ECommerce email marketing has a lot going for it. With the right strategy and software, marketers can focus on the strength of the channel. That is why the marketing world – especially eCommerce – is falling back in love with email marketing.
In this guide, we’d like to show you how to master eCommerce email marketing. We will walk through campaign examples that you should not miss in your eCommerce email strategy. With each, you get details on what you need from your ESP to make them a success.
- Understand how to select the best email marketing software for your eCommerce shop.
- Know the Success-factors of eCommerce email marketing to apply to your own business.
- 8 eCommerce email campaign examples you can steal today with email design tips and ideas.
But firstly, dive into why and how email marketing is key to eCommerce success.
Email marketing is key to eCommerce success
1. How to choose the best eCommerce email marketing software
Must-haves for email marketing software
2. The 8 Success-factors for eCommerce Email Strategy and Tools
1. Grow your email list faster
2. Target with dynamic and real-time email personalisation
3. Recover lost revenue with abandoned basket
4. Automate Product recommendations
5. Smooth email A/B testing and optimization
6. Automate throughout the whole shopper journey
7. Integrate and use social proof
8. Make eCommerce site and platform work together
3. eCommerce emails not to miss in your strategy
1. Pre-purchase welcome email series
2. Increase AOV with a first purchase Program
3. Replenishment email campaigns
4. eCommerce promotion emails and newsletters
5. Black Friday; Special shopping days and events
6. Abandoned cart recovery emails
7. Back in stock / out of stock messages
8. Price drop emails
Conclusion: eCommerce email marketing success
Why and How email marketing is key to eCommerce success
Email will help you grow your eCommerce revenue, the average 42:1 ROI of email marketing is hard to beat.
The beauty of email is that it works across all three stages of the customer lifecycle:
Acquire new contacts and subscribers,
Sell and convert leads into paying customers, and
Retain existing customers and turn them into second time and loyal shoppers.
Your email marketing strategy will be your roadmap to success. eCommerce email is easy to start, simple to do right, but incredibly challenging to master. 😀 Luckily the combination of right tools and strategy helps to stay on track. Let’s review what the pillars of a sound eCommerce email strategy are:
1. Acquire: Get new customers, and lots of them!
Your email list today is your marketing success of tomorrow. You own your email list, making it one of the most dependable ways to reach customers. In contrast to search and social media platforms, who have shown to steadily give you less and less organic reach.
2. Sell: Drive direct sales with sales promotions
Email is incredibly effective at driving eCommerce sales. Sales promotions, flash sales, cross and upselling, and offers you can rely on to increase revenue. If you had to choose an online marketing channel based on its ROI only, then we have a clear winner. According to the DMA, email generates an average of £42 in return for every £1 invested.
3. Retain: Turn one time shoppers into loyal customers
According to a recent Nielsen study, 66% of online shoppers rather buy new products from known brands they built a relationship with. And that customer relationship is key.
Chapter 1: How to pick the best eCommerce email marketing automation software
The first thing to get in order is to choose the best email marketing software for your eCommerce store. All email marketing tools can send a basic newsletter. While at face value, email software might seem similar, they aren’t. Especially when compared to specialised email marketing software for eCommerce, with a little digging differences quickly start to show.
So what makes the best eCommerce email tool for you? That depends on what you want to do with it. Let’s start with the must-haves every business needs and zoom into the features that make the best eCommerce email marketing service.
Top 9 essentials you need from your email marketing software
- A powerful drag-and-drop email builder that makes it simple to create responsive email newsletters.
- Ready-made email templates you can customise to suit your needs.
- Detailed email statistics and reporting to analyse and improve the newsletters you send.
- Structured subscriber administration that allows you to manage your subscriber lists easily.
- Advanced segmentation and personalisation features to send the right message and make it a personal.
- First-class deliverability the infrastructure and expertise to ensure your emails reach the inbox.
Obviously, it is not just about finding the best email marketing software, the ideal ESP should also have:
- References and other clients in eCommerce industry.
- Industry knowledge and eCommerce email marketing best practices in eCommerce to share.
- Customer support and account management at the level you require.
Chapter 2: 8 success-factors for the best eCommerce Email Marketing Software and Strategy
1. Grow your email list faster with smart sign-ups
An active email list is extra interesting at scale, so we want to grow our list. Get an opt-in from all new customers during check out and registration, but also get site visitors to sign up to your list.
There are three very basic rules to faster list growth: Ask in more places, present the right incentive and make them more effective. That means asking for opt-ins where your (potential) clients are and giving them a solid sign up reason. As well as using all your email marketing software has to offer.
In the post-GDPR marketing landscape, consumers expect value from brands that they give their data to. So think about what that value is to them. Research shows that most people sign up in order to receive future promotions, but incentives like free shipping or discounts can help.
Alternatively, you can double down on your brand voice and try to charm them in. (with a waving bear for instance).
The essentials: To choose the top eCommerce email marketing software, you are looking for:
* Opt-in forms that can be embedded on your website or integrated with your eCommerce store.
* Different options to show pop-ups, slide-in, forms, incentives.
* A/B split testing on forms for sign-ups and incentives.
* Real-time email validation, to check if people enter correct, valid, email addresses.
* Target opt-in blocks to show on specific pages, after X time on page, or based on traffic sources.
* Collect the data in accordance with GDPR.
* Collect additional information about your audience through progressive profiling.
2. Target with dynamic and real-time email personalisation
Personalised emails perform better. So we must synchronise our email data with the eCommerce platform so it is up to date. While it’s so important for personalisation data to be correct and up to date, many webshops and email systems already fail to do better than overnight or batched.
But how about delivering engaging email each time they open the email? For that added value, look for real-time dynamic emails.
With real-time dynamic emails, you can show personalised banners, countdown timers, and live social feeds. They can even be dynamic email based on type of device, weather, time, and geo-location. It works based on images that are generated and updated when loaded.
For example, the images below are based on local weather forecast together with recent browse behavior.
The essentials: What does the best real-time personalisation and dynamic email software need to offer:
- Data is synchronised with your eCommerce database.
- Ability to use external data (like product feeds, weather, etc)
- Options for brand customisation and fallbacks.
- Ideally include personalisation blocks in email AND website.
3. Recover lost revenue with Abandoned Basket & Abandoned Browse
If a shopper visited your website, checked out a product, and maybe even put interesting products in their cart, they are at the bottom of your funnel. They’re ready to buy, and just need a little nudge.
Hopefully, as an eCommerce marketer, you’re already sending these for your webshop. (If not, you’re losing 3% – 7% or more of your store’s total shopping cart revenue.) Now all email providers say they do basic abandoned basket, but there is lots of difference in how well they do it – and in what revenue boost you can expect.
Case in point: Luke 1977’s already sent out a simple abandoned cart mail. But after switching ESPs, they could do much more with their new platform, Pure360, optimising their cart abandonment email campaigns on the new platform. Luke 1977’s purchases increased from 5% to 8%—a 60% increase. You can read the full case study here.
These results are the result of added email personalisation capabilities. The improved emails have product recommendations based on browsing behaviour and purchase history. And with better insights based on clear reporting to show which types worked best.
Here is a great example of eCommerce marketing automation. The abandoned cart series by retailer Ivory Ella. A big header with the main CTA back to the cart and a temporary discount on the item in emails 2 and 3 to drive urgency. It is debated if giving discounts here is an eCommerce email best practice, because you are reducing cart value and profit margins.
The essentials: So what does the best eCommerce email automation software need to offer?
- Get direct control over the content that is delivered in cart abandonment and re-engagement emails to align the content with your marketing automation strategy and campaigns.
- Gain insight into your real email KPIs through reporting. You want dashboards with email volumes, conversion rates, revenue, and recovered carts. See the items and the value of the products that have been abandoned. Report on revenue generated from cart abandonment and re-engagement campaigns.
- And you want to automatically pull in the right products and content to personalise the abandoned cart emails – Freeing up your time to focus on strategy and results!
4. Automated product recommendations AI and Machine Learning
Product recommendations are a no-brainer for an eCommerce business. Amazon pioneered product recommendations algorithms like “others also viewed”, “often bought together”, “popular in this category”.
These days marketing automation goes way beyond if-this-then-that logic. AI and smart recommendations can recommendations faster and better than the smartest marketer ever could on gut.
Zalando, for example, has their “Algorithmic Fashion Companion”. This is a digital outfit recommendation tool, based on machine learning and AI, providing customers with unlimited outfit suggestions.
The tool makes it possible to automatically generate a ‘complete the look’ feature on product pages.
Crowdsourced and Personalised recommendations
On-site product recommendations are often limited to page-level logic (looking at this page, others also viewed…). Mature product recommendation tools for website and email newsletters are smarter than that. They can offer Crowdsourced and Personalised recommendations.
Personalised product recommendations perform even better than a general offer. This goes double for product recommendations in email marketing. So we want an email recommendation engine that can handle that for you.
Product recommendations should be based on business logic with personal behaviour, purchases, location, product info included. In other words: the best matching product for that person at that time.
You also don’t want to recommend the same products to the same customer over-and-over in every mail. So the algorithm has to learn customer preferences, but also give enough variation to keep the emails interesting.
The essentials: Your email and best web personalisation software should offer:
- Drag and drop “out of the box” product recommendation block to include in your eCommerce newsletters and general mails.
- Dedicated product recommendation emails, trigger them as automated email campaigns or use them to follow up or upsell recent purchases.
- Include all types of data: behavior, location, products, and fall-back data sets to use if there is not enough data collected yet.
- Use as many test versions and variants as you like.
- Customise split rules to test content with just a few clicks.
- Track & report on tests results and automatically roll-out the winning version.
- Customize all parts of the mails in one test: subject line, from name, content designs, offers and combinations of those.
- Deep product data integration that includes product data in the shopper journey mails.
- Customer journey builder that makes it easy to draw and manage campaigns on a canvas.
- Split-testing wizard that automatically deploys the best version
- An ESP that is used to handle high volume sending (not only you but all their clients total volume).
- Countdown timers, animated gifs, and other attention grabbers
- Amazing deliverability to get emails in the inbox even in this high-frequency period.
- Automatically insert the right products and product content to the abandoned cart emails – that includes a product image, name, price, star rating etc. The email should have a direct link back to the individual’s cart to resume shopping.
- Advanced abandoned cart systems let you put together different abandoned cart emails for different cart sizes, customer type and product category to make them even more effective.
- Reporting on merchandising effectiveness, cart value, their rates over time and real KPIs (like revenue and purchases). See items and the value of the products that have been abandoned and the revenue generated from cart abandonment and re-engagement campaigns.
- Deep data integration with your webshop (like Magento, Shopify, bigCommerce, etc) and (real-time) stock levels.
- Dynamic products loaded into the alerts, linking directly to the products.
- Advanced rules to determine which products, on what stock levels and the timing of the alerts.
- Reporting on the KPI’s, number of alerts created, emails sent, sales and revenue.
- Load specific product feeds with images, pricing, discount, etc.
- Segmentation and selection rules, to for instance exclude those that have just bought those products.
- Social proof integration and use of collaborative filtering.
- Triggers based on any data field (like price changes).
- Know the different types of email campaigns and eCommerce email best practices and tactics that are most effective.
- Pick the features you need and select the best eCommerce email marketing software.
- Use the examples in this post as a reference when you’re building your own campaigns.
5. Smooth email A/B Testing and optimisation
A/B testing is the world’s worst-kept secret of rapid eCommerce email improvement, but yet often forgotten in reality. By testing different versions of your email, you will know which content works best and boost conversion rates. Marketers don’t always do this, because it means extra effort and time – so it should be as smooth and least time consuming as possible.
Smooth A/B testing means your eCommerce email automation lets you:
6. eCommerce email automation throughout the whole shopper journey
Naturally, you want the complete customer lifecycle and shopper journey supported by marketing automation
eCommerce email automation increases the scale and relevance of campaigns, without running out of time. A welcome program, profile enrichment, a re-engagement and, win-back campaigns are mainstays in automation for every business.
eCommerce personalisation emails that will deliver results throughout the customer journey, these include product mailers:
Think about product mailers like
Cross and upsell campaigns
Price drop emails
Back in stock emails
The essentials: The best eCommerce email automation solution must include:
7. Social proof integration
Reviews and other kinds of social proof are very persuasive even if subconscious. You see these everywhere across eCommerce stores. If you don’t have them, worst case scenario people leave your site to search for reviews elsewhere (your competitors!).
According to Forbes, online reviews impact 67.7% of purchasing decisions. 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
Social proof works similar in email: Highlight how often a product has been purchased, viewed in the last 24hrs to create urgency, and popular / trending items.
Tea Pigs use the classic star rating approach which projects a simple and effective message.
The essentials: These features you will only find in specialised eCommerce email software:
* Blending of personalised and crowdsourced recommendations with business rules.
* An integration with review sites – pulling in ratings and reviews
* Integrated user-generated content in real-time in emails and web pages
8. Get eCommerce site and email platform working together
There shouldn’t be a wall between email, website and other channels in the customer experience. How different this often is for marketers! Depending on your software stack look for the integration and additional functionality.
Avoid custom integration if possible
A lot of integrations can be custom-made or configured via API’s and such. So everybody will say they can do it. But why not be a bit more practical and look for out-of-the-box integration with a simple setup. And the possibility for Managed onboarding. So an onboarding team will take you through the steps and quicker implementation. The key here is speed and cost. No need for extensive I.T. implementation.
It doesn’t matter how many integrations an eCommerce email marketing solution has, but you DO want to have some other customers with the same eCommerce platform also using the email / automation software, this means they have an expertise in your sector and will understand your business better.
The most popular eCommerce platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, Prestashop, Opencart, etc, the depth of the integration can differ greatly.
What you want at the least is:
Collect behavioural data from the site – track visitors on your site and create rich segments and unique shopper profiles. Use the behaviour from the very first visit. and understand more about each customer allows you to optimise their shopping experience each time.
Triggered emails based off of site events. To re-target based on interest and continue the dialogue once a shopper has left the site.
Two way, near-time data synchronisation. Have data to be up to date is a basic requirement many ESPs still struggle with.
Personalisation and recommendations blocks shown on the eCommerce platform and landing pages to give one unified experience.
Each ESP sets up his features a bit different so how they do it is something to evaluate in your email software selection. To make it clearer, we’ll show you the emails you must include in you strategy (and what you need to get them done).
Chapter 3: The 8 eCommerce email marketing automation campaigns you should be using today
You might be wondering, what you’ve said is totally true for choosing the best eCommerce marketing tool, but how do I put it into practice?
That’s where examples come in. In every selection and strategy, it is much clearer to ask for the type of campaigns you’d like to do. We have some great eCommerce email marketing examples and ideas you can use as building blocks for your strategy.
1. Greet new subscribers with a pre-purchase welcome email series
When a new subscriber joins your list, they expect to get a welcome email. That is why brands who send out welcome emails typically see 3x higher engagement on these types of emails.
A new subscriber welcome email triggers immediately when someone that isn’t a customer yet, subscribes to your list. The pre-purchase welcome email is the perfect place to introduce your product and brand. Let them know what you are all about. Continue the conversation with the shopper to find out what makes them tick, and encourage them to make their first purchase.
eCommerce brands can send a welcome email series to let them know what they can expect in our emails. Also allow them to pick their preferences and enrich their profile so you can send more targeted emails later, that are more likely to interest them.
Example of a pre-purchase welcome email
Here is a simple email automation example from the fun, friendly online department store very.co.uk. They send out two of the welcome emails you can implement today.
1: Thank you for signing up
2: Here is an offer to get you started.
What you want from your eCommerce email automation software to do this?
* Send out your emails immediately after sign up (no delay)
* Integration with pop-up / sign-up tools
* Ability to work with coupon codes / or direct discounts in your cart
* Email Automation and list management
* Dynamic or adjustable product category images.
2. Increase AOV with a First purchase Program
The welcome should be very different if someone enters your database through a first purchase. In this situation we want to trigger a post-purchase flow. Cross and upsell are a vital part of your ecommerce email marketing strategy. Post-purchase emails let you thank the new customer. and increase the average order value and get a second purchase.
Post-purchase email automation example
Here is an example of a first purchase email by Jo Malone. This automated trigger email does a few things very well:
Thanking for the recent purchase, giving additional (automated) product recommendations and listing the additional points that make it a special experience. The extra buying reasons you can find under “with our compliments”. The nature of this product is that it is often a gift. So you can choose an additional sample and get it in a gift box.
What you want from your tech to do email automated post-purchase well:
* Keep full shopper profiles and enrich with purchase behavior.
* Product integration and ideally product recommendation engine.
* Manage maximum email frequency and offers sent to the individual.
3. Replenishment email campaigns
Loyal customers can make all the difference in eCommerce. Emotional loyalty is driven by brand and experiences, but practical loyalty is driven by transaction and repurchases.
A replenishment campaign is just that, a nudge for people to re-order products. It goes with everything that is a recurring purchase or could be a subscription.
Here is a great eCommerce replenishment example from Petsafe. Dogs are our favorite loyal companions! It stimulates dog-owners to stick with the brand with a small saving and other emails to “top-up” their supply. It is important to frame it as a “top up”, because ideally, you’d send these emails just before someone is thinking of buying new product (so they don’t get tempted to buy it somewhere else) and they might have a bit left.
What you need from your eCommerce software to do replenishment emails well:
* Average product use duration, and later personalise it.
* Ability to trigger emails on purchase date + x days.
* Recognise and switch if there would be a natural change in habits (eg baby diaper sizes)
* Recognise individual purchase patterns and adjust accordingly
4. eCommerce promotion emails and newsletters
Everybody loves a good deal. Sales promotions are the bread and butter of most eCommerce shops. Made to stimulate sales and increase revenue. Promotion emails bring a specific offer to your customer’s attention.
Specific email promotions in eCommerce:
* Catalogue emails, showing assortment or selected product category.
* Flash sales and last-minute promotions because of stock levels and inventory.
* Seasonal promotions, the complete series from product introduction to last chance.
* Engaging content, such as blog posts, social campaigns or shopping guides.
A 30 day eCommerce challenge:
Not all emails have to be sell, sell, sell. Here is an example of an engaging 30-day challenge. Once people sign up for the Fibre-fit challenge they get tips and recipes and learn more about the “why they should care” from the brand.
The Essentials: What do the best eCommerce email tools have:
* Mobile responsive layouts and editor so it looks great on every device
* Advanced segmentation to properly select the right audience on their interests
* Automated resending to non-opens.
* Amazing deliverability to get emails in the inbox even in high frequency.
5. Black Friday; Special shopping days and events
Shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are prime time for eCommerce email sales.
These days are so popular that, even new “holidays” were invented like Prime day (by Amazon) and Singles Day (by Alibaba as a counter to valentines). There are even eCommerce retailers calling doing “Black Friday in July” campaigns.
These are events where eCommerce shops can make a killing, so the email frequency goes up and urgency is stimulated with time-limited offers.
But it is super competitive. Consumers receive a pile of emails from every online store they are subscribed to. So it is extra challenging is to stand out in the inbox and grab attention. You’d like to give your campaigns a popping design or add an original touch to make an impression, along with the limited-time-only discounts obviously.
Special shopping days, like Black Friday, signal the intent for consumers to shop both for themselves and for others. Think about Black Friday & Cyber Monday, Mother / Fathers day, Valentines, etc.
What do the best eCommerce email tools have?
6. Abandoned cart recovery emails
What makes cart recovery emails so special? In your webshop, 75% of people leave right before purchasing items already in their carts. That is 3 out of 4! The shopping cart needs a bit of special care in each ecommerce shop. It is even better to decrease the abandonment rate (so they don’t leave the cart altogether) but you can’t prevent it completely.
Good news is that we can recover a big chunk of lost revenue with an abandoned cart email series. You only need to set up the abandoned cart trigger emails once, sit back, and see the otherwise lost revenue coming in.
Here is an example of eCommerce email automation series from Pour Moi.
Bonus tip: Consider the use of a site abandonment pop-up
Obviously, you need to first know the email address before you can send an abandonment email. So for unknown shoppers, you might want to consider a site abandonment pop up. These are automatically triggered on exit intent. The customer is about to leave the shop, but still has items in his cart.
Here is an example of the exit intent pop-up by Sleeknote from Milledeux prompting people to complete their order and give their email.
What the best eCommerce email tools allow you to do:
7. Back in stock / Out of stock messages
You want to manage stock levels so that you only promote products in stock, not to risk upsetting your customers. But online, out of stock products are a big marketing and sales opportunity in disguise for sales later on.
A “Notified when back in stock” button is a proactive way to get new email signups, improve customer experience and increase sales. You send an automatic email within 2 or 4 hours that the product is back in inventory.
It is important that you can turn on/off for which products it is possible for the customer to get an email alert for. And to set a minimum quantity of items to be in stock before sending out an alert. (so they won’t be disappointed if it is already sold out again).
Back in stock notification clicks are great additional data sources. Just like with a sale, a “reserve my seat” or “pre-order” you can learn which products people have shown a real interest in.
In turn that tells you which product category they like, colours, sizes, price range, etc. Use that data for segmentation and future email newsletters are more targeted.
A very interesting use case is if people have products in their cart or wishlist that have been sold out. With a deep integration with e-commerce platforms like Magento, Shopify Plus and WooCommerce, you can trigger back in stock email alerts to all shoppers about their products in their carts and lists.
Here is a back in stock email example by Kaufmann. It is very basic but does it well, reminding the recipient they signed up to receive the alert, showing the products and linking directly to product pages and ordering.
You can consider adding a product category navigation to these mails, so enticing people to go to the site, even if they were no longer interested in the product.
Another back-in-stock email automation example by Adidas. Say you have the situation that a product has not / or never will be coming back in stock but people still signed up for that alert. In that case, you could do two things. 1: do nothing – and don’t send the alert. or 2: what Adidas has done, inform them and present alternatives as a service. while not so common, we consider this a combined user experience and eCommerce email marketing best practice.
What do the best eCommerce email tools need for back in stock campaigns:
8. Send price drop emails
If your shoppers are price sensitive (and who doesn’t like a good deal). It makes sense to use this special kind of eCommerce newsletter to present offers when prices go down.
Here is an example of this automated email campaign from Crutchfield.
“Price Drops: we thought you’d want a heads-up on these deals”
You can see the emphasis on the savings and the before and after pricing. Pricing studies have shown that anchoring makes it easier to accept and compare prices. Conversions are better if you mention the before price bigger, interestingly enough. Pricing and pricing display is definitely something to A/B test in your email templates.
Another element here is the star rating and reviews, bringing some social proof into the mix.
You can send price drop emails with popular discounted items out as a general eCommerce newsletter. But it gets more interesting once they are used as triggered emails. Send these campaigns to customers who have shown interest before. Online shoppers that have them in their wishlist, viewed product pages or have the ideal profile to match.
What you want from your eCommerce email platform:
The best eCommerce email marketing tactics for continued success
eCommerce email marketing is an effective way to grow your brand and get more sales. Many marketers get distracted by the tougher parts of online retail to increase sales. – Get more traffic, tweak pricing and product inventory, SEO and SEA, etc.
We get it, it needs to be done. As a marketer, you have a lot of balls to keep up in the air.
But online stores often miss a big part of eCommerce success. Email marketing campaigns that are easy to set up. Conversions increase by simply focusing on your existing customers.
Give them a better customer experience with email marketing.
Understand what makes your eCommerce email marketing a winner:
The best email marketing software for eCommerce, will help you grow and continue to acquire new customers, without getting in the way. So go and create campaigns that increase revenue, engagement, and goodwill for your brand!
This guide is co-written by Jordie van Rijn and Komal Helyer.