Running an online shop is like learning how to juggle with six balls. You’re doing your inventory, marketing, sales, customer support, accounting—often all at the same time!
So should you really add an e-commerce email marketing strategy to your daily to-dos?
It depends. If you’re looking for a marketing channel with an impressive ROI of around $40 per email and a proven record to be the best channel to build long-term customer relationships, your answer is yes.
With email marketing, you can capture website visitors and turn them into customers with a long lifetime value.
Long-term is key here. As tempting as it is to focus on acquiring new customers is, research has shown that is costs 5 times as much to attract new customers than to keep existing ones.
Email campaigns can be personalized and automated to be sent at the right time, so it perfectly fits the customer’s journey. Easy to set up and highly effective!
In this email marketing strategy guide for e-commerce, you’ll discover what email campaigns you can send in each different stage of the customer journey.
We’ll teach you about templates, integrations and marketing automation, so you can use your time efficiently and book big results. Consider it a summary of email marketing best practices for e-commerce businesses!
Most online visitors will stumble upon your e-commerce store through a search engine or a paid advertisement, as they’re looking for a product or service that can help them fulfill a need or solve a problem.
Once they’ve entered your online shop, you want to make sure they’ll come back if they like what they see.
The first step to turning them into long-term customers is to get them on your email list. By collecting email addresses of potential customers, you can start a conversation and stay top of mind.
Now let’s have a look at how you build an e-commerce email list.
To make people sign up for your newsletter, you first need to make them aware you’ve got one. I hear you thinking: “Will a newsletter advertisement interfere with my customer’s shopping experience?”
The answer is no.
Not if you place your signup form on strategic spots on your website.
You can integrate your sign-up form:
Signup forms are easily created when you use email marketing software. All you need to do is insert the required information fields and style the form. The software will then automatically generate the implementation code and link.
We go into more detail on how to grow a high-quality email list with this useful guide.
“Sign up to stay up to date with the latest news.” Yawn!
You can do better than that!
With so many e-commerce newsletters available, what will you offer that makes you stand out from the competition?
Your newsletter doesn’t have to exist solely to communicate sales periods and new launches. On the contrary, this is your chance to build your brand and invest in forming amazing relationships with customers.
Tell stories and provide real value for customers. Treat email marketing as part of your e-commerce marketing strategy.
Many e-commerce emails do this already.
Instead of purely focusing on product sales, they actively build a following by telling stories around their brand. They educate their audiences with informative blog articles, entertain with online magazines, inspire with trend reports and engage by putting the spotlight on their readers.
Not sure how to go about putting together compelling newsletter content? Never fear, we've another guide on how to put together actual email content that people care about.
Ask yourself: What added value will my e-commerce email marketing campaigns bring to my target audience?
Let’s look at online fashion e-commerce ASOS. They started out “just” selling clothes, but have since broadened their brand. Visitors can take inspiration from looks curated by real people, sell their own items on their marketplace or read about fashion and music in their digital magazine.
With these initiatives, ASOS built a cult following that uses the platform to get inspired, engage and keep up-to-date with trends and culture (besides ordering clothes).
The beauty of email marketing is that you can reach all your customers simultaneously, without putting in a lot of work. Webshop integrations and templates are key for making this happen.
By using an e-commerce integration, you can connect your store to your email marketing.
All your customer information and purchase history data will be automatically synced, making it easy for you to maintain an up-to-date address book.
With this customer information, you’re also able to send targeted campaigns based on your customer’s needs.
As for templates, most email service providers offer ready-made templates to copy, adapt and use for your own e-commerce newsletter. This is a great foundation to start with, as you only need to tweak the colors, images and text.
At MailerLite, we have many e-commerce templates that our customers can quickly adapt and send out. After you’ve signed up for a free account, you’ll find them in the Template Gallery when creating a new email campaign.
Stay with us to learn which email campaigns will help your e-commerce business grow in different stages of the customer journey.
Would you ask someone on a date before knowing their name? Hopefully not! You want to learn more about them and build interest before you go in for the sales pitch.
To help you send the right message, at the right time you can read our guide about email automation that gets into details on setting up the email automation workflows.
The customer’s journey from becoming aware of your online store to making a first purchase works in a similar way. What you say to them at each phase matters, and email marketing is the one-to-one digital marketing channel to help you deliver the right message.
Each customer journey can be divided into 3 main phases:
In the first phase (awareness), people recognize a need or problem to solve and explore their options in a passive manner. Your goal is to make customers aware of your brand, tell them what you do and stand for and leave a positive impression.
In the second phase (consideration), people start more actively researching, collecting information and comparing different brands or solutions. Here’s where you want to convince prospects you’re a store they can trust to have an excellent experience.
In the third phase (decision), your prospect actually becomes a customer. Though there are only a few marketing emails that are purchase-related (like the order confirmation email), it is very important to follow up post-conversion with the right email campaigns (remember: long-term relationships).
Did you know that 66% of consumers rate experiences over price when it comes to making a purchase decision? For most consumers, it’s not the price, but the customer experience that matters, according to a 2019 report by marketing agency Merkle. Apple, Amazon and Nike were mentioned as top performers in this field.
This fact shows that now more than ever, it’s important for e-commerce to put customers in focus and offer the most seamless and personal shopping experience possible.
The awareness stage represents the first time your customer “walks” into your shop and gets familiar with your products or services. In email marketing, these are all the people that visited your website and signed up for your e-commerce email list.
These types of emails are the first contact between you and your new virtual pal. Introduce yourself, share some fun facts, be helpful and don’t forget to ask questions so it’s not all about you.
These three e-commerce emails are ideal for starting to build a relationship with new subscribers.
Invite new customers with open arms. The welcome email is there to make people feel good. Make your e-commerce template visually attractive, tell readers what they can expect from you and make it personal.
Welcome emails are automated, meaning they can send directly after someone signs up for your email list. This way, you don’t need to keep track of who signs up when. Your email tool will take care of it and personalized the experience.
We love this example from LALALAB. In their welcome email, they talk to their audience in a personal matter, making you instantly feel connected to the brand. They also let subscribers know how to get in touch with them in case there are any questions and where to find them elsewhere on the Internet.
From: Chloe LALALAB
Subject: Welcome LALALAB
We also love the welcome discount email from RuMe. The copy and use of colors feel inviting and bright. The newsletter quickly sums up why their bags matter, what’s new and where else on the web you can stay in touch with them.
Subject: Hello new friend! Here's your 10% off 😄
What is it your brand stands for? What values make you unique?
Each brand has its own story—from what problems are solved when shopping their product or service to funny anecdotes from the early startup period. These insights are what customers are attracted to.
At MailerLite, we love to explore the world and build a product that people love. Our team is hyped about the work we do and the lives we live. This becomes clear on our About page and is definitely something we want to communicate to new customers. By meeting the faces behind the product, our email software becomes a lot more personal.
Subject: What's your story?
Sunglasses brand WearPanda also has an awesome welcome email. From the sender email (“email@example.com”) to the quiz and company facts—the entire welcome email is completely on point.
Subject: Welcome to our bamboo! 🎍
It’s never too soon to show interest and ask questions. Treat your email campaigns as a means to start conversations.
With email surveys, you can ask your audience questions and get to know them. This shows you care for their needs and gives you plenty of feedback to continuously improve your brand, service or product assortment.
Once you’ve collected more information, you can segment email subscribers based on interests, demographics or whatever information is valuable to craft more personalized emails.
These segments are then used to give unique product recommendations, style inspiration and advice. It's all about personalization for each and every subscriber!
Take your dialogue with subscribers to another level and learn how to personalize your email marketing with this handy guide.
Rituals smartly uses a surprise birthday gift as an incentive for subscribers to share their birthday.
From: Rituals Cosmetics
Subject: Welcome To The World Of Rituals
MeUndies engages with its customers to celebrate the fact they’ve sold 10 million pairs of underwear. The customer call-to-action (CTA) in the email is to join the conversation and share how many pairs they personally own.
Subject: Ten. Million. Pairs 🤯
This is a clever example of how a CTA seamlessly compels a MeUndies customer to take a particular course of action. Learn more on how to work with CTAs in your newsletters with this all-in-guide.
In the consideration phase, customers gather information about the different products or services they found. The email campaigns sent in this phase should highlight the benefits of your offer, build trust and convince the reader that you have the best solution for them.
When someone asks where to go for dinner, very rarely do we just walk into a random street and pick the next best restaurant. We Google, we Yelp, we Foursquare. Or ask our real-life friends for recommendations.
Reviews guide us through the modern-day choices overload. Which is why they’re a key factor for building trust.
This is how makeup brand, Tarte Cosmetics, uses reviews in their e-commerce emails:
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re probably not the only one your subscriber is interested in. There are many online shops out there, and you want to present your best self.
You’ve got to earn their attention. Showcase your products in the best light possible, make customers aware of the benefits and explain why your offer is the best one on the market. This can be done with text, images and interactive elements such as video.
Are you stumped about how to design emails that people will read? We break down the process into two main design elements in this guide.
We really enjoy the approach the brand minted takes in their email newsletters. As a reader, you get to know the artists and feel like you’re buying a unique piece that supports the individual behind it.
Subject: Meet the artists behind Minted
Also in the consideration phase, it’s important to keep the conversation going. Involve the reader by letting them participate in quizzes, surveys, contests and more.
A big trend among fashion e-commerce business nowadays is to show outfits on real customers. Subscribers love this because it gives them a much better idea of how it would look on their own bodies.
In our editor, you’ll find an Instagram block integration. Simply drag the block wherever you want in your e-commerce newsletter, connect your Instagram account and pick which post you want to show in the newsletter. This makes it super easy to show pictures of your customers and products in the email newsletter.
Furthermore, readers love seeing themselves being featured in an email newsletter from a brand they like. It’s easy content for you to generate and builds a community around your brand.
Leverage social media to your advantage and read more in this guide on how to make email marketing and social media work together for good.
Our customer Highway 3 does a great job of evolving customers by prompting them to send in their own beach pictures.
From: Highway 3
Subject: 😎 Our Customers are hitting the beach in style!! 🌴
Yes, it does take a while, but in the decision phase you may bring out your sales pitch. Ease newsletter readers into purchasing from you by offering a trial, discount or free shipping first.
Sometimes your product needs to speak for itself and people need to experience it before they can fully commit. What we're seeing nowadays is that a lot of websites offer extended trial periods.
For example, users can experience Skillshare two months free of charge and at THINX, customers can try the underwear for two cycles. You'll want a win-back campaign to reinvigorate interest in your brand after the trial period lapses.
If you're confident about your product, a long trial period is a great way to introduce it to potential customers. On their end, it's low-risk and for you, it's a great opportunity to show that your product is worth it.
Subject: You have a 60-day trial period (see what we did there?) to Try THINX
Whether you want to offer discounts is up to you, but it can help when your number of e-commerce sales need a boost. A special discount or promotion can spike your sales and create a sense of urgency for readers.
Let's take a look at this email newsletter from clothing brand Wear South Africa. For Black Friday, they decided to offer up to 80% discount on their beautiful, colorful clothing.
From: Wear South Africa
Subject: Black Friday Sale. Save up to 80%
Another example comes from our customer, clothing shop Grins & Grace. They got creative by hosting a virtual quarantine party! Throughout the entire day, customers could enjoy discounts on different items.
From: Grins & Grace
Subject: 20% OFF at today's After Party! 🎉 Everything has been RESTOCKED!
Are webshop visitors lurking around your shop but not completing their purchase during the checkout? Follow up with an cart abandonment email for the shopping cart they left behind!
In Bluecore’s ‘2019 Mid-Year Email Benchmark Report’, it was found that abandoned cart emails still continue to have the highest conversion rate from all triggered emails, with an impressive 1.6%.
This is why it makes a lot of sense to activate a cart abandonment email that’s sent out to people that didn’t complete their order during the checkout process.
From: FREYRS Eyewear
Subject: You Still Can Get 20% Off on Aurora Sunglasses!
Once an order is made, you want to send a transactional email confirming the order.
Subject: Order #5138 confirmed
Did you know that existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and bring you 31% more money in the bank?
Yep, that’s exactly what Invesp Consulting found in their research.
That’s why you want to keep your current customers around. Your post-purchase email sequence should be spot on, so repeat customers feel appealed to continue the e-romance.
Luckily, there are plenty of e-commerce email marketing campaigns you can send post-conversion. Here are our 9 favorite ones.
Customer feedback is the holy grail of e-commerce email marketing. You can use product reviews to gather feedback and persuade new customers to get their wallets out. Which is why you should ask for feedback or reviews after every purchase.
This is how Amazon gathers customer feedback after each order.
From: Amazon.com Reviews
Subject: How many stars would you give 'Snow Falling'?
If a customer already showed interest in one product, it’s very likely they’ll also love other items in your online shop—may it be accessories to pair the item with or other products that fit well.
You can promote separate products, as well as promotional bundles that save the customer money. Up-sell and cross-sell wherever you can!
A good example of upselling is this one by Dollar Shave Club—it’s fun, easy to read and offers a clear CTA.
From: Dollar Shave Club
Subject: Forgot something in your last box?
As we get older, our birthdays tend to be a little less exciting. Nevertheless, your newsletter subscribers would probably enjoy receiving a small surprise on their birthdays.
A birthday email is quick to set up when you use email software and set automatically when your subscriber’s date of birth is known.
As an incentive, you can treat the reader by offering a present, free shipping, discount voucher, sample or anything else your target audience might enjoy.
In the birthday email below, BarkBox celebrates your pup’s birthday by promoting their “I would almost eat this” pup-pie.
Subject: BarkBox ✅ Birthday BarkBox? ✅
Holmes Organics doesn't initially ask people for their birth dates, but cleverly asks for this information with an automated email. The reader is asked to add their birthday if they want to receive special promo codes on their happy day.
From: Holmes Organics
Subject: Sign up for our birthday promotional emails! 🎂
New items added? Restock alert? Product launch? Let the people know with a shiny email.
When you’re using MailerLite, you can easily implement product blocks in your e-commerce newsletter. The shop integration will connect your e-commerce to our email software, after which you can look for product pages and copy the details directly into your email template.
At MailerLite, customers can install promotion pop-ups on their website. These pop-ups are great for e-commerce, as they can be used to offer a discount voucher with an expiration, facilitate social engagement, promote a best-selling product and more. Read all about our promotion pop-ups here.
We were mesmerized by this email from Vrai & Oro. The subtle glittery details and fun take on their CTA buttons stood out from the average e-commerce newsletters we come across.
“Every day is a celebration!”
Okay Pollyana, you’re right but when it comes to emails, you might want to stick to the actual celebrations to avoid inbox overflow. The ones with bank holidays that give everyone a much-deserved break from working life.
Like Christmas, Easter and Independence Day. Talking about the latter, don’t feel obligated to announce a one-day sale or talk about hot dogs. You can also share historical “facts.” Like Pair of Thieves does ever so hilariously.
From: Pair of Thieves
Subject: The Declaration of Underpants
Another great example is from our customer Angel Aromatics. In this newsletter, they’re announcing their Easter egg hunt.
From: Angel Aromatics
Subject: EASTER EGG HUNT ON NOW
The more people involved, the better the party! Why not ask your existing customers to tell their friends and the cool kids from down the block about your brand?
A referral program can help spread the word. You can start your word-of-mouth movement by offering something in return. FREYRS eyewear does this with their ambassador program. They pay customers for each referral, making it a lot more tempting for people to join the movement.
Subject: NEW! Get Paid to Share FREYRS 💰
A star is born, and it’s you, subscriber!
If you’re a smart e-commerce email marketer, you want to root for a loyalty program. According to research done by Nielsen, "67% of customers agree that they shop more frequently and spend more at retailers with a loyalty program."
You can tie this program to exclusive event invitations, sale sneak peeks, first-access to new products and member-only discounts and surprises.
Take a look at how American Eagle promotes its reward program.
You might wake up one day, look at your email stats and feel like Lionel Richie the day he wrote “Hello.”
Cheer up. Your open rates might have dropped and your click-through rates may be dismal, but a re-engagement email can save the day. It's worthwhile segmenting readers that haven’t opened your emails in a while into one group and then sent them an email asking for a second chance.
We mentioned segmentation earlier on but it's useful to revisit in detail with our all-in-guide about email list segmentation and why you need it.
You can offer to take them off your email list if they don’t click a link saying they’re still interested within a certain time frame. This will shrink your subscriber list, but that’s only a good thing. You’re much better off sending your email campaigns to people that want to hear from you, versus trying to talk to people that don’t care.
Personally, we lightened up seeing this re-engagement email campaign from our customer The PUR Company. Their sticker GIF makes it extra personal!
We talked a lot, didn’t we? Now it’s up to you to set up your automated sequences and create e-commerce email campaigns based on your customer’s journey.
The key to building relationships with prospects and transforming them into happy repeat customers that’ll stick with you in the long run, is to actually care.
Ease into the relationship with valuable, informational content before bringing out your sales pitch. Before asking a customer to commit to an order, offer them a trial, sample or discount to test their future investment.
After a customer is converted, keep the conversation going with post-purchase email campaigns. This will keep your e-commerce top of mind and increases the chances of additional purchases.
How are you going to target each part of the e-commerce customer journey with email marketing?
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