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Everything E-Commerce Businesses Need to Know About Email Marketing

Rachelle Gordon
Rachelle Gordon

Effective e-commerce email marketing helps drive revenue in a simple yet impactful way

For e-commerce businesses, staying in touch with customers is critical. In today’s world, this communication is likely to be entirely digital. That means having a strong email marketing strategy, having the right tools, offering relevant and interactive messages to encourage engagement with your brand, boosting website traffic, and most importantly, increasing conversions.

What is e-commerce email marketing?

E-commerce email marketing is the practice of using emails to generate sales for your online store. Emails may be one-offs designed to inform your subscribers about a flash sale or specifically targeted campaigns deployed at key moments of a customer journey, but overall, they are meant to build relationships and encourage engagement, and, therefore, they should play an integral role in your marketing team’s overall efforts.

Consumers’ inboxes are inundated with messages day in and day out, so it’s crucial to keep your customer (and not your revenue) in mind when curating email campaigns. The final goal is, of course, to drive sales, but if you alienate your audience in the process, all of your hard work will have been in vain.

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Importance of email marketing for e-commerce businesses

Email marketing is crucial for any organization, but especially so for e-commerce businesses that need a steady stream of traffic to drive conversions. It turns out this type of advertising is effective for many more reasons.

Emails are an integral part of daily life, so much so that they tend to heavily affect consumer behavior. According to a recent Hubspot survey, 59% of respondents said that marketing emails influenced their purchasing decisions. The same survey revealed that 73% of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email. While this may only be one demographic, it is arguably one of the strongest in terms of buying power and indicates a shift in who is the prime target of messages.

Email marketing helps businesses build relationships by offering a 360-degree approach to influencing the three main growth multipliers as identified by marketing authority Jay Abraham. According to Abraham, there’s a very simple formula a business must follow to gain revenue: Increase the total number of customers, increase the total number of purchases per customer (purchase frequency) or increase the average order value.

Email marketing, especially targeted campaigns triggered by various levels of engagement, can simultaneously affect all three growth multipliers and maximize profits. Below are some  examples:

  • An email automatically sent when someone places an item in their shopping cart but doesn’t complete the sale (also known as an abandoned cart) may boost customer acquisition
  • Exclusive offers sent to returning customers can raise purchase frequency
  • Segmented e-blasts sent to contacts in higher income brackets showcasing a premium line can bump up the average order value

Email marketing is also cost-effective, especially when compared to other digital advertising channels, such as pay per click. A Direct Marketing Association report found email generates $38 in revenue for every $1 spent – that’s a 3,800% return on investment.

The Hubspot survey mentioned earlier also showed companies that use segmented email campaigns increase revenue by up to 760%. These numbers alone should compel your organization to develop an email marketing strategy, as they indicate the incredible ability of a tool that is relatively easy to deploy.

Did You Know?

Email marketing is also cost-effective, especially when compared to other digital advertising channels, such as pay per click.

E-commerce email marketing strategies to boost conversions

Effective email marketing doesn’t have to be complicated, but there are several initial steps you should take to ensure future success.

 1. Choose an email marketing service.

The first step to take when starting with email marketing is to pick software to do the heavy lifting for you. There are several reputable and intuitive email marketing services available, many of which offer a full suite of plug-and-play solutions to build and maintain contact lists, design campaigns, automate triggered responses, and measure performance.

 2. Build a robust subscriber base.

Compelling marketing emails are only effective if they reach the right people. Contact lists contain the email addresses of people who have opted in to receive communications from your company. These lists may also contain pertinent information about the contact and note their place in the customer journey. There are several ways to grow your email list, such as including gated offers on your website (for example, a pop-up box that says, “Sign up for 10% off.”), placing calls to action on other platforms like social media, or adding links to employee email signatures. One thing you should never do, though, is purchase an email list, as it will almost always lead to disaster due to the outdated information and spam traps contained in these lists.

 3. Segment your contact list.

As you build your list, be sure to group similar contacts to target in future campaigns. Known as segmentation, this process is extremely valuable, as it gives subscribers what they’re looking for. Create segmented lists based on demographics like location, age, and gender or by their place in the marketing funnel, past buying behavior, or interests. Consider developing unique personas that represent your ideal customers, and assign different segments with their matching profile.

4. Set your objectives.

For e-commerce businesses, the goal of email marketing is typically to drive sales. However, it’s beneficial for companies to consider setting specific goals and objectives to focus the messaging and streamline campaigns. This may include directing customers to certain products, selecting key segments to target to raise visibility among similar personas or something as simple as boosting the number of quality contacts on your list for future engagement. These goals may change each quarter, but setting an intention for your email marketing campaigns helps you stay on brand and message.

Types of e-commerce marketing emails

There are several different kinds of communications e-commerce operations should include in their email marketing strategies. Here are some of the most useful triggered responses, which you can program to send automatically when a visitor interacts with your site:

Welcome email

Welcome emails are sent when a new person registers for your contact list, whether through an opt in or purchase. These emails should thank the subscriber for joining your community, reward them for registering (perhaps by providing a discount code or special offer) and outline what’s to come (i.e., how often they can expect to hear from you). Statistically speaking, welcome emails typically generate open rates four times higher than other marketing communications, so make yours count.

Opt-in email

Ensuring that your subscribers want to receive your messages not only helps drive sales, but it also prevents deliverability issues. There are two types of opt ins: single and double. A single opt in may occur on your website or in a subsequent email after a purchase is made. A double opt in has an extra step to confirm registration in the form of a dedicated email sent when the first opt in occurs on a website. Double opt ins can be a great way to curate a loyal audience and ensure future emails aren’t marked as spam.

Curation email

Curation emails are your brand’s chance to shine. The idea is to highlight products in your catalog the email recipient would be most likely to purchase based on their previous interactions with your website. Many web service providers allow businesses to track who clicks where, allowing you to add that data to segmented groups in your contact list. For example, if you’re an online clothing store selling shirts, pants, coats and shoes and certain visitors tend to only browse the shoes, you’ll send targeted curation emails to that specific segment showcasing your best footwear options.

Abandoned cart email

It’s an all-too-common story: A prospective customer visits an online store, sees something they are interested in, adds it to their digital shopping bag, but never completes the purchase. You could send an automated email featuring a special offer to help the recipient complete their purchase, such as free shipping or 10% off the items in their cart. Asking for feedback within the abandoned cart email may also bode well, as it shows the customer you care and can help improve barriers to conversion that may exist on your site.

Order confirmation email

This is a fairly straightforward communication but is still worth crafting carefully. Order confirmations, which are essentially digital receipts for e-commerce transactions, can help bolster sales by highlighting similar products and assuring the buyer that they can feel confident in their purchase. You may want to preview what’s next in terms of the shipping process, invite feedback or offer a discount on future orders.

Thank-you email

The thank-you note, a blend of a welcome email and an order confirmation, is a time-honored tradition that still resonates in the modern business landscape. Sending a thank-you email when a website visitor signs up for your newsletter or makes a purchase not only shows you care, but it also demonstrates your company’s values. You can take the opportunity to express gratitude, offer a reward for loyalty, and share a little bit about the “why” that drives your business.

Win-back email

Not everyone who receives your marketing communications may interact with you. For example, you may have a customer who makes one large purchase, opts in to receive your newsletter but then seemingly disappears. Let these distant subscribers know they matter by sending an occasional win-back email specifically catered to their sensibilities. Present a large value to engagement, such as an exclusive discount or buy-one, get-one code, and ensure any featured products match their interests and previous behavior. This may entice them enough to re-engage with your brand.

Email newsletter

Regularly scheduled communications with your entire contact list can be just as useful as triggered messages, offering near-instant increases in web traffic. Email newsletters inform subscribers about what’s new at your company and provide them with useful and relevant content – along with plenty of chances to interact. Consider sending a regular weekly, bi-weekly or monthly newsletter highlighting exciting developments, such as new products or teasing an upcoming sale. Email newsletters are great ways to measure what resonates with your audience, as well as to identify areas in need of improvement to shape future campaigns.

Promotional e-blast

The e-blast is another type of mass email capable of boosting your conversion rate. These short and sweet messages convey important information, like the launch of a product, a flash sale or a major change at a company. Email blasts sometimes get a bad reputation for appearing spammy; they can have a remarkable impact on engagement, as long as they’re thoughtfully deployed.

E-commerce email marketing best practices

There are several ways to make your email marketing strategy more effective. Here are some tips:

  • Pay attention to metrics. Email marketing software tracks tons of data on performance. These email analytics are crucial to understanding how campaigns are working, as well as the ways that audience needs are evolving. They include open rates (how many people actually opened the message), click-through rates (what people interacted with) and bounce rates (how many emails didn’t make it to an inbox). Marketing teams should regularly examine these metrics to maximize future results.
  • Be consistent. Humans are creatures of habit, right down to how they interact with brands. Everything from email layouts to the time the email is sent to copy language should be cohesive to retain subscriber trust. If multiple people are working on marketing emails, they should all be consistent in terms of messaging and design.
  • Optimize the designs for all types of devices. People check their email on their phones or tablets almost as much as their laptops or PCs. Formatting your communications to ensure readability across platforms is essential. Most email marketing services can toggle into a “mobile view” during the design process, allowing you to be certain your message looks its best no matter where it’s opened.
  • Accept feedback. Inviting subscribers to reply to your marketing email is a bold move, but it may provide insight unavailable through other channels. Allowing replies to certain emails demonstrates a willingness to listen to your audience. While it may lead to an onslaught of mixed messages, there could also be pertinent and helpful feedback present that can improve your operations, such as challenges customers experience at checkout.

Most email marketing services can toggle into a “mobile view” during the design process, allowing you to be certain your message looks its best no matter where it’s opened.

Email marketing tools

As we mentioned earlier, there are several great email marketing services to choose from. Here are some of our favorites:


Mailchimp is incredibly user-friendly, offering an array of templates, automation tools and analytics. This popular service is great for companies that want to stay in touch with customers without all the bells and whistles. Paid versions offer customer-journey-building capabilities, advanced segmentation and customer support by phone.

Constant Contact

Constant Contact is a powerful, intuitive platform boasting high deliverability and easy-to-use software. Pricing is based on the size of your list, meaning startups have access to the same tools the big companies have. Constant Contact also offers website building, including e-commerce solutions, as well as other digital advertising options for businesses seeking a one-stop-shop approach.


Benchmark is a fantastic option for e-commerce businesses. Its mobile app makes managing marketing emails on the go a breeze while its responsive design function allows users to create stunning communications with little effort. Benchmark’s lead generation tool can integrate with your online store to help boost your subscriber base.


Sendinblue offers incredible automation options, a wide selection of templates and guidance on how to avoid spam filters. There are several pricing options perfect for businesses of all types and sizes, including a free version capable of sending up to 300 emails a day with unlimited contacts.

Image Credit: shironosov / Getty Images
Rachelle Gordon
Rachelle Gordon
Contributing Writer
Rachelle Gordon is a Minneapolis-based content writer who has written extensively on topics such as finance, marketing, cannabis, sustainability and tech. Her work has appeared in Benzinga, SlickDeals, and High Times. Prior to her career in journalism, Rachelle was an educator and has a passion for sharing knowledge. She enjoys helping businesses maximize efficiency while staying true to their core values.