Learn how to create effective automated email campaigns that deliver the right messages at the right time to your customers.
According to Constant Contact, email marketing offers an average ROI of $36 for every $1 spent, making it by far the most cost-effective digital marketing strategy that businesses have at their disposal. If you’re running an ecommerce store, email marketing can be an incredibly effective way to excite potential customers and re-engage current customers.
That said, sending out individual emails to everyone on your subscriber list is simply too time-consuming to be feasible. Instead, you can leverage automated email campaigns to deliver the right messages at the right time without the manual work.
We’ll help you get started creating an effective email marketing strategy driven by the power of marketing automation. We'll take a look at everything you need to know about email automation for ecommerce stores, including eight examples of email automation series built to attract and retain more new customers.
What is email automation and how does it work?
Email automation is the process of building emails and setting them to automatically send to your email list based on the criteria you choose. It’s used for both transactional and promotional emails, as part of a broader email marketing strategy.
Automated emails can be sent at specific times and triggered by specific criteria. Triggers might include a recipient’s newsletter subscription, purchase history, clicks on links, time since their last purchase, and more. For transactional emails, a typical automation example is sending a user a shipping update or password reset email.
While email automation is relatively straightforward to set up for businesses of all sizes — which is a big part of why email marketing can offer such a high ROI — there are a couple of things you’ll need to put in place before you can begin sending automated messages.
First, you’ll need to use an email automation tool that will allow you to deliver one-off messages and multi-message campaigns to your subscribers. We’ll cover some of these below. Second, you’ll need to create email templates for your automated campaigns targeted to specific audience segments.
With the right automation platform and high-quality message content, email automation is something that any ecommerce business can leverage for outstanding results. It can help boost your store's conversion rate, reduce cart abandonment rate, improve your customer experience, and beyond.
8 Email automation flows to get you started
To help you get up and running, we’ll walk through eight of the most important email automation series for reaching your revenue, customer satisfaction, and retention goals. As you build emails for each of these flows, make sure to read up on email marketing best practices for tips and inspiration.
1) Nudge shoppers with automated abandoned cart emails
Given that nearly 7 out of every 10 ecommerce carts are abandoned, salvaging even a small percentage of your store's abandoned carts can yield substantial returns. Turning those exits into sales could be as easy as setting up automated cart abandonment emails. According to Mailchimp, cart abandonment emails yield 34 times more orders per recipient than through standard marketing emails alone.
Many times, simply reminding customers that they still have products in their shopping cart is all that it takes to convince them to complete their purchase. Many ecommerce stores also choose to offer discounts to encourage conversions.
Goals for abandoned cart emails
The main goal of abandoned cart emails is to reduce your cart abandonment rate, a metric that should be easy to track via the analytics features of the ecommerce platform you use. Conversion rate and click-through rate can also be used to gauge whether your abandoned cart emails are as compelling as they should be.
Tips for setting up your abandoned cart emails
- Send an initial abandoned cart email 24 hours after a customer has abandoned their cart, reminding them that their item is still available and ready to buy.
- Send a second abandoned cart email 48 hours after a customer has abandoned their cart, addressing common objections that might be keeping them from checking out.
- Send a third abandoned cart email 72 hours after a customer has abandoned their cart offering a discount code or other perk.
2) Send customers personalized product recommendations
Automated email marketing is a great way to present would-be and current customers with personalized recommendations that pique their interest. It pays off: According to Barilliance, average order value (AOV) increases by 369% when prospects engage with a single product recommendation.
In addition to helping you form more robust customer relationships, product recommendation emails can help you upsell or cross-sell a new product to the customers most likely to buy them.
Goals for product recommendation emails
The goal of product recommendation emails is twofold. One, product recommendation emails encourage repeat purchases from customers who have already given your online store the stamp of approval. Tracking clicks and conversions on each recommendation is an excellent way to evaluate these emails.
Two, product recommendation emails let customers know that you’re paying attention to their interests and value their business. No one likes seeing suggestions for products they’d never consider buying. A customer survey could help you measure whether your customers feel your tips are on target.
Tips for setting up your product recommendation emails
- Constantly tailor your product recommendation emails to the customer’s specific purchase data. You could suggest products that complement their purchase, products similar to their purchase, products other people purchased after viewing the original product, and so on.
- Experiment with when you send personalized product recommendation emails. You could start with a couple of days after a customer makes a purchase or even include recommendations in the order confirmation email.
3) Automate discount emails based on customer behavior
Strategically sending discounts is one of the most popular ways to utilize automated email marketing. According to Adoric, 44% of consumers check branded emails for discounts and other valuable offers.
To really capitalize on the benefits of discount emails, though, your offers should be triggered based on customer behavior. If a customer has been browsing a specific product, for example, you could send them a discount code as a welcome.
As we touched on above, you can also send discount codes to customers who have abandoned their cart or on their previous purchases. It’s also common to automate discount emails to send if a certain amount of time has elapsed since a customer’s last purchases, whether it’s two weeks or two months. There are endless possibilities when it comes to tailoring discounts.
Goals for discount emails
The goal of a discount email is simple: to encourage conversions by offering customers savings on the products they’re most interested in. This makes tracking the success of your discount emails as simple as monitoring the conversion rate and click-through rate of the discount emails you send out. You can also look at average order value (AOV) and customer lifetime value (CLV) to see how discounts impact overall spending.
Tips for setting up discount emails
- Discount emails that are triggered based on specific customer behaviors are much more effective than generic discount emails that are sent en masse to your entire email list.
- Sending discount emails to customers who have already purchased a product from your store is a great way to reward your loyal customers and encourage their repeat business.
4) Greet and excite new customers with an automated welcome series
Welcome emails that greet your new subscribers have an average open rate of 50%, making their open rate 86% higher than standard newsletters. Wordstream reports that are 320% more revenue is attributed to welcome emails compared to other promotional emails.
Simply saying hello to new subscribers and providing product highlights is an excellent way to get them excited about what your store has to offer and let them know that you’re happy to have them in the fold. It’s also a prime opportunity to offer welcome discounts, planting the seeds for their first or next purchase.
Goals for automated welcome emails
The ultimate goal of a welcome email series is to convert subscribers into loyal, paying customers. This makes conversion rate an important factor to consider when sending out these emails.
Beyond this, welcome emails are also a great way to let your audience know the benefit of engaging with your messages (discounts, exclusive sales, first looks at products, etc.) and make them more likely to open subsequent emails. So, the open rate is an important metric to watch.
Tips for setting up automated welcome emails
- Welcome emails should be sent automatically and immediately anytime a new subscriber subscribes to your email list.
- Thanks to their high open rate, welcome emails also present a prime opportunity to promote high-value products. Depending on your email automation tool, you can tailor your featured products based on the customer’s web activity.
5) Keep customers updated with confirmations, receipts, and shipping emails
One of the most significant benefits of email automation is streamlining and speeding up transactional email sending. Unlike marketing emails, your customers expect to receive lightning-fast order confirmations, receipts, status updates, and more.
For example, email receipts that are sent out when a customer makes a purchase have an average open rate of 70.9%, making these emails more likely to be read than any other type of message. Even small delays may decrease confidence or lead to customer service tickets filling up your queue. Email automation lets you proactively inform customers of changes and get ahead of questions.
Goals for update and confirmation emails
The most important objective of update and order confirmation emails is to provide detailed information and answer customers’ questions. You can track email metrics like open rate as well as customer service metrics like the number of tickets related to receipts, shipping status, and so on.
Tips for setting up update and confirmation emails
- An order confirmation email should be sent immediately after a customer makes a purchase and should include a detailed receipt.
- A shipping confirmation email should be sent whenever the customer's order has shipped and will ideally include a tracking number that customers can use to follow their package.
- While not the primary purpose of update and confirmation emails, these emails offer the chance to market additional products to customers who have already purchased from your store.
6) Engage your repeat customers with a targeted email series
According to data from a Stitch Labs report on customer loyalty, repeat customers make up almost 25% of a store's revenue despite only making up 11% of a store's customer base on average.
This makes it especially important to engage your repeat customers and ensure that they continue coming back to your store. For this purpose, automated email campaigns that are targeted based on the behaviors and interests of your repeat customers can be highly beneficial. Your email series could include interesting blog reads, product ideas or inspiration videos, promo codes, featured customers, and more.
Goals for repeat customer emails
The goal of repeat customer emails is to encourage repeat business from your store's most valuable segment of customers. Open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate are the most important metrics to track when sending out these emails.
Tips for setting up repeat customer emails
- Send a check-in email two days after a customer's order has arrived to make sure that they are satisfied with their purchase.
- Send a personalized product recommendation email four days after a customer's order has arrived to encourage a repeat purchase. Personalized product recommendation emails can also be sent out periodically to your entire segment of repeat customers.
- Include discount codes or special offers that are tailored to your repeat customers as a reward for their continued business.
7) Send customer feedback emails to gain valuable insights
Few things are more valuable or actionable for an online retailer than in-depth customer feedback. With automation, you can schedule email surveys that collect this all-important data on a regular basis, whether monthly, quarterly, or yearly. You can also schedule them to send after key interactions like purchases, returns, or customer service conversations.
Customer feedback emails are also a good opportunity to request that customers leave a review on the products that they've purchased. Small discounts, gift cards, or prize drawings can be valuable incentives for customers to share their thoughts.
Goals for customer feedback emails
While the goal of most ecommerce email marketing campaigns is to encourage conversions, this isn't the goal of customer feedback emails. Instead, the goal of these emails is to gather feedback from your customers in the form of either survey responses or online reviews. This makes open rate and click-through rate the most important metrics to track for these email campaigns.
Tips for setting up customer feedback emails
- The first email in a customer feedback email campaign should be sent out one week after a customer's order has arrived.
- Customer feedback emails can link to a survey form to collect feedback for your business. Consider linking to review sites to make it easy to leave feedback and steadily build social proof for your products.
8) Retain customers with a re-engagement email series
Eventually, some subscribers may start to ignore the emails you send if they don’t find them valuable. Often, segments of subscribers aren’t even receiving your emails because their contact information is outdated.
If you notice that your open rate is starting to suffer, re-engagement or “win back” email series can help. These emails are all about understanding what drives customers to engage with your emails, confirming contact details, and reigniting the interest of your subscribers. There are many different approaches. You can offer product recommendations and discounts, ask readers to verify their email addresses if they like your content, and more.
Goals for re-engagement emails
The goal of re-engagement emails is to motivate inactive subscribers to take action, whether buying, browsing, or unsubscribing. Monitoring the open rate, click rate, and the number of unsubscribes for these series is crucial. You can also gauge the success of these campaigns by tracking conversions.
Tips for setting up re-engagement emails
- The first email in a re-engagement series that is sent out to subscribers who are no longer opening your messages should serve the purpose of reminding them what they’re missing out on.
- The second email in a re-engagement series should present subscribers with a fantastic offer that will encourage them to check subsequent emails for similar offers.
- The final email in a re-engagement email series should politely inform customers that you’re going to unsubscribe them if they aren’t interested in your emails.
Email automation tools worth integrating with your online store
Automation begins with great software. You’ll want to look for options that integrate seamlessly with your other ecommerce automation tools, such as your customer service or inventory management platforms. Today, the top email automation tools include the following:
- Klaviyo: Klaviyo is an email marketing platform that allows you to collect and analyze data from your customers then use that data to create highly-targeted email marketing and SMS campaigns. If you’re looking for an email marketing solution that will enable you to utilize your data to its full potential, then Klaviyo is an excellent option to consider.
- Omnisend: Omnisend is a marketing automation platform that empowers automated email marketing in addition to SMS messaging, WhatsApp messaging, social media messaging, and beyond. If you would like to use an all-in-one platform that will allow you to send automated messages across a wide variety of channels, then Omnisend could work well.
- Autopilot: Autopilot is a cloud-based email marketing automation platform that allows you to create automated emails series using simple drag-and-drop commands. Autopilot is easy to use considering its impressive range of features, making it a good option for those new to email marketing.
- Mailchimp: Mailchimp is one of the most popular email marketing solutions available today, in part because of its low cost and user-friendliness. The base version of Mailchimp is free to use, making it a great way to test the waters of ecommerce email marketing automation without investing any money.
- Drip: Drip is an email automation platform that includes a visual email builder for creating attractive automated email templates. Drip allows you to automatically send emails based on detailed customer actions, making it one of the more capable email automation tools available today.
- Convertkit: Convertkit is a marketing platform aimed at content creators and artists that includes email marketing automation features. It allows you to easily migrate your existing list of subscribers to the Convertkit platform so you can start launching automated email series.
Benefits of email automation
Automation lets your business enjoy all the unique, worthwhile benefits of email marketing without demanding more human power or a more significant time investment. Here are the specific advantages of automating your email campaigns.
1) Offers a high ROI
We mentioned earlier that email marketing is unrivaled when it comes to ROI, yielding an average of $36 for every $1 spent. This statistic alone is more than enough to convince most ecommerce businesses to invest their efforts in this channel.
One reason why email marketing offers such a high ROI is that email marketing is an incredibly low-cost marketing avenue. Once you have a list of subscribers, the only real expense associated with email marketing is the cost of paying for a subscription to an email marketing automation platform.
These platforms are available at a variety of price points, including free options with robust feature sets, and let you send to hundreds or thousands of customers every month. When the “I” in “ROI” is this low, there’s potential to achieve a substantial return on your investment.
2) Keeps customers satisfied and engaged
Automated emails, transactional and promotional, are vital for creating a customer-centric brand.
Fast transactional emails, such as responses to customer service requests, make your subscribers feel heard and valued. They're a great form of customer self-service. Nearly 50% of customers say they expect an email response from businesses in less than four hours. Automated messages speed up your customer service response times.
Email automation is also effective at keeping customers interacting with your brand. For example, 45% of subscribers who receive “win back” (re-engagement emails) will go on to open subsequent emails, according to data from Return Path. By scheduling regular messages, you can retain customers who might have otherwise been lost.
3) Built for upselling and cross-selling customers
Automated email marketing also allows you to segment your list of subscribers based on factors like web activity, purchase history, and interests in order to create targeted cross-selling and upselling opportunities. Ecommerce platforms and CRMs offer plenty of data to inform triggered campaigns.
Say you have a segment of customers who purchased a winter coat from your store. You can set up an automated, personalized campaign that recommends scarves and mittens to pair with their purchase. This is a great way to raise average order values among your existing customer base.
4) Saves time for your sales and marketing teams
With the right tools, all of the above benefits of email marketing can be accomplished with minimal manual input from your company's sales, marketing, or customer service staff.
Once you’ve created the necessary email templates and set up criteria to trigger email sends, automated email campaigns practically run themselves. This frees up your teams to focus on tasks that truly need a human touch (and larger projects like SEO for your store) while making them faster and more efficient at repetitive but essential tasks.
Offer top-notch customer support from a single platform with Gorgias
At Gorgias, we’re committed to helping businesses make the most of ecommerce automation and hands-free email marketing through our convenient central hub. Our helpdesk platform integrates with popular marketing automation platforms. It makes it easy to manage email communication, SMS communication, and social media messaging, allowing you to provide the kind of customer service that turns visitors and newcomers into loyal shoppers.