Tech commentators love to declare—with seemingly great confidence—that email marketing is on its last legs. But one look at your inbox is enough to prove “You’ve (still) got mail.”
Ecommerce email marketing is a way for store owners to reach their customers with relevant, personalized messages at the right time—without needing permission from the internet’s increasingly restrictive gatekeepers. Plus, email has seen consistently healthy growth in global users, with no signs of slowing down.
Whether you’re a small store owner getting started with email marketing or dreaming up your next big campaign, our guide reveals which ecommerce email campaigns work best and how to make the most of every broadcast.
What is ecommerce email marketing?
Ecommerce email marketing is the practice of sending marketing messages to prospective and current customers via email in order to sell, educate, or build customer loyalty.
Email is an “owned” digital marketing channel—that is, the sender fully controls the content and distribution—and typically works best when used to send personal, relevant messages to segmented lists of recipients.
Email is an especially important tool for ecommerce, where it’s used for sending transactional, promotional, and lifecycle messages. It’s a smart way to connect with people on their mobile devices and get the most from your marketing efforts.
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3 ecommerce email marketing types
Let’s explore the three types of email marketing used by ecommerce merchants.
1. Transactional emails
Transactional emails are sent during checkout and other purchasing actions. They’re more functional in nature, sending key information to individual customers.
According to one study, transactional email open rates hover around the 60% mark—much higher than the 37.65% average. Why? Because transactional emails are not just expected, they’re anticipated. Customers seek them out.
Order confirmation and email receipts
Use email order confirmations as an opportunity to keep a customer after an initial sale.
Ensure your email receipts answer the basic questions customers have: when they can expect to receive the order, what address you’re shipping to, and where they can ask questions. Only once the fundamentals are in place should you experiment with extras.
For repeat customers, try suggesting related products, or include the option for an add-on or accessory to their purchase before it ships.
Crate & Barrel, for example, sends an order confirmation email before it ships packages to its customers, inviting them to add more items to their box.
Source: Really Good Emails
Ways to improve order confirmation emails:
- Upsell related products by suggesting accessories, offer the option to buy the same product for a friend as a gift, or add the option for a subscription purchase.
- Offer a discount code or free shipping for a future purchase within a limited time frame. This is called a bounce-back offer, and it’s one way the loss in revenue you’ll incur by giving a discount makes sense, because it’s often better to have the customer come back at a cheaper price than not at all.
- Ask the customer to join your community. If you’re selling a purely functional product, this may not work. But businesses that seek to have shared values with their customers should use their receipts as another avenue to get customers plugged in to their community.
Shipping confirmation email
Shipping confirmation emails are sent once a package has been shipped. They’re valuable because your customer is already excited about receiving their order. They’re also an underused opportunity to get creative and delight your customers.
Think outside the box in terms of converting more customers. How can you use the shipping confirmation email to drive action and deepen a customer’s relationship with your brand?
For example, Tradesy (now known as Vestiaire Collective) uses its shipping confirmation email to promote its referral program, encouraging customers to gift friends and family $20 off.
Source: Really Good Emails
Ways to improve shipping confirmation emails:
- Make it easy for your customers to track their order. Include the expected delivery date and tracking number linked to the shipping company so people can click to see exactly where their order is.
- Suggest the customer refer a friend by forwarding a link to the product they purchased. Incentivize word-of-mouth marketing by implementing a referral program with rewards.
- Include product suggestions that match a customer’s purchase. For example, if a customer purchases a pair of men’s pants, product recommendations could focus on matching shirts and ties.
Many brands neglect customer feedback at their peril. Fortunately, soliciting feedback can be as simple as sending a survey or a single question about the customer’s shopping experience.
In your post-purchase emails, send customers to a third-party survey tool for feedback, or include the full survey in the email itself. Oftentimes, businesses do that by using a rating system (e.g., “Rate your experience”).
You’ll want to send these requests after a customer presumably has received and used the product they ordered. Here’s an example survey from Dairy Queen:
Source: Really Good Emails
Ways to improve customer feedback emails:
- Focus on customer satisfaction, not sales, so you can get your customers’ thoughts on their purchase. Track these metrics over time and look for actionable insights you can implement to improve your business.
- Place the customer review/survey form on your website so the customer can see related offers and products after submitting their feedback.
- Follow-up with unhappy customers. This is essential, first to prompt a response and next to figure out how you can improve the experience for future customers.
- Include the review on the product page as user-generated content to boost future buyers’ confidence.
Thank you email
Thank you emails are a superb way to inspire customer loyalty. They allow your company to stay visible in their inbox and give you another opportunity to increase your click-through rate with coupons and links to your online store.
HubSpot reports that thank you emails are twice as engaging as general marketing emails. Thank you emails generated a 42% open rate and a 14% CTR, while general marketing emails generated a 12% open rate and a 6% CTR.
Create basic text-based emails or use automated email templates. Companies like Bee Free offer templates and services for all types of emails for your business. In the example below, Bee sends out thank you emails to its email subscribers.
Source: Really Good Emails
Ways to optimize your thank you emails include:
- Keep it simple. Make the message short and sweet and offer a call to action so customers can continue to interact with your business.
- Use smart CTAs. A smart CTA automatically changes based on who is viewing it. This will make your thank you a much more personalized email and make it more likely that your customer will follow through with that CTA.
- Make them social-media friendly. One of the best ways to get your marketing emails to the right people is to have them shared. Now your customers can do that by forwarding the email itself, but if they can share it on social media, they’ll be able to reach a lot more people a lot more quickly.
2. Promotional emails
Promotional emails are designed to raise awareness for a specific deal or (you guessed it) promotion.
Broadcast emails are sent to your entire list of subscribers or, more commonly, to a segment of your email list. Examples of broadcast emails include a new product release, monthly email newsletters, a time-sensitive promotion, seasonal deals, or a content update.
You can think of these emails as messages you send when you have something newsworthy to share, so carefully consider your underlying goal, offer, and the segment of subscribers.
New products (or services)
New products often are developed thanks to feedback from customers, so there’s no better place to begin when launching a product than with your subscribers. If your latest release appeals to a specific set of your customers, for example, you can segment your list based on previous purchases and offer priority access.
Create a time-sensitive promotion that relates to customers’ interests. Offer a discount on the same category of items they bought the week before. Remember, when a sale is compelling, it’s best not to let overly clever copy get in the way.
Whether you send a regular newsletter or set up a drip campaign about special promotions, you can always include discount codes to boost your subscribers’ motivation to make a purchase. Offering a feeling of exclusivity and membership is a great way to introduce emotion into your marketing.
You can see how retailer Pioneer uses subscriber-only discounts in the email below. The brand teases its future Black Friday sale, letting subscribers know they’ll receive a special promo code on the day of the sale.
Source: Really Good Emails
A traditional and effective form of email marketing is notifying subscribers of special offers based on upcoming holidays or the time of year.
You might want to let your subscribers know about a Black Friday sale, an after-Christmas sale, or a spring clearance sale. You can also remind people about upcoming holidays, like Father’s Day.
Apparel brand Everlane, for example, promotes its Black Friday sale through email via banners. It uses a lime green banner color that stands out to receivers, and promotes 40% off for the sale. Potential shoppers can head to the site easily by clicking on the Shop Now link.
Source: Really Good Emails
A regular email newsletter can help with the important tasks of educating your customers and telling your brand story. It’s an under-appreciated way of staying in contact and building closer connections with customers (and prospects) without relying on discounts or promotions.
Everyone loves a compelling story, so if you can find a notable one from a staff member, customer, or even your own business and life, consider using it as a topic for a newsletter.
Maybe a customer used your fitness products to lose 50 pounds, or you could share what originally inspired you to start your business. Whatever the story is about, it should be both interesting and relevant to your brand.
In the example below, Rothy’s shares more information about the brand’s mission to make a positive impact on the world—specifically how the company supports sustainability. It’s a smart way to form a stance and speak to customers who feel the same way.
Source: Really Good Emails
If you use content marketing to educate current customers and reach new ones, consider including that content in a regular newsletter, or have new content sent out automatically over email through RSS.
When you’re able to make the investment, consider creating content that provides additional context for your new or updated products (e.g., grooming tips for beauty products).
An upsell email is a marketing device that triggers after a customer puts an item into their cart when shopping in your ecommerce store. It informs your customer that there is a premium or upgraded version of the item.
The right upsell email will encourage your customers to go with the upgraded service, giving you a higher sale and average order value.
In the example below, Athletic Greens offers readers the chance to upgrade to a subscription. If the reader takes advantage of the deal, they can save $20 per month and get a host of extra benefits.
Source: Really Good Emails
Cross sell email
Cross-sell messages are triggered emails sent based on previous actions taken by the subscriber. These emails pull in the purchase history, browser behavior, and other profile data, and are sent a few days after the initial action.
Apparel marketplace Lyst sends a message based on brands customers are interested in. You’ll see in the example below, the receiver can browse their favorite brands in the email window and click “See More” to browse the full collection.
Source: Really Good Emails
3. Lifecycle emails
Lifecycle emails are powerful because they’re personal and only target a small segment of your subscribers with relevant messages based on their behavior. They’re also known as “triggered” emails, so named because they’re sent based on what action a shopper took and where that shopper is in the customer lifecycle.
Shopping cart abandonment emails
The average shopping cart abandonment rate sits at around 70%. That’s a lot of revenue left unrealized. Fortunately, you can win a few of those potential customers back.
Abandoned cart emails are the closest thing there is to a “quick win” in ecommerce. Merchants can typically recover between 5% and 11% of otherwise lost sales.
Consider including an added incentive for completing a purchase, though this can coach shoppers into abandoning their carts for a discount. At the very least, use benefits-driven copy that nudges them back to your store with credit card in hand.
Barbershop Rudy’s sends a cart abandonment email with a limited-time free shipping offer.
Source: Really Good Emails
Ways to improve cart abandonment emails:
- Put the main message in text format so customers will see it right away without having to enable images. Include a link back to their shopping cart so they can easily complete the transaction.
- Visually show the products a customer added to their cart. Remind them they were just moments away from a completed order, and focus on the reasons why they’d consider buying the product in the first place. Highlight specific features and show off high-quality product photos.
- Communicate a specific incentive to return to their cart, such as free shipping or discounts. If an item is running out of stock, let customers know as a courtesy while also instilling a sense of urgency.
- Use a clear, compelling call to action. Keep it concise and limit yourself to a single call. Multiple CTAs can distract from the action you really want the customer to take: completing their purchase.
Welcome email series
Welcome emails are what you receive when you submit your email address to an online store.
According to a study done by GetResponse, welcome emails have an average open rate of 90.09% and an average CTR of 27.06%. Though the data varies, first purchase email automation generally produces three to six times more sales compared to a regular promotional email.
Shoe insole retailer Fulton is a great example of a welcome series. The brand offers a 10% discount code with free shipping and free returns on the customer’s order. This email is triggered immediately after signing up for the brand’s email list.
Source: Really Good Emails
Ways to improve welcome emails:
- Provide value upfront. You don’t want to inundate customers with promotional messages during your only window of opportunity to create a strong first impression.
- Send your welcome email within minutes. Let’s say you incentivize joining your newsletter with a promo code for 10% off the customer’s next purchase. If someone is ready to purchase now and they don’t receive that promo code, you risk losing out on the sale for good.
- Set transparent expectations. Let subscribers change preferences easily, inform them what new content you’ll be sending and how frequently, and remind them of how they ended up on your list in the first place.
Second order emails
Let’s say you sell video games. You might notice that, on average, a week after purchasing a video game console, 20% of customers purchase a second controller. Another 50% of customers don’t return at all.
In order to turn that 20% into 70%, you design a new customer or second order email campaign. When an order comes through for a video game console, an automated email campaign that showcases controllers triggers a week later.
This requires that you start looking at your customers and segmenting your data in Google Analytics. Some people will buy the controller when they buy the console, but there’s a sizable segment that won’t, which is where you have leverage.
Source: Really Good Emails
Ways to improve second-order emails:
- Start with your two or three top-selling products. Are there any complementary products associated with your top-selling products?
- Try increasing their effectiveness with discount ladders. In this scenario, all you do is highlight a complementary product. You could also try offering a discount on that complementary product. Or try offering a discount ladder: 5%, then 10% if they don’t bite, then 15%, etc.
- Test campaigns based on your own data. No one can tell you what your top-selling products are or which products would be complementary to them or when to send the one-two-punch campaign. These campaigns will look different for everyone.
Win-back email series
Win-back email campaigns are designed to lure lapsed customers back to positive purchasing behavior.
Let’s say customers tend to come back and make their second purchase after 45 days. If 45 days come and go without a second purchase, you know it’s unlikely that customer will ever make a second purchase.
Or let’s say you’ve had an active customer who has purchased from you every 45 days or so for the past six months. Recently, he’s been MIA: No orders over the past 44 days.
This is where a win-back campaign goes to work. An email would automatically be sent out after 45 days of no activity, because you know, according to your store’s unique situation, that’s unusual for a healthy, active customer.
Outdoor Voices, for example, offers inactive subscribers $20 to use for online purchases over $100.
Source: Really Good Emails
Ways to improve win-back emails:
- Test early so you don’t leave money on the table. Split test these emails to find out what the minimum amount you can offer is without losing conversions. Can you get away with 5% instead of 10%? Perhaps 10% instead of 15%?
- After 90 days of inactivity, the outlook is not good. If someone goes three months without purchasing, the odds of them returning to purchase aren’t great. Though, this is definitely dependent upon your store and industry. Some stores simply have a long sales cycle. Just be aware that you will probably start experiencing diminishing returns at 90 days.
Referral email campaigns
Referral emails are a great way for an ecommerce business to spread the word about its brand and what it has to offer. Studies show that almost 90% of consumers trust referrals from people they know, beating online reviews and traditional ads.
If you look at the example below, MeUndies offers a 20% referral coupon to anyone referred to the brand by a customer. On top of that, the brand gives the customers who are doing the referring $20 for each referral that results in a sale.
Source: Really Good Emails
Ways to improve referral emails:
- Have a good headline/subject line. Make it clear and to the point and make it easy for people to see what you’re offering. Personalizing it will also give your headline extra appeal.
- Offer a good incentive. A good incentive will do wonders for your referral program. A coupon or free trial can go a long way to introducing your business to a new audience.
Feedback from your customer base is crucial to improving your business. The survey email helps you collect data that can gain and retain customers.
If you’re thinking of branching out or adding a new product or service to your repertoire, run a poll to see what sorts of things your customers would like. You can also use surveys to check out the competition your customers like and ask them why.
The great thing about survey emails is you can ask your customer base whatever it is you’ve been wondering.
Just take a look at Handy. It uses a simple one-question poll and presents it in a fun way to see what sorts of cleaning services are more in demand for its customer base. Using this information, it can arrange deals that push certain services or take advantage of demand.
Source: Really Good Emails
Ways to improve survey emails:
- Make your subject line eye-catching and fun. Use action words and inviting text that encourages your customers to participate in your survey.
- Say how long it will take and the incentive you’re offering. Make it clear how much time the customer will spend on the survey—it could be a single question or an hour-long endeavor. Include an incentive that is equal to the time you’re asking your customer base to spend.
- Create a sense of urgency. Giving your survey a deadline will prevent your customers from delaying in filling out your survey, allowing you to get the data you need in a timely manner.
Why email marketing is key to ecommerce success
The reality of website traffic, even highly targeted traffic, is that most new visitors to your store will never return. Building an email list and sending compelling broadcasts gives you a way to retain the traffic you worked so hard to earn.
If your online store hasn’t taken the time to adopt email marketing, you’re likely leaving money on the table. Here are four reasons to consider employing email in your ecommerce marketing mix.
Email lets you build ongoing customer relationships
Search engines and social media platforms are great for getting discovered by future customers, but email remains the best way to maintain and strengthen existing relationships over time.
Data from Constant Contact shows that the average email open rate is 33.02%, the average click-through rate is 1.37%, and the average bounce rate is 10.07%.
Email also plays a pivotal role in encouraging a customer’s second purchase and beyond. Having customers return is important for many businesses because it keeps their average cost of acquiring a customer down.
Email is incredibly effective at driving sales
Of course, certain businesses (and products) pair especially well with email marketing, and returns are never guaranteed. But over the years, similar research has painted the same picture: email is a high-performing channel that frequently outperforms the alternatives.
Shopify data shows that email as a channel had the highest average order conversion rate during Black Friday Cyber Monday.
What’s more, Campaign Monitor reports that 64% of small businesses use email as their primary channel for acquisition and retention. Email marketing is relatively unique in its ability to drive the first sale as well as unlock more revenue from your most valuable customers.
Email can affect the three main growth multipliers
Most entrepreneurs pursuing an acquisition “silver bullet” usually end up disappointed and discover that acquiring customers can quickly get expensive.
Marketer Jay Abraham was one of the first to popularize the idea that there are only three ways to grow revenue: increase the total number of customers (C), increase the total number of purchases per customer (purchase frequency, or F), or increase the average order value (AOV).
Ecommerce email marketing offers a viable way out of the acquisition rat race because it can influence all three growth multipliers at the same time:
- Automated welcome and abandoned cart emails can increase conversion rates (C)
- Bounce back or win-back campaigns can increase a customer’s number of purchases (F)
- Lifecycle campaigns and broadcasts can automatically highlight high-value products to the right customers (AOV)
Systematic focus on all three areas will further compound your results, and that’s one of the biggest reasons why it’s worth creating a deliberate ecommerce email marketing strategy when growing an ecommerce business.
Email isn’t influenced by third-party gatekeepers
Email isn’t subject to the whims of centralized platforms, where unplanned tweaks to algorithms can completely derail a distribution strategy.
In contrast, organic reach for Facebook pages has been declining since 2018, as the platform continues to focus its feed on promoting content from friends and family.
Similarly, climbing the search rankings in Google is only getting harder, with advertisements and answer boxes resulting in a noticeable increase in no-click searches, especially on mobile. More than ever, if you want to reach your customers on these platforms, you may be forced to pay—and those costs are increasing.
Create a successful ecommerce email marketing strategy
1. Choose an email service provider (ESP)
There are many robust and cost-effective email marketing services to choose from, so don’t get caught up trying to pick one that’s “perfect.” You can always switch providers down the line.
Instead, pick a well-reviewed ESP that fits your needs (e.g., pricing, drag-and-drop editors, email templates, etc.), then start emailing and driving sales.
For Shopify customers, Shopify Email comes integrated with your Shopify store, making it quick and easy to create, send, and engage with your customers.
Email clients like Klaviyo, Privy, and Omnisend are other popular apps that integrate with Shopify and serve as customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. Check out our full list of email app recommendations on the Shopify App Store.
2. Start building your email list
Ask any online business owner about their biggest marketing regret and many will tell you it’s that they didn’t start collecting email addresses from Day 1. Learn from this frequent mistake and start growing your list of subscribers as soon as you can, even before you launch your business.
A key thing to know before you begin building your email list is that you need permission to follow up with prospects and customers over time. To do that, subscribers need to “opt-in” to hear from you, and there are a number of ways you can encourage them to do so.
How to build an email list fast
In this video we look at six strategies you can use to build your email list fast and for free, even if you’re starting from scratch.
How to Build an Email List From Scratch (Email Marketing Tutorial)
Set up a pre-launch page
Although real product validation requires paying customers, an engaged email list full of potential customers is a close second.
Set up a basic landing page on your domain that invites visitors to stay informed by entering their email address. Don’t beg—write copy that describes what’s exciting about your upcoming product and offer strong incentives for early adopters where it makes sense (e.g., early-bird customers get 20% off on launch day).
Collect emails from sales and customer accounts
Customer accounts are valuable to businesses because they require shoppers to share relevant information—including their email address. They also make purchasing history easier to track.
Provide the option to create an account after a customer’s first order has been placed. If you’re using Shopify, customer accounts are optional, and you can send customers direct invitations encouraging them to activate an account after they’ve completed a purchase.
Place opt-in forms across your site
To grow your list, you need to ask people directly to sign up. So it stands to reason the best place to ask is where they’re already engaged, on relevant pages across your online store. Just be sure you’re not compromising your site’s design and leaving a bad first impression.
Try placing your signup forms in these locations first:
- Your header, navigation, or footer. Although these locations will likely have lower overall conversion rates than a dedicated landing page, over time, the number of subscribers they generate will add up.
- Your About Us page. If your About Us page is doing its job selling your company’s vision, it’s a great place to encourage customers to subscribe.
- Your blog or resource pages. A targeted opt-in form inline or in the sidebar of your blog can help move them down the funnel.
- A pop-up form. Exit-intent pop-ups only show when a visitor moves their mouse off your website toward the search bar or back button, giving you a second chance to collect their email. Try apps like Privy or Justuno on the Shopify App Store to create your pop-ups.
Accelerate sign-ups with lead magnets
Too often, online businesses assume the idea of receiving a newsletter is a compelling enough reason for people to subscribe. Marketing is about messaging and measurement, and “Get our weekly emails” is not a compelling message.
To up the ante, consider creating a real offer as an added incentive for visitors to share their email. Here are a few tried-and-true approaches:
- Offer exclusive deals and discounts. Discounts often make financial sense if they keep a prospect you were going to lose anyway, which means they can be a solid motivator to get customers to leave their email.
- Run sweepstakes or a contest. Although contests can potentially bring in a lot of signups, the inherent downside is the person you’ll attract is looking for free stuff. Use a contest app to break through the noise, or to jumpstart your list, but don’t rely on them to grow an engaged audience for the long term.
- Access to educational content. Produce a free piece of content that contains tangible value for your target customers and will put them into a buying frame of mind. The best converting lead magnets offer something visitors can immediately apply and highlight a gap your product can fill.
Ask for emails in person
If you sell your products through pop-up shops, take one-off orders from friends, or already have a physical storefront, you’ll encounter a number of opportunities to ask customers for their email directly.
The same idea applies to physical calls to action: packaging inserts and small cards shipped with orders that can include discounts or offers for customers who return to store. Alternatively, use a QR code that, when scanned, takes customers to a separate landing page on your ecommerce website.
3. Send emails legally
The relationship you build with your email list needs to be based on permission; not just from a marketing standpoint, but a legal one too.
Email promotion is an example of “permission marketing”—a term coined by Seth Godin, marketer and bestselling author—which means people can opt in and out of their relationship with your brand as they please. If you neglect the law, you could face serious fines.
Familiarize yourself with the following rules and regulations:
- CAN-SPAM. The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act. CAN-SPAM sets rules around commercial email.
- GDPR. The General Data Protection Regulation is meant to protect personal data for individuals within the European Union.
- CASL. Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation helps protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace.
Disclaimer: The material shared in this guide is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any specific questions about the legality around sending email, consult a lawyer who specializes in this area.
How to track ecommerce email marketing performance
1. List size and growth
The larger your email list, the more potential customers you can reach to grow sales. Keep track of this metric by using your email service provider to see how many new subscribers you’ve added on a weekly or monthly basis, or between your most recent broadcast emails.
2. Open and click-through rates
An open rate is a percentage that tells you how many successfully delivered emails in a campaign were opened by subscribers. A standard open rate is between 20% and 33%. You will notice your open rate is usually higher when you’re first starting out.
A click-through rate is a percentage that tells you how many successfully delivered emails in a campaign registered at least one click. A standard click-through rate is generally two to three times the conversion rate of your online store, just less than 3% on average, according to Mailchimp.
While open and click-through rates measure separate behaviors, together they tell you something about how engaging your emails are. When the numbers are lopsided—for example, if lots of people opened an email but few clicked the call to action—you can see what improvements are worth making.
Learn more: 20 Email Marketing Best Practices to Turn Campaigns Into Sales
3. Deliverability and list health
A hard bounce is an email that’s returned to the sender because of an invalid address. A good hard bounce rate is below 2%.
Spam filters are fairly straightforward. There is a long list of factors emails are scored on. If the email’s score gets too high, it’s flagged as spam by the email server.
As a general rule, you’ll want to avoid:
- Using all caps, exclamation marks, and trigger words like “FREE”
- Big images with very little text, because many spam filters don’t recognize images
- Emailing old lists you haven’t properly maintained over the years
Human spam filters are even more complex. If you’re consistently reported as a sender of spam, you’ll hurt your deliverability rates for all subscribers.
Avoid buying lists or sending emails without explicit permission, being vague about when you’ll email, hiding the unsubscribe option or making the process of unsubscribing unnecessarily difficult, or leaving unengaged, inactive leads or customers on your list.
4. A/B test results
A/B testing lets you confidently send high-performing emails by testing specific messaging, design, and calls to action with a smaller segment of subscribers first.
Running an A/B test means carving out three groups of recipients: an A group, a B group, and a C group. After sending two variations of an email to the A and B groups, you’ll use your analytics to decide which message performed better by way of generating more engagement or sales. Then, you’ll send the winning version, whether that’s A or B, to your final pool of recipients (C).
What percentage of your store’s total revenue can be attributed to email marketing? In his Shopify Academy course, AutoAnything CEO Drew Sanocki says he’s seen many successful stores get about 20% of their total revenue from their email channel.
The value of using green light benchmarks
Tracking the performance of your marketing on any channel is essential, but obsessing over email marketing metrics is an easy way to get distracted.
Instead, consider aiming for “green light benchmarks,” a concept created by Ramit Sethi. Once you’ve reached a certain threshold (such as Sanocki’s benchmarks, below), give yourself the green light to move on to something else:
- A 20% open rate, which says you’re sending relevant emails to the right people with interesting subject lines.
- A 5% click-through rate, which says the content and offers in your emails are compelling enough to click.
- A 20% of total store revenue from email marketing, which says email marketing as a channel is converting first-time customers and upselling existing customers enough to warrant further investment.
Bonus: Drew Sanocki also created a simple free template you can use to track the individual performance of your initial email marketing campaigns.
Lifecycle automation: the next level of email marketing for ecommerce
Email marketing messages gain potency through relevancy, which means sending email based on a customer’s existing behavior. We can do this with RFM—a database marketing term that helps define customer buckets:
- Recency is the number of days since a subscriber’s or customer’s last purchase. An R0 purchased today. An R365 purchased a year ago.
- Frequency is the total number of times a subscriber or customer has purchased. An F0 has never ordered. An F10 has ordered 10 times.
- Monetary value is a customer’s total spend—the sum of all orders.
While there are a near-infinite number of segments you can create based on a customer’s existing behavior, there are five essential buckets you can start with first when outlining the customer lifecycle:
Segment 1: New subscribers
Your goal with brand new subscribers is to build trust, introduce your products, and get them to make their first purchase. In other words, to establish a relationship that turns them from an F0 (no purchases) into an F1 (first purchase).
Segment 2: One-time buyers
Due to high customer acquisition costs, most retailers break even on the first purchase, the F1, and it’s only on repeat purchases that they generate profits. And yet if you were to look at all your customers today, you’d probably have 80% to 90% single-purchase, marginally profitable customers.
Improving this area makes you money. A bounce-back email is an ideal campaign to run, or a campaign that delivers an offer on a product related to the product that was just purchased.
Segment 3: VIPs
Your “whales” are those customers who make large or consistent purchases from you. These customers are worth a lot and, better yet, they rarely require discounts to come back.
To engage these customers, employ targeted email campaigns that court them and keep them buying—say and showcase how much you value their business, give them an 800 number if it makes sense, or offer a special loyalty program. And don’t forget to gather feedback on what they want to buy so you can sell it to them later.
Segment 4: Defecting customers
While these folks might have been enthusiastic customers at one point, for one reason or another, they aren’t now.
When a customer is slipping away, to potentially never purchase again, offering discounts to win them back can make financial sense. The perfect email for this segment is called a win-back, which should include an eye-catching offer with a deep discount used to entice them to return.
Segment 5: Cart abandoners
Once a cart abandonment campaign is in place, test a series of emails that goes out over two weeks. Start with gentle reminders first and, if they don’t work, move on to greater incentives, like discounts. You’ll find that many of your recovered carts return before the discounts are even required.
Push send and drive more sales through ecommerce email marketing
One of the best things about email marketing is it’s a low-risk channel to explore when you’re getting your feet wet.
Start building a basic email list, set up your first cart abandonment campaign right away, and slowly iterate until you have a holistic ecommerce email marketing strategy in place. There’s no better time than now to get started.
Ecommerce email marketing FAQ
How does ecommerce use email marketing?
What are the different types of email marketing for ecommerce?
What is the best email marketing tool?
The Shopify Email tool allows you to create, run, and track email marketing campaigns. With it, you can customize email templates to use product content from your store to create beautiful emails.