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Liz Kasian

101 Guide: Email Marketing Strategy for E-Commerce and Digital Brands

in this article

How does email marketing work?

Once you ended up here, you must have heard something on email marketing, but are still trying to figure out if this could be the right solution for your business. Okay. We have 2 news for you, both are good /spoiler alert: no ‘but’s either/:

  1. Email marketing is the most effective way to market and is super alive.
  2. Email marketing is the right solution for your ecommerce business too.

In the matter of illustration to both pieces of the good news above, below are some eye-opening figures from Conversion Rate Optimization Blog by Optinmonster:

  • Email open rate is 22%, CTR is 3.71% /compare with a social media engagement rate of 0.5%/!
  • Email marketing has a whopping ROI of 4400%. Well, other sources cite numbers like 670% but still fairly impressive. And still wa-a-a-a-ay higher than all other marketing methods.
Print screen creds: Profitworks

What is email marketing?

To understand how email marketing works, let’s first look at the definition of email marketing. Email marketing is a method of promoting your product, business or brand using email. So basically whenever a business sends an email to a customer or potential client, this can be referred to as email marketing.

Reasons to use email marketing in your ecommerce strategy

There are millions of success stories when email marketing helped ecommerce businesses to:

  • acquire new clients
  • retain existing clients
  • convert clients who abandoned a shopping cart
  • grow their mailing list using referral
  • grow their social media following
  • increase their domain authority by supplying incremental targeted traffic
  • strengthen loyalty via consistent focused communication

Those are some pretty good reasons to start sending some letters to your mailing list, right?

Does email marketing work well for e-commerce?

Email marketing has been there before the social networks, native advertising, even before Google ads — and remains a champion in terms of ROI among all the marketing methods for many reasons.

Does it work for ecommerce? Oh, yes, read on to see some jaw-dropping real-life cases.

In this article, we will use some examples from the marketing cases of 2 DNVBs /AKA Digitally Native Vertical Brands/: Harry’s and Casper. They both managed to leverage the power of email marketing to elevate their brands and exhibit exponential growth in highly saturated niches.

Email marketing challenges & pitfalls for e-commerce

With all the songs sung and all the praise is given, it is time to get down to Earth and put aside those pink glasses: Email marketing is not a walk in the park. It is not even the jog in the forest. It is a marathon for the well-prepared.

But the good news is: lots of hard work and preparation will do the trick.

Don’t’s of email marketing:

  1. Do not use an email list, that you obtained in an illegal manner.
    According to the strict GDPR laws, you cannot be sending unsolicited emails to people — those email addresses must have been provided voluntarily to your company with explicit permission to send electronic letters.

    There are legal privacy policy issues, that may arise from sending out emails to an email list obtained in an illegal manner. For example, if your ecommerce store supplies to EU, according to recent strict EU GDPR laws, you cannot be sending unsolicited emails to people — those email addresses must have been provided voluntarily to your company with explicit permission to send electronic letters.

    If you use a database of addresses that you purchased or got hold of from a friend — the likelihood is that you will be shooting yourself in the leg. Those emails will have a low click-through rate, may be marked as spam — so your domain may be blacklisted and have a hard time lifting that authority.
  2. Do not think that the more the better. Scrub your email list religiously.
    Unless you spend all that marketing budget for a proper copy and design and mail service provider for your email to end up in the promotion tab, scrub your list. You don’t want the outdated email addresses on your list.

    Keep only the most engaged ones on the list — your CTR will go up, your spam rate will go down and more of your marketing emails will end up in the inbox, where you want them to be.
  3. Do not spam. Simply don’t.
    Precious stones don’t lay around on every corner. They are rare. Don’t spam in terms of frequency. Don’t spam in terms of quality. You want your subscribers to treat your email as carrying some added value for them: a discount, a piece of educational info or a smile. Use it sparingly for higher conversion and lower unsubscribe requests.
  4. Don’t treat all subscribers the same. They aren’t.
    Segmenting your email list is not a one-time exercise. It is a work in progress. Keep segmenting them and target your messages accordingly. Gender, age, geo, sales funnel stage, product purchased — there are hundreds of reasons to slice your mailing list. Choose wisely and keep on reinventing your segmentation for the best conversion and highest ROI.
Print screen: SignUpTo

4. Don’t ignore the figures.

Set the KPIs and keep beating your records. SMART goals are a mantra every schoolchild knows. Every goal a business owner is aiming to achieve should be Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-bound.

Make sure you know your destination, time of arrival, who will get you there and how you will measure your path. Sounds pretty basic, but you never know how many insights are waiting for you in the figures, unless you start paying attention to them.

Working with new, current and future buyers: email marketing for every stage of a customer lifecycle

The great thing about email marketing is that it can be used throughout the entire customer lifecycle from the awareness stage to the bonding experience.

As an example let’s consider a few potential emails along the customer lifecycle:

  • awareness stage — intro email
  • engagement stage — offer to join social media with an integrated bonus
  • evaluation — email your clients a letter with your USPs over competitors
  • purchase — send them a promo email to incentivize a purchase or thank you letter right after the purchase
  • support experience — be prompt to provide your customers with support contacts in case they need to up their experience
  • bonding stage — keep your customers’ spirits up before the holidays season with a heartwarming story on some social activity or a promo.

Image creds: Astute

Email marketing strategies for your eCommerce business with examples

Use quality product photos in your email campaign

Including photography into your email marketing is just a default setting everybody does, so go one step further and make sure it is relevant product images you are sending to your database. Customize every email as per the stage in the customer lifetime cycles, products viewed, season, etc.

While you did so much work to get the customer to subscribe, commission email marketing to the right supplier, you want to make sure your emails convert after all.

Guess what?

Images are a proven stimulator of conversions — be it product photography on your website, commercial image for your social media or relevant image in the email marketing letters.

Check out this Henry’s image of the machinery, used at their German factory to produce the blades for their razors, that disrupted the industry. While the image might seem a bit boring at first sight, it perfectly echoes the brand’s unique value: their manufacturing cycle, that they can be fully responsible for. As well with a major chunk of their target audience being male, “how it’s made” storyline is rather likely to resonate.

Create an online subscription form

Nobody likes spam. It is a good idea to specify your company will not abuse the email provided and keep to that word.

  • Keep it simple — the least fields the better.
  • Provide added value, like a coupon or a discount
  • Provide the option to signup with social media /Google account, Facebook/

Some of the popular online subscription form builders, we find user-friendly:

Print screen: Google Forms

Send an automated welcome email

While the most basic of the emails in the range of email marketing letters, this is important as it sets the tone of your communication. Make it unobtrusive, informative and useful.

Design a mobile-friendly layout

With mobile-first website design becoming increasingly default setting for many SMEs, responsive design is an absolute must. Email marketing is no exception. Make sure that your content is mobile-friendly.


Use marketing automation workflows to better optimize the timing for sending out the letters to your database. Monitoring the open rate, click-through rate and conversion rate also helps to understand the hours, days, months when your marketing may yield the biggest fruit.

Integrate an abandoned cart sequence

Massive 2/3s of all checkouts don’t get completed. The reasons behind the abandonment differ, so it is no harm to remind your customers to get back to the process they started. Offering a free delivery or any other value-added offer helps to increase the conversion. Keep the narrative soft and half-serious will make sure this communication doesn’t come across as pushy.

Send automated “Thank you for your purchase” confirmations

Program your software to send triggered emails at crucial stages of a customer journey — inclusive of the thank you email after the purchase with all the details confirming the price, estimated delivery, and refund policy.

Create targeted upsell campaigns

This one is not to be abused as comes across as the most spammy type. Such emails are likely to trigger the dreaded by all marketers “unsubscribe” action most. Only send them to the customers with proven loyal intent to purchase the products of your brand. Accompanying those upsells with added value does the magic, of course. Use engagement statistics to reward and re-engage Email marketing services, like MailChimp and SendGrid, usually allow splitting your database into segments as per their engagement rate. Target those with the least engagement ratio with a come-back offer and other incentives to return. Those on the other end of the engagement spectrum could be addressed with loyalty promos and VIP offers.

Make sharing easy and beneficial

Ensure you provide those social media share buttons as part of your email marketing communication. As with any marketing: customers like being appreciated or offered something — however small the benefit or perk — it will increase the number of shares exponentially.

Casper’s email campaign for abandoned cart

Email to ask for a review

Reviews are a huge conversion driver — this is why veteran marketers always integrate the review email into their trigger email succession. Usually, this will be delivered to an inbox of a client a few days after the delivery date of the purchase. Allowing the time to unbox and experience the product. Happy customers are willing to share their views.

Bonus trick: utilize your software provided to prepopulate as many fields on the review form as possible — the less work a client has to do — the more likely a review becomes.

Approach VIP’s as such

Don’t take your most engaged and highest converting clients for granted. Cherish them, nurture them, spoil them. Special offers, VIPs promos, and loyalty schemes — are all appreciated and will bring guaranteed ROI.

Replenishment Email Campaigns

If your ecommerce store specializes in selling goods that are likely to run out at a certain period — replenishment offers are a natural means of retaining customers. Shaving kits, diapers, specialty teas are all examples of products that are highly likely to convert time after time again.

Cross-Sell Email Campaigns

Looking to increase an LTV of your client base? Why not use a cross-sell type of email marketing letters? This can be programmed as part of the trigger emails. To drive conversions though, make sure to spend a good amount of time selecting items that truly compliment each other for cross-selling.

Win Back Email Campaigns

AKA come back email marketing is usually directed on the least converting group of clients.

It is worth keeping the segment separately and working on it in 2 directions: win back or scrub off the list. Yes, try to win back your customers for a couple of times. If they are not responding — your database is better off without them.

eCommerce Newsletters

E-commerce newsletters deserve a chapter of their own, but we will highlight some key aspects to consider for successful newsletter campaign:

  • periodicity or frequency: quality over quantity
  • regularity: for your loyal base it should be an anticipated expected event.
  • authenticity: make sure the information or promo offers on your newsletter are unique and cannot be sourced anywhere else
  • relevance: if your email marketing database is huge, it is worth considering doing a few versions of the same newsletter depending on GEO, gender, age group, engagement rate.

To sum up why marketers are so obsessed with the statistics and all the tools and systems, it’s because it allows them to monitor and analyze the outcomes of their marketing efforts. Measuring digital marketing campaigns is simply the only way to understand if the campaign was worth it or if it will be worth repeating it.

They want to extend the area of what they do know and narrow the grey field of the unknown impacts. This is why Google analytics exists. This is why the Google console is there. This is why Google ads and Facebook Business manager have been created. What are the ecommerce email marketing best practices and tips on being most effective in gauging the results of marketing campaigns? Follow us while we are walking you through them.


Utilize every field in your email marketing tool to make each letter as unique as possible. Precise segmentation will help.

Offer Exclusive Discounts to Loyal Customers

Clients like being appreciated. The HNWI are used to being spoilt by offers and freebies. Take care of your VIPs so that the connection is strong enough for them not to shop around.

Send Promotional Sales Emails for All Subscribers

When the festive season kicks in, it is simply rude not to offer a lucrative discount to your database. Utilize this opportunity at the early stage when the competition is not as high and postal services have a proper time frame to deliver before holidays.

Create Responsive, Well-Designed Emails

Make sure your graphic designer creates separate visuals for desktop and mobile. Mobile usage is on the upward curve and is nowhere closer to its full capacity yet with many markets being at the very early stage of internet and smartphone expansion.

Test Your Ecommerce Email Marketing Campaigns

Ask your colleagues, friends, family, focus group to provide feedback on the email letter you are about to blast to thousands of subscribers on your database. Insights may come in the most unexpected ways to improve your email marketing.

Set up a Referral Program

Referral programs worked for many multi-million brands like Harry’s, Dropbox. Yes, you do have to give to receive. But the ROI on such campaigns is multifold and usually has the snowball effect when the growth is exponential.

Send Notifications About Back in Stock or Wish list Items

There is nothing worse than losing a client over the out-of-stock issue. Depending upon how unique your product is or how great are your terms, the item may be not as easily available elsewhere.

Make sure to advise your clients when those items are back in stock. This notification is one of those automatic trigger emails, that can be programmed into your ecommerce infrastructure. This is one of the rare examples when the client may be anticipating this email and the click-through rate is higher.

How to make cool product photos for your email marketing

If the client got onto your email list and opened your email — you have done an amazing job as a marketer. But all the reward kicks in only after the client clicks on the link in the email and makes a purchase.

To increase chances of the latter 2 vital steps, product imagery combined with a good offer may bring in heaps of coveted conversions.

How do you make cool images for your products? It depends on the stage of your business development, your budgets and your goals. If hiring a freelancer and renting a studio for a couple of hours may do the trick for a small ecommerce operation, established companies with thousands on email lists require a higher level of quality to shine through their product images.

Few quick tips on how to get great product imagery:

  1. Decide on the setting: is it a studio session or a street style shooting?
  2. Make a few shots of the same product to feature an item at different angles.
  3. Use proper lighting for the shot — there is nothing worse than an over-exposed or poorly lit image.
  4. Chose models wisely: the more natural the better-received. After all, we all want to see on magazine pages, real people. Don’t forget — models should resonate with your target audience.
  5. Retouch in moderation — to fix issues but not to alter altogether. Natural is trending now.

If your business is past the stage of DIY images in their development curve, why not check out our product photography pricing guide. We created an online ordering process for you to get an estimate in minutes and avoid hours of email threads. And you can always try the service with free $100 credit if we haven’t met yet!

Summing up the guide to email marketing strategy

Some things never change or take ages to decline. One of those veterans of marketing is email marketing. Social media, video, VR and AR are all great, but the one with the highest ROI is still the King of promotion: email marketing.

E-mail list does require lots of segmenting and continuous scrubbing, subject lines need to be fresh and engaging, images have to be spell-bounding and irresistible. But when you master all the nuances of the ecommerce email marketing strategy, the rewards are there to be gathered.

Know of some good tricks in terms of email marketing? We want to keep this article updated at all times, leave your email to receive refreshed tips!

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101 Guide: Email Marketing Strategy for E-Commerce and Digital Brands

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