5 Best Practices of eCommerce Email Automation (Plus 4 Ninja Tips)


Nailing eCommerce email automation opens doors to some unbelievable possibilities.

We know it. Through behavioral-triggered emails, we've helped our clients see ROIs upwards of 29x their investment.

No longer do you need to pray you're sending the right email to your customers. With automation, you're delivering the exact message they need, at the exact time for them to engage with your content. And that leads to higher conversions, happier customers, and unbeatable ROIs.

So, if you want to achieve more, without dedicating massive hours or funds, these best practices for email automation are your answer.

The 5 Best Practices of eCommerce Email Automation You Need to Implement Now

Did you know triggered emails have a 70.5% higher open rate than regular emails? How about that triggered emails increase conversion by 50%?

If you're not already implementing automated emails into your strategy, you're missing out on a critical tactic for increasing revenue. We'll share the five things that will turn you into an automation wizard.

1. Identify Triggers

The priority when establishing automated emails is to know where your triggers are located. This may appear to be common sense, but a majority of eCommerce stores aren't taking full advantage of the triggers available to them.

Triggers like someone subscribing to your list or making a purchase are the common examples, but can your workflows differentiate between the two to send a personalized welcome email? It's similar with browse abandonment. What happens when someone only looks at an item but then leaves the page? Can you deliver them an email with recommendations based on the products they viewed?

The more opportunities you can pick out to send triggered emails, the better. While you don't actually have to send one every chance you get, having the ability to is what increases potential. Those triggers let you send hyper-relevant messages at the right time to the right person, increasing the chances of them engaging with your brand.


When you have the triggers identified, you're able to develop a strategy around them. In the image above, we illustrate the customer lifecycle and all the behavioral-based emails we send for our clients.

By identifying and creating campaigns for all these triggers, we leave no gaps in our client's email marketing strategy, turning more users into customers and increasing ROI.

2. Set Goals

Setting goals is another task many marketers get wrong. Some view each email's goal as driving a purchase. While we're all happy with more sales, there are times when pushing a purchase can damage your relationship with that customer. Instead, consider the goal of the specific campaign.


For example, welcome emails shouldn't be pushy. They should be focused on welcoming the user into your tribe, where you'll provide them with exclusive offers and content they can't get elsewhere. If you include products, it's to show them what's available or what's hot, and it's done in a helpful manner. But, not every welcome email needs a product. Sometimes, just showing you care about the recipient is enough to generate future sales.

So before establishing all of your triggers, you should understand what your goals for each campaign should be. As another example, you'll want to set rules for segmentation in certain campaigns so you can provide more relevant content to your user. If you're selling children's clothes and a returning customer has only ever purchased girl's clothes, sending a coupon code for boy's shirts because they browsed a page won't be effective.

Setting goals is an often neglected best practice that you should ensure you're executing throughout your strategy. Without goals, you can't validate the success of your emails. They're critical to your campaigns.

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3. Create Workflows

Rather than letting each campaign work independently of each other, consider creating workflows for them to interact. This means developing multiple paths your emails can follow depending on the behaviors your customer demonstrates.

For example, if you have a three email welcome series, but the customer engages and purchases something on the first email, you can shift the focus of your messages. You don't need to convince them to make a purchase; you need to show them why they should continue to do so.

Creating workflows ensures users are getting content at the best time to achieve the email's goal. If a trigger is engaged, you can delay sending an email for a day. This is especially useful with browse and cart abandonment emails where you want to keep the products fresh in the user's head.

Ensure you're testing your workflows, so they branch correctly. For example, if a user converts on an offer, the rest of that workflow should turn off. Otherwise, you're bombarding them with irrelevant messages. You also want to make sure the correct emails are delivered if they take the action you recommended.

4. Provide Relevant Content

If you want to maximize engagement in your campaigns, the content needs to be on point. If customers are opening emails that have no relevance to their interests or needs, they'll start skipping over your messages, having identified them as junk.

Segmentation strategies will help you identify more specific content based on their behavior (more on this Ninja Tip later). You'll also want to study the data to see what type of content your entire audience engages with the best.

The material you should provide to maintain relevance includes articles, user-generated content, and products that fit the recipient's interests. It can even be as simple as product updates. The goal is to provide users with the material they'll want to engage with, and if it doesn't pertain to them, it'll be ineffective.

The fastest way to identify what topics to focus on for individuals is by asking the right questions on your forms and tracking which page they sign up from. Both provide insights into their interests that can be useful for planning your strategy.

5. Don't Focus Solely On Sales

It gets tiring, being pitched to all the time, and your customers aren't immune to the feeling. If every email is "sales-y," your customers are going to shy away from opening your emails.

Each email should be packed with value of some sort. Whether it's links to relevant products, useful articles, or discount codes, you want the included elements to offer something to them. Every customer is coming to you because they need a solution to a problem. If you position your emails to provide answers, you'll find your open rates skyrocket.

When recommending products, sharing stories about how others have enjoyed it will go further than just telling them it's worth buying. You have a bias towards your products, and they're fully aware of them.

A great tactic for showing you care about more than sales is to ask for reviews and feedback. Reaching out in this way gives you insights directly from your consumer, in their own words. This can help your marketing efforts and help you with providing better solutions to their problem.

4 Ninja Tips for eCommerce Email Automation

While the previous five points are essential for running impressive eCommerce email automation, the four tips below are what will put your campaigns over the top.

1. Keep your list clean

Email is about quality over quantity. Create filters that unsubscribe users who've become unengaged over time. This helps your delivery system and gives you more accurate data.

2. Test when and what you can

Once you have emails that are live and have started collecting data, you can begin A/B testing. If you want a higher open rate, test out your subject lines. If you want a higher click-through rate, test your content. Limit how many changes you make, so you're able to identify what provided the fix and ensure you have enough data before testing something else.

3. Have a strategy for segmenting your audience

The concept of automation is that you can cast a wide net that tightens, segmenting your audience as you progress with your campaigns.

For example, a cart abandonment email should be sent to everyone, and then it segments based on basket value. So if the value is greater than X, the user gets version A, and if less than X, they get version B. Don't segment too fast, or it could cause issues in the long run.

4. Use discounts to your advantage

Many companies use discounts like a carrot and stick. The problem is that customers start expecting these deals that eat away at your margins. Set filters to track when coupons are delivered, so you don't continuously bombard recipients with discounts.

Also, SmartMail uses "unique one-time coupons" that are specific to the subscriber. These make it difficult for users to game the system, sharing discounts across the web.

Putting These Best Practices to Work

If you follow these practices, you’ll see higher engagement rates in no time. But setting the rules for your triggers, filters, and designing emails that offer the right information can be challenging if you don't know where to start. We recommend finding a team that can get you on the right track and handle the legwork of your campaigns.

SmartMail specializes in creating behavior-based emails for our clients that deliver impressive ROI. By requesting a proposal, we'll give you specific campaign recommendations, including an audit of your business, and show you how we'd approach your campaigns. Let us help you increase your revenue beyond expectations.


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