How to Leverage Ecommerce Email Marketing to Increase Your Sales (with 14 Examples)

How to Leverage Ecommerce Email Marketing to Increase Your Sales (with 14 Examples)

No matter how you look at it, ecommerce email marketing is everywhere. If you’re the typical US-based consumer, you probably have a lot of promotional emails coming in each day. In fact, most major sites you’ve shopped at in the last few years probably send you offers. But why do they do this? Simply put, because it boosts sales. In this post, I’m going to look at the whys and hows of email marketing for ecommerce sites.

Why Email Marketing is Important to Any Ecommerce Business

While large shopping sites pay lots of money for marketing on many different forums, smaller sites typically can’t afford as much. Unfortunately, this also means that the “big guys” crowd out the small ones. And, social media algorithms have made this worse. This means that ecommerce email marketing is more important than ever. However, this kind of marketing has other benefits, as well.

It helps build relationships

Among the chief benefits of email marketing is that it helps build and maintain relationships. Think about it a minute: do you think more about the online shopping sites you hear from regularly, or the ones who become invisible? By keeping in touch with your customers and other interested parties, your brand can become the one they identify with. If applicable, they may become more loyal to your brand.

It has a high ROI

Ecommerce email marketing is known for being one of the bet deals in the world of marketing. After all, reminding people to complete their purchase when needed leads to many more closed sales. The average customer doesn’t buy the first time they hear from you, but email lets you continue to reach them. Better yet, email marketing is cheap enough for even the smallest websites.

Bypass search and social media algorithms

Over the last few years, social media has become increasingly pay to play. It is almost an understatement to say that this has disadvantaged many small businesses that are trying to reach local customers. Fortunately, with ecommerce email marketing you can bypass those algorithms almost completely. You might decide to retarget on social later on, but this is a more advanced technique.

Email marketing software is a relatively low cost / high ROI investment

While it is certainly true that most email marketing tools aren’t free, they are relatively inexpensive. This is a good thing because some ecommerce email marketing regulatory issues are best dealt with using some of these tools. However, you will more than make up for this expense through drastically increased sales. Email marketing has a high ROI for a reason!

Different Types of Ecommerce Emails: Transactional Emails vs Promotional Emails

Whether it’s for practical reasons or regulatory ones, every email marketer must know the difference between transactional and promotional emails. Each has a specific purpose, even though transactional emails can also help with promotions.

Transactional emails

Transactional emails provide a natural way build trust and develop relationships throughout the customer lifecycle. They do this in more ways than one. For instance, most of us love the fact that a transactional email can serve as a receipt or invoice. It’s no wonder that one data study found they have an open rate of 70.9%. This is much higher than the ecommerce promotional email average of 17.9%. Needless to say, these are much more than a convenience.

Of course, transactional emails aren’t completely limited to being a receipt. Many ecommerce email marketing efforts include offering discounts or giving company news along with the transaction information. The important thing to remember here is primary purpose.

Promotional emails

Promotional content drives sales above and beyond transactional emails. If an email is primarily promotional, it won’t contain transaction information. You might customize promotional emails to reflect a customer’s buying history, but you won’t thank them for the most recent transaction. A good example of this principle comes from ecommerce sites with significant variety. Here, they might highlight special pricing on the customer’s favorite product category.

The 14 Types of Must-Have Ecommerce Email Marketing You Should Be Doing

As you may have guessed, Ecommerce email marketing isn’t a monolithic process. In fact, there are many different kinds of emails you can send. Even within the “promotional” category, different emails can have vastly different goals. About the only thing they all have in common is their ultimate purpose of increasing sales. With that said, there are about 14 kinds of marketing emails for ecommerce.

Pre-Purchase Welcome Emails

These are the first type of ecommerce email marketing that most customers get. Many websites offer a discount on a customer’s first purchase in exchange for agreeing to marketing emails. While other website types often have different lead magnets, discounts are the currency of ecommerce.

These emails are highly effective, whether the lead magnet is a discount or something else. In fact, more than 74% of consumers expect to get a welcome email after agreeing to marketing emails. And for many ecommerce customers, the discount is a great way to save on large purchases. Welcome emails with a discount are an opportunity you can’t miss.

Lead Nurture Emails

As effective as welcome emails are, not all of them result in purchases. But this doesn’t mean you should give up on ecommerce email marketing! Rather, this situation presents more opportunities. In some cases the customer simply didn’t have time to make an order right away. Or it could be that they’re having trouble making a selection. Reminding them of the great deals you’re offering through lead nurture emails are a great chance to get the sale.

Order Confirmation / Thank You Email

Order confirmations are the most common type of transactional emails, and they’re also a can’t miss opportunity to sell more products. You can do this by giving customers a coupon. Or, you can recommend products to go with their most recent purchase. Either way, the customer feels appreciated.

The Cart Abandonment Email

Just because people put things in their shopping carts doesn’t mean they’ll ultimately purchase them. Customers sometimes change their minds, or they can’t decide what size or color to get. However, this doesn’t mean you should give up on getting the sale. Conservative estimates state that abandoned cart emails result in a customer making a purchase between 10 and 15% of the time. These are purchases you would otherwise lose.

Shipping Confirmation Email

The second most common type of transactional email is the shipping confirmation. Customers love them because it makes tracking their package much easier. Really, it’s a cheap way to express customer appreciation (and reduce anxious customer service calls). At the same time, this is a great time to try and make another sale. Again, try to sell something that would complement their purchase, or simply offer a discount.

How Was Everything Check-in / Survey Request Email

These are a great opportunity for any company to get customer feedback. While most customer service calls are basic questions or complaints, survey emails offer opportunities to find out what you’re doing right. At the same time, they’re a great part of ecommerce email marketing because you can try to sell something again. I’ve seen a lot of sites offer incentives to fill out the survey or use the survey answers as a chance to win something.

Loyal Customer Discounts

Many customers don’t buy at regular intervals. This may be influenced by the kind of product you’re selling, such as durable goods or baby product. However, it can be for other reasons as well, such as “forgetting” about you. If a customer hasn’t bought anything in a while, try sending out a loyal customer discount. If this form of ecommerce email marketing doesn’t work for them, then remove the customer from your list. Why pay to send them emails if they don’t buy?

The Win-Back Email

There are many reasons why customers quit engaging with your brand. While some of them are out of your control (maybe the baby became a toddler or the customer moved out of your service area) others require follow up. One of the most effective ecommerce email marketing campaigns in this situation is the win-back email. You can offer a small incentive or solicit feedback about the customer’s experience. Again, if this doesn’t work then it’s time to purge them from the list.

Engagement Emails to Ask for Reviews

This kind of ecommerce email marketing is especially awesome if you need to get the word out about your products. In this case, you’ll ask customers how they liked your product and encourage them to leave a positive review. Again, many companies offer a small incentive for relatively cheap word-of-mouth marketing.

Ask for Referrals by Providing Incentives for a Win-Win-Win

Most of us think of the referral-for-incentive approach in terms of trades people and recruiting. However, it’s highly effective as ecommerce email marketing, too. In fact, this is a variation of affiliate marketing, in that you’re asking people to send you customers in exchange for an incentive. A popular “prize” is a small discount for each person that you refer, and for yourself.

Seasonal Promotions

What good is a Black Friday or Labor Day sale if you aren’t promoting it effectively? With the power of ecommerce email marketing, you can increase the effectiveness of that doorbuster-for cheap. And for many customers, promotions are the main reason why they subscribe to your emails. Quite a few only buy things on sale.

Regular Newsletters

Newsletters are more common for B2B brands and nonprofits, but they’re also effective as ecommerce email marketing. This is especially if you are a newer company that has a lot of business changes. This is good practice for the same reason as other company types: people like to feel connected to a brand. They tend to spend more money this way.

New Product Emails

If you sell proprietary products, product launch emails are a great way to get people to try them out. Feel free to tout the benefits or use those emails as an opportunity to direct people to the content on your website. This is a great example of augmenting your content marketing efforts with emails.

For ecommerce brands which resell brand name products, new product emails are also effective. For instance, if you’re a sporting goods store then you might have a subset of customers who wished you’d carry a given brand for a long time. Once they know you have expanded your offerings, they’ll be sure to check it out.

Time-Sensitive Discount Emails

Of course, you don’t need to wait for a holiday to have a sale. Or offer a simple discount, for that matter. Many ecommerce sites offer regular discount events, and these are always “for a limited time.” Here’s the thing with those, however: if customers don’t know it’s going on, they are likely to miss it. Not many customers randomly browse an ecommerce site waiting for a sale. Either they buy when they need/want something, or they wait for a sale.

To increase the effectiveness of your sales events, it’s always a good idea to email an announcement to your subscribers. In this case, always let them know how long the discount will last. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than thinking a discount is available, then finding out otherwise. Plenty of people would just abandon their cart at that point.

An ecommerce email marketing strategy with the right message and targeted audience can help you grow your email list. More than that, it helps you maintain an automated series of email marketing campaigns supported by the features of modern marketing applications. Some of these email types are a must, while others may not be useful to you. Either way, you should experiment to get the best ROI.

Once you master the process using your email marketing service of choice and understand the different types of emails mentioned above, get ready to see your sales increase. Best of all, this is an economical way to grow your business with a reasonable amount of effort.

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

If you run an eCommerce store, here are the reasons why and how to leverage eCommerce email marketing with specific examples.
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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