Ultimate Guide To eCommerce Email Marketing

Nihal Hassan

eCommerce marketing can involve the usage of every marketing channel out there. Depending on the motive, the niche, the budget and the required scale, eCommerce marketers spend a considerable amount of time in trying to figure out the best channel for their stores.

‘Email’ is one of the most effective channels for online stores accounting for 19.8% of all transactions. The Data & Marketing Association has found that the average ROI for every $1 spent on email marketing is $38.

Design for each stage of the customer journey

Why Email Works

One of the best things about email as a marketing channel is that it's a true platform.

  • Your emails will always reach a subscriber's mailbox no matter what.
  • The placement of your email in a subscriber's inbox does not depend on the type of email or on a complicated unpredictable algorithm unless you are abusing the platform or if you have a history of sending spammy content.
  • And competitors cannot promote their email placements over yours by throwing money at the channel.
  • There are 3.8 billion email users, much more than any other channel.

It is because of these reasons that marketers swear by their opt-in email lists and creating one should be a priority for every kind of online business - including online stores.

Most eCommerce marketers invest in email marketing. Few are doing it right.

The Challenges With Email

eCommerce marketers have realized the cost benefits of building an email list of relevant prospects, and invest time and effort into optimizing their websites for more signups or opt-ins.

But an average working professional has to deal with more than 100 emails a day.

To be really effective in eCommerce email marketing it's necessary to understand and segment the customer list, set up the right sequences, and personalize and optimize the messaging. It's important to reach the right group of subscribers at the right time with the right message. You wouldn't want to send a 'welcome' email to a frequent buyer. This is when having all the right tools set up becomes essential.

The Tools Of The Trade

There are multiple email service providers out there for businesses. Most providers promise high-deliverability along with one or more capabilities/merits like better segmentation, behavior tracking, cost-effectiveness, easier automations, etc. MailChimp is the most popular service provider out there for marketing emails and services like Amazon SES and Sendgrid are popular for transactional emails. Let's look some of the necessary email marketing software features for an eCommerce marketer:

  • The promise of high deliverability. Ask how the tool prevents abuse across their customers.
  • Ability to segment based on subscriber behavior and profile attributes
  • Good campaign analytics and reporting
  • Integration with Shopify, WooCommerce or a CMS that you use
  • Automation builder

Further, having some of these add-on features can make your life easier:

  • A/B testing
  • Pre-built sequences for eCommerce
  • Campaign to revenue mapping in ‘reports’ to measure ROI
  • Ad network integration
  • Support other channels like SMS, web push, etc.

There are tens of email service providers popular among different types of businesses for various purposes. We've tried many of them and have concluded that when it comes to eCommerce email marketing automation, Klaviyo is the best software. I’ll talk more about Klaviyo later.

The Difference Between Promotional(Marketing) and Transactional Emails

Transactional emails are triggered when a customer interacts with a website/app and performs certain actions. Examples of this would be order-confirmation emails, account-creation emails, password-reset emails, etc.

Marketing emails are often sent to push the customers to take some actions and move them down the funnel. They include emails sent during customer onboarding (welcome series), during cart abandonment, as newsletters, sales and promotions, etc. I'm mostly covering marketing emails here. Let's look at all the types of marketing emails you can send as an eCommerce marketer.

Types of Emails at Every Stage of the Customer Journey

1. Awareness:

  • Welcome series,
  • Product education,
  • Company story

2. Interest and Consideration:

  • Product feature introduction,
  • Customer story,
  • Browse abandonment,
  • Abandoned cart,
  • Demos,
  • Promotions

3. Purchase:

  • Promotions,
  • Order confirmation, (transactional)
  • Shipping confirmation (transactional)

4. Retention:

  • Feedback(review) request,
  • Thank you,
  • Product usage guides and tips,
  • Promotions,
  • Recommended products

5. Loyalty:

  • Special offers,
  • Updates,
  • Periodic renewals & service reminders,
  • Newsletters

6. Advocacy:

  • Referral offer,
  • Customer story,
  • Customer delight

We’ll delve deeper into some of the more important emails now.

Welcome Series Emails

The first few emails your subscribers receive after joining your email list are some of the most important messages of the customer journey. The subscribers are expecting them and you’ll probably receive the the highest open rates for these emails. These emails make your subscribers accustomed to engaging with your brand via email and set the tone of your relationship.

Crafting impactful welcome emails:

  • Send a series of emails instead of just one
  • Thank the subscriber for joining or purchasing
  • Introduce your brand, tell them your story
  • Optimize for micro-commitments instead of ‘purchase’
Trade's Welcome Email

Abandoned Cart Recovery

Abandoned carts are one of the biggest problems for eCommerce stores. But it’s also a major opportunity. Converting even a portion of the lost carts can boost your revenue.

According to SalesCycle, 75.6% of carts are abandoned.

There are a couple of ways to reach to customers who have abandoned a cart - email is certainly the best one. Like welcome series emails, abandoned cart emails are also known to get good open rates. Here are a few tips which you can incorporate in your strategy:

  • Send a series of 3 - 5 emails in 3-4 days
  • The first email should go within an hour of the abandonment
  • Use the product image and a direct link to the saved cart
  • Craft a good subject line, with a short persuasive body and a compelling CTA
  • Include customer support information
  • Try different angles like including an incentive, a positive testimonial(trust and social proof),  scarcity signals, etc.
Massdrop's Abandoned Cart Email

Referral Program Messaging

People are more likely to buy a product that is referred to them by a person they trust.  

Referral marketing is a great way to get new customers and these customers also give you the best store conversion rate. Most growing eCommerce brands have some sort of a referral program.

Marketers spend weeks in designing and implementing a good referral marketing strategy. And the ‘introduction’ of it to the current customers is as important as the program itself.

Here are a few things that you will need to keep in mind while introducing your referral program over email.

  • Keep the message, the call-to-action and the incentive simple.
  • Remind customers why they like you.
  • Make sharing from within the email easy.
  • Trigger this email after a positive experience.
Zooshoo's Referral Messaging


Contrary to popular belief, ‘newsletters’ when done right - actually works. Newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your customers without seeming too pushy. If you’re able to captivate your audience with interesting content, they will become more loyal to your brand.

Use these tips while creating your next newsletter:

  • Do not push your products all the time.
  • Keep it interesting and entertaining.
  • Try educational content that’s relevant to your brand
  • Video increases click rate; prioritize images over text when the message can be conveyed visually; GIF s and countdown timers work.
  • Include personalized recommendations
A Casper Newsletter

Rules To Improve Your Deliverability And Conversion Rates

Consumer email clients have sophisticated algorithm to prevent spam and abuse of the technology. While you will definitely be able to reach a valid email's mailbox, the inbuilt filters may direct your email to the spam folder if it detects abuse. Whether you are sending a newsletter or an order confirmation email, here are some tips you can follow to make sure that subscribers notice your emails.

  • Keep your customers in mind 100% of the time.
  • Make sure your subscribers have double-opted in.
  • Utilize a best-in-class service provider.
  • Verify your domain with the email software and set up DMARC, SPF and DKIM.
  • Use your own domain for click and open tracking and for unsubscription confirmation.
  • Always include other ways to contact you like a physical mailing address, a support email and a phone number.
  • Always include an unsubscribe link.
  • Remove bounced emails from your lists.
  • Build a reputation. Start with a small list especially if you recently migrated to a new ESP, or if your domain or IP is new.
  • Triggered emails always get the best responses.
  • Stay consistent across branding, website and app experience.
  • Make sure every email is enjoyable and captivating (Take the extra step. Even a boring transactional email can be made fun to read.)
  • Balance text and media (All image emails in 2019 are no no’s).
  • Emails have to be accessible across devices and screens.
  • Avoid spammy keywords.
  • Be grammatically right.
  • Do not have a set-it and forget approach. Monitor your metrics and always keep improving.

eCommerce Email Copywriting Tips

It’s a big challenge to get people to open, then read your emails and then to go on to click through. If things don’t go as planned, it’s most likely because of your email copy. I’ve already mentioned above that it’s important to create an enjoyable, captivating and functional email.

CDBaby's Order Confirmation Email

Here's how you can craft emails that your subscribers will wait for:

1. Be relatable to your subscribers

Customers do not like receiving automated messages. Send only relevant emails at the right time.

2. Stress benefits over features

If you're a marketer, you've heard this a million times. People love unicorns because they seem magical, not because they have a horn.

3. Keep it simple and brief

You want your readers to move over to the next step quick. Make it easy to consume.

4. Write in the second-person voice

The second-person point of view means talking to your subscribers as though they were right in front of you.

5. Be personal

Write like the reader is really before you and you want to impress them. Take their name, let them know you are noticing them (not in a creepy way) and show them that you(a real person) exist. Your automation tool should be tracking their on-website behavior.

6. Only promise what you can deliver

Think why customers are still subscribed to you before you start writing the copy. Being honest will always earn you respect and trust.

7. Choose words that invoke emotions

Word choice matters. Check your thesaurus and find words that sums up what you want to say, better.

8. About you

You started this company(or are a part of it) for a reason. You saw a gap, a customer pain point that everyone else was overlooking or you have faced the problem yourself. Given them a picture of yourself so that the next time they receive your email, they'll visualize the person behind it too.

9. Tell a story

Storytelling always helps. Just keep it short and relevant to your business.

10. Monitor and keep testing

Test your subject lines, your images, CTAs to a small group of audiences before sending the email to everyone. Optimize incrementally.

11. Be lovable when appropriate

That sounds a little touchy-feely, doesn’t it? Yet it works with some brands.

12. Be consistent

We've seen many email hyper-optimized for just opens - with a cool subject line. But with a bland body. Be consistent across your subject line, images, body-text, and CTA.


A Little Bit about Klaviyo

I'd briefly expressed my love for Klaviyo above. Klaviyo has positioned themselves as experts in the eCommerce field and we, after comparing it with multiple other leading providers for many of our clients, understand why.

Most businesses who move to Klaviyo see a significant jump in revenues within months of switching. Shopify stores make $85 for every dollar they spend on Klaviyo. Though it may seem expensive initially, we've seen it pay for itself and more.

Read our detailed analysis of Klaviyo here.


Last Words

Email is an integral part of modern communication with almost every internet user having one. It certainly cannot be ignored and a half-hearted approach will not take us anywhere. Mastering eCommerce Email Marketing takes time. You have to focus on optimizing each email at a time. But once you’re set, the returns are humongous.

If you'd like to mention some other effective eCommerce email marketing tip that I forgot, let me know in the comments and I'd get back to you right away.



looking to 10X your growth?

get your free strategy call