Email Marketing for E-Commerce (A Comprehensive Guide)

Email marketing is an essential component of any e-commerce business marketing mix, especially for Shopify users. In terms of customer retention, revenue, and profitability, email marketing is second to none. It can be difficult to determine how email marketing fits into your business and how to make it part of your day-to-day marketing operations. So, we decided to unpack everything you need to grow your Shopify business through email marketing. Let’s dive right in.

Robbie Fitzwater
Updated on

If you run an e-commerce store on Shopify or a similar platform, email marketing is going to be an extremely vital part of your business.

Why? Because running an e-commerce business includes:

  • Connecting with customers.
  • Retaining existing customers and expanding their lifetime value.
  • Adding value beyond the transaction.
  • Updating them on their order confirmations and shipping status.  

In terms of business growth, customer retention marketing may be the strongest driver of profitable growth, and email is the strongest marketing channel for creating happy repeat customers.

Still, for whatever reason, we see email being misunderstood and underutilized relative to other digital channels for most e-commerce businesses.

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

That’s why we decided to unpack everything that e-commerce entrepreneurs and marketers need to know about email marketing for Shopify and other e-commerce platforms, including our three-pillar email marketing ecosystem framework.

Topics covered in this blog:

  1. What is Email Marketing for E-Commerce?
  2. Why is Email Marketing for E-Commerce Important?
  3. Three Essential Types of Emails
  4. How to Start Email Marketing for E-Commerce
  5. How to Build an Email Marketing Strategy
  6. Where to Begin Email Marketing
  7. How to Track Performance

What is Email Marketing for E-Commerce? 

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

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

Email marketing for e-commerce 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 of e-commerce businesses. 

So let’s dig deeper and understand the importance of email marketing for e-commerce. 

Email Marketing for E-Commerce: Why is it Important?

Whether you want to do email marketing for Shopify or any other e-commerce platform, there are many reasons why email marketing for e-commerce matters.

Email Marketing Leverages Powerful Growth Multipliers

There are three ways you can geometrically grow a business through email marketing.

  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.

Email Marketing Helps Build a Stable Business

Email marketing for Shopify 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 e-commerce 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

Acquiring and retaining customers can occupy a large percentage of your budget. You have to run paid ads, maintain an online presence, onboard new customers, and more. But this is not the case with email marketing. 

There are no high costs involved in capturing a lead and turning 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.

Email Marketing Helps You Build an Owned Audience

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

On social media, you’re constantly battling against an algorithm.

After starting my career in social, I sometimes joke 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 was building a house on rented land. Reaching my audience got more and more difficult.

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

That means building your house on land you own as opposed to land you rent.

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

Email Marketing Helps with Customer Lifecycle Optimization

Customer Lifecycle

Email marketing for e-commerce also allows you to focus on optimizing the customer lifecycle. You can use this to test your messaging and 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. 

Email Marketing Enables You to Collect and Leverage First-Party Data

Email marketing for e-commerce 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 first-party data, you can positively impact your audience.

For example: We asked one of our clients when their horse’s birthday is and what their horse’s name is. 

Nine days before their horse’s birthday arrives, they receive an email update.

“Hey {Name}, it looks like {horse’s name}’s birthday is coming up in about nine days!

Just in case you want to spoil them on their birthday, here is an article our team wrote about their top horse birthday gifts…”

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

This kind of personalization and use of first-party data builds trust and a strong relationship.

Amazon can’t scale that type of human connection, but you can with smart, personalized email marketing. And that is a competitive advantage.

Email Marketing for E-Commerce Provides Small Players a Better Opportunity to Grow

It’s extremely difficult for small e-commerce businesses to outpace the industry giants. However, email marketing for Shopify users, especially smaller ones, is a blessing.

Out-human > Out-scale

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 E-Commerce

Before diving into 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, to ask for reviews, and more.

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 their cart but hasn’t completed the purchase, a triggered email can be sent to re-engage them 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 purchase.

These automated emails are typically sent via your e-commerce store (Shopify) or can be connected with Klaviyo or another ESP for further customization.

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

These emails will be 100 percent deliverable because they have to confirm an actual transaction.

How to Start Email Marketing for E-Commerce

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

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

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

Understand how your products can add value to your customers’ lives and communicate that effectively to your audience.

Build an E-Commerce Ecosystem

The Email Ecosystem

Three things are the foundation of building an efficient e-commerce ecosystem:

  1. Audience
  2. Campaigns
  3. Automation


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

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.

Learn more: Best Email Segmentation Strategies for E-Commerce →


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

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

  • How do we consistently email our most valuable audiences at the right times?
  • What does our calendar cadence need to look like?
  • What do 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 is one of the most profitable methods of email marketing for e-commerce.

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 proverbial door.

So from the automation side of things, you should understand:

  • What does your customer life cycle look like?
  • What is their journey?
  • What behaviors do you want to see along that journey?

Then, you can A/B 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 with Email Marketing for E-Commerce

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 their 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 even 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 For Your E-Commerce Business

The tools listed below will allow you to grow in different areas of your e-commerce ecosystem as well as in marketing. 


As an e-commerce business, you will need to set up an online store where customers can buy your products. Shopify is one of the best e-commerce platforms currently available.


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. Justuno is a conversion analytics and marketing platform that helps e-commerce store owners convert visitors into customers with the help of data insights. The data insights this tool provides can be used to optimize marketing campaigns. 

Octane AI

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


Grammarly is a virtual typing assistant that helps fix typos and grammatical errors and improves the overall readability of your written content. Why is that important? You can have the best email marketing strategy out there, but if the emails themselves are an unreadable mess, they won’t be nearly as effective as they could be.

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 the primary segments of your audience (people who are your repeat customers and people who spend the most money). 

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, you next need to determine how to move people up your audience hierarchy.

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

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 e-commerce 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 in your Shopify e-commerce store. 

Are you going to sell replenishable products or 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 you 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 existing ones, content plays a huge role. 

Ask yourself if 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 your audience 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 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 process and cadence 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 cringe when I see an email strategy that starts off with:

  • Week 1 – 10% off
  • Week 2 – 15% off
  • Week 3 – 20% off this week…

That is not a strategy. It is a race to the bottom.

First of all, nobody wins. So strategically think about how you can send 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 Automations 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 or creates an account.

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, then 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 and Post-Purchase Emails

These are the kinds of emails where e-commerce 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 e-commerce 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 to Track Your Performance

In order to track performance and make sure your email marketing for e-commerce works, we like to use our three-tier marketing measurement framework.

They consist of:

  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.

Value-based metrics are going to be more of the organizational level. These are something that the C-suite can care about. And something that basically serves as 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

These are more marketing team-level metrics. 

These metrics enable 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? 

This lets you find out how your email marketing for e-commerce 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 quickly. 

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 for e-commerce 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 e-commerce is child’s play. You will face hurdles, make mistakes, and learn from the experiences. 

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

So test, iterate, and have fun. You’ll be amazed by how fast you’ll be getting more eyeballs on your site and, most importantly, generating revenue for your business.

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