What is email automation and why you’ll love it

Imagine writing a set of emails just once that is sent to different people at different times when they need it most.

In this chapter of the Ultimate Guide, we will share one of the most powerful and useful features of email marketing–email automation. While it sounds technical, it's actually quite easy to set up.

Let's go through email automation step-by-step, and then we'll show you tons of examples to help you get started.

Email automation allows you to program when emails are sent based on behavioral, time-sensitive or other types of triggers.

For instance, instead of manually sending out a welcome email to everyone who signs up for your service, you can set up a trigger that automatically sends a welcome email every time a new person signs up.

You write the email once, but it continues to work hard and reach all your subscribers exactly when they need it.

Beyond taking the manual work off your plate, automated emails let you personalize your messages in a way that is timely and relevant.

As a result, automated emails are opened more often. According to Epsilon, they get 199% higher click rates than mass emails.

The world's most high-performing companies like Amazon and Netflix have embraced automation resulting in huge revenue increases.

The ROI (return on investment) for automatic emails is exceptionally high because the recipients are receiving your message when it is top of mind, and it satisfies their desire for instant feedback.

MailerLite makes it easy for you to automate your emails in the same way that those huge companies like Amazon personalize their emails to reach their customers.

If you are not using email automation for your business, you are missing a significant opportunity to engage your customers, deliver a better experience and build your business.

While the possibilities of what you can do with email automation are endless, we want to share four email automation use cases that you can apply to your business today.

1.  Automate welcome emails

Make a strong first impression. The first email automation every business should implement is a welcome response for a new subscriber. 

When someone signs up to receive content, an automated message is the best way to acknowledge them, make a positive first impression and extend the engagement by offering additional value.

Automated welcome emails can have long-term implications that impact your bottom line:

  • 74.4% of people expect a welcome email when they subscribe
  • Delivers 33% more long-term engagement with the brand.
  • Generates 4x the open rates and 5x the click rates compared to other bulk promotions.
  • Provides 3x the transactions and revenue per email compared to regular promotional emails.

First impressions are powerful, so be thoughtful about what you want to say.

How to write a welcome email

The secret to a great first impression is to be human and authentic. Pretend you are meeting the customer in-person and then create an email that shares your gratitude and sets expectations.

Example: Welcome Email

This welcome email example below contains several elements that are worth pointing out:

  • There is an authentic welcome message.
  • Informs the reader what to expect.
  • Invites the reader to personalize.
  • Ends on a high note with a special offer.

In addition to communicating their gratitude, Michaels uses the email to showcase their personality and offer some unique extras including personal preferences and a coupon.

You have one opportunity to WOW your customer right from the start with an automated welcome email that makes a lasting first impression.

Automate an onboarding email sequence

With MailerLite, you can create automated sequences where different emails are sent in a series. By sending a set of emails, you break up your messages and feed people information in a way that is timely and based on their actions.

Example: Onboarding Sequence
  • Step 1 - A new subscriber receives a welcome email.
  • Step 2 - Two days later an email is automatically sent with a product tour video.
  • Step 3A - If the subscriber watches the video, they receive an email one week later with a coupon.
  • Step 3B - If they don’t watch the video, they receive a different email sequence to re-engage them.

These sequences are automatically delivered to every new customer. If you find that part of a sequence is not effective, it’s easy to change different parts without having to build a new sequence.

Here an example of an automated sequence from an e-commerce store:

onboarding email sequence

2. Automate lead magnet sequences

The lifeblood of your email marketing is your healthy list of subscribers. While you are sending out newsletters and building relationships with them, you also need to keep an eye on attracting more people. Email automation will help you get more subscribers.

If you want tips on growing your email list, take a look at this Ultimate Guide chapter. In it, we share how to offer people incentives when they sign up for your list (also, an email magnet). Exchanging something of value like a report, ebook or event a gift card for their email address is effective. When someone signs up, you want the transaction to be quick and smooth, which requires automation.

A lead magnet email sequence using automation enables you to deliver your incentive immediately after a subscriber joins your list. Here’s a workflow example to get you started. Click here for a more detailed example with all the steps.

lead magnet automation

3. Automate audience segmentation

Let your customers self-segment. Audience segmentation is a way to divide up your customer base into smaller groups based on what they like about your products and services.

Segmentation is an important step to improve the relevance of your email marketing. When relevance increases, your campaign performance improves. 

Instead of sending everyone the same message, segmentation helps you target the right message to the right audience.

The current practice of creating segments based on personas or other data points doesn't always lead to the right groups. With email marketing automation, you can create extremely effective groups through self-segmentation.

segmentation graphic

What is self-segmenting?

Self-segmentation occurs when people take certain actions online that triggers MailerLite to place them into a segment based on their behavior automatically. 

Let's say a subscriber clicks a link in your newsletter for an upcoming sales webinar. MailerLite automatically segments that subscriber into a group labeled “Sales Webinar”. 

In this example, the subscriber's interest in sales led to their segmentation.  Now, you can send them email content tailored to sales topics, which you know they care about.

More insights about email segmentation
What is Email List Segmentation and Why You Need it

4. Automate lead nurturing

Guide prospects down the sales funnel. You can set up automated sequences based on your subscribers’ actions and lead them to purchase.

When potential customers come to you, they are rarely ready to buy on the spot. In fact, 50% of qualified leads aren’t ready to buy. Nurturing subscribers to become customers is an integral part of the sales process.

Build a relationship with subscribers with an automated nurturing email campaign.

Automated lead nurturing allows you to track each subscriber's engagement with your content and website. You can automatically send the right email at the right time when they interact with your content. 

When someone downloads a piece of content or clicks on a link, you can program your email to activate the next phase of the nurture campaign. This allows you to leverage every opportunity to push your subscribers towards a conversion.

Link triggers extend engagement

Once someone becomes a subscriber, you can continue an email dialogue with them based on their interactions with your different online channels.

Link triggers enable you to use any link as a trigger to activate a corresponding email. The automated email can be triggered by any type of link that you control. 

Just like having a normal conversation offline, the email is focused on the individual's personal interests.​

Example: Link Trigger In Blog

Behavior: A subscriber clicks and reads one of your blogs

Response: You automatically send them a follow-up email about that specific topic and suggest other blogs that relate to the topic.

Let's say you read a MailerLite blog post on Email Automation. The following day you would receive an email like this:

Link Triggers are a great way to engage your subscribers in a way that feels natural and adds value. Not to mention they drive a 5x click-to-open rate versus an untargeted email. 

Watch video tutorial
Link trigger set up

5. Automate retention

Keep customers engaged. Everyone loves acquiring new customers, but a business can't survive on new sales alone — you need to retain the customers you already have to stay profitable.

One of the most effective ways to keep customers is by building a relationship through automated email marketing campaigns.

In fact, 80% of retail marketers indicated that email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention. The second best channel is Social media at just 44%.

Retention marketing is most powerful when you deliver value in a way that keeps customers engaged. Automated emails play a critical role in a retention campaign. 

By programming triggers that send customers emails at key points in your customer lifecycle, you can maintain relationships with thousands of customers.

Example: How Grammarly uses automation

Grammarly is a subscription-based business, so they must be aware of when their millions of subscribers are close to expiration. The problem is that different people signed up and different times.

By using automation for retention, they can send an email a few days before each subscription ends. The email adds value by reminding the customer that their service is about to end, and it's also an opportunity to send a discount offer to retain them.

Effective retention campaigns identify when your customers need to hear from you and deliver the value when they least expect it.

6. Automate educational content/online courses

The great thing about online courses is that you make them once, and then people can sign up whenever they want. Your work is done!

When someone signs up for your course, an automated workflow can deliver the courses at the right times. You can be the teacher at any given time and date! Your virtual classes will be sent out automatically. 

Click here for a detailed workflow example for an online course automation with all the steps.

7. Automate abandoned cart emails

All e-commerce sites experience cart abandonment. Basically, a customer leaves before finalizing their purchase. While this is unfortunate, there is still hope. You can trigger emails automatically to re-engage them, resulting in win backs of 12-15% of your shoppers!

Subscribers can be triggered more than once, every time when they abandon their cart. You can try different strategies to bring your customers back including:

  • Giving discounts
  • Recommending best-selling products
  • Using customer reviews

Learn how to create these workflows in this article. If you want step-by-step video instructions, we’ve got you!

While we covered five examples in detail, there are dozens of automation workflows that you can implement depending on your business. Here is a quick list of more ideas worth exploring.

Collect customer feedback

Email Surveys are a great way to learn what your customers really think about your services. You can use automation to trigger a survey email after a key event, such as a purchase or account signup.

Promote blog posts

Our RSS-to-email feature enables you to schedule an automated email that inserts your recent blogs into the email to inform your subscribers.

Birthdays or other special occasions

People love anniversaries and special occasions. Surprise and delight your subscribers by automatically triggering an email on their birthday or send them a discount on their anniversary of becoming a subscriber.

Transaction emails

Automate confirmation or thank you emails. Whenever someone buys a product or takes certain actions that warrant a response.

Ongoing educational series

Once a subscriber is familiar with your company, you can create sequences of emails that aim to educate the subscriber in a deeper way. For example, send a blog series on a specific subject that will add value and strengthen your relationship.

Where to start? 

Visit our Automation examples gallery to see some of the most effective email automation workflows you can start creating in MailerLite.