New software continues to enter the market claiming to be the ‘secret’ to business growth, marketing, and increased profits. While “new” can be exciting, it doesn’t always mean it will be better or more effective.
That’s why smart marketing professionals and businesses continue to rely on email marketing as one of the best-performing channels in terms of ROI. Within ecommerce, you can find examples of returns on investment as good as $45 for every dollar spent.
Klaviyo’s ecommerce industry benchmark report on abandoned carts reported $5.41 in revenue generated per recipient of abandoned cart emails.
Seeing revenue data like this should cause you to ask two questions:
Think about the potential here. With a channel as powerful as this, creating and implementing an email marketing strategy should be a top priority.
Below, you’ll find the key components to creating, building, and maintaining an effective email marketing strategy.
Define your email marketing goals
Establishing your goals is the first step in creating any kind of email marketing strategy. It serves as the foundation for how you will grow your list, the subscriber segments you’ll send messages to, what you will say, and the actions you ask subscribers to take.
To be effective, your goals must be clear, specific, and attainable. What do you want to improve in your business? A few examples are:
Knowing what you want to improve is a great starting point, but it lacks definition. You’ll need to make the goal specific in order to make it attainable.
Answering these questions will help you establish benchmarks and set your key performance indicators (KPIs) to quantify results of your email marketing campaigns.
If you’re just starting out, you might define early success by simply setting up your email marketing program and beginning to send regular communications. Once you’re consistently sending emails, you’ll be able to better identify how you can use email marketing strategies to meet specific goals.
You’ll also have some data to form baseline measurements of success – your click through rate, etc. If you use the right ecommerce email marketing tools, you’ll even be able to attribute actual revenue to email campaigns and types of messaging.
Successful email marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It can be helpful to set up both short- and long-term goals. The key is to make consistent progress. Even the most successful ecommerce brands are always working to improve.
Create a plan for subscriber acquisition and list growth
You may have heard of the term, “lead magnet.” Just like a magnet attracts certain metals, a lead magnet is meant to motivate prospects to take a desired action. When it comes to email marketing, a lead magnet is something that attracts new subscribers.
Perhaps you give away a special reward when someone joins your email list, such as a one-time discount, a free gift, or an invitation to an event. You could enter all new subscribers into a contest.
What’s effective will vary by company and will likely change over time, but it can be anything of value, including introductory offers and loyalty programs.
Depending on your business and how quickly you’d like to grow your email marketing list, you may have more than one acquisition source. For example, an email signup form in the footer of your site is pretty standard practice. In this location, you may not offer any incentives for registration other than the opportunity for fans to stay connected with your brand.
But you might want to implement some more aggressive ways to attract potential subscribers.
For example, if someone chooses to add an item to their cart and then becomes inactive for several minutes, a pop-up might appear offering them a discount on their first order in exchange for an email address. This could land you a new subscriber, and help prevent an abandoned cart all at once.
You can also use QR codes to attract email subscribers using postcards, flyers, and other printed materials. And you can inject email opt-in offers all over your website in strategic locations – from product pages and blog posts to your homepage and elsewhere.
Here are a few things to consider when creating your incentives for new subscribers:
The main thing to keep in mind when designing a lead magnet or introductory offer is – what would be valuable to my customers? In some situations, a how-to guide will be greatly appreciated, and that doesn’t cost you anything once it’s created. But if it solves a problem for your customers, they’ll appreciate it and gladly give their email address in exchange.
These sorts of bonuses and gifts can also be included as part of an initial purchase, included when they agree to join your email list.
This is what’s known as ‘permission-based marketing,’ and as email regulations keep increasing around the world (GDPR, etc.), this is the approach you’re going to want to take with your email marketing strategy. You need your subscribers to willingly opt into your list, knowing what they’re signing up for and agreeing to.
There must be a checkbox on your form where they explicitly give consent to receive emails from you, and your emails must include an unsubscribe option.
Some people will opt in just for the initial deal and then disappear. But others will give you a chance to ‘win them over.’ And those are the customers who will prove to be super valuable as you continue to nurture and convert them using email marketing.
Once you’ve defined where your email subscribers will come from and what you will offer them, you can construct your acquisition message. It should focus on three components, all of which can be expressed in very few words on an email signup form:
Ready to get started? Check out all of the ways people can join your list through MailPoet’s WordPress email registration forms.
Decide how you will create your emails
If you’re just getting started with an email marketing program for your store, you don’t want to start from scratch every time you send out an email. It’s time consuming for you and confusing for your customers. Instead, create a few set formats and templates that you can reuse based on the type of email you’re sending.
Choose between text and HTML
First, for each email, you can choose to send text-based or HTML-based emails.
Text-based, like they sound, are just plain text messages like you might send to a colleague or friend. These are simple and can help your message get through because at first glance, it’s not obvious that it’s a marketing email.
However, they can be boring and are limited in terms of layout and options for showcasing products. And, without a visual reminder, some folks might not remember or recognize your brand.
So, for the most part, you’ll likely want to utilize HTML-based emails as they offer more options for grabbing attention and engaging with customers. They promote your brand visually with a consistent look and feel, reassuring customers that they’re coming from you. Plus, they’re reusable and can include elements like buttons – which can lead to more clicks. Another perk is the ability to include dynamic content that’s unique to each subscriber (based on their location, past order history, and more).
However, HTML emails can also require more time and expertise to create and design, especially when considering elements like mobile responsiveness.
Use an email service provider
The good news is, most email service providers (ESPs) include an email builder that makes it much easier to create visually stunning messages without the need for a professional developer.
MailPoet, for example, has tons of WordPress email templates so you can start with a base and then customize it for your store. This not only makes it easier to get started, but allows you to deliver more consistent messages in terms of branding and content. Create visually appealing emails that are as simple (or as complex!) as you’d like. Use the drag-and-drop editor to put elements exactly where you want them without needing a line of code.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you want to send an email. Most ESPs, like MailPoet, allow you to save templates for future use. This lets you input your brand colors and select specific fonts and styles for things like buttons (are you a rounded or square corner type of store?).
Depending on the marketing tool you choose to utilize, these settings may be configured at the account level, making them present every time you create marketing campaigns.
In other systems, it may be helpful to create a few main templates that you can reuse based on the type of email you’re sending – one for a monthly message (like a newsletter), another for special sales and promotions, and still another for announcements like new products or partnerships.
If you are familiar with HTML markup (or plan to hire an expert), and you want a more customizable experience, AutomateWoo provides a raw HTML option intended for advanced users.
If you’re not a designer or are just looking for a simple solution to get started right away, MailPoet is likely the best choice for you.
It makes creating emails an easier process with a simplified interface that provides fully customizable options for font, branding, colors, images, and unique layouts. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started with MailPoet’s email editor.
Segment your audience to break through the noise
The inbox has become increasingly competitive. It’s no longer as effective to send every email to every subscriber. For each email campaign, your best approach will be to identify the segment of your email subscribers that will be most receptive to your message, and send it only to that segment.
If your goal is to increase reviews, focus on previous customers or recent purchasers. You can then create two segments – those who purchased recently and those who haven’t bought anything in a while.
To generate a surge in sales revenue, create a special discount offer and send it only to customers who have responded to previous discounts. This incentive has been proven to work for this audience.
Segmentation is one way to enhance personalization in email marketing.
Personalization is the practice of delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. With plugins like MailPoet and AutomateWoo, you can do exactly that. These email marketing tools use segmentation and automation to personalize each subscriber’s experience.
There are many different ways to organize subscribers and you can use more than one. For example, you might start simple with only two groups: One for previous customers and another for subscribers who haven’t yet made a purchase.
Previous customers might not need as much product education or social proof like reviews. They’ve already been convinced to buy at least once, so they may prefer to hear about your newest products or latest specials.
Subscribers who haven’t yet made a purchase might like to learn more about how your products work, see proof of them in action, read reviews from real people, or hear about your risk-free trial or sample offerings.
Additional ways to segment your audience
With the right tools, here are a few other ways you can segment subscribers for your email marketing strategy:
You can use a tool like MailPoet to remind recent customers about their purchase, feature a specific item they bought, and ask for a review. You can also set automated emails that send a request to buyers a couple of weeks after they complete their transaction.
When creating an email marketing strategy for customers who haven’t been active in a while, you’ll need to provide a bit more context to remind them of your brand. This can also serve as an opportunity to re-engage them with your newest offers.
If you want to grow revenue, think about new versus existing customers. Give newbies more information about products, include testimonials, emphasize customer support channels, and highlight any generous return policies you may have.
Emails to existing customers should focus on upsells, related products/services, new product launches, and refer-a-friend programs.
People respond to emails that are relevant to them. Even more importantly, they really dislike a bombardment of emails that aren’t. You may decide that you want to touch each subscriber no more than five times per month. So by segmenting your audience and sending personalized emails to each group, you can save those touches for the absolute most relevant emails and really boost your performance.
You can set up tools like AutomateWoo so that your email list continually adds and removes people from various segments as their information changes. For example, you might have a segment for ‘made purchase within the last year.’ There will be people who start off on that list who later drop off if they don’t make a second purchase before the year is up.
If you’re using MailPoet, check out this guide to subscriber segmentation to see what’s possible when it comes to organizing subscribers into relevant categories for your email marketing strategies.
Use customer data to increase personalization
Segmentation is one part of personalization, but it’s only a start. Another component involves the use of dynamic fields.
You will come across as a competent, knowledgeable business that knows its customers when your emails include personal customer data such as their name, products they’ve purchased, city or neighborhood, workplace, and other relevant data. You can also use information such as the current year, birthdays, anniversaries, and dates of first purchase.
In direct mail, this is called mail merge, and the concept is the same. You write one email, but using dynamic fields, each customer will see their own data in the places in your email where it belongs.
Most ESPs have tools to help you implement these kinds of personalizations into your emails. MailPoet, for example, has shortcodes for a number of different popular personalizations. You can also create custom shortcodes unique to your store.
Automate your email marketing campaigns
Automation can save you a lot of time in using email to keep in touch with your customers.
Using an earlier example, if you have the birthdays of some of your customers, you can automate an email to go out around their birthday. You can write that email one time, months in advance, and set it to go out to each customer at the relevant time.
Another common example of email automation is the welcome email. When a new subscriber joins your email list, you can create a single welcome email, or even better, a series that will go out to each new subscriber, and you don’t have to do anything once the automation has been created.
A welcome email series can do several things, such as thank the customer for joining, present your value proposition, share customer success stories, point them to helpful blog articles, show them popular products, offer special new subscriber deals, and so much more.
You can do the same thing with customer purchases. After their purchase, you can customize transactional emails and trigger new automations if they’re a subscriber.
Email automation like this keeps your customers and subscribers engaged, without you having to keep up on all this work. Find out more about how to use the most common automated emails more effectively in your email marketing using these resources:
Consider email marketing campaign frequency
It’s important to be consistent in the inbox. That doesn’t mean sending an email at 8 am every business day. The number of emails you should send in a given time period depends on your store and your audience. You may find that it’s more effective to email no more than 2-3 times per week to stay relevant and engaging.
For example, if you’re selling a membership program for weekly recipes, your subscribers may expect to receive a preview every Sunday with a portion of what they could expect if they joined.
Or, if your business serves busy professionals, it might be more effective to send a monthly newsletter with tips and news. This keeps your content consistent but respectful of your subscribers’ time.
B2B businesses often have longer sales cycles, and email is more about nurturing, staying top of mind, and moving subscribers along a customer journey, with ever-increasing engagement.
It’s also important to consider the time you can invest in writing effective emails. Can you be consistent and send a newsletter every week? Or would it be better to send it once a month? After all, you don’t want to overpromise and under-deliver or, worse, send out ineffective or poorly-written emails.
You may need to experiment with different strategies to find the right cadence for your audience. Here are some best practices to help you determine the right frequency for your email marketing campaigns:
Create content that demonstrates and provides value, not just a sales pitch
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when building an email marketing strategy is only focusing on sales and discounts and failing to properly identify and communicate the value of your products and mission.
Emails that are structured around discounts can drive revenue and short-term gains, but in time, discounting your product will also discount its value in the eyes of your consumer.
What makes your product invaluable? How will it improve the quality of your customer’s life?
The answers to these questions, partnered with a bit of visual creativity and storytelling, is a key part of a successful email marketing strategy.
In other words, you don’t just want to list features and stats, but you want to show how your products will improve subscribers’ lives in some way. Make it relatable.
This is also where segmenting your list comes in handy. While the features may be the same for everyone, the way that different segments of your audience use the product will vary.
Beyond demonstrating your products’ usefulness, you also want to provide value in ways that aren’t just all about sales…
Take a break from talking about yourself
Creating compelling content helps you stand out from all the other emails sitting in subscribers’ inboxes.
If every email you send is just another sales pitch, it won’t be long before subscribers tune out your messages or mark you as spam. The trick is to deliver value while also showcasing your products or services.
If the goal of your marketing strategy is to boost sales, think about how your email campaigns can strengthen the relationship with your customers and encourage them to come back. Include how-to guides, product tutorials, exclusive looks at new products, pictures from charity initiatives, or case studies.
Not all of your content needs to be homegrown. Consider fun and informative articles on topics of interest to your audience. If you sell camping and outdoor gear, for example, offer articles with tips on campgrounds and hikes. It doesn’t always have to be original content – link to good articles on reputable, non-competing websites or partner with influencers to create unique content that you can use.
Improve engagement and solidify your gains
The more you learn about email marketing, the more you’ll hear the term ‘engagement.’ But what is email engagement?
Is it as simple as the common metric of clicks? It’s certainly one aspect of engagement, because anyone clicking on it has been motivated to go further.
But not every email’s goal is to get a click. Sometimes, your main goal is simply to deliver value, or convey important information, or set expectations and excitement around an upcoming event such as a sale, grand opening, or new release.
Some platforms allow you to measure how long a person spends looking at your email, for instance. That would be another form of engagement.
Other aspects of engagement relate to which specific links the subscribers click on. You may have two text links and two buttons in an email. If far more people click on the text links than the buttons, that tells you something about what engages your audience.
And though email open rates are no longer always 100% accurate, this metric can still help you determine engagement – especially when comparing rates for different emails against your own internal data.
Nail the inbox preview
Engagement depends on the email being opened. But contrary to the common fixation on subject lines, the email inbox actually includes three elements in most mailbox clients:
Here’s a tool that allows you to see how your email will appear in a variety of inboxes and devices. So when looking at engagement, you need to optimize these three elements.
For the sender’s name, you can use A/B testing once your email list is large enough. Play around with it a bit. Use your company name. Use names from different people in your company. Use both the person’s name followed by the business name. The goal here is to be appealing, relatable, memorable, and human. People engage with humans, not machines.
The preheader text appears in most mailboxes right next to the subject line. If you don’t fill this in, it will usually populate with the opening sentence of your email. Not spending a moment to think about this part of the preview is a big missed opportunity.
Use your pre-header to relate to what you say in your subject line.
And speaking of subject lines, make the subject something that invites the subscriber to want more. Here are just a few of the ways you can do this:
We could discuss subject lines for an entire article, but the most important thing to remember is – whatever your subject line promises, make sure you deliver it. If you tease them but then don’t follow through on whatever compelled them to open, they’ll get annoyed and might mark you as spam. And you do not want that.
And speaking of spam…
Engagement requires deliverability
Building your email list and sending relevant, effective messages is not your only job as an email marketer. You need to maintain a healthy email list. If you don’t, you could end up in spam folders, the promotions tab, or even have mailbox providers kickback your message altogether.
Getting marked as spam too often can get you placed on what’s known as a blocklist. Once you’re on a blocklist, fewer of your emails will get delivered. And getting off a blocklist – if you even get a notification that you’re on one – isn’t easy. So don’t annoy your subscribers.
How else can you keep a healthy list? It starts with building your list the right way – never purchasing email lists or sending messages to people who haven’t given permission to hear from you.
Also, you need to keep an eye on inactive subscribers or addresses that bounce, and remove them from your list. Sending to fake or expired addresses tells email providers that you’re not maintaining good email list hygiene and can hurt your sender reputation. If you continue to do this, your store’s email address or IP can get placed on a blocklist.
It’s hard to make money off email if your emails don’t reach your subscribers.
All of this is part of what’s called email deliverability. Learn more about email deliverability best practices.
Plus, keeping your list clean helps ensure you don’t waste money on inactive email addresses and keeps your data more accurate so you can make better marketing decisions. For example, if you’re unhappy about low email open rates, but your list has a bunch of subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked anything in over five years, then just remove all those people from your list. Just like that, your open rates will be higher.
Engagement impacts deliverability
Good engagement leads to better deliverability, and better deliverability will naturally lead to better engagement. If more people see your emails, more people can engage with them.
To make the most of this symbiotic relationship, you have to put the work in from the beginning. You can’t just keep uploading and adding names to your email list and then blast them all with emails forever. You must do some list maintenance as part of your email marketing strategy.
You must send working emails with valuable content that’s relevant to the subscriber. You must consider the frequency of messages and keep an eye on analytics.
So use the strategies and tips you’ve already read about to strengthen email engagement, and you’ll be doing your deliverability a big favor. That means:
Earlier, we mentioned automated emails, and these are a great tool for engagement. Since they’re usually sent out immediately after a particular action was taken, they tend to get higher engagement and that’s good for solidifying your sender reputation.
Technical ways to improve deliverability (and thus engagement)
Don’t get intimidated by this part, and we’ll keep it brief. But another way to assure yourself of better deliverability is to use a few email authentication protocols. Your email service provider is your best source of information on this, so reach out to them for help.
In brief, the goal of email authentication is to help mailbox providers like Yahoo, Gmail, and your workplace know that the sender of an email is who they claim to be. Authenticated emails get delivered at higher rates than non-authenticated ones. If your emails are struggling to make it to the inbox or you’re getting exceptionally low engagement, you may want to look into this.
The three most common email authentication protocols are:
The acronyms all stand for a hodgepodge of technical terms. Again, the point here is simply to make you aware of this, and you can reach out to your ESP for help.
Take a multichannel approach
People don’t live their entire lives in one place – your marketing shouldn’t, either.
Email is a powerful tool that works even better when integrated with other marketing channels to engage your customers, effectively expanding your brand’s footprint. Your marketing mix should be a reflection of how – and where – your audience spends their time.
For example, social media can be a great option for attracting new potential customers and keeping your existing followers and customers engaged. But not all platforms are built the same – see which social media platforms are best for ecommerce.
You can even use your existing email subscriber list to target ads on social media or encourage followers to sign up for your email list by promoting gated content or giveaways that require an email subscription.
But a multichannel marketing approach is not just about building your email list. The more media channels you can use to reach your customers, the more customers you will reach and engage.
Here are a few other media channels you can use to reach and engage new and existing customers:
You can use multiple channels to deliver complementary messages when you’re running a big sales campaign, so people hear a similar set of offers and deals wherever they go.
You can also use multiple channels to run distinct campaigns that are best suited for the strengths of that media channel. The specifics of how you use multi-channel marketing often depend on the nature of the business and on its customer behaviors and preferences.
You also want to manage the timing of these messages. If you have an email list and an SMS list, for example, it would be best to schedule emails to go out at different times from text messages. This way, your marketing will reinforce its message, rather than bombarding them with it all at once.
Leverage the customer journey
Customers go through several phrases as they engage with your products and brand. Using these stages of the journey across multiple channels takes more skill and resources, so this is getting beyond pure email marketing. If you’re a new or small ecommerce business, you may not be ready to do this across channels. But it’s wise to start thinking this way from the beginning, because as you grow, your marketing needs to grow with you.
When it comes to establishing your email marketing strategy, you’ll want to consider the various stages along the journey that your subscribers may be in. You can tailor different messages to different stages to better meet people where they’re at. But better yet, you can combine your thoughts about the customer journey with email segmentation so that subscribers only get messages relevant to their place in the journey.
Measure and improve with analytics
In the day-to-day scramble of running a business, analytics are not always top of mind. But understanding what’s performing – and what isn’t – is critical to making your email campaigns more effective.
Nearly all platforms offer data on how well your messages are engaging subscribers. Historically, email marketing teams have relied heavily on open rates to measure performance, but with major changes in privacy laws and technology, open rates are not always a reliable metric. There are other key performance indicators (KPI’s) that you should monitor on a regular basis as part of your email marketing campaign.
Overall / broad stats
Get granular – improve email performance with A/B testing
This won’t matter as much when you’re first starting, but once you begin sending to a few thousand or more subscribers, testing variations on a subsection before sending the message to your entire subscriber base can yield worthwhile improvements to your return on investment.
A/B testing allows you to present your audience with two versions of the same thing (landing page, email, call to action) with a minor difference to see which works best.
ReallyGoodEmails has some excellent pointers on how to utilize A/B testing to improve your content and performance.
For example: When A/B split testing emojis in a subject line, the change should be confined to the emoji itself. A typical A/B test includes a control group, but it’s not required.
Do change only one variable.
Test A: Fourth of July Sale
Test B: Fourth of July Sale 🎉
Don’t change multiple variables:
Test A: Fourth of July Sale
Test B: Fourth of July Sale Is On! 🎉
Other items you can trial in emails using A/B testing include:
Just to say it again – you can’t test all of these things at once, or even several of them. The best approach is to do one at a time, and see if you learn anything useful. For example, test just your subject lines and keep everything else the same. And you’ll need a big enough subscriber list – a few thousand or more – before you can confidently trust the results.
Also, keep in mind that if you decide to forego traditional A/B testing, you will need to manually
Get started and keep going
The number one thing to remember with email marketing, after all the details and seeming complexity, is pretty simple:
Do it, and do it consistently.
Don’t just send a few times per year. Send emails consistently and regularly. Yes, you also need to work on growing your list, creating offers, managing your list, and the other things you’ve read here.
But the most important thing is to just keep sending, because that’s how you build, nurture, and monetize the relationship with your email list.
There are many email marketing software options to choose from, each with different features and benefits. WooCommerce can help you do all of this with tools like MailPoet and AutomateWoo. Take the time to research and find the right fit for your business.
Email marketing FAQs
What is phishing?
Phishing is a type of cyberattack with the end goal of stealing information like passwords to gain access to sensitive accounts. The attacker will often pose as a legitimate company and send an email asking the recipient to re-enter a password or payment information to correct an error.
The email looks real and any landing page the recipient goes to will also have the company’s logo and other information to fool the victim. Once obtained, the cybercriminal can use the information to access bank accounts or other critical accounts and steal money or commit other crimes.
By establishing the email authentication protocols mentioned earlier in this article, you can help prevent cybercriminals from using your domain name as the “from” email address as part of a phishing attack.
Can I start an email marketing program with aging contacts?
Yes you can, but be cautious.
It’s important to realize that sending emails to an aging list may impact your deliverability. Those contacts may be unreachable or will have limited engagement. A better approach is to start building your email list and sending to it regularly once you get a few signups, and then grow from there.
Subscribers who don’t recognize you are more likely to mark you as spam. So if you haven’t emailed them in several years, doing so now is risky. If you do, use a reactivation strategy, and make it clear in the subject line with something like “Do you still want to hear from us?”
With that approach, people will be more likely to unsubscribe rather than mark you as spam if they don’t want to get your emails anymore. And unsubscribes have no effect on your sender reputation.
Can I use video in email?
In general, you cannot play videos within an email. The typical approach is to use a screenshot from a video you want to send, and link that screenshot to where the video is hosted, such as YouTube, Vimeo, or your website. Generally, it’s best to display the video on your website as those other platforms are prone to distraction.
You can use GIFs to provide motion within email, but not all clients support the display of GIFs. So, you’ll need to set a fallback image for these clients.
What are some best practices for using emojis?
Emojis can generate interest in the inbox, but they can also be distracting and disruptive. It’s always a good idea to test emojis and let your audience decide, but here are a few tried and tested guidelines:
Use emojis sparingly and intentionally. The emojis you use should be related to the content. It’s not a good idea to tack on several random emojis just because they look cute. Also, keep in mind that emojis won’t show up on certain devices and platforms.
Finally, results can vary widely based on your audience and the subject matter of your store. Sometimes emojis are simply not appropriate. Younger audiences might respond well to emojis while older ones do not. Or the opposite. Test and segment your audiences accordingly.
Where should I store marketing images?
Most ESPs provide image hosting as part of your subscription, but you may want to consider an external cloud provider. The benefit to using a cloud provider is that if you use multiple software services for email marketing or decide to change providers, your image links will stay the same.
It’s not uncommon for subscribers to try to re-access content at a later date. If you update systems between the time of sending and the time the subscriber re-accesses the email, any image links will appear broken. Having a centralized image database will cut down on the number of duplicate images your organization hosts, effectively decreasing the cost of hosting as well.