Each e-commerce business is unique like there are no two same states in the world. However, like there are similarities across states there are some general traits that are valid for each of the e-commerce shops I’ve worked with. Here below I will outline the most must-have email sequences I’ve seen at multi-million-dollar online stores.
Surely, at scale, these email sequences make an impact. Smaller shops shouldn’t even bother. If you are just starting, before investing in email automation, make sure that you have at least $20k of incremental sales and the know-how to grow (you have the budget for ads and know how to use it). It is best to keep it simple s**** (KISS) until you have the minimal scale needed to activate email sequences.
If your store is already packed with loyal clients making more and more of your purchases, then it’s also very important that every three months you find a way to refresh your content to stay relevant. Loyal clients are ‘in love with you’ so treat this boon like a relationship that needs to keep reinventing itself, only just a bit, to continue merrily into the future. When any party stops trying to be relevant to the other, something has already gone astray.
Here are the basic sequences an e-commerce store has to have:
Now I’m going to walk you through the thematic email sequences above and explain to you why they matter. Show some of our preferred tools and also mention some best practices.
Warming up emails for qualified but cold leads
Cold mass emailing is just not right. It’s even illegal in most developed countries. Spam me and ‘you’ll die’, or at least pay a fine. But this is true only when the email is a spam, or out of the relevant interest scope of the person who receives the emails. However, if you do satisfy the criteria below you could still mass email cold contacts legally:
If the above conditions are met, then you are free to do mass cold emails.
Example: your USA-focused discounted dog food e-store can legally send emails to dog owners in the USA as long as it fulfills the criteria above. Cold emailing is NOT illegal. Abuse is illegal. Dog owners would be happy to learn about your discounted pet food e-store. But if you send your dog food e-store emails to someone who owns a cat and hates dogs, then you might be in trouble.
If you believe that cold emailing is something your email strategy can handle and that you can find an ‘infinite’ pool of qualified leads who have both personal and public interest to receive your email, then consider using MAUTIC or Zoho One as your packages.
While MAUTIC is free, Zoho One at around $75/month/user is more accustomed to mass email campaigns. I say Zoho One (The whole suite) instead of Zoho Campaigns (The emailing tool) as Zoho made it impossible not to buy their entire suite of services with how they priced them.
Still, comparing our both optimal solutions for large-scale campaigns, this house believes in MAUTIC as a cold email haven as you can change your servers in case your reputation goes astray, and your Amazon emailing account gets sandboxed.
However, this house also doesn’t implement this strategy as its clients are risk-savvy and well-funded, so they don’t need to go down this ‘frugal route’ that can also stir a lot of negative sentiment and reputational risks.
We want you back email sequences
Now, when users allow your cookies, there are tools which can find out not just the basic details of your visitors (i.e. Google Analytics: source of arrival, software used, location, IP address, etc.) but go deeper and find who visited your website with full name and an email address. If your leads are important and you have a client lifetime value greater than $300 & your traffic is greater than 10000 unique visitors/month, then this makes sense for you.
You can sync the tools such as LeadFeeder, Lead Forensics, Leedy, or anything else you want to use to identify visitors and put them into a ‘Visitors’ segment that is served emails until a crucial event happens. This event can be:
You don't need website popups to acquire this data as long as they consent to give it to you in the Cookies ToS. Make sure you do the legal parts well so that both you and your visitors are happy about the consensual communication in spirit and form.
Make sure also, that whatever the solution for picking up leads from your website visitors, that it can be integrated automatically with what you already have as your preferred CRM and emailing sequences tools.
Abandoned cart email sequences
Now we all know what abandoned carts are and we have all received some emails when we’ve abandoned carts for numerous reasons. Offering discounts is something marketers do instinctively to get people back to their carts. It does work sometimes but at a cost of lowering margins and creating a free-riding effect of people always using the trick to get a discount. Think of GoDaddy’s previous abandoned cart campaigns…
So, abandoned carts even if they do offer discounts for returning shoppers who have left their carts, HAVE TO DO IT RANDOMLY so it isn't predictable. On the other hand, price is rarely the main reason why people leave their carts. Try to focus on the real reasons why your visitors choose not to finalize their purchases and produce the content that would change their minds.
Also, all abandoned carts aren’t equal.
If you have loyal clients and first-time buyers, you may also want to segment how you win them back. Sending tailor-made emails depending on the stage of your contacts provides the best outcomes.
Now, if you are using Shopify as your e-commerce platform, I would propose that you integrate it directly with CM Commerce which is Campaign’s Monitor solution for e-commerce. It’s available right in the Shopify store and it’s one of the easiest solutions to have implemented with one click.
If you aren’t using Shopify but you are a Wordpress fan or a Weebly fan, then these blogging platforms have powerful integrations by themselves. For Weebly, I used MailerLite and the native Weebly Promotion Apps. For WordPress, WooCommerce by itself has some powerful plugins that can move the needle as they are very powerful. Though WooCommerce is free to use, the additional plug-ins may cost you MORE than having a paid version of an app such as CM Commerce do it for you from the onset. So, make sure you calculate your prices beforehand if you are yet to opt for any solution.
Welcome email for purchasers aiming to build loyalty
Now that someone decided to buy from you, you have officially started a relationship. With experience you will learn how to identify new clients and segment them in many categories. However, this house usually find three types of clients when it comes down to loyalty and puts them in the following categories:
Now, I've seen it a million times when people want to turn all their clients into the most profitable categories. However, they do double harm. Loyal clients are oftentimes 'born that way'. It's better to be transactional with the transactional clients and long-term with loyal clients. Transactional clients won't develop loyalty but may do more transactions as they see the ‘act’ of purchase as nothing to bond with. So, while you can aim to make a ONS into a friendship with benefits, you probably cannot turn a ONS into a relationship. So don’t try.
By treating everyone the way they want to be treated, you are likely to build loyalty with the clients with whom you can build loyalty, and get the most transactions out of the transactional buyers.
How to tell apart which emails to send?
Example: A catering company realized that only medium-sized businesses were loyal to them and could order more than 5 times. Large corporates had rigid contracts with other providers, and small companies cooked at home. An outsourced worker at $3/hr did the qualification based on public records after some testing.
By offering a better transactional experience to small businesses who only celebrated the personal special occasion with corporate catering food, and by offering transactional incentives to individuals from larger corporations who ordered for themselves only, rather than part of their corporations, the companies increased the transactional sales for 20%.
Then, by offering the loyalty program and the loyalty incentives to medium businesses whose psychographic were explored deeper, the number of loyal clients year on year increased by 15% causing overall sales increase for all segments of 56% as loyal clients buy more.
Upsell & cross-sell emails
Many AI platforms claim that their algorithms have the same abilities to foment more sales as "Amazon" does. They also claim clemency and excellence in predicting what would users buy next. My experience with these algorithms is that they make sense to facilitate faster and easier browsing of products. By doing so they educate the shopper who because of more similar choices shown, makes better decisions. This is not always the most profitable in the short run but it does make sense in the long-run.
On the other side, having automated cross-selling or upselling product proposals during checkout has also proven more like a lottery. It does move the needle at scale, but in my experience finding ‘top’ products that work in a certain category works better as a cross-sell or an upsell strategy. For instance, everyone who purchases a camera may want to buy that new wireless mic. Everyone who buys condoms, may want a Viagra. Everyone who buys a book may want a reading light. So you input these ‘hot’ product once in a few months manually or implement more choices manually and then have AI A/B tests do their magic.
So, upsell and cross-sell yes. Definitely.
But good human choices still top algorithms by a wide margin when there isn’t enormous scale that makes it impossible for humans to cope.
As for the tools you could use, well, Shopify has many Apps on its marketplace while there are also countless plug-ins for WooCommerce and WordPress my grandma could use. There are also many companies offering their proprietary solutions on the market and no matter the store you are running, it is likely that you could Google at least 2 valid providers of software that would automate your cross-sell and upsell.
But how to implement this in an email sequence?
Here, still, human judgment is paramount and AI has proven to be very destructive when it was free to populate emails with its upsell/cross-sell picks.
Here’s how humans might think:
Throughout the process upselling more expensive and premium products should always persist. But no use of doing it with an email. Emails are best used for cross-selling complementary items rather than making people buy something even more expensive.
Not relying on automation still, and making your logic behind a very robust and product-centric upsell and cross-sell initiatives, would provide the best results. Emailing to sell more is otherwise seen as a big no. The optimal number of emails to send in a sequence of this type? No more than 2 per upsell/cross-sell.
Keeping the relationships healthy emails
(Special dates and special occasions emails)
Every relationship needs to reinvent itself now and then. It also needs a way to celebrate togetherness. So, imagine you and your client build a house together and each mutually beneficial contact is one brick in the wall. Here’s what you could do to celebrate your togetherness:
Surely sending more than 4 such email sequences per year may be too much. With all the other emailing you have going on you don’t want to spam away from your 'excellence' and turn your clients towards the unsubscribe button. The optimal number of emails to send in a sequence of this type? No more than 3.
Client appreciation emails
Surely client appreciation emails are similar to the relationship emails above. Yet, they are different.
Client appreciation is about giving something to clients without asking something back, as it’s the case in the relationship-based emails. And surely you don’t want to have a misbalanced relationship and give too much and get too little.
So, client appreciation emails/events make a hell of a PR and social media content. Additionally, if you use your resources then it is very cost-effective for instance, to organize a movie screening at your corporate offices open to clients and their close ones, or to organize a networking event to get to know all your clients.
The opportunities are endless and should match what is conventional and acceptable in your industry. The optimal number of emails to send during a sequence of this type? No more than 5.
Win-back emails for people who haven’t been active for some time
We’ve all been there.
Our clients have moved on. We haven’t heard back from them in a while nor they have purchased from us in the last 6 months or longer. So, how to win them back?
Email sequences can help! But how to bring them back?
It starts with proper segmentation and understanding of why they left in the process. Some went bust. Others grew too large. Third may no longer need the service or product as they started making it themselves.
So, with winbacks one size doesn’t fit all too.
Before you start producing the content, make sure you do understand what happened and then tailor it to specific segments. Ideally, this action would be undertaken only once per year for most e-commerce stores with relatively short sales cycles and it would take up to 3 months. The optimal number of emails in my experience for Winbacks? It depends on the store, but in general not less than 3 and no more than 7.
Triggers-based sequences when visitors undertake some actions on your store
You don’t want to scare your clients.
Imagine a visitor goes to your ‘Electric mower page’ and leaves, only to find ‘Buy that Electric mower” email in their inbox. And then you send them 5 emails reminding them that you follow every step of their internet movement. It’s scary for most.
So, choose carefully your triggers and how you implement your strategy with them. If you come out too strong, clients will be scared. Come too soft, and there will be no results.
What works best with the triggers is that marketing executives understand the motives behind them. Once they understand the motives, they can reverse engineer the needs of the people who undertook some action.
Whether it is a social media share, visiting certain pages, or commenting on your blog, triggers can have a completely different meaning. Surely, someone who visited the electric mower page has some interest in electric mowers. But they didn't get to the checkout page as otherwise, they would have received the 'abandoned cart' emails. So, you need to focus on building an emotional bond and trust, rather than aggressively selling the electric mower.
And, if you build your trust by selling your overall competence and understanding of the best home appliances, gardening equipment, including mowers, then this sequence may make sense. In this particular case, you may try and educate a person towards visiting your website again.
Triggers based actions shouldn’t usually have more than 3 emails attached to them.
Now that we covered all 9 email sequences e-stores have to have, it is worthy to mention that you don’t want to have an overlaps and send more emails from different sequences to the same client in the same day or two. This would be confusing and unprofessional.
To avoid this you have to have a clear way how you segment your contacts and move them efficiently from one segment to another in your emailing automation tool. Minor lags can make a big problem so you make sure that your Cron jobs are set and properly update the segments at relational intervals.
Cron jobs are repetitive actions taken to update your databases and implement the filters you have set in how contacts, leads, and everything else is kept in your databases. Some platforms such as MAUTIC allow users to make their cron jobs the way it fits them. Other platforms such as iContact, AWeber, Campaign Monitor, do not offer the flexibility and have thought this out through for their users.
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