Advancements in technology have helped us achieve things that felt impossible five years ago. We have fast cars, faster internet, thinner phones, and the ability to order anything and everything by tapping on specific spots on your phone screen in the correct sequence. The last advancement demonstrates the power of eCommerce. eCommerce has redefined how people shop in modern times to the extent that 54% of US consumers under the age of 25 said that same-day shipping influences their purchases, and free shipping is the deciding factor for 79% of US consumers (Source). The share of e-commerce sales in overall U.S. retail sales has increased from 10.5% (Q2 2019) to 16.1% (Q2 2020) (Source).

Email Marketing and eCommerce 

While social media and dedicated apps have significantly boosted eCommerce sales, there is no competition for email marketing. A portion of the eCommerce success for brands can be attributed to the timely and personalized messages that not only inform customers about the next promotions from the brands they have subscribed to but also push (or motivate) them towards making the next purchase. When it comes to sending emails to the right audience that convey the right message at the right time, marketing automation has been a boon for email marketers globally. 

As you read through this article, you shall learn how marketing automation can ramp up your eCommerce email marketing game, right from the point when someone visits your online store to when they become a loyal customer and begin recommending your brand amongst their peers. 

Using Marketing Automation in eCommerce

Most marketers believe that marketing automation only helps you send timely and personalized emails based on a timer or a user-based behavioral trigger. Outside this tunnel vision, automated email marketing holds great benefits, as listed below. 

  • From the push of the right email communication, you speed up the sales cycle.?

  • Based on each automated email’s performance, you can gauge the interest level and preferences of your prospects and customers.

  • The level of human error diminishes as the software automatically sends the emails you have implemented in the automation email workflow without any human interventions.?

  • The right email carrying personalized offers, content, or suggestions will make your customers feel appreciated and this greatly improves the customer experience.?

  • Email automation workflows help to save a great share of time which can be invested in the research for finding better strategies to attract new prospects as well as retain the existing customers.?

  • When comparing the time invested v/s the production cost, you save more time and your team’s energy by creating editable email templates for email automation.

Before we jump headfirst into setting up automated email campaigns, you need to complete certain pre-send automated email requisites

1 – Have different lead generation methods in place

While emails can be used for cold calling approaches, it can lead to spamming and is usually frowned upon by email marketers as well as email service providers. On the other hand, once a user becomes part of an automated email workflow, you can send helpful emails related to what they are looking for and gradually convert them. So, to make them a part of your workflow, you need to implement different lead generation tactics such as discount coupons, freebies, or webinar invitations in exchange for the email addresses. 

2 – Use tools and integrations to monitor customer behavior in real-time

Email automation heavily depends on user behavioral triggers to send appropriate emails. This is not restricted to the email marketing domain and you need a combination of tools that communicate among each other and identify different user behaviors or triggers. Some of the most common tools you may need are:

  1. Google Analytics for tracking website visitors
  2. Any CRM to store user data
  3. Any lead generation tool to collect email addresses
  4. Integration of your eCommerce platform (such as Shopify, BigCommerce) with your Email Service Provider
  5. A good recommendation engine

3 – Set up different email automation scenarios

Email automation assists the prospects at every stage of the customer journey they take to progress from leads to paying customers. Since the expectations and communications would be different for the same customer at each stage, you need to create independent email automation workflows for solving individual purposes. We shall be listing out the different eCommerce email automations in detail later.

4 – List out the goals of each automated email campaign

Email marketing is an ever-evolving domain and you need to list out the goals for each automated email campaign to measure their effectiveness. Welcome emails onboard the prospect, transactional emails inform the customers about their order’s progress, while newsletters educate the leads and promotional emails announce new arrivals or upcoming offers.

It becomes easier to determine the email campaign performance once you have tangible/achievable goals.

How to Implement Email Automation in eCommerce Marketing

Implementation of something would always mean that you need to uproot the current condition and start from scratch. The same is not the case when it comes to setting up email automation and workflows. In case you have already been using email marketing to reach out to your subscribers, email automation is just a one-time additional activity. Once perfectly set up, the automation will function on its own with you intervening rarely for optimization. Nowadays, most popular email service providers offer email automation as a part of the basic package.

Implementation of email automation requires you to create workflows that chart out the path a subscriber will take when they enter the workflow, how they will navigate across based on the actions they take, and finally the exit criteria for the subscriber to come out. In practice, you will have multiple email automations running simultaneously and the exit criteria of one workflow might be the entry condition for the other.

An overview of an email automation workflow that sorts the subscribers based on their interest level is demonstrated below:

email marketing workflow
(Image Source: Stoneshot)

Different eCommerce email automations you need to implement

You may be curious to implement email automation but wondering where to start from. We have listed out the most common email automations that form the barebones of eCommerce email marketing. 

Onboarding or Welcome series

76% of people expect to receive a welcome email immediately after subscribing to your list (Source). When someone has subscribed to your emails, neither of you know much about the other. So, your welcome email(s) would be the same for all the subscribers except the personalization tags. Instead of sending the emails manually, you can create an onboarding email workflow where the subscribers enter when they fill out a signup form as shown in the example below.

onboarding email marketing
(Image Source: ReallyGoodEmails)

Whether you plan to send a single email or an email series, the exit criteria would change accordingly. Using email automation, you can easily implement the double opt-in strategy where the second email is only sent when the subscriber confirms their enrollment.

(Image Source: Remarkety)

Based on the business model, a second variation of the onboarding email series can also be triggered when the subscriber has made a purchase. In the example below, the subscriber is sent this welcome email where they learn about the benefits of the products.

great example of email marketing onboarding
(Image Source: ReallyGoodEmails)

Lead Nurturing Emails.

Once the subscribers exit from the onboarding stage, they have enough knowledge about your brand and can be made sales-ready by sending lead nurturing emails. These emails aim to educate the subscribers about your different products or update them about the ongoing trends in the industry. The ‘nurtured’ subscribers will exit the workflow when they click their first promotional email. They are also referred to as ‘drip’ emails since marketers draw a parallel between nurturing a lead and growing a plant using drip irrigation. 

The below illustration is an example of a lead nurturing email workflow. Depending on the behavior of a lead at this point, they may either exit as disengaged or sales-ready.

email marketing drip campaign
(Source: Email Uplers)

Transactional Emails

These sets of emails separate eCommerce email marketing from other industry’s email marketing. These emails are meant to inform the customers about the different stages of their order cycle and are automatically sent depending on the previous trigger. While there are many transactional email types, the core email set is: 

Order Confirmation

Your customer made the purchase. An email is immediately sent to acknowledge the order confirmation. While an app notification can easily replace this email type, the email in your subscriber’s inbox is a record of the purchase. The order confirmation email generally contains the receipt of purchase along with the anticipated date of delivery and any other relevant information.

(Image Source: ReallyGoodEmails)

Shipping notification

Your customers might be anxious about when they will receive their order and the anxiety is put to ease by a shipping notification email. When the order is dispatched, an email containing the shipping information and a link to track the order is sent to the subscribers. The following email is a perfect example of a shipping notification email.

tracking email marketing
(Image Source: ReallyGoodEmails)

Customer Feedback emails

Few days after the customer receives the order, an email asking for feedback on the products is sent. The customer feedback email is a win-win for you as well as the customer. The customer feels valued and you get honest feedback to improve the services. It is a good practice to feature an image of the product so that the customer can make easy association as demonstrated in the below email by Target. What is worth mentioning about the email is that they have asked the customer to report an issue in a separate section to avoid receiving harsh reviews.

email marketing collecting reviews
(Image Source: ReallyGoodEmails)

Back in stock

eCommerce is all about having the products in stock when the customer wishes to purchase but it might not be the case every time they are looking for it. Based on the products your customers were browsing, some may be out of stock. Using web analytics and custom reminders, you can create triggers to send back in stock reminder emails. This way the customers can be delighted with good user experience.

(Image Source: ReallyGoodEmails)

Another use of this email type is setting up reorder reminders based on the purchase date of certain perishable or subscription-based products. The email example by Rockin Wellness is a good example of a replenishment reminder email.

(Image Source: Salecycle)

Cart Abandonment emails

Not everyone who browses will make the purchase in the first attempt; for times like this you have cart abandonment emails. When someone leaves the checkout page, with products in the cart left unpurchased, an email can be configured to be sent as a reminder and reunite the abandoner with the cart items. Cart abandonment emails are an iconic eCommerce marketing strategy that are slowly being adopted by other industries as well in the form of browse abandonment emails.

(Image Source: ReallyGoodEmails)

Upsell/Cross Sell

The eCommerce industry (or any other industry for that matter) cannot thrive if the customer made a purchase and the conversation ended there. Upselling and cross-selling is a well-known tactic adopted by marketers to suggest relevant products based on the past purchases of the customer. By implementing a recommendation engine, you allow artificial learning to suggest the right products for the customers and make your emails sound personalized.

The USP of Dollar Shave Club is subscription-based parcels that can be customized with products chosen by the customer. In the below email example, they have suggested relevant products that the customer can include in their next box. 

how to upsell with email marketing
(Image Source: ReallyGoodEmails)

Anniversary eMails

Everyone loves getting attention on their special days. With the help of email automation, you can automatically send email greetings to the customers on special days such as birthdays, anniversaries, and even for customer loyalty. The following email was sent by David’s Tea on their own 10th Anniversary and listed out statistics that were exclusive to the customer. Such emails are super personalized and make the customer feel appreciated for loyalty.

(Image Source: ReallyGoodEmails)

Reengagement eMails

People lose interest in your business as time passes. At such critical moments, a reminder about why they were part of your mailing list can reignite the lost flame and help you retain them. The entry condition for putting someone in the re-engagement email workflow would be non-opens for past x campaigns (x = no. of campaigns that qualify as dormancy).

The goal of reengagement emails is to bring the customer back from dormancy and back into the sales cycle.

reengagement campaign for email marketing
(Image Source: ActiveCampaign)

Wrapping Up

As we say it again and again, marketing automation is a true boon for marketers. Not only do you save time and energy in the long run, but you also keep the customers engaged with the correct email communication. We hope that the above-mentioned tips will at least make you sit up and consider adopting email marketing automation. We are confident that you will see a great improvement in the overall growth of your business from the implementation.


Kevin George

Kevin George is Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest growing custom email design and coding companies, and specializes in crafting professional email templates, PSD to HTML email conversion and free responsive HTML email templates in addition to providing email automation, campaign management, and data integration & migration services. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz and eats and breathes email marketing. He enjoys sharing his insights and thoughts on email marketing best practices on his blog.