rules or upsetting potential clients? This guide dives deep into the DO’s and DONT’s.

1. The Principle of Consent

DON’T: Jump into sending promotional emails right away. It’s essential to recognise that even if these email addresses are from legitimate past business dealings, they didn’t necessarily give you explicit permission for marketing.

DO: Initiate a re-opt-in campaign. A simple, straightforward email asking whether the recipient is interested in receiving updates or promotions from you can be a game-changer. This not only ensures you’re emailing willing participants but also refreshes your list with engaged customers. If the email data is older than a year, you might also want to perform email verification on the list BEFORE you attempt to email them as part of some initial email data cleansing exercises.

2. Segmenting Your Email List

DON’T: Send generalised content. Not all email recipients have the same needs or interests.

DO: Segment your email list. Identify categories or areas of interest. Perhaps some met you at an event focused on a specific product, while others showed interest in a different aspect of your business. Cater your content to these unique segments to increase engagement. Build a preference centre where users can also modify their preferences aligned with the different topics covered.

3. Personalise Your Approach

DON’T: Make your emails look like mass-produced advertisements.

DO: Personalise your emails. Use the recipient’s name, and if possible, reference how you got their email (e.g., “It was great meeting you at our recent pop-up store event!”). This creates a sense of connection and recognition, which can lead to better trust and engagement.

4. Value Proposition and Content

DON’T: Dive directly into selling.

DO: Offer genuine value. E-commerce operators should lead with value. Provide guides, insights, or even exclusive discounts to pique the interest of the recipient.

5. Monitor and Adjust

DON’T: Continue using strategies that aren’t yielding results.

DO: Monitor open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. Adjust your approach accordingly. If a particular segment isn’t engaging, try a different approach or consider whether it’s worth continuing that segment. Email list maintenance is essential and removing non-performing emails (over time) could be a way to improve campaign performance.

6. Compliance and Best Practices

DON’T: Ignore the legal frameworks around email marketing. In South Africa, for example, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) offers guidelines about consent and data protection and GDPR rules apply in Europe.

DO: Ensure you’re compliant with all legal requirements. Always have an easy-to-find and straightforward “unsubscribe” option in your emails.


For e-commerce operators, email marketing can be a gold mine. However, how you approach, engage, and nurture these potential leads matters. With the right strategy, respecting the principles of consent, personalisation, and value-driven content, you can monetise your email list effectively, leading to growth and lasting customer relationships.