Email marketing can drive powerful results for your e-commerce business. In this ultimate guide to email marketing for e-commerce, we'll show you exactly how to build your email list, create effective email campaigns, track results, and more.
If you run an e-commerce business, you probably already know that 20-45% of customers will leave your website without buying anything the first time. What if you could get those customers back without spending a ton of money on paid ads?
Enter: Email marketing.
Email marketing is a must for e-commerce stores of all sizes — whether you have ten or ten thousand customers.
There's a lot to say about email marketing for e-commerce. So, here’s an overview of what we’ll cover in this guide:
- What is email marketing?
- What's the importance of email marketing for e-commerce businesses?
- Understanding your target audience
- Setting up an email marketing campaign
- Types of email marketing (and the best tools for each one)
- Crafting the content of your emails
- Measuring the success of your email marketing campaign
- Best practices for email marketing in e-commerce
What is email marketing?
Email marketing means sending emails to customers to promote your business.
Email is one of the oldest types of digital marketing, and it’s still more important than ever for e-commerce brands.
Here's why: email is an owned channel, unlike SEO or social media. You control the content you share with your email subscribers and its distribution.
Email gives you direct access to your customers. And unlike social media, you won't have to worry about "the algorithm", keeping up with what's trending, or paying to boost your content reach.
What's the importance of email marketing for e-commerce businesses?
Email marketing works for both customer acquisition and retention. It's safe to say that regardless of the size of your e-commerce business if you're not using email marketing, you’re leaving money on the table.
Here are the key stats that prove the importance of email marketing for e-commerce brands:
- There are over 4 billion email users, so there's a good chance your customers use email. Source: Statista
- On average, email marketing generates $36 for every $1 spent. Source: Litmus
- 49% of customers want promotional emails from their favorite brands. Source: Statista
- 81% of small businesses use email to reach new customers. Source: Emarsys
- 80% of small businesses use email for customer retention. Source: Emarsys
These are solid numbers.
Now that you know how powerful email marketing can be for your e-commerce store, you're likely wondering: what is the best way to make your email marketing strategy?
We'll answer that in detail in this guide. We'll also cover the exact tools, tactics, and top tips to make email marketing campaigns work for your e-commerce business.
WooCommerce is the most popular e-commerce platform in the world, so we'll focus on setting up and running your email marketing program with tools that work well with WooCommerce.
Ready? Let's start with the very first step to email marketing for e-commerce stores.
Understanding your target audience
The most successful e-commerce email marketing campaigns start with customers, not emails. After all, email is simply a channel to connect with customers. Like every other marketing channel, you must begin with understanding your target audience.
What is a target audience?
In email marketing, your target audience refers to the customers most likely to be interested in receiving emails from your business.
When it comes to email marketing, it pays to be super specific. You must be clear on who your customers are, what they care about, and what they want from your business.
Even if you sell just one product, it's unlikely that every customer will care about the same feature or use it exactly the same.
Let's look at three critical types of information to consider about your target audience.
Target audience demographics are the traits or characteristics that describe your target audience. For example:
Different groups of customers use your products in different ways. Demographic data helps you understand how your target audience uses your products so that you can craft relevant email campaigns.
Interests and preferences
Interests and preferences data can be in the form of:
Information about your customer's interests and preferences helps you answer the question: what do my customers care about?
For example, let's say you own an online beauty store and want to promote your new line of skincare products. After digging into your target audience's data, you find that many customers care about natural and organic products. Now, you can center your email campaigns on the organic ingredients in your products.
This is just one example of how to use interests and preferences data. Whatever type of e-commerce business you run, there are endless ways that you can use data about your customers' interests and preferences to create incredible e-commerce email marketing campaigns.
Behavioral data is information about how customers interact with your website, social media, and email list. For example, the links they clicked, the products they added to their cart, their orders, the emails they opened, and so on.
Every interaction customers have with your business online allows you to gather behavioral data about them.
Analyzing behavioral data can help you answer questions like:
- What products or services are popular among customers?
- What types of emails are most effective?
- What's the best time to send emails to get the maximum engagement?
How to gather audience information from WooCommerce reports
If your website is built on WooCommerce, you don't have to guess all these details about your customers. WooCommerce reporting easily gathers data about your customers' demographics, interests, preferences, and behavior.
Here are the steps to gather audience information from WooCommerce reports
- Head to your WordPress dashboard. Select "WooCommerce", then "Customers".
- The "Customers" tab contains details about your customers — for example, their location, average order value (AOV), total spending, and more. You can navigate the "customers" tab to view your audiences' information.
- Alternatively, you can click on "Advanced filters" to use filters to view customers based on specific criteria. From the top-left, select "All customers" → "Advanced filters" → "Add a filter".
Setting up an email marketing campaign
Now, let's dig into how to set up your email marketing campaign for success. Here, we'll cover the following:
- What are the three key areas you should focus on when designing an email marketing campaign?
- What email marketing tools should you use?
- How to decide the frequency of your email marketing campaigns?
Choosing an email marketing platform
What is the first step to email marketing? Choosing the right email marketing software.
Simply put, an email marketing platform is a tool that you can use to create, send, and manage email campaigns.
Although there are many options for you to choose from, if you run an e-commerce business, we recommend that you use MailChimp.
MailChimp is an all-in-one email marketing software platform with tons of features, such as personalization, segmentation, A/B testing, automation, analytics, and more — all of which are crucial to succeed at e-commerce email marketing.
MailChimp is easy to use, so you can easily set it up even if you're not tech-savvy, and it integrates well with WooCommerce, so you can easily connect your e-commerce store to MailChimp and make use of your target audience data.
The best part is MailChimp has a generous free plan so that you can get started right now.
Here are the steps to sign up for MailChimp
- Head over to MailChimp's website and click on "sign up."
- Select "Websites & Commerce". Pick a plan.
- Enter your details and select "Sign Up".
- Complete MailChimp's onboarding to finish setting up your account.
Collecting email addresses
After you've chosen your email marketing tool, it's time to set up your online store to collect email addresses from your site's visitors — also known as collecting email leads.
You'll need to use MailOptin, the best email lead generation plugin, to do this.
MailOptin makes it super easy to create and manage pop-up and classic opt-in signup forms to capture email addresses and grow your subscriber list.
You can easily connect MailOptin to MailChimp and your e-Commerce store so that every time you get a new email subscriber, their details automatically get sent to your email subscriber list.
Here are the steps to use the MailOptin with WooCommerce and MailChimp
- Install and activate MailOptin on your WooCommerce website.
- From your WordPress dashboard, select "MailOptin" → "Integrations". Scroll down and choose "MailChimp" from the list.
- Scroll back up the page and enter your MailChimp API key.
Note: You'll find your API key in your Mailchimp account under the "Extras" → "API Keys" section.
Create a subscriber list
After you've added the MailOptin classic and pop-up signup forms on your website and connected WooCommerce and MailChimp, it's time to create an email subscriber list. This list is where you store the email addresses of your existing customers and the ones you collect from MailOptin.
Subscriber lists — also known as your audience list — are customers who subscribe to marketing emails from your business. When customers subscribe to your email list, you'll be able to see in their details in the "Audience dashboard" in MailChimp.
Designing an email template
An email template is an outline you can customize to send marketing emails. Templates usually have placeholders for text, images, and other types of content and options to adjust the style and format.
Although you don't have to use templates to send marketing emails, they can save a lot of time and effort because you won't have to start every email from scratch. Plus, email templates help ensure that your emails are on-brand and consistent with the rest of your marketing.
YITH WooCommerce Email Templates allow you to quickly and easily customize your emails. They have lots of professionally-designed templates specifically for e-commerce stores, which you can easily adjust and customize to fit your brand.
If you're not a professional designer and developer, YITH WooCommerce Email Templates can help you save a ton of time because they're super responsive and optimized to work for e-commerce brands.
Crafting a compelling subject line
Headlines are the most critical part of any marketing message. And in email marketing, subject lines are your headlines.
The subject line of an email is typically the first line of text that customers see when they receive your email, so you need to ensure it's compelling.
Here are three guidelines for crafting compelling subject lines:
- Keep it short and sweet: Your subject line should be as short as possible and straight to the point. Aim for 40 characters or less, as that's the maximum length most email service providers (like Gmail and AppleMail) can display.
- Personalize it: Personalizing an email subject line helps you connect with your subscribers and make your email feel more relevant to their interests. The easiest way to personalize the subject line is to use the customer's first name.
- Invoke a sense of curiosity: The email subject line is similar to a movie trailer: its purpose is to pique your subscribers' interest and get them curious enough to open your email. Consider using phrases that intrigue your customer to get them interested enough to open your email.
Deciding on the frequency of emails
Deciding on the frequency of sending emails can be tricky. On the one hand, sending too many emails can annoy your customers. On the other, you don't want customers to forget about your business or miss opportunities to promote your business.
So, how many emails should be sent per week?
The answer is — it depends. Here's what to consider when deciding on the frequency of emails:
- Your target audience: Based on the analysis of your target audience, what type of content do they find valuable? How often do they want to hear from your business? What time of day or week would they prefer to receive your emails?
- Your business goals: What are you hoping to achieve with your email marketing campaign? Are you trying to drive sales, build brand awareness, or educate your audience? Your goals will play a significant role in determining your email frequency.
- Your resources: If you have a large marketing budget, you can send several emails every week. However, if your resources are limited, reducing the frequency of sending emails can help you focus on packing each email with as much value as possible.
If you're new to email marketing, you may be unable to answer all these questions immediately. Continue creating great emails, testing, and tracking the metrics that will help you to perfect your email marketing strategy.
Types of email marketing (and the best tools for each one)
There are several types of emails that you can send to your subscribers, depending on your email strategy, your goals, and what your target audience prefers.
Email newsletters are one of the classic types of emails that you can send to customers. Newsletters usually include content your audience may find valuable, updates about your products and brand, and details about ongoing promotions.
Sending a regular hand-curated newsletter with relevant content your customers find interesting is a great way to educate and build trust with your potential customers.
However, if you don't have the resources to regularly hand-curate content, a handy alternative is to send automated emails to customers. For example, you can configure MailOptin to automatically send updates to customers when you publish a new blog post or add a new product to your store.
Promotional emails are exactly what they sound like — emails sent to raise awareness about promotions and offers. You can send promotional emails for:
- One-off sales, such as Black Friday
- Time-sensitive offers and flash deals
- Seasonal offers, such as Mother's day, Christmas
- New product launches
- Upsell and cross-sell product recommendations
- Any other type of promotion
Whatever the type of promotional emails you're sending, coupons (especially custom coupons) are a proven way to encourage customers to buy. Consider using the YITH WooCommerce Coupon Email System to send customized coupons to customers on their birthdays, based on their purchase history, or other activities.
Abandoned cart emails
On average, 60-70% of online shopping carts are abandoned.
Abandoned cart emails are sent to encourage customers who added products to their cart but failed to check out to complete their order. Although it may not be possible to recover all abandoned carts, cart abandonment emails are still super effective, and they typically recover 5-11% of lost sales.
Here are three guidelines for sending effective cart abandonment emails
- Use text, not images: Images take longer to load, and using text will help the email load faster.
- Link to the shopping cart: Cart abandonment emails are sent to encourage customers to complete their purchase, so make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
- Create a sense of urgency: Use action-oriented words and a clear call to action (CTA) to instill a sense of urgency to complete the order.
Customers abandon their carts for several reasons, such as slow website speed, time-consuming checkout, etc. So, use cart abandonment emails together with on-site strategies to encourage customers to complete their orders.
Pro tip: Use the WooCommerce Fast Cart plugin to improve the checkout experience. WooCommerce Fast Cart makes it easy for customers to review their orders and complete their purchases on the same page, making them less likely to abandon their cart.
Win-back emails (also called re-engagement emails) are sent to customers who previously engaged with your brand, for example, made a purchase or signed up for your email list but stopped doing so for some time.
Pro tip: Send a series of win-back emails. If you only send one win-back email, you have only one chance to win them back. If you send multiple re-engagement emails, you increase the chances that they will remember to revisit your website and make a purchase. Just be careful not to overdo it — sending too many emails can be off-putting and cause customers to unsubscribe.
Transactional emails are sent to individual email subscribers and include information about them and their actions.
By default, WooCommerce allows you to send transactional emails to customers, such as welcome emails, order confirmations, shipping notifications, password reset, post-purchase, refunds, account creation emails, etc.
Pro tip: Use the WooCommerce Multiple Email Recipients plugin to allow customers to add multiple email addresses during checkout. For example, to copy a colleague from the Finance team into the order confirmation emails so they can keep a record of the transaction for accounting purposes.
Product-specific emails are sent to customers based on specific actions they take regarding products.
Although you can send product-specific emails manually, they are usually automated. You can send them based on customers' actions, interests, and purchase history to drive sales and engagement with less effort.
Pro tip: Use the WooCommerce Follow-Ups plugin to send automated product-specific emails to customers. For example, you can send a welcome email if a customer pays to access a "members-only" area on your website. Or if a customer books products from your event category, you send them information about the event.
Crafting the content of your emails
When crafting your email marketing campaigns, it's essential to remember that your email subscriber list includes potential and existing customers. Plus, some customers may be in different stages of the customer journey.
That's why following these guidelines is crucial to help you craft successful e-commerce email marketing campaigns.
Use a killer email structure
The structure of your email matters. Even though the contents of your email may change depending on its type and purpose, the overall email structure remains the same. So, what are the three critical elements of a successful email marketing campaign?
- Relevant and targeted content: Your emails should be tailored to your target audience and their interests, providing valuable information or offers they will find helpful.
- Compelling subject line and design: A well-crafted subject line that grabs the recipient's attention is crucial for getting them to open the email. The email design should be visually appealing, making it easy to read and navigate.
- Effective call-to-action: Your emails should have a clear call-to-action (CTA), encouraging the recipient to take one specific action. The CTA should be prominently displayed and easy to understand. For example, make a purchase or sign up for your email newsletter.
Email personalization means using personal data about your customers to send them emails that are uniquely targeted to them.
Personalized emails perform much better than non-personalized emails because they help your brand connect with customers as individuals.
Research by Yes Lifecycle Marketing shows that personalizing the email subject lines can boost open rates by as much as 50%. So if you're not personalizing your emails to customers, you're losing out on a lot of potential revenue.
But you don't have to send each email manually to each customer. You can use marketing email automation and behavioral data to personalize your email campaigns tailored to specific customer preferences.
Here are a few simple ways to get started with email personalization
- Use the customer's name in the subject line and sprinkle it appropriately throughout the body of the email.
- Send personalized emails based on unique information, such as past purchases, birthdays, etc.
Pro tip: Use MailChimp's marketing automation features to create personalized emails.
Email A/B testing is the process of sending two variations of an email to two sample groups of your email subscriber list to identify which version performs best.
A/B tests are crucial to email marketing success. They are a data-backed way to compare two emails to evaluate which performs better.
Email A/B tests can help you answer questions like:
- Which subject line/email preview text leads to higher open rates?
- Should you use emojis or not?
- How long should your emails be?
- What's the best time to send emails?
- Which call to action leads to higher click-through rates?
- Lots more
In e-commerce email marketing, a call to action (CTA) is a button or hyperlinked text that directs an email subscriber to your website.
CTAs are the most critical parts of your email. They should be designed to be eye-catching to grab the customer's attention and compel them to act.
Here are a few tips for creating compelling CTAs
- Use action words: Email CTAs should entice your subscribers to act, so use verbs and action-oriented language to convey this to customers.
- Focus on being clear, not clever: While it may seem tempting to try to be creative with your CTAs, it's usually better to use clear words so that your customer knows precisely what action you want them to take.
- Brief is better: Long sentences are harder to read and understand. Keep your CTAs as short as possible to keep the reader's interest and drive them to act.
Optimizing for mobile devices
41% of people read emails on mobile devices. Chances are, your customers do too. That's why you need to optimize your emails for email.
Here are three essential tips for creating mobile-friendly emails:
- Keep your email subject line short: Most mobile phones can only display 25-30 characters. So if your email subject line is longer, it will get cut off.
- Use descriptive pre-header text: Email pre-header text is usually the next thing that your customers see after the email subject line. Descriptive pre-header text can entice customers to open your email.
- Use prominent CTAs: Make sure the CTA is noticeable and not buried so that the reader knows exactly where they have to click on.
Including social proof
Social proof is the concept that people will follow and copy other people's actions because they assume it's the right thing to do.
Although there are several types of social proof, customer reviews are a classic example.
Your business might receive customer reviews online, but have you ever thought about sharing those in your emails? Apart from adding reviews from actual customers, you can also add reviews from influencers that work with your brand.
Incorporating social proof in your emails can lead to tremendous results for your e-commerce business.
Measuring the success of your email marketing campaign
Let's dig into the key metrics to measure to ensure your email marketing efforts are worthwhile. We'll review which essential email marketing campaign key performance indicators (KPIs) to track, how they're calculated, and why they matter.
Pro tip: Use MailChimp's built-in reporting to collect and analyze your email marketing KPIs in real time. Simply head to the "Campaigns" tab within MailChimp. Then, select "View report" for the email campaign you want to analyze.
What it is: The percentage of email subscribers that opened your email.
How it's calculated: Number of emails delivered / Number of emails opened.
Open rates are a controversial metric because of how they are calculated. Most email marketing tools load a tiny, invisible image in each email and count how often the image loads. So, if your email subscribers use image blockers, your open rates may not be accurate.
Open rates are a helpful metric to give you a general idea of how your campaigns perform with your audience. For example, you can compare the open rates of emails week on week.
High open rates usually mean that your emails resonate with your audience. If your email open rates are low or you want to improve them, consider running A/B tests on the email subject line and pre-header text.
Pro tip: MailChimp's Email Marketing Benchmarks report can show how your open rates stack up against similar companies in your industry. You can also use their A/B testing tools to improve your email open rates.
To find out the email open rate in MailChimp:
Head to the "Campaigns" dashboard → Select "View report". Scroll down to find the open rate.
What it is: The percentage of email subscribers who clicked a link in your email.
How it's calculated: (Clicks ÷ Number of delivered emails) X 100
Click-through rate (CTR) is probably the most essential e-commerce email marketing metric to track. CTR tells you how many subscribers engage with your emails and how effective your call to action (CTA) is.
If you'd like to dig deeper into your analytics, you can also track which subscribers clicked on a link, the number of clicks per link, the most clicked link in your campaign, and more.
Like open rates, you can also run A/B tests to improve your CTR. Optimizing your emails for higher CTR can increase your revenue from your email marketing efforts.
Here's how to check your email's CTR in MailChimp
From to the "Campaigns" dashboard → Select "View report". Scroll down to find the clickthrough rate.
What It Is: The percentage of your email subscribers who clicked on a link and completed the action you wanted them to.
How it's calculated: (Number of people who completed the desired action / Number of emails delivered) X 100
If your goal is to generate leads or increase revenue, conversion rates are vital because they show you how effective your emails actually are. After all, you want customers to act, such as making an order after clicking the link in your email.
To know your email conversion rate, you must integrate your website analytics with your email marketing platform to connect order information and subscriber details. Then, create unique tracking URLs to identify the source of email clicks.
Here's how to check your email's CTR in MailChimp
From to the "Campaigns" dashboard → Select "View report". Select the "E-commerce" tab.
What it is: The percentage of emails sent that were not delivered successfully to your email subscribers
How to calculate it: (Number of bounced emails / Number of emails sent) X 100
There are two types of email bounces: "hard" and "soft".
Soft bounces are due to a temporary reason. For example, if the customer's mailbox is full, their email server can only deliver new emails once they clear space or upgrade their email storage capacity.
Hard bounces are due to permanent reasons, such as incorrect or inactive email addresses. Having too many hard email bounces can make your company look like an email spammer in the eyes of an ISP — meaning that all your emails could get sent to the spam folder instead of your customers' inboxes.
Even though the bounce rate may not directly link to your goals, you should pay attention to it to ensure there are no issues with your campaigns. Aim to keep your email bounce rate low because it's crucial to helping you maintain a good email sender reputation.
Here's how to view the bounce rate in MailChimp
From to the "Campaigns" dashboard → Select "View report". Locate the "bounce" section.
Spam complaint rate
What it is: The percentage of email subscribers that marked your email as spam.
How to calculate it: (Number of spam complaints / Number of emails delivered) x 100
The spam complaint rate tells you whether your subscribers find your emails valuable.
A high spam score shows that your audience doesn’t value your email marketing messages, sending a signal to the internet service providers (ISPs) that your subscribers aren't interested in hearing from your brand.
Like bounce rates, the spam complaint rate impacts your email sender's reputation, so aim to keep it as low as possible.
Here's how to check your spam complaint score in MailChimp
From to the "Campaigns" dashboard → Select "View report". Locate the "Abuse reports" section.
Best practices for email marketing in e-commerce
There's a lot to keep in mind when it comes to creating email marketing campaigns. But what are the three key ways to improve your email marketing?
Timing is everything
On average, people receive 121 emails every day. Even if your subscribers receive fewer emails, it's easy for your emails to get buried in their inboxes. That's why sending your emails at the right time can help make sure your subscribers see your emails.
Here are two ways to optimize the end times of your email campaigns:
- Send-time personalization: Send emails to go out at the same time across time zones. For example, a subscriber will receive your email at 7 AM in LA Time, and another in New York will receive it at 7 AM NYC time.
- Send time optimization: Identify when your subscribers will likely engage with your email and send it based on that. For example, if your subscribers are usually online during working hours, i.e, 9-5, send it during working hours. If not, send it later.
Here's how to check your best send time in MailChimp
- Create your email campaign within MailChimp and select "continue".
- Select "Schedule" and you'll be presented with the option to optimize your email campaign send time.
Keep it simple
Email marketing automation is beneficial for most email campaigns. However, if you're just starting with email marketing, keeping things as simple as possible is essential.
Don't worry about using advanced marketing automation techniques, workflows, over-optimized campaigns, etc. Instead, keep things as simple as possible. And after you've mastered the basics, you can move on to more advanced techniques.
Segment your list
Email segmentation means breaking up your email subscriber list into smaller categories (or segments) based on their unique traits, interests, preferences, or stage in the customer journey.
Let's look at a few examples of email segmentation in action
- Let's imagine that your business sells to wholesale and retail customers, you can segment subscribers based on the type of customer, i.e., wholesale or retail.
- If you sell to customers in different regions, you can segment based on their location.
- Suppose your customers are primarily students and young professionals, you can segment them based on their occupations.
The better your email list segments, the easier it is to create personalized emails which help you to build trust and convert customers.
Email segmentation is crucial to sending the right content to your email subscribers. If you don't segment your subscribers, you risk sending irrelevant content, and many subscribers may unsubscribe or mark your emails as spam.
Optimize for deliverability
Email deliverability rate is the rate at which your emails get delivered to your subscribers' inboxes rather than their spam folders.
Even if you've created a perfect email, your subscribers may never receive it. That's because email service providers (like Gmail) can deliver your email directly to subscribers' spam folders.
Many factors impact your email deliverability rate. Factors like your open rate, bounce rate, spam complaint rate, etc., can lead to low email deliverability.
Here are two ways to improve the deliverability rate
- Delete inactive subscribers: Inactive subscribers are subscribers that haven't opened your email over a long period (for example, 3-4 months). If a large chunk of your email subscribers don't open your emails consistently, ESPs may automatically deliver them to subscribers' spam folders.
- Use Double Opt-In: The double opt-in technique adds an extra confirmation step to verify each email address. If you enable double opt-in, subscribers will receive a follow-up email asking them to confirm their subscription. This helps to whitelist your email address and tells email service providers that subscribers want to receive your emails.
Every type of marketing, including email, should provide value to your customers.
There are many ways to provide value to your subscribers, such as, if you're sending an email newsletter campaign, you can share valuable content resources your customers may find helpful. If you're sending a promotional email with product recommendations, include relevant offers and personalized coupons based.
For example, let’s say your online store sells baby gear. You can send valuable links to your blog posts, collaborate with another brand, and send helpful content.
While several channels exist to market your business, email is still the best for e-commerce businesses — even better than SEO and social media. Here’s an overview of the tools you need to get started with email marketing:
- MailChimp: The best e-commerce email marketing platform with built-in personalization, analytics, automation, and more.
- MailOptin: The most effective lead generation & email opt-in tool to help you capture email addresses and grow your subscriber list.
- YITH WooCommerce Email Templates : Beautiful, professionally-designed e-commerce email templates that convert customers.
One thing many e-commerce business owners regret is not starting email marketing sooner. So, start building your email list today!