You probably already know that email is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal.
But you don’t have to take our word for it.
Here are a few ecommerce email marketing statistics to show you just how powerful email can be for your business:
- 60% of consumers say their purchasing decisions are influenced by the emails they receive from their favorite brands.
- 50.7% buy products and services from marketing and advertising emails, once a month.
However, this doesn’t mean that all ecommerce email marketing campaigns are guaranteed to be successful.
In fact, most ecommerce email marketing campaigns, which are implemented in a non-strategic, somewhat random manner, will fail to gain any sort of traction for the companies that create them.
Even some of the largest companies in the world are prone to making mistakes in their email marketing initiatives.
Approached purposefully and strategically, though, email marketing absolutely can lead to a major boost in sales for your ecommerce business—from acquisition all the way through to retention and evangelism.
In this article, we’re going to dig into the key ecommerce email best practices for engaging with your audience, and nurturing them to boost your ecommerce email conversion rates.
We’ll then take a look at the key types of ecommerce emails you can send to specific visitors and customers at particular points in time—for a number of different purposes.
But, before we get started, there’s a prerequisite step to ecommerce email marketing we need to quickly discuss...
Growing Your Ecommerce Mailing List from the Ground Up
Before you send ecommerce emails, you need to first acquire a substantial email list.
The key to getting your audience to sign up for your ecommerce email list is to make your offer crystal clear and deliver on your promise.
Depending on specific circumstances, you can provide value to your potential subscribers by:
Offering Exclusive Gated Content
Gated content is online material that visitors can only view if they fill in a form. Your visitors will have to submit their email in exchange of a piece of content they are interested in (ebook, PDF, downloadable checklist, white paper, etc.)
Offer a Discount in Exchange for Email Addresses
You can offer subscribers a promotional coupon or discount of some kind in exchange for their email address.
One thing to note about discount-focused incentives:
While your incentive is a one-time deal (for example 20% off the first purchase), you should make it clear that you’ll be providing much more value to your subscribers along their journey with your brand.
Though there’s nothing wrong with using the initial offer as “bait” to get prospects to sign up for your mailing list, you don’t want this offer to be the only reason they do so.
No matter what method you end up implementing, it's essential that you highlight the value of your emails to your potential subscribers.
In doing so, you’ll increase the chances of growing a mailing list full of interested and engaged prospects who have a high probability of converting to paying customers.
6 Key Email Marketing Best Practices to Boost Ecommerce Conversion Rates
Before going more in depth about types of ecommerce emails, there are 6 key factors to keep in mind whenever you are planning an ecommerce customer journey email marketing campaign:
- Ecommerce Email Design
- The value the email provides
- The context of the email
- The content of the email
- Best Time to send Ecommerce Emails
- Your recipient’s next steps: Clear and effective Call To Action
Let’s take a closer look at each of these, shall we?
1. Designing Your Ecommerce Emails
The way in which you create and design your emails can often be the difference between increasing engagement rates and causing them to hit the dreaded “Unsubscribe” button.
With regard to ecommerce email design, there are two factors at play:
- Responsive Email Design
- Beautiful and cool Emails
Responsive Email Design
First of all, your emails need to appear and function exactly as you’d planned for all of every subscriber.
This means creating responsive email templates that look the same on different devices (desktop, mobile, Android, iOS).
Beautiful and Cool Email Design
Your emails need to fit the aesthetic feel of your brand.
Basically, you want your audience to immediately become immersed in your brand from the second they see your email in their inbox.
Take a look at this promotional email from Chubbies:
Even if you've never heard of this company before, you can clearly see from just this one email that Chubbies is a summer fashion company that’s all about kicking back and enjoying life.
2. Providing Value Through Your Emails
Every email you send your audience should be valuable to them in some way or another.
In some cases, a more sales-oriented approach might be enough to entice your audience.
More often, though, you’ll want to use email not to straight-up sell to your audience, but to nurture them toward conversion.
At times, the difference between these two approaches can be a bit subtle. For example, this email from Away certainly is focused on showcasing specific products:
...but it’s done in a way that shows how the products will enhance the customer's travel experience.
Highlighting the Customer Experience with your Brand
You’ll also want to consider creating emails that don’t specifically focus on your products, but rather focus more on your customer’s experience with your brand.
In the example above, Sony allows recipients to review their year in gaming—and provides a few freebies as a quick thanks, as well.
Of course, Sony’s hope is that those who check out the free offer also go on to make an additional purchase...but it’s not the entire focus of the email. Rather, the focus is on celebrating the individual customer and adding to their gaming experience in a meaningful way.
Whether aiming to directly or indirectly spur your customers toward conversion, your emails need to have a clear positive impact on their relationship with your brand. By keeping your customers’ needs and expectations in mind at all times, you should easily know exactly what your next email should include to make this happen.
3. Considering the Context of Your Emails
Speaking of your customers’ needs and expectations, it is vital that the emails you send out align with the context of your individual recipients’ experiences with your brand.
As we said earlier, there are a number of different types of emails you can send out depending on a given scenario. Again, we’ll discuss the most common types a bit later in this article.
For now, our focus is on the factors that determine which type of email is most appropriate at a given time.
Firstly, to piggyback off of the previous section, you need to consider what your recipients will be expecting from you next:
- Do they need more information about a specific product before they make a purchasing decision?
- Have they bought the product, and now need further instruction on how to use it?
- Have they gotten full use out of the product, and now need something more from your brand?
You’ll also want to take into consideration each customer's interests and preferences, along with their engagement and purchase history.
Sony actually provides an offer (similar to the previous example) to its individual customers on their anniversary with the company:
Here's another example from Nordstrom showcasing different clothing items to different audience segments, depending on their geographic location.
Northern Trail takes a similar approach, varying the content presented in its newsletter based on the recipient’s geographic location and/or interests:
The emails you send your customers need to be highly relevant to their specific circumstances in order to be truly engaging. Otherwise, your recipients will likely see your emails as just another generic piece of spam.
4. Creating Email Sequences
Drip campaigns are a set of messages (emails) pre-written and pre-designed to be send to customers and prospects, once they go through with specific actions.
Examples of such behavioral triggers include:
- Registering for the email list
- Making an initial purchase
- Abandoning the cart in the middle of a purchase
In some cases, drip campaigns(also called trigger campaigns) are used to provide additional marketing information to the recipient over the course of multiple emails—culminating in a strong offer to take further action.
In this example, the drip campaign is used to provide instructions to the recipient.
You can also use drip campaigns to automatically remind customers about particular offers that only apply to them.
For example, if you offer new subscribers a one-time 10% discount that expires a week after they register, you’d want to send multiple emails throughout the week reminding them to take advantage.
5. Choosing the Best Time to send Ecommerce Emails
With the average person receiving hundreds of emails per day, it’s simple:
If you don’t time your emails right, they will get lost in a sea of unopened emails.
This means you need to determine the time of day and/or week that your recipients are most likely to be checking their inbox for branded content and promotional offers.
An analysis of over 20 million emails conducted by HubSpot proved that emails sent on Tuesdays have the highest open rates.
Timing is a bit different for triggered emails.
Instead of sending them at a specific time of day or week, ecommerce trigger emails emails are typically sent at certain times in relation to when the initial action took place.
For example, you’d want to send Welcome emails to new subscribers immediately after they submit their address, while you might send a cart abandonment email a few hours after the prospect navigated away from your site.
Either way, there is no universal “best” time to send a specific email. While there is a lot of data supporting a variety of theories in this regard, your best bet is to use this information as a starting point—then dig deeper into your performance data over time.
After a while, you’ll be able to determine the optimal timing for every email you send out.
6. Enabling Further Engagement
Every email you send must have a clear and concise directive for the recipient to follow.
Take a look at the following email from Peloton:
Even from quick glance, it’s easy to tell what the call-to-action is, right?
In certain cases (such as the above), you might need only one CTA.
In others, you might need to add more:
Your recipients should never be left wondering what to do after opening your email.
If the path to conversion isn’t clearly paved, your potential customers will likely turn away from it completely.
7 Popular Types of Ecommerce Email Marketing Campaigns
Though we’ve already touched on a few of the email types you’ll want to consider using in your own marketing initiatives, let’s discuss exactly how you might choose to implement them.
You’ll notice, as you go through this list, that each type of email is typically sent to a specific segment. No matter the target, though, each of the email types we’ll discuss serve to provide value to the recipient, and prepare them for further action.
Ecommerce Welcome Email
When a new prospect signs up for your email list, you need to have a warm welcome waiting for them.
As noted earlier, Welcome emails are typically sent immediately after an individual registers for your mailing list. This automatically-triggered email will serve a number of purposes, including:
- Confirming for the recipient that they’ve successfully signed up to your list
- Introducing your brand in more detail (i.e., telling them what you’re “all about”)
- Setting the stage for further engagement
Check out how fashion brand Karen Miller accomplishes all three of these tasks in one fell swoop:
You might also choose to be a bit more direct in your welcome, providing a one-time incentive to get your prospects to convert:
Once an individual has made a purchase, you should initiate a drip campaign that includes the following:
- A “Thank You” message that doubles as an order confirmation email
- An email confirming shipment of the order
- A request for feedback
Depending on your product, you might also develop product-specific automated campaigns to help acclimate new customers with the item in question.
In some cases, this onboarding process will likely be spread over a series of education emails.
For other products, you can give your new customer everything they need to know in a single email:
After you’ve gotten educated your customer about the products they purchased, and you’ve given them ample time to get use out of it, they’ll be primed to take further action.
Which leads us to…
Upsell and Cross-Sell Offer Emails
Technically, upsell and cross-sell emails are post-purchase emails.
Though different in their approach, the goal of both upsell and cross-sell emails is to showcase items that will enhance the recipient’s experience with a product they have previously purchased from your company.
are focused on promoting products that are more advanced than the previously-purchased product in some way.
For example, Medium offers a paid subscription at a rate of $5 per month—or you could purchase an entire year’s subscription for $50.
Dollar Shave Club takes a different approach, allowing customers to add additional related items to their cart before their order actually ships:
Again, the goal is to align your product recommendations with the value your customers are seeking for, which can be determined by analyzing their purchasing history and engagement.
With this data in mind, you should easily be able to find the products that will make your recipients to reach for their wallets once more.
Browse and Cart Abandonment Emails
Browse and cart abandonment emails are similar in that they both aim to get an individual back on track toward converting after they’ve taken a step or two back.
refers to moments where an individual visits your site, browses around for a sustained period of time (and/or takes particular actions), then leaves without taking further action.
For example, you might define browse abandonment as visitors who check out three or more product pages before navigating away from your site.
refers to when an individual adds items to their virtual shopping cart—but fails to finalize their purchase.
In both cases, you’ll want to trigger a drip campaign to get these individuals back on your site to go through with their purchases.
Taking into consideration the specific item(s) your potential customer was checking out, as well as their purchase history, you may want to use a combination of tactics to incentivize a purchase, such as:
Showcasing Similar Products
Reminding Them to Complete Their Purchase
Typically, abandoned cart emails are sent within 24 hours of an instance of abandonment, with potential follow-ups occurring 24-48 hours after that.
However, best practice says to leave things be after a third email—otherwise, you risk turning your potential customer off for good.
Whether you run an “official” loyalty program or not, you definitely want to celebrate and give thanks to your VIP customers in some way from time to time.
If you don't have a loyalty program
Similar to Sony’s “Year in Review” email above, you can celebrate your customer's engagement by highlighting their major milestones with your brand:
If you have a loyalty program
You can keep your VIPs apprised of their status—and explain exactly how to take action.
Reminder and Replenishment Emails
Even your most loyal customers can be forgetful at times, though.
With that in mind, you’ll want to create triggered email drips to remind your regular customers that it’s almost time to restock their supply.
This type of ecommerce emails is also key to getting first-time buyers into the habit of making purchases, regularly.
If you don't provide this gentle reminder to your new customers, you’re essentially leaving their return completely up to chance.
You can also implement a similar tactic to remind subscribers to renew or update their membership.
In both cases, timing is key.
The goal is to reach out to customers before their supply reaches empty, or their subscription lapses—but not so far in advance that your offer doesn’t carry a sense of urgency.
No matter how reliable a given customer may be, there’s always a chance your brand might slip their mind. But, by delivering a well-timed reminder email, you’ll regularly be able to get these individuals back on track.
For your once-loyal customers who have since become inactive, you can use emails to get them back onboard with your brand.
There are a few things you’ll want to accomplish through a re-engagement or winback email campaign.
First, you need to strike your recipient with an offer they’d be crazy to refuse:
Second, you need to reinforce the value your brand brings to your customer.
As shown in the example above, this can be pointing the customer toward specific products, additional resources, or any services your company may provide.
Third, you need to update your recipient with regard to any improvements you’ve made since their last engagement, as well as what’s on the horizon for your brand in the near future:
If despite all your efforts to win back your inactive customers, it’s become clear that they have no plans of re-engaging with your brand, you can still reach out to them with a quick email asking for feedback.
This way, you can at least leave the relationship with your former customer on good terms—and can potentially win them back once you’ve addressed their concerns.
Clearly, you can use ecommerce email marketing for a ton of different purposes.
By developing a variety of email campaigns over time, you’ll eventually be capable of reaching customers in all different stages of the customer journey.
Whether looking to entice a new prospect into making their first purchase or to keep a long-time customer onboard for just a bit longer, a timely and valuable email can often prove to be the path of least resistance.