Email marketing is dead. Is what someone who knows nothing about email marketing might say. Within eCommerce, email marketing can be a huge conversion driver and plays a huge role in most of our clients organic strategies. Over the last couple of years there have been some factors that have negatively affected the conversion rates of email marketing, such as:

  • New GDPR rules & regulations  – A lot of online businesses ended up panicking as the deadline for GDPR approached and culling the majority of their contacts. We’re not GDPR lawyers so we can’t advise on this but we did see a lot of data being deleted and email lists shrinking when they could have been potentially saved.
  • An Oversaturated Market – Pre-GDPR it was common practise (not best-practise) to buy an email list to target your deals too. It didn’t take long until email marketing became oversaturated with spam and unwanted promotional emails.
  • Improved automated inbox filtering – Back in 2013, gmail introduced “tabs” and intelligently moved promotional email marketing emails into the “promotional tab”. Other email clients followed suit with similar functionality.  That meant that the users main inbox was no longer taken up with unwanted promos. This was a better user experience for the users but a pain for email marketing managers!

In this article we’re going to look at why email marketing is very much still alive, how your emails can stand out and some of the best email automations and best practises to follow.

Best Practise for Email Marketing

Email marketing is no different to any other marketing campaign, with the right planning and understanding you should see a high return on investment. There is one basic rule to email marketing:

Only send information that is truly relevant to the user.

If you follow that rule for every decision you need to make, then your campaigns are going to be a success. This means no buying email lists, no sending spammy promo emails. It means you need to segment your subscribers in order to further understand your audience and what content will be best for them.

Recommended Email Segmentations

Segmenting your customer base is how you can further understand what type of customers you have. Segmentation isn’t something you do once, it’s something that should be automatically updated. As your business grows, and with it your subscriber base, you’ll want to introduce some new segmentations. Here are some basic segmentations that we recommend all eCommerce businesses set up:

Recently Bought
Users that have bought in the last 10 days should be added to this segmentation. It’s important to give your newly purchasing customers some attention. So many companies think that user journey stops after the checkout. Use this segmentation to cement the brand, promote content marketing and encourage UGC (user generated content) across social platforms.

Potential Purchaser
Different businesses will have different criteria based on the customer type, average order value and business vertical. But if a user has viewed a product or interacted with your site or email marketing in the last 30 days more than once then they’re likely thinking about purchasing. If the customer is ready to buy, then you can use this segment to push them across the line.

VIP
Again, different businesses will set the parameters for this segment differently, but usually it’s based on life time value and the amount of times a customer has ordered. By nurturing your VIP customers you’ll grow their loyalty and ultimately lifetime value (LTV). A lot of the email automation flows can be split into VIP vs Non-VIP in order to give VIP customers a bigger discount, first looks and longer promotional periods.

Non-purchase
This segment allows you to tailor content more towards existing customers and non-customers. This is an important definition to make and if you were split your subscriber list in two, this is the segment you should start with. Customers will want, and deserve, different content to non-customers.

Recommended Email Automation Flows

Once you have all your email segmentations set up and running in a dynamic fashion then it’s time to set up your email marketing automation. Automated email campaigns should be set up, left to run and then periodically analysed to improve upon. When a customer enters a segmentation and/or match a certain set of criteria then it will automatically trigger emails. By creating a flow, you can send one email, wait for a user action (clicked, opened, purchased etc). Then depending on the outcome of the first email send a series of other emails or mark them in a different segmentation for later marketing material. Here are some basic flows that we recommend every eCommerce business sets up as standard:

Welcome Flow

The welcome flow is the first series of emails that a subscriber will receive when they first sign up. The first split in this flow should be customer vs non-customer, a first-time customer could have signed up at the checkout. If you plan to use a discount code in your welcome series, you don’t want to send this to a first-time customer that has just bought from your site. In the welcome flow, a new customer should be encouraged to post UGC (user generated content) on your social platforms. Whereas a non-customer should be introduced to all the USPs and proposition drivers that your eCommerce site has to offer.

Abandoned Carts

Abandoned carts can be set up within Shopify directly and they are a very powerful conversion tool. This is an email that is sent to a user after they have left their cart with products in and not purchased. Maybe the customer got distracted or decided to walk away, but this email can be the final convincer in a sales process. Most of the common email marketing platforms will be able to perform abandoned carts allowing you to customise the look and feel of it. You can customise Shopify’s transactional emails, but you’ll need to have some coding knowledge.

Out of Stock

When a customer is browsing your site and really wants a product but it’s out of stock it can be frustrating and annoying. The online experience should be the opposite of this. With some small development on your site you can add a “let me know when’s back in stock” form onto the product pages. You can then set up a flow to automatically email the customer when the product is back in stock. You can set this flow up to send to VIP customers first so that they get first pickings and then a couple of days later send to the rest of the subscribers. This is a great way to re-engage with users. If your customers are more likely to buy closer to pay days, then delay this email until then.

Browse Abandonment

Similar to the abandoned cart, this email can be sent to existing subscribers if they spend a certain amount of time looking at one product and then leave. This can be a big conversion driving factor in a sales process. It’s important that you don’t over-send this email though, try set the parameters of this flow so that the user will only receive one a month. Test the effects of this send and increase or decrease as you see fit.

Up Sell Flow

If you know a product has a perfect up-sell, then why wouldn’t you follow up with new purchases? You could actually integrate an up sell email into the welcome flow. You’ll need to test the delivery time of this. Sometimes you can send the email straight after a purchase and other times you will have to wait until the customer has received the original item. This will all depend on audience type and average order value, but you can test and amend accordingly.

Birthday Flow

Who doesn’t love a birthday present?! This is a basic set up that any eCommerce store with an ounce of brand personality should be doing. We recommenced using dynamic pop-ups to collect different pieces of information over time. This way you don’t get lots of people signing up with false birthdays to claim discounts. You could create a flow so that you email the customer to get their order delivered in time for their birthday. We recommend sending a genuine birthday email without up-sells on it on the customers actual birthday. If the customer is tagged as a VIP you could use an engagement platform to send them a physical birthday postcard! This is a great way to grow brand loyalty and if you send a physical card/present then it will encourage more UGC.

Potential Purchasers

Use this flow to show off all the USPs and proposition drivers that your company has to offer. If a customer is nearly ready to make a purchase then use this flow to get them over the line. If you’re using deferred payments such as Klarna, then you can add your upstream marketing messaging in this email series. If your customers are driven by discounts, then you could add a final email in the series with a discount code.

High Churn Probability

A high churn probability customer is someone who is likely going to defer to one of your competitors. This could be for many different reasons, including price, brand reputation or brand loyalty. Use this opportunity to get these customers back on board with your brand. It’s much more expensive to acquire a new customer than to resell to an existing customer. Use this email series to pull out all the stops; showcase the best UGC, social posts, blog posts and content pieces. If you can, offer discounts or integrate with a loyalty program to offer extra points to high churn customers.

How to Optimise your Email Campaigns

The only real way to optimise your email campaigns is to understand your customers more. Remember the rule about only sending truly relevant content? That’s the end goal. Find content that’s relevant and you’ll boost open rates, clicks rates and conversions. That being said, there are some tips that you can do to improve delivery, open rate and click rates. Let’s look at some tips to spruce your email marketing up.

Subject Line

The subject line is the first thing your subscriber is going to see, so optimising this will increase your open rate. Think of writing a subject line, like writing headlines for newspaper article; it needs to be enticing enough to get the user to open it. But it also needs to have relevant keywords in the subject line and not sound spammy. If you’re sending an offer/abandoned cart or something with an end date on it then try and focus on a sense of urgency. If your email is around strengthening the brand and offering value through content, then use curiosity to get the email opened. It’s worth keeping the subject line around 50 characters, and while that may seem short, a lot of customers are opening emails on mobile (even in the B2B market).

Use Emojis

Using emojis in subject lines has been proven to improve open rates. While it’s not common practise (yet!) it’s worth adding emojis as it helps your subject line stand out in the inbox. An emoji speaks a thousand words; they help get the main theme of the email across. To use emojis effectively, it’s worth noting that not all email clients support emojis, so make sure your subject line makes sense with and without them.

Preview Text

If the subject line is the first thing that a subscriber checks out, the preview text is next. A lot of merchants neglect this, but it can actually be very important, and with the right time and effort put into it can be an open-rate game-changer. The preview text is like writing a well versed tweet! Take your time and get the user excited about the contents of the email.

Send From Name

Of course, the dream email marketing strategy means that as soon as your customer has seen your name, they open the email. Make sure you use your brand name as the send-from name on the email. Keep it consistent and don’t try to sell with the brand name, just keep it simple and memorable.

Content

Every business, every customer and every email marketing strategy will be massively different. Therefore, you’ll need to test your emails and measure the outcome of them to optimise them further. Most email platforms will allow you to do A/B split testing in order to define what style of content the user is interested in. Be meaningful with A/B testing, use it to get an outcome that will help your CTR (click through rates).

Recommended Email Marketing Platforms for Shopify

We recommend a couple of different email marketing platforms for Shopify merchants. These are based upon our knowledge of the industry, how seamless their integrations are and of course, if they are GDPR compliant.

DotDigital

DotDigital is an engagement platform, but with their platform comes a large suite of email marketing and email automation tools. Their AI powered engine means that segmenting and automatically emailing customers is done in real-time, on the fly and intelligently. This platform can be extremely powerful if used correctly and can integrate into 3rd party software providers. This means that you automatically send out physical cards or brochures via post if a customer hits certain criteria. You can also integrate SMS and push notifications to make sure your customers are engaged on their level not just email marketing.

Email (or marketing) automation can be a very powerful tool, giving you back more time to work on your overall strategy. However, don’t ‘set and forget.’ Monitor your results, learn from them, and make appropriate adjustments.

Gavin Laugenie, Head of Strategy & Insight at DotDigital.

Klaviyo

Klaviyo has some fantastic templates for segmentation and automation allowing you to get off the ground with email marketing almost straight away. Their easy to use GUI means you can drag and drop flows and see analytics in real time. The integration into Shopify is straight forward and is just a case of installing an app on your store. You can build dynamic drag-and-drop pop-ups and fly-out forms that automatically gets added to the site. This means that you can collect users email addresses on their first visit, their name on the second and their date of birth on the third.

Email Marketing with Shopify Plus

Shopify Plus offers much more automation freedom than the core platform. These enterprise features allow you to segment directly on Shopify Plus and pass that information back to the email platform of your choice. This kind of AI segmentation is invaluable in the quest to understand your audience more. DotDigital and Klaviyo both support Shopify Plus as an integration and have more advanced features than core Shopify.

eCommerce Email Marketing

We work with merchants of varying sizes across different verticals in the B2B, B2C and D2C space. If you’ve got questions about email marketing, need some advice or want someone to set it up for you, then get in touch. Our team of developers, designers and marketeers will work with you to create an on-brand, best-in-class automated email marketing campaign that will work for you and your customers.

AUTHOR

Will Lynch

Will is Head of Marketing at ELS Media. He can be found fixing Google penalties, optimising eCommerce sites and creating automated email marketing strategies.