The Complete Guide to Ecommerce Email Marketing

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Effective email marketing is crucial for success in the ecommerce space. It’s one of the best ways to communicate with both current and prospective customers—encouraging them to buy and boosting your bottom line.

This ultimate guide to ecommerce email marketing covers tips and best practices that will help you get started, drive sales, and win more campaigns.

Why Ecommerce Email Marketing Is So Important

Email is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies for ecommerce sites. It constantly yields a high ROI, and it’s the best way to keep your brand top-of-mind for customers in the digital world. 

When you master ecommerce email marketing, you set yourself up to continually earn recurring revenue from your customers. Once someone subscribes, it’s all about sending them the perfectly crafted message at the right time to drive a sale.

Ecommerce shops have a significant advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers when it comes to email marketing. That’s because you need to collect an email address whenever someone makes a purchase.

Rather than letting that contact info go to waste, you can capitalize and put that customer through various email marketing cycles that will keep them buying for years to come.

Customer acquisition and retention are so important for ecommerce businesses. Email marketing helps with both of these initiatives. It allows you to nurture new subscribers who haven’t purchased anything yet, and it also makes it easy to increase the purchase frequency and average order value of existing customers. 

Let’s look at a case study to showcase the impact of prioritizing email marketing. 

Skybound Entertainment is a multi-platform entertainment company that distributes content worldwide. They develop games, comics, media, films, books, and more. But they also have an ecommerce store to sell merchandise. 

Since the company is so large and has a variety of revenue streams, it never put much focus on its email marketing strategy. Despite having over two million subscribers on their email list, the engagement on their campaigns was extremely low. 

To solve this problem, they decided to do some housekeeping. They ultimately cut the massive list down to 200,000 subscribers after running a re-engagement campaign. From there, Skybound Entertainment segmented those 200,000 subscribers into different groups based on their interests—allowing them to target people individually with different types of campaigns.

The results were astonishing. Email open rates jumped as high as 80% for some campaigns.

This proves that a massive list is useless if you don’t know what to do with it. It’s much better to have a quality list of segmented subscribers to drive engagement.

Quick Tips to Improve Ecommerce Email Marketing Today

Success with ecommerce email marketing all starts with the right tools. You need to have some form of CRM email marketing software to manage campaigns, subscribers, and analytics.

While there are tons of great email marketing tools out there, the best option for ecommerce shops is Shopify Email

Screenshot of Shopify page to create simply. Start with your brand, pick a template, and customize and personalize.

If you’re using Shopify to power your ecommerce site, you don’t need third-party software to manage email campaigns. Shopify Email comes free with every Shopify plan.

This eliminates the need for you to bounce back and forth between multiple platforms to manage your site and communicate with your customers.

You won’t need to set up complex integrations to merge customer data either. The customer’s history, contact information, and email engagement are all available from a single source of truth. 

Regardless of what platform you’re using to power your online store or manage email campaigns, the quick tips below apply to anyone that wants to improve their ecommerce email marketing strategy. 

Tip #1 — Start With a Clear Goal

Too many ecommerce businesses make the mistake of running email campaigns just for the sake of sending a message. It’s been a week or two since the last message, so they feel like it’s time to get another one out.

But sending emails without any rhyme or reason won’t deliver results. In fact, this strategy could backfire—leading to low engagement and opt-outs from your subscribers.

Instead, make sure every message has a highly specific goal. What is the purpose of the email?

Examples include:

  • Flash sale
  • Product recommendation based on previous purchase
  • New product release
  • Referral program promotion

Stick with just one primary goal for each message. Trying to cram everything into a single email just creates noise and won’t covert.

Tip #2 — Give People a Good Reason to Subscribe

You can’t run successful ecommerce email campaigns if nobody has subscribed to your list. So how do you get new subscribers?

Offering a discount on an initial purchase for new subscribers is the best method for ecommerce businesses. You’re trading either a fixed dollar amount ($10, $25, etc.) or a percentage discount (15% off, 30% off) for a customer’s email address.

This is a great deal for several reasons.

First, it helps you establish a baseline customer acquisition cost. Second, it gives the new subscriber a reason to purchase something immediately. So you’re getting a quick return using this strategy, and the customer joins your subscriber list where you can continue marketing them for the long run.

Tip #3 — Don’t Rush the Subject Line

This is one of the most common mistakes we see in the ecommerce marketing space. Marketers spend tons of time trying to craft the perfect message—but the subject line is an afterthought. 

You should be spending just as much time on your subject line, if not more time than you do on the body text. This shouldn’t take you all day. But you’ll probably want to spend at least ten minutes or so brainstorming and narrowing down your subject line.

Why is this so important?

The rest of your email is useless if nobody is opening it. So getting opens should be your first priority. 

Example of a Shopify email template

Tip #4 — Keep Your Messages Short

The average person receives dozens of emails per day. Most of these messages are deleted immediately.

Now let’s pretend that you crafted a winning subject line and got someone to open a message. That’s great! But this recipient doesn’t want to spend five or ten minutes reading a promotional message from an online retailer. 

Cut straight to the point. 

Subscribers should be able to identify the purpose of your message within seconds of opening it. They should spend 30 seconds max consuming the content. 

If your value proposition and CTA are buried at the bottom of a 500-word message, they’re not going to convert. 

Tip #5 — Use Automation to Your Advantage

One common misconception about ecommerce email marketing is that it’s super time-consuming and labor-intensive. This might be true if you’re manually sending every message. But the best email marketers know how to leverage automation.

All of the best email marketing tools, including Shopify Email, should have automation features at your disposal. 

Screenshot of Shopify email automation page for using pre-built templates, creating custom workflows, and growing your business

Some of these automations are more advanced than others. But if it’s your first time setting up an ecommerce email automation, start with something basic—like an automated welcome drip.

You can quickly set up a three or five-sequence campaign that drips messages to new subscribers over the next 30 days. By setting this up once, you know that the first month of emails for every new subscriber is taken care of without any extra effort on your end.

Tip #6 — Segment Your Subscriber List

Sending the same exact message to everyone on your subscriber list is a recipe for failure—especially in the ecommerce space. 

Most ecommerce stores have a variety of products to target different audiences. So if you try to send something generic that appeals to everyone, it will likely fail and appeal to nobody. 

A 24-year-old man living in Los Angeles will likely have very different interests than a 55-year-old woman in New York City. The former shouldn’t be getting promotions for women’s winter coats, and the latter shouldn’t be getting promos for men’s bathing suits. 

But by segmenting your subscribers based on factors like age, gender, location, purchase history, interest, site actions, and email actions, you’ll have a much better chance of driving engagement and sales. 

Tip #7 — Make it Personal and Deliver Value

Personalization is one of the best ways to succeed with ecommerce email marketing. When you pair personalized campaigns with real value, your chances of success will skyrocket. 

Using a subscriber’s purchase history is a great way to make your messages feel like they’re tailored specifically for the recipient.

For example, you can follow up with someone two weeks after a purchase asking them to review the product or recommending a similar item. Then you can add value to this by offering some type of loyalty reward or discount for the next purchase.

“Please let us know if you’re enjoying X Product. Leave a review, and we’ll send you a free t-shirt with your next purchase.”

Something along those lines should do the trick.

Screenshot of Shopify email features page

Long-Term Strategies For Ecommerce Email Marketing

In addition to the quick tips covered above, you should also be focusing on long-term success with ecommerce email marketing. Applying these strategies today won’t generate results tomorrow, but they’ll pay off over time.

Strategy #1 — Run Tests to Optimize KPIs

The early stages of ecommerce email marketing involve lots of guesswork. You might think that one subject line is better than another or that a certain CTA will drive more purchases than an alternative, but you don’t actually know anything for certain. 

Over time, you should start testing different versions of campaigns. Use A/B tests to experiment with one particular element (like the CTA color, phrasing, or placement) or split tests to run two completely different versions of the same campaign. 

Focus on KPIs like open rates, clicks, and conversions to see which variations of tests are driving results. 

Strategy #2 — Use Analytics to Drive Decisions

Aside from your tests, you should also be looking at email marketing reports to see a holistic view of your performance. 

You can use these reports to look at individual campaigns and your overall strategy as a whole.

For example, you might look to see if certain types of messages are getting more clicks and opens than others. You could discover that flash sale campaigns deliver better results than new product promotions.

Then you can use this information to run more flash sales and limit campaigns related to new releases. 

The tough part of this strategy is that it takes time. You need a large sample size over long periods of time to truly understand your trends. So don’t make any rash decisions based on one or two reports. 

Screenshot of Shopify analytics page

Strategy #3 — Win Back Subscribers Before They Churn

As your subscriber list grows, you’ll inevitably have some people that aren’t very active. This is completely normal.

But rather than giving up on those customers altogether, you can run specific campaigns to retarget them before they unsubscribe or stop buying from your store altogether. 

These campaigns should be highly personalized and deliver better-than-average value. 

It’s much harder to acquire new customers than it is to retain your existing ones. So even if you have to give a little bit more away to keep people from churning, it’s actually more cost-effective for you in the long run. 

Strategy #4 — De-Clutter Your Subscriber List

If subscribers haven’t opened or engaged with your content in the last six to twelve months and you’ve unsuccessfully tried to reach them with a retargeting campaign, it’s time to cut them loose. 

Having inactive subscribers will just hurt your reporting and make it more difficult for you to gain actionable insights. 

It’s much better to have a smaller list of highly engaged customers as opposed to a million subscribers that aren’t opening your messages. 

So you should be taking the time once a year or so to trim the fat from your list and focus on the subscribers who are contributing to your bottom line. 

Next Steps

Make sure you have a solid email marketing solution when you’re applying the tips and strategies in this guide. Shopify Email is an excellent solution to consider. 

Even the best email campaigns will be useless if you’re not using the right ecommerce solution. Check out our reviews of the best ecommerce platforms to ensure your site is optimized for growth and long-term success. 

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