Email Marketing for Ecommerce: Why You Need It Run a Profitable Store

Can you guess what the biggest challenge for ecommerce brands is today?

That’s right, it’s growth.

Growing your ecommerce brand means being able to source higher volumes of your products at lower costs, streamlining processes, and getting more brand recognition.

But there’s a caveat: In our current digital landscape, growth is expensive.

You’re not only competing with major competitors like Amazon, BestBuy and Walmart. There are typically dozens of smaller brands that sell the same or very similar products to yours.

Let’s talk numbers: where the money is made for most ecommerce brands

What most people don’t tell you upfront about running a profitable ecommerce store is that most of the money is not made on the first sale to a new customer. It’s made on the backend, when you get repeat purchases from people who have already bought from you.

Here’s why: Making that first sale to a new customer is tricky – and expensive. When you pay to advertise to people who have never heard of your brand before, the cost per acquisition on the first purchase can really cut into your profit margins.

Studies also show that new customers typically don’t spend a lot. Adobe found that in the United States a repeat shopper returning for three or more purchases spent about five times as much as a new customer.

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Image source: Practical Ecommerce

The most successful brands accept that they’re not going to make a big profit on the first sale. Instead, they aim for an acceptable cost-per-acquisition on the initial sale to a new customer. They then use marketing automation and email marketing to generate repeat orders from the people on their list and make sales with much higher profit margins.

According to E-consultancy, email marketing accounts for approximately 23% of sales, rendering it one of the most effective marketing channels at your disposal.

Another study by the DMA shows that when it comes to purchases made as a result of receiving a marketing message, email has the highest conversion rate at 66%, when compared to social, direct mail and other channels.

Let’s look at what that means for your brand.

How email marketing for ecommerce can give your brand the growth it needs

You might have heard this popular phrase in digital marketing: “The money is in the list.” And although marketers today have an immense number of tools at their disposal to attract and convert their visitors, email is still one of the best forms of communication with your customers.

Why email is still one of the most profitable marketing channels

Globally, 30% of marketers cite email marketing and automation as having the highest ROI compared to other forms of marketing. That’s because once you have someone on your list, you can show up in their inbox and get your message seen at virtually no cost.

The alternative to this is to use paid advertising to reach your existing customers. And while this should certainly be part of your strategy, I don’t recommend you rely only on paid ads to do the job. Why not?

Higher advertising costs

First and foremost, the cost of online advertising keeps going up. According to AdStage, the CPCs of Facebook Ads went from $0.42 to $0.99 during the first six months of 2017.

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Image source:

There are also more and more advertisers joining Facebook and Google Ads, ready to compete with you for your customers’ attention.

With rising costs, relying only on paid advertising to generate sales is not sustainable if your goal is to increase ROI for your store.

Limited reach

Another issue is that an average 27% of users globally use ad blockers, with some countries reporting rates as high as 40%. You’re almost guaranteed to be hidden from a certain part of your audience if you only use paid ads.

Better personalization options

The third reason email marketing remains a popular option is personalization. The beauty of email automation is that you can craft hyper-personalized content and send it to your customers at just the right time.

In fact, personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates compared to generic emails and emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.

More revenue

Consistent emailing is an excellent way to retain customers and grow a loyal customer base. According to Bain & Company, increasing your customer retention rate by just 5% can help to increase profits by 25-95%. On top of that, the ecommerce email automation tool Klaviyo found that 3,000 brands recovered more than $60 million in revenue in just three months using abandoned cart emails.

With all that in mind, you can probably imagine why email continues to play such an important role. With the right strategies and automations in place, email can be one of your store’s biggest revenue drivers.

So how can you use this knowledge to leverage email marketing for your ecommerce brand? We’re going to show you some of the most important campaigns you should be sending your customers. But first, let’s look at three rules that apply to all of the emails you send to your audience.

3 things to keep in mind about email marketing for ecommerce

There are different types of email sequences that you can send your customers to keep your brand top-of-mind and drive them to make a purchase, depending on where they’re at in their customer journey.

The following rules can serve as guidelines to your success: if you make sure every email you write follows them, you’re likely to see results from your campaigns early on.

1. Your emails need to provide value

Did you know that 31.6% of people flag an email as spam because they find that it isn’t useful to them? For an email marketer, getting reported as spam can really hurt your deliverability.

Now, this does not mean that every email you send needs to be include a discount code or sale. Your emails can be valuable to your audience in many different ways, especially when you send them at a time when they are the most useful to your readers.

In fact, the DMA finds that over 75% of email revenue is generated by triggered campaigns, rather than one-size-fits-all campaigns.

For example, rather than sending someone a generic email about other products in your store, you can look at the items they previously purchased from you and send them product suggestions that they could combine them with.

You should also try to always keep the focus on your customer: help them make the most of the product they bought. Educate them on what makes your brand different so they can make better choices. Get them involved and ask for feedback on social media or through surveys.

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Leesa shows customers how their purchase makes a difference by educating them on the company’s social efforts

One of the best ways to check if your content is valuable is to ask yourself: “After reading this, will my customers be better off than they were before?”

2. Every email you send should have a single call to action

It might seem silly at first, but it’s true: More choice often leads to a worse user experience, and when we’re given a lot of choices, we tend to make no decision at all.

Asking your audience to take a single action is usually much more effective than asking them to do one thing, or another, or another. Ellie Mirman, CMO at Crayon, found that marketers who used a single call-to-action in their emails increased clicks by 371% and sales by 1617%.

So remember to write every email you send with a single goal in mind. It will help you your content concise while keeping your customers’ attention focused on the action you want them to take.

Since different people prefer to click on different types of links, I recommend adding your link in form of a button, an image and as a text link to increase click-through rates.

3. Your emails need to be relevant

A staggering 49% of people report getting irrelevant emails every day. If you think about it from a marketers’ perspective, that number is frustrating – half the people you send emails to probably don’t love them!

The best way to make sure you’re sending relevant emails to your customers is to use detailed audience segmentation and behavioral triggers. Companies who send automated emails are 133% more likely to send relevant messages that correspond with a customer’s purchase cycle compared to those who don’t use automation.

Advanced audience segmentation will make your emails more effective.

Why? Email automation works for you around the clock, letting you be there for your customers when it is most useful to them. By using email automation for ecommerce stores, you make sure that your messages are:

a) delivered in a timely manner; and
b) relevant to the current stage of your customer’s buyer journey and their behavior on your store.

For example, the best time to send someone a reminder about an item they forgot in their cart is within a few minutes or hours of them leaving your website. You can safely assume that they are interested in your products. And by sending them an email shortly after they visited your store, you’re reaching out when they are still likely to want to buy from you.

Alex Birkett, Senior Growth Marketing Manager at HubSpot, summarizes all this in an excellent way. To guide your strategy and content, make sure to “make emails simple, personal, relevant, and decluttered.”

The Ecommerce Email Sequences that every Store should have

Now that you’ve seen how important email marketing for ecommerce is to the overall profitability of your store and you know how to craft effective emails, let’s look at some of the emails that every ecommerce brand should send their customers.

1. The Welcome Email

Not to be confused with an order confirmation, your welcome email should be sent right after a new customer completes their first purchase on your website.

There is evidence to suggest that subscribers read welcome emails 42% more than they would a regular promotional email. This is your chance to reach a majority of your customers in their inbox when they’re still highly engaged with your brand.

Use your welcome email to show customers what to expect next.
Source: Drop

Some brands like to immediately include a discount code in their Welcome Email to encourage shoppers to make another purchase in the near future. Others use it to welcome new customers to their community and show them what to expect next.

2. The Abandoned Cart Sequence

If you don’t already have an abandoned cart sequence, cancel your plans for the rest of the day and start working on it. This is one of the most important email series for any ecommerce store.

Cart abandonment is when a customer leaves without buying, after adding an item to their cart. There have been hundreds of studies on this, and most find that the average cart abandonment rate lies between 68-80%.

That’s huge. But the good news is that you can do something about it.

Many brands like to get creative with their cart abandonment series.
Source: Dote

There is a number of reasons why a customer might abandon their cart, but sending reminders about their forgotten items is one of the most effective ways to recover these sales. Neil Patel finds that a whopping 29.9% of cart abandonment email clicks tend to lead to a recovered purchase.

Pro tip: Check if your ecommerce store and email tool integrate to let you dynamically insert the product information of the abandoned items in the email. This gives you hyper-personalized content and increases click-through rates.

3. Customer recovery sequences

Another important email sequence for ecommerce brands is the customer recovery or reactivation sequence. Send this type of email to customers who have previously bought something from you but haven’t visited your store in a while.

Reactivate past buyers who haven’t visited your store in a while.
Source: Lowe’s

There are a number of different things to consider when crafting your reactivation sequences:

  • How soon do you want to start sending reactivation emails?
  • How many emails will you send and at what intervals?
  • What type of offers or content will you include?

The setup and content of your customer recovery campaigns will depend on your customers’ typical buying cycle and other store-specific criteria.

Make sure to include some very good content and promotions here: it costs a lot less to re-engage an existing customer by offering them a discount code than it does to acquire a new customer.

4. Up-sell and Cross-sell Emails

Email up-selling is asking someone to upgrade or buy a better version of something. Cross-selling encourages customers to buy additional products.

In this example, the Dollar Shave Club uses an up-sell email to encourage its subscribers to add more items to their monthly subscription box.

Dollar Shave Club encourages customers to add more products to their order.
Source: Dollar Shave Club

You can be certain that a percentage of their list did add more items to their cart. It’s a perfect example of how you can increase the average order value and revenue for your ecommerce brand from email marketing.

Don’t worry about being spammy

I like to remind clients of this when they are unsure of how many emails to write and whether they should implement email sequences or one-off emails.

Remember: if you are sending relevant emails to your subscribers and timing them correctly, most people will not feel like they’re being spammed.

Customers don’t see or open all of your emails. Even if they have already bought from you or have otherwise engaged with your brand, most people are not scanning their inbox to see if you sent them an email and see how they like it. Instead, they pick and choose which ones to open and click on. Your job is to make sure that every email you send is useful to someone at the time they are ready to buy from you again.

Next, take a look at how you can increase your store’s revenue with these remarketing tactics for Google Ads.

Need help with email marketing for your ecommerce brand?

If you think you could improve your email marketing or you’re simply too busy to take on yet another marketing task for your store, feel free to reach out to our team. We help ecommerce brands generate more revenue and boost profitability with email automation and advanced remarketing strategies.

Picture of Ruba Aramouny

Ruba Aramouny

As the founder and strategic director of Solid Marketing, Ruba helps companies of all sizes integrate PPC advertising and Email automation into their digital strategy for brand promotion, demand generation, and customer acquisition. Her clients include Fortune 500 corporations from the consumer goods and retail space, as well as industry-leading E-commerce and SaaS businesses.