Jake Rheude

Guest Author

The Getting-Started Guide to Ecommerce Email Marketing

Ignore the hyperbole you've seen on LinkedIn about email marketing being dead — that seems to happen a few times every year — because the practice is still one of the best ways to reach people who like your products and are excited to buy them. Yes, we've all got more emails than ever before, but we're also reading more than last year.

The pandemic sent us all inside, too, making ecommerce more appealing. That means your audience is always by a phone or computer, with email just a click away, and they're hungry for a digital deal. It's time for your ecommerce store to take advantage with a new email marketing campaign.

However, there's a lot more to getting started than just opening up your Gmail and typing. There are some foundational activities you can take to not only get email marketing done right but set yourself up for long-term ecommerce success.

Understanding the two ecommerce email types

When starting your ecommerce email strategy, the first thing to note is that you'll spend time working on two distinct types of emails.

First, there are sales or promotional emails. These cover sales pitches, discounts, product unveiling, and similar events. Promotional emails can be a mix of types, such as your product and company newsletters, one-time announcements, and traditional marketing campaigns.

The other kind of email is an order email, covering anything you send to someone around a specific order. This group of emails can start whenever a customer signs into an account, follow them through the checkout process, and be a follow-up sent to confirm shipping or receipt of goods. These are where you tell someone "thank you!" for making a purchase, send them tracking codes, and keep the relationship alive before an order arrives.

Customers almost always want your order-related emails. They don't necessarily want your promotional ones — even if they sign up for those for a coupon or to create an account on your site. Because of this, it's smart to separate your campaigns and have them come from different email addresses. In your email marketing systems, keep these lists separate too.

Now, let's talk about how you get started sending these emails.

Creating your starting point

Ecommerce email marketing starts in the same places all email campaigns do, capturing email addresses. You'll first want to leverage your ecommerce software. Look at the platform and see if it offers ways to capture user details and make profiles around orders, or if you'll need to add a few site plugins to complete this task.

After you've got the ecommerce tool created, it's time to pick your email marketing program. There is a wide range to choose from, and the final selection should depend on your customer base's size, how often you want to email promotions and sales, and what ecommerce tool you selected. Find something that fits your email volume demand, integrates with your ecommerce system, and doesn't break the bank.

For those of you with existing email lists, use the communication tool's migration or upload options to port your list.

With the technical side out of the way, you now need to prep for your campaigns. Get your assets together. Here are a few sample items to get you started collecting what you'll need:

  • Company logos;
  • Product images;
  • Sales graphics and promotions;
  • Email templates;
  • Slogans, promises, and other branding elements;
  • A list of value propositions you want to make and how you'll pitch them.

Those items are things you can plug into different campaigns to speed up creation.

Remember that emails can announce, promote, or share anything.

Announcement email

Getting started also includes reviewing your existing customer data. This is likely captured in your ecommerce and order management tools. Look at where customers live, how much they spend on average, what kinds of products are bought together, and read any reviews you have. Get as clear a picture of your typical customers as possible to ensure that your future emails target them appropriately.

All tools you need for marketing automation

How to think about your contacts and customers

Email is a valuable way to continually communicate with customers and make offers that appeal to them. Make the most of what you create and the products you offer by capturing as many email addresses of interested shoppers as possible.

Sort existing customer email addresses into one extensive list. These are people you have purchase information on, and they would likely be receptive to sales and product announcements. Further tagging people based on purchase habits — such as what or how often they buy — can help you tailor messages to those individual characteristics. You can get very advanced with your segmenting down the road, too.

For example, say your customers who buy Product X usually follow up by buying Product Y in two weeks. Use your tools to monitor when someone buys X, and then, if they haven't purchased Y three weeks later, send them a discount. It encourages a likely sale and keeps your business top of mind.

At the same time, you're going to want to grow your email list to account for customer churn and other drop-offs. A common ecommerce tactic is to use popup software to offer a discount or ask someone to subscribe to a newsletter. This is where lead generation comes into play. When people give you their email address here, they become "leads" who haven't bought from you but are expressing an interest in what you offer.

Leads should get their own email campaigns. Across a series of emails, you'll want to talk about your product, offer help and tips around your product area, and give them a discount or two. It'll help people build interest and eventually open their wallets.

While it's tempting to send many emails just asking someone to buy from you, think about a company doing that to you. You're likely going to ignore those emails or list them as spam. You never want to be listed as spam. So, take your time, don't be too aggressive, and ensure that every email you send has value to the audience, not just to your bottom line.

Define intent and interaction for each email

Now, you've got the tools you need and know about the people you want to reach. The next step in setting up your ecommerce email marketing is to determine your emails' goals and when you'll send them. Define your intent (sales vs. customer support) and any required interactions (what the customer or site visitor must do).

For every campaign, define the reason and if the target has to do anything. Some interactions can be simple – "have purchased in the past" or "opened another email within the last month." As you get more familiar with customers, these can be more specific — "clicked the top link in our sales email" or "added an out-of-stock product to a cart."

Articulating why you're reaching out to the customer makes it easier to include all of the needed information and determine what you want the customer to do. Here are two quick examples of how intent and interaction shape what you do with an email.

Sales email example

Let's look at an example of something that you've hopefully heard of — if not, sear this into your brain. Cart abandonment emails can save a business. These are the emails sent out after someone adds a few products to their shopping cart, but then decides not to finish the purchase for whatever reason. They've abandoned the cart (interaction), and you're going to email them a reminder to try and win that sale (intent).

Cart abandons might be your most important emails. According to HubSpot, 50% of people will return and complete a purchase if you ask.

Those two elements will shape your messaging. Services like eSputnik can help you reach these visitors with custom emails that mention the specific products someone added to their cart and even with links to checkout pages to minimize their effort. Messaging should remind them about the sale, ask them to click to get back to that sales page, feature images of the products they added to a cart, and provide a reason to go back and buy it now. Reasons can vary, but often include:

  • A coupon or discount is included;
  • Product availability is limited;
  • The deal or sale they already accessed is ending soon;
  • You make an emotional appeal to remind them why they were excited to buy that product, from looking cool to relieving stress by making it easy to get the kids to sleep.

What's great is that you can automate the emails based on the interaction — abandoning the shopping cart — so your teams don't have to be constantly working within a marketing tool.

Abandoned cart email example

Last post

Order email example

The other core emails you need to send are those that follow a sale. Customers should get a confirmation that also includes details on their shipping. Your ecommerce tools should help you with those details, or you can work with a third-party logistics company to outsource order fulfillment and automate these support emails.

The interaction is a completed sale on your website. The intent is to provide customers with information on their order as part of your customer service. These emails are important because people want confirmation, and you can give someone a wide range of details and answers in your email.

These emails should include:

  • Order summary including products and costs;
  • Order number within your system;
  • Tracking details;
  • Expected shipping date;
  • Link to your returns and refunds policy;
  • Link to your FAQ page;
  • Any other relevant information to the order.

Order confirmation example

You're not necessarily trying to make a sale here or push for something more. There might be options to increase sales value by promoting related products or sharing further discounts. That's something best to A/B test to see what works and avoid upsetting customers.

Always keep testing

Your email campaigns' final element is to take that list you made as your starting point and define alternatives for these items. Creating options, such as buy-one-get-one and 50% off coupons, allows you to make offers to distinct customer groups. You can see who responds best to which kind of offer and then use that in larger campaigns. You can also integrate your email marketing with social media tools like Twitter marketing tools, Facebook marketing tools, etc. for best results in marketing.

This A/B testing method can be used for just about everything in your emails. Consider testing changes to how you list information, where it is within an email, the product images you use, and the days or times you send an email.


Ecommerce best practices and what works with your marketing will change consistently. So, your job is to find what works now, but keep testing in small doses, so you don't unexpectedly run into entire campaigns that have stopped generating sales. Add variety such as informational content or reviews from real users and see what sticks.

There's always more to be done with email marketing, especially in ecommerce, but that also means there are always more sales to make.

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Jake Rheude

Guest Author

Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.

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