You know it’s all about the discounts in ecommerce. Or is it?

Which of these subject lines would make you open an email?

Grab an amazing iPhone + iPad bundle & SAVE up to £144…

Get 25% off Everything This Weekend!

3 HOURS ONLY ⚡ 22% Off Skincare ⚡ Ends 10pm

Are these compelling? Or does it feel like they all blend into one – with none of them making you curious enough to take a look inside?

Not one of these made me open. In fact… so few of my ecommerce emails had survived Google’s aggressive filtering (and I’m on A LOT of lists), that I had to head to my spam folder to find these.

And that says it all.

If EVERY email you send has a discount, you’re training your customers to wait for those discounts before they buy. Or worse, you’re training them to ignore you – because endless “25% off” emails get boring.

And people ignoring you means you get filtered into their spam folders. Not good.

So what’s the answer?

It’s simple, but not always easy. You need to build stronger relationships with your customers.

When they first buy from you, drop them into an email welcome sequence that tells them some interesting facts about you or your brand. Tell them things that’ll make them like you. And make them want to know more.

And then when they’ve got to know you a bit – keep up the nurturing. Try not to make every single email about pretty pictures of your products + discounts. How about a founder’s email explaining some of the business goals, or something about your brand’s commitment to sustainability?

A brand I see attempting to lift themselves up a level here is M&S. Yes, they run discounts. But they also tell me about how they look after their salmon farmers, and they send me recipes. They tell me which charities I can pledge my Sparks points to, including the Stephen Lawrence Trust and The Black Curriculum – showing they’re listening to what their customers want right now.

And they don’t make every email a sales offer. I went through the last 35 emails I’d had from M&S and 14 of their subject lines mentioned discounts, offers or free shipping. The other 21 didn’t.

Their subject lines are short, simple and to the point:

This month’s 5★ hero must-haves

Supporting British farmers

Elizabeth, have you got your summer wardrobe sorted?

They’re not thinking outside the box with their subject lines but I would guess that keeping it simple is working for them. And they’ve kept away from subject lines full of endless discounts that all blend into one mass in your inbox.

Where could M&S improve?

I’d like to see more storytelling in their copy, and more of an attempt to connect with the reader. But the ratio of discounts to non-discounts alone puts them streets ahead. And, funnily enough, I don’t check whether there’s an offer on at M&S before I shop. Because they haven’t trained me to do that.

So I’d urge you NOT to make every email about discounts and ##% off. Nurture your customers. Be their friend. Make suggestions. Point them in the direction of products you think they’ll like, and bundle products that go well together.

And, of course, send them offers (just not every time you send an email). Building strong relationships will help you lift yourself out of the 25%-off scrum in the inbox, and become a brand whose emails connect as well as sell.