Email Marketing for Ecommerce

Whether you’re stepping into the email marketing realm or want to create your next big campaign, our guide will help you make the most out of your email marketing efforts.

Robbie Fitzwater
Updated on

If you run an eCommerce store, email marketing is going to be an extremely vital part of your business.

Why? Because running an e-commerce business includes:

  • Connecting with customers.
  • Updating them on their order confirmation.
  • Keeping them aware of the shipping status.  

And believe it or not, you will need email more than any marketing channel to serve this purpose effectively. 

In fact, email marketing for eCommerce is 40x more effective than social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. 

So if you are curious to understand email marketing for eCommerce in-depth, dive right in. 

Topics covered in this blog:

  1. What is Email Marketing for Ecommerce?
  2. Why is Email Marketing for Ecommerce Important?
  3. Three Essential Types of Emails
  4. How to do Email Marketing?
  5. How to Build an Email Marketing Strategy?
  6. Where to Begin Email Marketing From?
  7. How to Track Performace?

What is Email Marketing? 

Email marketing is the process of leveraging email as a direct marketing channel to help acquire new customers for your business and retain the existing ones. 

It helps businesses build owned/addressable audiences to communicate business offerings and solutions. Email marketing for Shopify or any other eCommerce platform establishes your brand as the trusted provider in the industry. It gives eCommerce businesses the opportunity to communicate with the right person, with the right message, at the right time.

Email marketing allows businesses to personalize and tailor their message according to the customer’s needs to convince them to take a specific action. 

The element of personalization in emails connects the audience with the business and turns one-time customers into repeat ones. 

While email marketing is essential for almost every type of business, it is the lifeblood for eCommerce businesses. 

So let’s dig deeper and understand the importance of email marketing for eCommerce. 

Email Marketing for Ecommerce: Why is it Important?

Whether you want to do email marketing for Shopify or any other eCommerce platform, there are a bunch of reasons why email marketing for eCommerce matters. Here are some of them:

It Helps in Building a Stable Business

Email marketing is the most effective marketing channel compared to social media, blogs, etc. Among all other marketing channels, email marketing is still at the top when it comes to conversion rates. 

Moreover, email marketers enjoy $38 worth of return on every dollar spent, making email marketing the highest revenue-generating channel.  

Email marketing also provides your eCommerce business with a tremendous opportunity to monetize your audience conveniently. 

These things enable you to build a more stable business. And that too without incurring high acquisition costs. 

Email Marketing is the Most Cost-Effective Channel to Acquire and Retain Customers

Do you know that acquiring and retaining customers can cost pretty pennies? You have to run paid ads, maintain an online presence, and whatnot. But this is not the case with email marketing. 

There are no high costs involved to capture a lead and turn it into a paying customer in email marketing. All you need to do is send the right personalized message to the right audience at the right time. 

That is why email marketing is considered one of the most profitable and strongest retention channels. 

Growth Multipliers

There are three ways you can geometrically grow a business. 

  1. You can increase the number of customers
  2. You can increase the average order value
  3. You can increase the lifetime value of each customer

If you double any of those three growth factors, you’re going to double the value of your business. 

And guess what? All of these three growth strategies can be leveraged with the help of email marketing. 

They also come without an acquisition cost, so the profitability component is still there. And when you can increase the lifetime value of each customer, it means that you’re also moving that average order value up each time. 

In this way, email marketing helps you to push forward the numbers of your business. 

It Helps You Build an Owned Audience

Building an audience on social is quite different than building an audience through email marketing. 

On social media, you’re constantly battling against an algorithm. In fact, I sometimes joke about it and say that Facebook made me a better marketer because it was always making me change, evolve and push things forward.

But I hated it at the same time because I missed that addressable audience. 

Gladly, there is no algorithm to beat while marketing emails, making it a lot easier to build an owned audience. 

It allows you to invest your resources and attention in building relationships that can make your business flourish. 

It Helps in Customer Lifecycle Optimization

Customer Lifecycle

Email marketing for eCommerce also allows you to focus on optimizing the customer lifecycle. You can use this to test your messaging to understand how you can drive different behaviors at different stages of the customer journey.

A customer journey consists of four stages:

  1. Reach
  2. Act
  3. Convert
  4. Engage

This framework enables you to understand how to reach people at the top of the funnel.

You can engage with an audience, make them aware of how your product is useful for them, and understand how to convert them into paying customers. 

By doing this, you get to test different behaviors of your audience, based on which you can automate your messaging. 

It Enables You to Collect and leverage 1st Party Data

Email marketing for eCommerce allows you to collect valuable first-party data, which is helpful in customization and creating an authentic relationship with the audience. 

Having different use cases around your product or services helps you communicate with the audience based on their needs, making you stand out from the rest. By leveraging 1st party data, you can positively impact your audience.

For example, one client we work with, we ask, what is their horse’s birthday? What’s the horse’s name?

And when the birthday arrives, we wish their horse a happy birthday through email. 

This kind of personalization and use of 1st party data builds trust and a strong relationship.

Email Marketing Provides Small Players a Better Opportunity to Grow

It’s extremely difficult for small eCommerce businesses to outplace the industry giants. However, email marketing for online retailers, especially smaller ones, is a blessing. 

It gives them a chance to out-human the big players by achieving the next level of personalization and adding a human touch to their emails. 

Three Essential Types of Emails for Ecommerce

Before diving into Klaviyo email marketing tactics, first, let’s understand what kinds of emails you’ll use.

  1. Campaign(thrust) emails
  2. Triggered emails
  3. Transactional emails

Campaign(Thrust) Emails

Campaign emails are thrust emails that you send to a specific audience or segment for a particular purpose. We intentionally create these kinds of emails around a product, call to reviews, etc. 

Your campaign emails may contain your company’s newsletter, product recommendations, and similar types of emails. 

Triggered Emails

Triggered emails are automated emails that are set in motion by a specific behavior of a prospect or a customer. 

Let’s consider the cart abandonment issue, for instance. If a visitor has added some products to its cart on your eCommerce store but hasn’t completed the purchase, a triggered email can be sent to re-engage him for completing the purchase. 

Transactional Emails

Transactional emails, as the name suggests, are the emails that are sent to the customer after they make a transaction/purchase. 

These automated emails can be sent using email automation and marketing platforms like Shopify. 

Transactional emails are usually sent when something is shipped, when someone needs to change the password, etc. 

These emails will be a hundred percent deliverable cause they have to be confirming an actual transaction.

How to do Email Marketing?

Here’s what you need to do to start your email marketing journey. 

Figure Out What Your Brand Story is? Who are you Targeting? And How can you Add Value to Their Lives?

The first step you need to take to step into the email marketing realm is to reflect back on your story. 

List down all your goals and objectives that you want to achieve down the road. This will give you a clear idea to move forward with the right frame of mind. 

The next thing to do is to identify a target audience of your business. You should thoroughly understand the group of people your efforts will be directed towards. 

Understand how your products can add value to their lives and what’s in it for them?

Build an Ecommerce Ecosystem

The Email Ecosystem

Three things are the foundation of building an efficient eCommerce ecosystem:

  1. Audience
  2. Campaigns
  3. Automation

Audience

Once you grow your email list, you will need to perform segmentation based on the audience data you will collect. 

If you want to know how to perform email segmentation, check out this blog that I wrote earlier. 

Moreover, you’ll also need to make sure that your email deliverability is strong so that you can hit people’s inboxes instead of their spam folders.

Campaigns

When you build an audience, you must consistently communicate with them to keep them intact. And that’s where email campaigns come into action. 

In order to communicate things that are valuable for your audience, you need to ask questions like:

  • How do we consistently email our most valuable audiences at the right times?
  • What does our calendar cadence need to look like?
  • What does our design and messaging need to be?
  • How is our voice going to fit with our brand?
  • What does our content mix need to look and feel like?
  • Should we focus more on promotional-based messaging or content-based messaging? 

Automation

Automation is one of the most profitable ways of email marketing. Yet, it is the area where people spend the least amount of their time. 

Through automation, you can drive revenue in terms of lifecycle triggers and consistently keep people coming back in the door.

So from the automation side of things, you should understand what your customer life cycle looks like? What is their journey? And what behaviors do you want to see along that journey?

Then you can test those different triggers to create and introduce new automation that will drive behaviors and consequently more revenue over time. 

And once you acquire new customers and your acquisition starts to become more effective and efficient, this automation will also scale up. 

So it’s going to grow as a function of the business growth as a whole.

How are you Uniquely Positioned to Provide Value to Your Audience?

You should find answers to the questions below to uniquely position your brand for providing value to your target market. 

  1. Who are your most valuable customers?
  2. How do you want to speak to them in a way that it’s going to be helpful for them?
  3. Do you have the experts on staff?
  4. What are the pain points of your audience? 
  5. How do they view their emails?
  6. Do they spend more time on Mobile or Desktop?
  7. What time is your audience most active on their phones?

How to Get Started in Email Marketing? 

A great way to start is by looking at the examples of other brands and businesses in your category. 

Understand what your competitors are doing that drives them results? You can then borrow some ideas out of the gate and understand the level of competition in the marketplace. 

Analyzing your competitors will also enable you to identify the market gaps that they are not filling. It provides you the opportunity to target those areas where your competitors are lacking and establish your place in the industry. 

Get out of your comfort zone and look at businesses that aren’t in your ecosystem or space. For instance, the women’s cosmetics space is probably the most competitive category in the marketing industry because the lifetime value and the margins are high. All because women’s cosmetics brands are doing some of those gangster marketing rounds.

Similarly, you can pull from great marketing and businesses in different areas to understand what’s their secret sauce and how to incorporate it into what you’re doing.

Email Marketing Tools That You’ll Need

As an eCommerce business, you will need to set up a store where customers can buy products. There are many eCommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and many others where you can set up and run your eCommerce business.

The next tool that you will need is email marketing software like Klaviyo. Klaviyo allows you to line up SMS along with your email offering. 

With the help of Klaviyo, you’ll be able to send out campaigns and build your automation systems. It is an efficient email marketing tool that directly integrates with Shopify and makes things easier. 

Furthermore, if you want to make your email list grow faster, you can use tools like Justuno. It is conversion analytics and marketing platform that helps eCommerce store owners to convert visitors into customers with the help of data insights. The data insights this tool provides can be used to optimize marketing campaigns. 

Moreover, you can also use Octane AI which leverages customer surveys and provides valuable advice on the right products to sell to your customers. 

All of these tools allow you to grow in different areas of your eCommerce ecosystem as well as in marketing. 

How to Build an Email Marketing Strategy?

Identify Your Primary Audience Segments

Audience Hierarchies

Your email marketing strategy should be a subset of your overall marketing strategy. So first, you need to think about how your email strategy will fit into the larger picture.

After that, figure out what are the primary segments of your audience (people who are your repeat customers). 

I recommend you follow the 80/20 principle. 

The 80/20 rule suggests that you focus on 20% of your audience, which drives 80% of our revenue. 

You don’t want to be starving your stallions and feeding your ponies. Therefore, your focus should be on the right audience.

After taking the 80/20 rule into account, the next thing is how do you move people up to your audience hierarchy?

Not every follower, subscriber, or person in our audience will be equal. 

So you need to walk your customers through different stages of their customer journey and make them valuable for your business. 

The farther you can drive them up that audience hierarchy, the more beneficial they will be to your business.

Pay Attention to Your Products

In this stage, you need to figure out what kind of products you will sell on your eCommerce store. 

Are you going to sell Replenishable products/Complimentary products?

You can get people onto a subscription opportunity for replenishable products pretty quickly through your email marketing efforts. 

Similarly, complementary products are the ones you can sell to your customers along with what they have already purchased. 

Moreover, find out the purchase frequency of your products and how large the product catalog is. 

This saves your time and allows you to focus on the areas that drive the most revenue.  

Leverage Content

Whether it’s about acquiring new customers or retaining the existing ones, content plays a huge role. 

Ask yourself, do you currently have a good baseline of content? If yes, then how can you incorporate that into your emails? 

For starters, you can choose the relevant content you have created either on your blog or social and incorporate it into your emails to add value. 

Once you have done that, you can automate that content in a way that should effectively reach them at the right time and help them to go from one stage to the next. 

For example, if you sell coffee beans, you can create content for your subscribers telling them how to like grind their beans differently so they can experience different flavor profiles. 

Decide What Your Promotional Mix Needs to be

Last but not least, you should decide what your promotional mix needs to be. 

Ask questions like:

  1. Are we going to introduce a new product every week? Or is it going to be every quarter?
  2. What is our life cycle for creating value-added content?
  3. Are we creating content every week, every month?
  4. How frequently can we maintain that drumbeat of content? 
  5. What do our sales and promotion windows need to look like?

I always joke that your email strategy doesn’t need to be like a campaign email. The first week has 10% off, the second week says 15% off this week, and an email of the third week says 20% off this week.

Well, that’s not a strategy. That’s a race to the bottom. First of all, nobody wins. So strategically think about how can you do this on a regular basis? How do you get that cadence right? 

Starting small and then building up is a systematic approach to building consistency in your programs.

Where Should You Start Your Email Marketing for Ecommerce From? 

Welcome Emails

Welcome emails are the emails you send to your new customers, welcoming them to your store. You send this type of email when somebody purchases from your store for the first time. 

These emails are super important as they build your first impression of the customer. In these emails, you walk new customers through who you are, what products you have, and why you’re a good fit for them. 

Abandoned Cart

Abandon cart emails are automated emails triggered when a customer visits your store, places products in their cart, and leaves without making a purchase. 

These emails are sent to the customers to remind them that they have items left in their cart to buy. This brings the customers back and makes them feel confident to make their buying decision. 

Similarly, if a customer viewed a certain product but didn’t buy it, a browse abandon email gets triggered and sent to that customer. 

Thank you/Post-purchase Emails

These are the kinds of emails where eCommerce brands follow up with the customers who have made a successful purchase. 

Thank you emails may contain a thank you note, the brand story, product usage tips, etc. 

You can also ask your customers to share their feedback about the product on your social or eCommerce store in post-purchase emails. 

Winback Emails

Winback emails are for subscribers or customers who haven’t made a purchase in a long time. 

These are the customers who have engaged with your brand before but have been inactive for some time. 

You can email such customers to persuade and convince them to engage with your store again. 

How Are You Going to Track Your Performance?

In order to track performance and make sure your email marketing for eCommerce works, there are three metrics you can use:

  1. Value-Based Metrics
  2. Performance-Based Metrics
  3. Engagement-Based Metrics

Value-Based Metrics

Maximizing customer lifetime value is going to be that value-based level.

The value-based metric is going to be more of the organizational level. This is like something that the C-suite can care about. And something that basically is going to be a north star for your business in general.

The C-suite may not care about how much your automation drive. They may be more concerned with what recurring revenue you have and how much you’ve been able to increase the lifetime value of your customers and the profitability of your business.

Performance-Based Metrics

This is more of a marketing team-level metric. 

This metric enables you to identify how you are performing in terms of revenue. What new subscribers have you gained? How many new purchases have been made? What’s the revenue from repeat customers? Etc. 

This lets you find out how your email marketing for eCommerce impacts your work at the marketing team level. 

Engagement-Based Metrics

At the engagement-based level, you can determine how your email marketing impacts the performance of your team?

Further, it sheds light on whether you’re generating revenue from email campaigns or email automation? And with this information, you can find out whether you’re winning or losing. 

You can measure these metrics over time. And you can level up your baseline every month when you introduce new automation. This allows you to improve and evolve.  

From there, you will also have things that will be directionally important to you, like clicks, sign-ups, or revenue per recipient. 

You will then understand your specific campaign-level goals, which further paves the path for you to drive the behavior you want to see. 

One of the great things about measuring progress is that it creates a nice feedback loop where you can learn pretty fast. 

With the help of this feedback, you can focus your efforts in the right direction and improve quickly. 

It will take some time, but you should be able to see a relatively fast return on investment, especially if you have not focused on retention in the past. It can be tied directly to your store, so the attribution is fairly straightforward.

Final Thoughts

The best thing about email marketing is that it is a low-risk channel that allows you to test and iterate until you find your true rhythm. 

But it does not mean that email marketing for eCommerce is a child’s play. You will face hurdles, make mistakes and learn from the experiences. 

However, never let the perfect get in the way of getting it done. 

So test, iterate and create email campaigns that can get eyeballs and generate revenue for your business. 

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