There’s a lot more to e-commerce email marketing than arbitrarily sending promotional emails and an automated cart abandonment email or two…
But this is where most e-commerce store owners stop short, often because they’re flat-out doing all the other things that need to be done to run an online store, like product sourcing, running traffic, fulfillment and customer service.
It’s no secret that the stores that are the most profitable focus heavily on email marketing. They understand that maximising customer lifetime value is the key to driving higher profits and achieving a significantly higher price as part of their exit strategy.
And if you’re like most busy store owners, improving your email marketing is on your to-do list but it keeps getting pushed back because it seems daunting or other “urgent” things keep cropping up.
But the trouble is, the longer you leave it, the more money you’re leaving on the table…
You see, every visitor that comes to your store who don’t buy straight away and whose email address isn’t captured and put into a nurture sequence is a missed opportunity…
Every customer who only buys once and never again is a lost profit source…
Every customer who starts out buying regularly but then lapses into obscurity is a shameful waste.
All this puts more pressure on you to drive more front-end new customers. And since new customers are the least profitable, this stifles your growth and profitability.
But it doesn’t have to be this way and that’s why I’ve created this guide to give you everything you’ll ever need to create profitable email campaigns on auto-pilot.
Imagine having email campaigns that trigger automatically — based on how someone interacts with your store.
These “automated” campaigns then do all the heavy lifting for you…
…they build relationships and cement trust…
…they indoctrinate shoppers into your brand (so they buy from you instead of your competitors)…
…they keep people engaged (so they consistently open, click, and buy from your emails)… and finally…
…they routinely drive a steady stream of sales, week after week, year after year.
But that’s not all…
On top of your automated email campaigns, manually created campaigns are a huge profit driver too through regular promotions to carefully segmented lists.
This five-part guide and email templates leave no stone unturned and are everything you need to easily set up a full-scale e-commerce email marketing program without paying expensive consultants or copywriters.
So, let’s get into it, but first…
How to get your emails opened
Nothing happens with email marketing until your emails get opened. if no one opens them, the best copy in the world won’t persuade anyone to buy.
Getting your emails opened boils down to just four things:
- Your “from” name.
- Your subject line.
- Avoiding spam triggers.
So let’s deal with them one at a time…
Your “from” name
The “from” name is the sender’s name that’s shown in your inbox. It looks like this:
But don’t make the mistake shown in this example, I’ve never heard of “Terry Harris” so unless you are your brand like actress Kate Hudson (fabletics.com), then people will remember your store name better than you.
Shinesty.com go as far as changing the from name for every email they send to help get noticed in the inbox.
The other mistake stores make is sending emails from a no-reply address. This is a complete dead-end for your customers and creates an unnecessary hurdle for them to get in touch with you if they want to reply to your email.
What’s more, by using an email address people can actually reply to, you can ask them to reply to your emails in various campaigns.
Your subject line
Once your email has landed in someone’s inbox, 100% of your success rate is controlled by this single point of failure.
This is where all success depends on your subject line’s ability to get the reader to open your email.
Data from Experian that was crunched by Neil Patel shows that the subject line has by far the biggest impact on the success of email campaigns.
In other words, the subject line is what you should spend the majority of your time on.
But the big hairy problem that email marketers across every industry and niche are facing is a steadily weakening grip on the attention of their recipients.
So you need to make your subject lines so alluring that they’re nearly impossible to ignore.
Even a 10% increase in your open rate can make a huge difference to your bottom line because more eyeballs are seeing the sales message that’s inside.
Your subject lines need to make the receiver want to find out more by opening the email but not reveal so much that they feel they don’t need to open it.
Like all great marketing, what also works well for subject lines is using a pattern interrupt. Think about it, people skim their inbox filtering for emails they actually want to open. If your subject lines are generic and predictable, they’ll breeze right past them.
Avoid using words that everyone else uses like:
Don’t let this one slide past you…
I should have sent this to you sooner
I thought you’d want to see this
Is this you?
The next big thing…
Why is everyone going crazy over this?
7 ways to catch more fish
Eliminate hand and wrist pain NOW
How does $50 in your wallet sound?
How to make your colleagues fall about laughing
Are you a sheep, wolf or sheepdog?
7 ways to live a better life for less
Find secret deals on [your store name]
I’m giving away the farm
Did you read this yet? (expires at midnight tonight)
The clock is ticking…
Just 2 days left and that’s it
[Name], read this FAST
[Name], these will be gone
We can only offer this for a few more days
You can get this today, but not next week!
Shorter works best
You’ll notice that all these examples are short and punchy. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to keep to 50 characters or less for your subject lines. If you need to go over that, put the most compelling part at the beginning so skim readers see it.
Some of the examples use urgency/scarcity which is a powerful persuasion technique when used sparingly. It helps prevent your customers from thinking they can read the email later. Deadline Funnel is a fantastic way of adding a countdown timer to your emails that’s synced with another that’s displayed on your Shopify product pages.
Effective subject lines leverage curiosity to get people to open your emails. But don’t fall into the trap of misleading people with clickbait just to get the open. You’ll end up irritating your subscribers and they’ll stop reading your emails altogether. Make sure your subject lines are relevant to the content inside your emails.
Resend unopened emails
A big mistake I see a lot of email marketers make is that they don’t resend the same email with a different subject line if the email goes unopened for more than 24-hours. This is an easy way to test different subject lines but also to float your email back to the top of someone’s inbox.
Test, test, test
If your email list is large enough, you can split-test different subject lines to see what works best. Like I said earlier, even a 10% increase in your open rate can make a huge difference to your bottom line because more eyeballs are seeing the sales message that’s inside.
Use SubjectLine.com to rate your subject line’s effectiveness before you hit send.
This is the text that shows next to the subject line in the inbox. It supports your subject line and is pivotal in whether someone opens your email.
Shinesty use this valuable real estate wisely, whereas Alex and Ani could make better use of it:
Firebox, on the other hand, made a woeful error with this email:
The pre-header text is even more important when viewed on mobile. especially since 54% of emails are opened on a mobile device according to Litmus.
Each email service provider will tell you something different about optimum send times so there’s no clear best practice advice on this. Co-schedule’s article attempts to pool the data and find a one-size-fits-all answer, but remember the data includes email marketers who have nothing to do with selling physical goods.
My best advice here is to look at your Google Analytics and see when your store’s visitors buy. Is it evenings or weekends? Is it early morning or during their lunch break?
Time your emails so they arrive in the inbox just before your store’s spikes in sales.
Clarity is king when it comes to your email design. Make it easy to read, uncluttered and don’t try to cram it with too many offers. That will just lead to confusion and a terrible click-through rate.
Some die-hard text-only email proponents claim that HTML emails don’t convert as well but in my experience, that’s only true for info-marketing, not physical goods.
You’re building a brand one message at a time with e-commerce so you need to find a happy medium between a personal feel and a nicely branded design. You can see a boatload of examples here.
If you get too trigger happy on fancy design elements like large images, animated GIFs and crazy layouts, not only will it detract from the readability but it will also likely end up in the Promotions Tab (Gmail) or worse, the SPAM folder.
According to eMailMonday, up to 75% of emails are opened on a mobile device too. This means you need to make sure that your emails look great on mobile.
You can see what your emails will look like in various email clients and devices here:
Your offer is the most compelling element of any email marketing in e-commerce. This means you don’t need to be a copywriting genius to drive a boatload of sales from your emails. You just need to make persuasive offers.
Again, clarity is king. Don’t make the mistake of stuffing your emails with multiple offers. Having multiple products is fine but a different offer on each is confusing. Keep it simple and follow the rule of one discount offer per email.
Staying out of the SPAM filter
Here’s a list of words compiled by SubscriberMail.com that will slaughter your email campaigns:
- 100% free
- 50% off
- act now
- all words that relate to sex or pornography
- all words that related to cures or medication
- anything that looks like you are YELLING
- apply now
- as seen
- as seen on Oprah
- as seen on TV
- be your own boss
- call now
- cash bonus
- click here
- contains $$$
- contains word “ad”
- Dear Friend
- don’t delete
- double your anything
- double your income
- e.x.t.r.a. Punctuation
- earn $
- earn extra cash
- easy terms
- eliminate debt
- extra income
- fast cash
- financial freedom
- for only
- for you
- free access
- free gift
- free info
- free instant
- free offer
- free samples!
- g a p p y t e x t
- get out of debt
- home based
- information you requested
- life insurance
- limited time
- lose weight
- lower your mortgage rate
- lowest insurance rates
- make money
- multi level marketing
- not spam
- now only
- numerical digits at the end
- online degree
- online marketing
- online pharmacy
- promised you
- search engine listings
- serious cash
- starting with a dollar amount
- stop or stops
- you’re a winner!
- undisclosed recipient
- work from home
- your family
- your own
Be before you hit send, it’s a good idea to run your email through a free tool like MailTester.com.
Many email clients, like Gmail, disable images from external senders. And if your main sales message is within an image that ends up getting hidden, no one will see it — they’re more likely to hit delete instead of figuring out how to enable images.
GearBest’s email is utterly meaningless without the images.
Firebox have HTML placeholders to let readers know what they should be looking at least.
To get around this annoying feature, use HTML to overlay your images with text rather than making the text part of the image. This way, if the image is hidden, they’ll still get the gist from the text.
Which email marketing software is best?
The chances are you already have email marketing software so the idea of switching platforms fills you with dread.
But the problem is that most of the generic platforms like GetResponse or Active Campaign are built for general email marketing, not specifically for e-commerce.
Sure they may have modules or integrations with Shopify but they’re always added as an afterthought. And if you really want to maximise the ROI from your email marketing, you need a platform that’s built for e-commerce and nothing else.
This way you get to take advantage of personalized product recommendations, powerful segmentation based on purchase history and ROI-based reporting instead of basing your decisions on open rates and clickthrough rates.
My favorite email marketing platform for Shopify is ContactFlow. It has every feature you’ll ever need, is reasonably priced and best of all has 24-hour live chat support which many other providers don’t.
How to capture email addresses from people who haven’t bought yet
As soon as someone buys from your store, you have their email address to continue the relationship and get them to buy more stuff. But how do you start a relationship with people that don’t buy on their first visit?
The answer lies in pop-up tools and I wrote an in-depth article on them here.
Your Email Marketing Money Map
So now that you have all the tools you need in place to start sending emails, let’s roll our sleeves up and get stuck in with your email strategy.
There are 3 key stages of the lifecycle of anyone on your email list:
Stage 1 – Interested: These are the people who have opted-in to your email list or abandoned their cart but still haven’t made their first purchase.
Stage 2 – Engaged: People who have purchased recently and are still reading your emails. Your goal is to get them to buy more stuff, more often.
Stage 3 – Lapsed: This group has more or less forgotten you exist, haven’t purchased in over six months and aren’t opening your emails. Your goal is to move them back into stage 2 by getting them to open an email, click a link or make a purchase again.
Luckily, we’ve created handy templates for every e-commerce marketing email you’ll ever need to send, all you need to do is go here to get them for free.
There are 35+ templates that are all send-ready so you can paste them into whatever email service provider you’re using and start profiting today.