Your Top 30 eCommerce Email Marketing Questions Answered By The Experts

ecommerce marketing

Email is one of the top performing channels eCommerce sites can use to boost revenue, AOV, and increase retention and loyalty. If you’re looking for answers to your questions about eCommerce email marketing, look no further.



15 Actionable Insight To Grow Your eCommerce Business in 2017 from SmartMail on Vimeo.

In this guide, you’ll find the answers to your burning eCommerce email marketing questions covering areas and topics such as:

  • eCommerce Email Campaign Optimization

  • Writing Copy That Converts More Online Sales

  • Layout & Design for eCommerce Emails

  • Responsive & Mobile Tips for eCommerce Templates

  • List Growth for Your eCommerce Website

  • eCommerce Email Personalization & Automation


eCommerce Email Marketing Part One: Campaign Optimization

1. What are the top 2 factors when it comes to ensuring deliverability?


Jen Ribble


Jen advises: "Of course there are many factors that play into hitting the inbox (read our full report about deliverability here), but two of the most important fundamentals are :

1)      Reputation: This is one of the main things that helps a mailbox provider determine whether your message should be delivered to the inbox or sent to spam. There’s lots of great information about reputation on pp. 5-7 of this report, including some charts that illustrate the importance of sender reputations.

2)      Engagement: In recent years, mailbox providers have become much more sophisticated with their filtering decisions, and are now factoring in many engagement metrics – whether an individual reads your messages, forwards them, deletes without reading, etc. Engagement is discussed on pp. 10-13 of this report, including a great engagement case study."


2. What are some simple ways I can improve open rates on my eCommerce email marketing campaigns?


Julie Neidlinger


In her original article titled "7 Simple Ways To Improve Your Email Open Rates, Julie says, "Creating the subject lines of your email follows similar rules as making great headlines.

Like a blog post headline, your email subject line bears most of the responsibility of getting your email open rates up where they should be. Good subject lines have a few characteristics:

1. No trickery. Your subject line should tell your reader what they’ll read, and not use subterfuge to trick them into opening an email. Remember the boy who cried wolf? That kind of email subject line will only work once, if they don’t unsubscribe.

2. No yelling. It should go without saying that using all caps in your subject line is a poor idea. However, both title case and sentence case can work magic. Title case works when you are using a shorter subject line which has headline-like quality (e.g. “The 5 Most Important Email Tips Ever”). Sentence case works when you have a longer or more conversational subject line (e.g. “Have you made these 3 blogging mistakes?”)

3. Numbers do work. Using numbers in your headline has shown to increase reader engagement. The same can be said for your email subject lines. Don’t shy away from a subject that contains a number.

4. Some words don’t work. There are words you should avoid using, even if you aren’t using them in a scam way. Spam filters are already working overtime to protect inboxes. You don’t want to give them something to work with on your emails. There are also words that spam filters leave alone, but so do your human readers. For these, MailChimp identifies their three worst offenders as Help, Percent Off, and Reminder. Spammers have unfortunately desensitized a lot of readers; be sure you don’t sound anything like spam.

5. Hit the ideal length. The general rule of thumb is that your subject line should be around 50 characters. That’s not to say 40 won’t work, or that 65 is a bad idea. The key is that you must be aware some email programs might cut characters off and if you have your most important word at the end of a long subject you might lose them. Keep important words at the beginning if you have a longer subject line.

6. Story wins. Whenever possible, approach your subject line as a story. In other words, pique your reader’s curiosity in your email and get their emotions (fear, humor, curiosity, anger, joy, gain, logic) involved; anything that suggests there is more to be read gets readers to open your email. “Our Latest Newsletter” is much less interesting than “Have You Missed The Biggest News Yet?” Sometimes a statement-type subject line is necessary, but do try to ping emotions in the subject line when possible."


email marketing

3. What's 1 thing I can do to improve CTR on my eCommerce email marketing campaigns?


Carl Sednaoui


Carl suggests, "The best way for a merchant to improve their CTR is to align the email's subject line with the content of the email.

One way to think about this is that your subject line sets the mindset your reader will have when reading the email's content. When the content delivers on the subject's promise, subscribers are more likely to click though. 

As mentioned in the best practices chapter of our Email Marketing Fundamentals book, make sure all images are clickable, use low-commitment CTAs, and create an A/B test plan to understand what resonates with your readers.

Lastly, if you have the time and in-house know-how to do so, we recommend personalizing your email content based on subscriber preferences, browsing habits, and other personal attributes you might have access to. The more relevant the content, the more likely someone is to want to engage with it (and click your emails)."


4. What elements should I be A/B testing in my emails and why?


Chad White


Author of "Email Marketing Rules," Chad White shares his expert tips on email metrics and A/B testing in his original article on Litmas called, "The Pitfalls of Email Marketing and A/B Testing":

"'Success metrics' are trick. In our data-flooded industry, there are lots of opportunities to go astray.

To better understand which metrics are the best indicators of optimization, health, and success at the campaign, channel, and customer level, check out this Email Metrics Matrix."

a/b test email


5. What's the Best Way to Avoid Spam Filters?


Elna Cain


In her original article "14 Ways to Avoid The Spam Filter," Elna shares helpful tips like this one:

"Get On Your Subscribers’ White List

Nearly all email providers like Gmail, Outlook (Hotmail), Yahoo, and your own ISP, allow you to add specific email addresses to your contacts database (whitelisting). Email sent from these addresses typically bypass the spam folder and is delivered straight to the inbox.

The easiest way to reliably get into your subscribers’ inbox is to ask them to add you to their contacts list...

Gmail does have a Spam folder – which you definitely want to avoid – but you also want to avoid being filtered into your customer’s Promotions tab or folder. Google analyzes emails and, by default, files them into specific folders.

To make a long story short, if your email doesn’t end up in the Primary tab – the inbox – your open rates will suffer. Try rewriting your test email’s subject and/or tweaking its content, and sending again."


6. What Anti-Spam Laws Should I know About When It Comes to eCommerce Email Marketing and How Do They Work?


Campaign Monitor


The experts at Campaign Monitor have broken down the laws around email marketing and how they affect the different types of email campaigns you send to your shoppers. Here's what they say in their complete guide to email laws:

"There are number of different laws that guide the use of email marketing for commercial purposes. In the USA it’s the CAN-SPAM act, in Canada it’s the CASL laws, while in the UK it’s a set of laws known as the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations of 2003.

All of these laws dictate a number of conditions that email marketers need to follow to avoid significant fines.

While it all may sound a little scary, if you’re a legitimate business using a proper email marketing tool to send legitimate email campaigns, you are likely already complying with the rules.

That’s because the laws are largely targeted at spammers and are designed to prevent them from acquiring people’s email addresses without their permission and spamming them with unsolicited emails.

That being said, there are a few little nuances in the laws that even marketers with the best intentions can accidentally violate, so it’s worth reading on to learn how you can be compliant."New call-to-action


eCommerce Email Marketing Part Two: Writing Email Copy That Converts

7. What's the #1 Thing To Remember When Writing Email Copy?


Harry Joiner


"In my 13 years of online retail recruiting, I have personally interviewed tens of thousands of ecommerce marketers.
My advice to copywriters:
Ask yourself, "who is my slamdunk customer for this product? What do they fear? What makes them mad? What are their top three daily frustrations as it pertains to the context in which they will use the product?
If you shadowed you're slam dunk customer for 30 days, what would you see? What do they do all day?
How did they spend their time? What do you know about their lives? Is there a built-in bias to the way they make decisions regarding your product category (logic vs emotion?) do they have their own language? Is someone selling something similar to them right now?"
And so on.
When you're ready, write like you are talking plainly to someone you know very well.
It all comes down to this: 'Know your product. Know your audience. Get started.'"



8. What are 3 Tips For Writing An Effective Email Call To Action?


Pam Neely


In her original article on Practical eCommerce, "7 Tips For A Powerful Email Call To Action", Pam breaks it down:

"1. Make the Call to Action Short

This is the most common and damaging mistake with email calls to action, or any call to action. The marketer or the writer does not take the time to distill the call to action down to its essentials. Any more than five words in a call to action is too long.

I spent some time clicking through recent emails from ecommerce sites. There was an intriguing trend for the call to action “Shop now.” None of the retailers ever used more than four words for its call to action. This email from Dazadi, a home recreation retailer, is a good example.

email ecommerce

2. Tell People What to Do

For some of you, this will be Call To Action 101. For others, it might be a revelation. Either way, everyone should remember this tip for calls to action: Tell people exactly what you want them to do.

To illustrate this, imagine you are meeting your prospect in the hallway of a busy office. You are holding a large poster board. It’s your email message. Your prospect is on her way to a meeting.

You hold the poster board right up to your prospect, at eye level. You now have one short sentence, perhaps just a phrase, to say to her before she has to dash off. What would you say? What do you want her to do? That’s your call to action.

Some conversion experts describe this practice of telling people what to do a different way. They say, “Make your calls to action instructional.” That’s almost the same as saying, “Tell people what to do.” But it hints at a copywriting pattern that can be helpful.

For example, one of the finest examples of calls to action on the web is from an Amazon product page. This page completely ignores the “one call to action” rule we’ll discuss in a moment — but it is a product page, not an email. But it proves over and over again how prevalent instructional calls to action are.

There are ten major calls to action on the Amazon product page. Here’s the copy for each one.

  • Look inside
  • Send me the link
  • Buy now with 1-Click
  • Give as a Gift
  • Add to Wish List
  • Send sample now
  • Shop now
  • Go
  • Get your Kindle here
  • Share

See a pattern? All these begin with a verb. A short verb. This is the essence of an instructional call to action. It’s also remarkably simple.

3. Urge People to Respond Now

If you study effective direct mail copywriting examples, as Kathryn Aragon did for the Crazy Egg blog, you’ll notice a pattern so prevalent it almost becomes boring. All the calls to action end with “today” — as in “Sign up today,” “Mail this postcard today,” “Get started on your new life today.”

Nowadays, we have a shorter timeframe than just today. We want people to respond now. Fortunately, “now” is probably the most ideal call to action word. It’s super-short, so you can add it to almost any call to action and still follow my first tip — “Make Call to Action Short” — above.  “Now” is also a common and immediately understood word. It’s about as simple and as clear as you can get. Even toddlers understand “now.”

Amazon also understands this. Three out of the ten major calls to action on its product page include the word “now.” So go add that word to your calls to action. Now."


9. What are 2 Best Practices For Writing Better Email Subject Lines?


Olivia Allen
Kforce Inc.


In her original Hubspot article, "17 Tips and Best Practices for Writing Catchy Email Subject Lines," Olivia makes some great suggestions:

"Use personalization tokens.

Using personalization tokens like name or location in the subject line adds a feeling of rapport -- especially when it's a name. Everyone loves the sound of their own name. Plus, it increases clickthrough rate: According to the Science of Email Marketing, emails that included the first name of the recipient in their subject line had higher clickthrough rates than emails that did not.

Affix it to your subject line by saying things like: "John Doe, we really wanted to share this…" Or, do what Rent the Runway did with their subject line: "Happy Birthday Lindsay - Surprise Inside!" Not only did it address the recipient by their first name, but it was also sent close to the recipient's birthday. That's great personalization and great timing.

Another personalization tactic that works is to tailor subject lines to their location. Uber does a great job with this: They send me location-specific emails, like lists of my city's best outdoor bars and restaurants. Groupon does this well, too. Location-specific offers or news could increase your open rates.

Just don't go overboard with the personalization here. That can be a little creepy. But little personalized touches here and there show that you know more about your recipients than just their email address. However, if you can't (or don’t want to) use personalization tokens in the subject line, use "you" or "your" so it still sounds like you’re addressing them directly.

Segment your lists.

While email blasts that go out to your entire list might be relevant and helpful to some people, it won't be to others -- and could cause confusion or frustration. Why is this restaurant sending me a list of the best local steakhouses when I'm a vegetarian? Why is this company sending me case studies when I just signed up for their email list yesterday?

Personalize the experience using information from the actions your customer has already taken -- from which forms they've filled out, to which industries they're in, to what their personal preferences are. In email marketing, you can personalize your recipients' experience using a little thing called list segmentation.

How you segment your lists depends on your business and your goals, but you can read this blog post for 27 ideas for how to slice and dice your email lists for better segmentation."


eCommerce Email Marketing Part Three: Email Design and Layout

10. What Are Some Design Best Practices to Keep In Mind?


Megan Quigg


In her original article on the Groove design agency blog, Megan shares 5 best practices for email design:


To ensure your entire design will be visible and to avoid any other abnormalities, it should always stay around 600 pixels wide, as many email clients provide a narrow preview window. Emails are viewed in a variety of clients (Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, etc.), and many different factors such as menus and toolbars can impact upon and minimize the view pane of the message.


With average adult’s attention span down to just 8 seconds, it’s important to make your emails easy to read and attention grabbing for your viewers to encourage them to engage. Keep in mind that your email is not your website, so focus your content on the main message/key points, and then include links to the details. Including imagery or video is a great way to condense content and convey your message visually. It’s also important to give all of your content enough room to breathe so that it is easy to skim. Things like bullet points, short paragraphs and white space combined will achieve this.

Example: This email design by Protein Pouch implements a great use of to-the-point content, with pops of color to add interest. The information is perfectly aligned and carefully placed, with hierarchy of typography for easy skimming. The use of different type sizes lets viewers pull out what is most important. Including imagery tells the story of their product visually, and is a great, quick resource if viewers want to learn more.


Web fonts are not widely supported in email, so unfortunately you can’t use a font like Gotham and guarantee that there will be no issues. Sticking with web-safe fonts like Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma, Times New Roman and Georgia will ensure that the look of your email will remain consistent across all email clients and devices.

Tip: The banner space of your email is a great opportunity to get creative with typography, as it is embedded in the image. Nature’s Finest incorporated their brand font to draw the reader in, and then used standard system fonts in the body of the email to provide the details. 


It’s important to carry the look and feel of your brand across your emails and website to establish recognition and a consistent experience each time a customer interacts with you online. When designing your emails, keep font choices, color palette, logo and design elements in line with those of your website so that users know exactly who the email is coming from as soon as they open it.

topshopemail example

Topshop achieves this by simplifying their website navigation, matching fonts and button styles and using a consistent photography style. All of these elements combined make for a seamless transition between the two that allows a customer to instantly identify their brand."


Ravi Shah
Email Monks


The nice guys at Email Monks shared a fanatastic email design checklist with us that you can see here.

Here's what they advise for email layout:

  • width: 500 to 650 pixels.
  • Vertical layout is preferred over Horizontal.
  • Text and Images both are used in right proportion.
  • Table of content is used, when email has lot to cover.
  • Navigation bar is provided for multiple products/categories.
  • 4-6 panels of area for visual emphasis have been used to offer a specific eye path for key offerings.
  • Calls-to-action is clear & enticing.

Make sure to view the full checklist mentioned above!


11. What are Some Email Development Best Practice to Remember When Sending Designs to Code?


Geoff Phillips
Email On Acid


Here are some development best practices shared by Geoff in his original article on the Email On Acid blog:


Tables are your friend. When in doubt, table.

Forget divs and floats. Yes, I know it seems like we're forcing you to code in the dark ages of the internet, but tables are by far the most reliable way to achieve a consistent layout. They also enable us to replicate something that many email clients otherwise don't allow: floats. Okay, not really CSS floats. Tables allow us to take advantage of the align attribute, which was the progenitor of modern CSS floats.

Using align="left", we can cause tables to stack on top of each other on smaller screens. This technique is the basis of responsive and fluid design. At a basic level, it works like this: We have two tables that are each 300px wide, with align="left", inside the same container. If the screen is 600 or more pixels wide (as it would be for most desktop clients) then the tables will appear side by side. If the screen is only 400px wide, then the two tables will stack on top of each other.

Nested tables are totally safe, so feel free to nest away. You can also use colspan and rowspan, as long as you count your columns/rows carefully. Watch out for empty TDs, as some email clients don't handle these as you'd expect. Usually this issue can be fixed by adding an " " or non-breaking space character. You can control the size of this character using CSS so that it doesn't mess with your layout.

Know your framework

There are a two popular approaches to coding an email layout. The most popular framework is usually called “responsive.” The basis of this technique is to start with a 100% width table (to which you can apply styles that will affect the whole email) and then floating (using align=”center”) a fixed-width table in the center of this wrapper. Using media queries, the width of this fixed-width can be adapted to various screen sizes. Our free Seashells template is a great example of this coding technique.

The other popular framework is called hybrid fluid or “spongy” design. This technique uses container tables that are set to width=”100%” and constrained by a max-width style. On screens wider than the max-width, the table will reach its max and become no wider. On smaller screen, like tablets and phones, the table will naturally fill the available space. The “hybrid” part of this technique is that each table must be surrounded by a conditional table visible only to Outlook. The hybrid table has a fixed width, which solves the main problem with fluid design: Outlook ignores max-width statements. The main advantage of this technique is that it works pretty much everywhere, regardless of support for embedded styles or media queries. For more on hybrid fluid design, check out our primer. We also have a few free hybrid fluid templates, including the Coffee Shop template.

Make sure code is well commented

Keeping our code well commented will allow for ease of editing templates. This is true of any kind of coding, really, but shouldn’t be neglected for email. Because email development is full of hacks and fixes for client quirks, it can be invaluable to note why a particular style or element was added.

Encode special characters

If your ESP uses a different kind of encoding from the kind you selected for your email, it may cause your special characters (like ©) to appear incorrectly, often as a black square or a diamond. This can even affect quotation marks and apostrophes. To avoid this problem, use a character encoder like this one, or the one that is included with the Email Editor.

Keep email file size under 100kb

There are a couple good reasons to keep your email under this limit. One is that it will pass through more spam filters by staying light. Keeping your email under 102kb will also prevent Gmail from “clipping” your email, as shown in this Adestra article.

To keep your email under the limit, consider removing redundant or unused styles, moving some of the content of the email to a landing page, or minifying your code before sending it out. Just make sure to test any changes before the final send!

Code for high DPI displays

High DPI displays such as Outlook 2010 on a laptop that is defaulted to high DPI can often cause issues when scaling email designs. This is because it will scale certain parts of the email (those with height, width, font-size and so on coded in px) but not other parts. To make sure your whole email scales properly, just follow the steps in our Coding for DPI Scaling in Outlook blog.

Include preheader text

Preheader text is what you see after the subject of the email in many inboxes. This text is easy to code and can make a huge difference in open rates. Just make sure you don’t hard-code “default” preheader text into your template!

Avoid Javascript, Flash, forms and other complex CSS/HTML

Javascript and Flash are completely unsupported in email clients, so don't use them at all. Newer code, such as HTML5 and CSS3 have limited support, but are sometimes possible (and fun!) to use. These enhancements should be used with caution. As always, test thoroughly when using any advanced code!

Use cellpadding for spacing

Cellpadding provides reliable spacing across all email clients. If you need spacing only on one side of an image or container, you may want to use another spacing technique. Check out our blog on spacing techniques in email for more info.

Test test test!

Email coding is hard! Every email client has different quirks when it comes to rendering code. Outlook for desktop (2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016) can be especially challenging. The only way to know your email will look great everywhere is to test it. Email on Acid can help you test by generating over 70 screenshots of all the most popular email clients in less than 30 seconds.


Make images retina ready

Many devices now include “retina” displays. This means that they have more physical pixels than their CSS dimensions would otherwise indicate. A 10px wide image might use 20 or more physical pixels to display it. By using extra large images, we can make sure that they appear extra crisp on these displays. For more on this technique, read our articles about retina images in email and fluid retina images for email.

If you include hard coded preheader text (usually in a field that can be modified), you will at some point forget to customize it and you’ll send out an email with preheader text like, “PREHEADER TEXT HERE.” What a faux pas!

Instead, just include the “default” preheader text as an HTML comment. This way, other marketers and developers you work with can tell what purpose of that part of the code serves, but no recipients will see it if you forget to customize.

Use absolute addresses for images

You may be using local image references for your testing, but when you do your final send absolute image references are an absolute must!

Seeing strange spacing around an image?

Use display:block and it will usually remove this extra spacing. This is actually a doctype issue.

Don't use image maps

If you need to connect one image to multiple locations, you're going to have to slice it. Put each slice in its own table cell, and then link the images. This can cause all kinds of havoc trying to get the slices to line up perfectly, so I would only do this as a last resort.

Background images take some extra work

This is because Outlook can't handle the background attribute or backgrounds set through CSS. You'll have to use VML to get backgrounds working in Outlook, and even then it can be finicky. If you're having a hard time, try using Stig's button and background generators so that you don't pull all your hair out.


Use inline styles

Even with Gmail’s recent changes to support embedded styles, including classes, IDs and media queries, you still need to inline styles. Some Gmail clients, like Gmail Android App for Non-Gmail Accounts (GANGA), still don’t support embedded styles. In addition to this, there are quite a few smaller email clients like Yandex and Telstra that still require inline styles.

To achieve this, you can code using classes and IDs and then make use of a CSS inliner. Email on Acid offers an inliner that you can use from any email test, or from within the Email Editor.

Avoid shorthand CSS when possible

If you see problems with a client interpreting your CSS, check to make sure you're not using a shorthand declaration. For example, "margin-top: 5px" may work where "margin: 5px 0 0 0;" does not. Especially avoid three-digit hex codes. Some clients don't react well to these, so you'll want to make sure you always use the full six-digit code.

Get used to !important

If you are a web developer, you may have been trained to avoid !important at all costs. When coding email, though, you'll find this declaration can be invaluable. You can use it to override styles added or modified by the email client (especially web clients). You'll also get a lot of use out of !important when writing media queries, where this declaration will let you override a default style with a mobile-specific one.

Get comfortable with media queries

Media queries are commonly used to create custom styles for different clients or screen sizes. The basic format of a media query for email is:

<code class="language-markup">@media only screen and (max-device-width: 640px){ styles here }</code>

This will cause the styles contained in the query to trigger only on screens of 640px or smaller. "Min-device-width" would do the opposite, triggering on screens of 640px or larger.

The most common uses of this technique are to control font sizes, image sizes, and to make some tables become 100% width so that they will fill a mobile screen. You can also use media queries to hide content that isn't necessary for mobile users. Just make sure that you use !important on styles within the media query, so that they will overwrite existing styles."


12. What Are Your Best Tips For Email Call To Action Design and Placement?


Martin Stoychev


In his original article on their blog, Martin at MailBakery shares some helpful tips for where to place and how to design your call to action buttons in email:

"Make Your Call To Action Big

email call to action

When a person opens an email, one of the first things that they should see is the call to action. Not to mention that readers typically just quickly scan the email, rather than reading it all. This is why you need to make your call to action very noticeable. Make sure the button is big enough to stand out and catch the reader’s attention, but don’t go overboard with it.

Make Your Call To Action Look Clickable

call to action

To get more clicks your buttons should look like buttons. Here we have few tips to help you make the buttons in your email look clickable:

  • Shape – rectangle;
  • Clear boundaries and borders;
  • Put white space around your button;
  • Use a contrasting color.

Call To Action Position

It is a classic rule in email design that the call to action goes “above the fold”. However, as a result of extensive testing we came to the conclusion that the optimal position for a call to action really depends on the complexity of your offer.

If your product is really straight forward and needs no detailed explanation, sure, place the call to action above the fold. No need to make your readers scroll down to the bottom.

However, if you present a complex product or a brand new service and you need more space to introduce the reader to it, it is better that you let him read through your message and just then ask him to act upon it. In this case it is better that you place the call to action lower in your email.

In case you are not sure how to proceed, you can always A/B test and find your winner.

Play With Color and Contrast

Design your call to action in a contrasting color to the background to draw more attention to it. The smaller the button, the sharper the contrast should be.

Also, consider how well the call to action color fits the color scheme of your HTML email. Use Adobe Kuler to find the complementary color to your background color. The high contrast of complementary colors creates a vibrant look especially when used at full saturation.

To measure the result use the good old “squint test”. Put together your email template, take a few steps back, squint your eyes, and see if your button stands out.

Incorporate Icons in The Call To Action

Including visual cues in your calls to action is proven to increase email conversion rates.

For example, adding a shopping cart icon to an “Add to Cart” button is both helpful and recognizable. In general, adding icons to both text links and buttons contributes to the user experience and encourages clicks.

Use Negative Space to Position Your Call To Action

You want your call to action buttons to stand out from the surrounding email content and to really attract the readers’ attention.

Make sure to balance the size of the button with an appropriate amount of negative space surrounding it. This means putting some space between your content and your call to action button. Place other images or text further away from the call to action to give it much deserved individual attention."



eCommerce Email Marketing Part Four: Responsive Emails and Mobile-Friendly Design

13. How Can I Create Mobile-Friendly Emails?


Tom Ewer


In his original article on the GoDaddy blog, Tom shares a 4-step cheat sheet to creating mobile-friendly emails:

"Step 1: Know your enemy (and pick a partner)

Let’s get one thing out of the way right up front: you simply have to be putting out mobile-optimized content when it comes to newsletters. Studies show that anywhere from 33 percent to 55 percent of email marketing messages are currently opened on mobile — a number you can only expect to rise in the next few years.

Mobile-optimized campaigns convert better, too. MailChimp’s exhaustive six-month investigation back at the tail-end of 2014 showed that responsive design resulted in a 15-percent increase in clicks from mobile visitors.

Increased responsive click rates highlighted at the Litmus blog.

Fine-tuning your campaigns for the range of device sizes and email clients out there is potentially a huge amount of hassle, however. Email clients are mostly the culprit here. Firstly, there’s a huge variety of them. Secondly, their respective takes on CSS support make browser manufacturers look like model citizens.

Rolling your own mobile-friendly email CSS is not for the faint-hearted.

To cut a long, painful story short, you don’t want to be doing the heavy lifting here yourself.

With that in mind, if you haven’t already, sign up with a modern Email Service Provider (ESP) to access a range of pre-made templates that are already optimized for mobile which you can then go on to customize.


Providers such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, and GoDaddy all give you tools to quickly put together mobile-ready content and avoid painful hand-coding.

Step 2: Simplify, simplify, simplify

Once you’ve picked an ESP, it’s time to refine your concept of what appropriate content actually is for your campaigns. Remember, you’re dealing with tiny screens and short attention spans.

Ruthlessly edit. Cut your copy down to the bone and get straight down to business. Every word counts.

Hone your CTAs. Each campaign should focus almost exclusively on one primary call-to-action you want the reader to complete.

Go one-column to begin with. Multi-column can be a recipe for pain on mobile devices, so embrace the constraints of a single-column layout starting out. Don’t be afraid of “the fold” here — your copy’s job is to get folks past it if necessary.

Step 3: Stick to mobile-first defaults

We’ve set the stage for a successful mobile email with some sensible upfront work — now it’s time to get a little more granular.

Pre-made templates such as FreshMail’s Harizo give you a clean, crisp, mobile-friendly starting point.

Start with an eye-catching mobile-ready template from your ESP. Then make sure you’re paying attention to the following mobile-first defaults which give you the highest possible chance of delighting readers and displaying smoothly across devices:

Fonts: Use web-safe fonts with a minimum size of 16px for body text.

Text links: Remember that the finger is the mouse. Avoid having links nestled together where they can be hard to target.

Formatting: Structure is your friend. Use short paragraphs — and lists where appropriate — to keep things easy on the eye.

Big buttons: Call-to-action buttons also need to be easily clickable. Aim for a minimum size of 44 x 44 px.

Graphics: Again, look to avoid overload. Choose graphics with one prominent point of interest, and go easy on their use.

If you’re looking for a classy example of much of this in action, sign up to Craig Mod’s Roden Explorers Club newsletter, which is both an excellent read and a minor masterpiece in terms of mobile-first design. Smashing Magazine’s deep-dive on mobile email typography should also give you plenty more creative inspiration.

Step 4: Always be testing

Testing is the ongoing difference that makes the difference. Make sure you’re doing both of the following:

Pre-flight and preview all your campaigns. Most modern ESP tools give you the ability to both pre-flight and preview against common user configurations, and also send test campaigns to specified recipients.

Take advantage of ongoing reporting and split-testing. Once you have an overall setup you’re happy with, extract the most juice out of it by split-testing elements such as headlines and calls-to-action and constantly reviewing campaign metrics."


14. What are 2 Best Practices For Optimizing Emails For Mobile?


Bradley Gula


"1. Design for mobile first

More than half of today's emails are opened on a mobile device. When planning your campaign, consider each design on phones and tablets alongside your desktop version to limit last-minute accommodations. Create a checklist of common behavior on mobile to identify the ideal template from your ESP and anticipate small-screen adjustments. Once you're ready to test, you'll find fewer surprises and feel confident your email is at its best on every screen.

2. One eyeball, one thumb, and arm's length

Consider how reader behavior changes on a mobile device. With fewer clicks and a shorter view time, it's important to make each email easily visible when you’re looking at it with one eye. Make sure links and calls to action are accessible with a thumb and, most importantly, set a font size large enough to ensure your copy is readable. When every email’s mobile-friendly, you'll maximize engagement for readers both at their desks or at the DMV."


Email On Acid


"1. Emails don’t have to look the same in every device. There’s a difference between looking the same in every device and looking good on every device. Design and build your emails with mobile devices at the forefront of your mind.

2. Mobile devices are constantly changing, updating their software, and being replaced by newer models. Because of this, it’s important to constantly test your responsive emails. Don’t take a working template for granted, everything can change in a day."


15. What Else Do I need to Know About Mobile Emails?


Zach Bulygo


Zach at Kissmetrics shares this awesome infographic on mobile-friendly emails from Litmus in his original blog post:


eCommerce Email Marketing Part Five: Email Subscriber List Growth

16. What Can I Do To Build a Good Quality Email Database?


Rohan Ayyar
E2M Solutions


Rohan Ayyar of digital marketing agency E2M shares his tips on how to start building an email list with quality subscribers in his guest post on Get Response:

"Build a Robust Email Database

The foundation of a good email marketing program is a clean, robust, and regularly refreshed email database. Without the right audience, the best email marketing messages will fall on blind eyes.

Do not – let me repeat – do NOT venture into buying email lists off the internet. Not only are they recycled amongst hundreds of businesses like yours, more often than not the people on these lists have nothing to do with your industry or niche. Morever, nobody likes receiving unsolicited email from unknown brands. Buying an email database is the worst thing you can do to kick start your email marketing program.

Here are some thoughts on what you can do:

  • Set up a welcome lightbox on your site asking website visitors to sign up for your mailing list. You’ll be surprised how effective this is when combined with a tempting offer on future purchases to users who sign up.
  • Reach out to your social media fans and followers and ask them to sign up for newsletters. Promise them bigger doses of the good stuff that they receive on social media via your marketing emails.
  • Send out opt-in emails to every customer who transacts on your ecommerce site, offering them the choice to sign up for regular emails from your company. Unsolicited emails contravene the CAN-SPAM Act and can land your business in legal hot water. Completely avoidable.
  • Use your Thank You (order confirmation) page for garnering more email subscribers. Offer customers a discount for a future purchase at the end of their current one in exchange for signing up for your email newletters. Not only will you grow your database, you also ensure repeat purchases.
  • If your ecommerce business has an offline presence too, make sure you train your staff to ask for email IDs from customers at the cash register. Most customers don’t refuse a polite verbal request by a helpful store associate.
  • Your transactional emails like order confirmation or shipping status updates can ask customers to sign up for your email newsletters. The open rate for transactional emails is the highest among business emails of all types. Tapping into this resource is a great way of growing your email audience.
  • Add an email subscription widget to your blog. When people read great content on your blog, they’ll be more likely to sign up to your newsletter to get more such stimulating content.
  • Don’t forget list maintenance. Every week, clean out email addresses of users who unsubscribed from your mailing list. Also clean up hard-bounced addresses to avoid being marked as a spammy sender by the respective ESP. Simultaneously work on adding new users to your email list with the tips suggested above on a regular basis."


17. What Are Some Best Practices For Using an Email Collection Popup On My eCommerce Site?


Charlie Reverte
 AddThis For Oracle Data Cloud


"Popups are a great way to get in front of online shoppers and encourage them to subscribe. However, you want to make sure you’re reaching the right people at the right time. AddThis List Building Tools allows you to display a popup based on specific behaviors, such as when a returning visitor lands on your site, after they’ve viewed a certain number of pages or on exit intent (right before they’re about to leave your page). For example, companies like Xerox have been able to grow their email lists by 540% using these list-building tools.

It is helpful to know that by lessening the amount of clicks it takes a user to share and subscribe to content, you’ll see more activity as a result. Use the AddThis popup window instead of making your users have to click and open a service list window.

Once you’ve gained subscribers via using an email list, keep the following in mind:

 1. Remove addresses that bounce.

There are a number of reasons why good email addresses go bad. To clean up your list, you’ll need to find the bounce culprits — both hard and soft — and get rid of them. “Hard bounces” are when there’s a permanent reason why an email fails to be delivered. This could be either a non-existent email address or domain name. “Soft bounces” are when there’s a temporary delivery issue, which results in email delivery failure. Soft bounces commonly occur because the user has a full mailbox, a temporarily offline server or a message too large to send.

2. Clean up your list.

If order to clean up your list, you will need to remove those who bounce. Repeated attempts to mail invalid or inactive email address negatively impacts your metrics and your delivery rates. This includes removing people who aren’t engaging with your messages as well. 

3. Re-engage inactive subscribers.

One way to re-engage inactive subscribers is through a re-engagement or “wake the dead” email campaign. Send that group of inactive subscribers a few emails. Use a different subject line for each one. Include three to five content pieces for variety to see if you can pique some interest.

4. Get email confirmation.

The marketing term applied to this method is the “double opt-in.” This simply means that a second email is sent to a subscriber, asking them to click a link to confirm their subscription. This double opt-in can help you target your engaged subscribers and delete bad email addresses from your list.

5. Create a call-to-action.

A call-to-action (CTA) is the specific prompt that appears on a website or in an email, inviting the reader to click it in order to do something (i.e., download an e-book, watch a webinar, request a call-back, sign up for a newsletter). The job of the CTA is to convince a visitor that it’s worth their while to provide their contact information in exchange for something of value. A brief CTA within a clearly visible manner, like a popup, can help your efforts."


17. What Types of Incentives Work Best in Popups?


Grant Thomas


When it comes to using incentives to build your email list, there are several directions you can go. While there is no clear “best” incentive, there are a few key indicators of what incentive would be best for you to use based on your own unique business. Here are a few examples from various retailers to give you an idea of what type of incentive to use with your email pop ups. 

Contest Entry

When looking at the sheer numbers, there’s no better incentive to offer than a contest entry. Present your visitors with the opportunity to win a big ticket item by entering their email. This incentive works so well because it’s a low barrier to enter (simple submission of email) and the potential benefit is great (a free item). One key thing to remember when running a contest is to pick an item or bundle that your ideal customer would be interested in because you want to acquire email leads who express interest in your brand. This could be one of your products or something complementary to the products you offer.

Isle Surf and SUP sells high quality surfboards and SUPs which means they have higher priced inventory and the sales process usually requires several marketing touches. This put their main focus on capturing as many email leads as possible. The implementation of a contest promotion increased email sign ups by 660%!


Using a form of a discount to drive email sign ups is another incredibly effective tactic and the great thing is you can customize your offering to meet the needs of your business. When using discounts, find something that works with your margins. Here are a few ways to do this. 

Percent Off of Total Cart Value

Offering a blanket percent off discount is a surefire way to thrill your shoppers and drive them to subscribe to your emails. This also provides the possibility of a shopper purchasing during that same visit which is always a positive. The one tricky part of offering a site-wide discount code is how it relates to your margins. If you can offer 15% off sitewide, do it. If 5% as much as you can go, that works too. 

SkinnyMe Tea increased email sign ups by 758% by offering a 5% discount to visitors while also increasing sales conversion by 50%. This goes to show you that even offering a smaller incentive can still dramatically increase traffic conversion.  

Percent Off One Item

Offering a discount on only one item allows you to limit the discount amount and have more control over pricing. Since the discounting is more controllable, you can offer a higher discount amount and make your offer more appealing to shoppers. For example, a 35% off one item looks substantially better to shoppers than 10% off all items.

 Dollar Amount Discount

This incentive simplifies discounting for retailers. It’s a definitive discount amount that can be decided on by looking at average order size and profit margins. Hot Dog Collars has had tremendous success running a dollar amount discount to build their email list. Pair this with an automated email campaign to drive shoppers back to your site at a later date and you’ve got a powerful flow for driving sales through email.

 Free Shipping

73% of online shoppers stated that free shipping is the #1 criterion for completing a purchase. Shoppers hate to see costs added to their cart value and shipping costs are no different. This is something that people are actively searching for and if you can provide it to them on site, it makes for a fantastic lead capture incentive and driver of sales. In short, if you can offer free shipping in some form, it’s well worth it.

Tip: Offer free shipping at a certain threshold to make it worth your while. If your average cart size is $50, offer free shipping on orders of $75 or more. This provides an incentive to subscribe and also purchase with a higher order value.

Gated Content Download

For those retailers who either can’t offer a discount/free shipping or simply don’t want to, consider using a gated content download as an incentive. Offer your shoppers a free download of relevant content in exchange for an email. Here’s a fantastic example from Momentum Mag. The content is educational and relevant to a potential purchasing decision while the pop up design draws attention to the offering. 

Which incentive should I use to build my email list?

It’s purely based on your business and what goals you’re trying to accomplish with your promotions. The best advice for choosing incentives is to test out a couple of offers and see which one performs best. It’s also important to note that you should be switching up your offers every once in awhile to keep things fresh for your shoppers."


19. How Is Google's Update Targeting Popups On Mobile Affect These List Building Tools? How Effective Are They Now At Collecting Emails On Mobile?


Charlie Reverte
AddThis For Oracle Data Cloud


"Google is doing the right thing in trying to keep the mobile web fast and friendly for users.  We agree with Google’s position that overly aggressive popups are annoying to users and bad for the user experience.  We understand why sites use aggressive popups: they work great and get can get conversion rates as high as the upper-single-digits percentage of visitors.  However what you can’t measure is the annoyance factor that you’re putting on the other 90+ percent of your visitors who aren’t interested in your popup, or worse, have already signed up on another device and are getting a repeat message.

Instead we recommend customizing your CTAs to where each user is in your customer journey.  Just like you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you when you first meet, you need to let your visitors get to know you before you go for a big conversion.  Give before you take - show value and offer them some interesting and relevant content to build their trust.  Once they’ve gotten to understand your brand and indicate readiness to convert, incentives are a great way to push them over the edge.

Targeted tools like AddThis make this easy – you can focus your popups on returning visitors, and we recommend showing them on a delay or when users mouse out of the page (exit intent) to leave or go back to the previous page.  You can set this up with just a few clicks and balance your conversion rate with your experience and keep both Google and your users happy."


20. Will Popups Annoy My Shoppers? Do They Really Work at Collecting Email Addresses?


Alicia Doiron


Here's what Alicia has to say about using popups or lead magnets to collect email addresses from shoppers in her original article on Lemonstand:

"Using Lead Magnets to Capture More Email Addresses

You may have heard of the great lead magnet, pop-up or opt-in debate. Some digital marketers love them, others loathe them, which may have you confused as to how you should feel about them.

This may have you wondering, if lead magnets are supposed to attract sign-ups, why are so many repelled by the thought of using them? Simply put, most online stores don’t utilize them correctly. Many of these stores are guilty of at least one of the following offenses:

  • Don’t offer anything of real value
  • Don’t clearly communicate the value of the offer
  • Make it difficult to close the pop-up window
  • Pop-ups appear repeatedly and way too often
  • Pop-ups shown on every page
  • Multiple pop-ups appear at one time

If you avoid these pitfalls, pop-ups can be a wonderful tool for collecting email subscribers."

NOTE: Lemonstand closed recently. Here are some good alternatives to Lemonstand.

21. How Can I Validate Emails on My List and What Are Some Mistakes To Avoid?


The data validation experts over at PCA Predict shared these common pitfalls to avoid when it comes to validating email addresses for your site in this original article:

"An email address is one of the most important pieces of customer data and yet for some reason it seldom gets the attention it deserves. A number of well-known websites are making basic fundamental issues with their email validation which could not only result in both in a poor user experience and missed opportunities. Here’s our top tips for capturing accurate email addresses whilst reducing form friction.

Mistake 1 – Making people enter their address twice

One way some retailers are attempting to stop invalid emails infiltrating their marketing lists is through the confirm email or double entry field.

Typing is tiresome – so for me, entering anything more than once is a huge no-no – perish the thought I was attempting this from a mobile! Every additional field means additional work, which in turn means increased risk of errors and a potential reduction in completion rates. Your users are probably going to try and copy and paste the email address from the first line anyway so they are just as likely to enter it incorrectly twice.

While an effective email validation tool is a no-brainer for capturing accurate email addresses, it can’t of course check whether the address belongs to someone else. The only way to be sure that the address you get belongs to the person who signed up is to send a confirmation email with a unique link (for double opt-in).

Unfortunately, there is always going to be the chance of the user forgetting to click the link in the email. However, this is the only real way to confirm that the person signing up for your list actually wants to hear from you, and it is far better than punishing the user with typing the email twice. Double opt-in lists have also been shown to get up to double the clicks and double the opens of single opt-in lists. They also get half the hard bounces and half the unsubscribes of single opt-in so it’s a win all round.

Mistake 2 – Not using inline validation

There are few things more infuriating, once you’ve filled out a form and hit submit, than being served with the same page again, flooded with angry red error messages about fields you’ve filled in incorrectly. Inline verification is a great way of avoiding user confusion by correcting field errors along the way.

Here, Twitter makes use of dynamic messaging on the right hand side of the field to alert me to the fact I already have an account with them. Brownie points to Twitter for also giving the user options to rectify the problem by logging in or recovering an existing password.

Mistake 3 – Being too restrictive

Being too strict with your validation is a sure fire way to lose yourself some customers. Does your address tool account for the various characters people use in their email address such as slash (/), equal sign (=) or exclamation (!)? These are all valid symbols, so if you’re software is rejecting these you are literally turning potential customers away.

Mistake 4 – Regex Validation

Using a regular expression (or regex) is another common way to validate email addresses. Whilst being easy to implement, these often fall into the trap of being too restrictive. A regex to validate email addresses ends up being more complicated than you first think once you’ve read the RFC ( a 47 page technical spec describing what a valid email address is) pertaining to SMTP (Simple Message Transfer Protocol and email addresses. It’s something that most people presume will be easy, until you drill into it and figure out just how complicated it can be. Read this to see what I mean.

Mistake 5 – HTML5 form validation

HTML5 includes its own validation techniques for input types, so by setting the field type to “email” and using the new required attribute on a field you can get the browser to do the validation for you. This is all nice and easy, but validation is subject to the browser the visitor to your website is using. Some browsers will just validate the @ symbol exists in the form of something@something, while others look for something@domain.somewhere. Obviously this is not foolproof and gives no guarantee that an address actually exists.

Mistake 6 – Not providing clear labels

Personal data is the currency of the online world. Only by providing clear labels about how and why you need their email address will your users be inclined to part with it. Providing this information clearly can prevent them abandoning your form.

Here, provides this information right next to the relevant field.



22. How Should I Segment My Email List?


Sophia Bernazzani


In her original article on Hubspot, Sophia shares a comprehensive list of ideas to slice and dice your email subscribers for better email engagement:

"30 Ways to Segment Your Email List for More Targeted Email Marketing

The whole point of segmentation is to provide more relevant content to your email recipients. To do that, you'll have to take the time to craft targeted campaigns that take into account not just list segments, but also lead data, and trigger events that help customize your email campaigns further. (Our marketing team uses the Email App and the Lists App in the HubSpot Marketing Platform in combination with HubSpot CRM to accomplish this.)

Bear in mind that while some of these recommendations will work wonderfully on their own, many of them are at their absolute best when crossed with other segments, triggers, and lead intelligence data.

1) Geography

Knowing where your contacts live can be seriously powerful information. If you're a brick-and-mortar business, you wouldn't want to send in-store offers to out-of-towners, right? Or let's say you're a national franchise -- you better be segmenting by zip code to ensure you're not infringing on someone else's territory, or worse, marketing to a location that your organization doesn't even service yet.

Here's a geographically-segmented email I received from Vamoose, a bus service I've used frequently to travel between New York and the Washington, D.C. area. (I can't believe it's already time to start planning travel for Thanksgiving.)

2) Age

People of all ages have access to the internet these days, which means you could be emailing a college student, a retiree, or even a little kid. You may find knowing the general age range of the people on your list helpful to remove those not in your target audience, or to adjust the messaging of your email communications.

3) Gender

Just as you'd speak to a retiree and a college student differently, you might adjust your messaging and offers based on gender, too. If you have a wide product offering that extends across genders, consider segmenting your list in this manner -- and beefing up the segmentation with other demographic and psychographic details as well.

4) Persona

Speaking of demographics and psychographics, you should have buyer personas that include information of this nature, as well as more detailed explanations of what makes these folks tick and why your solution provides value for them. If you don't have buyer personas created already, use these free templates to create your own -- and then segment your list based on them. Because each persona has different needs and value propositions, they're all going to require different email content for the best clickthrough and conversion rates.

5) Organization Type

Do you sell to other businesses? Are they franchises? Non-profit organizations? Ecommerce companies? Enterprise organizations? Small businesses? They all have different needs, and as such, their email content should be different -- so segment your list accordingly.

6) Industry

If you're selling to other businesses, you may encounter leads and contacts across many different industries. Knowing your lead's industry will allow you to add another level of personalization to your email marketing.

7) Job Function

As a B2B marketer, your email list could contain a whole melee of different job functions -- office personnel, salespeople, marketers, consultants, developers, customer service, accountants ... the list goes on. Considering the breadth of job roles within any given organization, doesn't it make sense to segment your list accordingly?

8) Education Level

You could segment your list based on how many degrees they hold, or how educated a lead or contact is regarding your brand and the subject matter you discuss. If you segment your list based on the level of understanding they have on the topics you write about, you can tailor your lead nurturing content to speak at the right level.

Here's an email I received from Idealist, which they sent to me based on my previous indication that I had already earned a Bachelor's degree:


9) Seniority Level

There are different job roles, and there are different levels of seniority. Perhaps your contact said they work in marketing, but is she the VP of marketing, or a marketing coordinator? Those two contacts will differ in years of experience, salary level, pain points, decision-making potential, and a whole host of other differences that make segmentation critical for effective email marketing campaigns."

Get the full list in the original article referenced above.


eCommerce Email Marketing Part Six: Personalization and Email Automation 

23. How Often Should I Send Promotional Emails to My List of Subscribers?


Pam Neely


In her original article on Campaign Monitor titled, "The surprising data about how often to send promotional emails," Pam shares some important insights around promotional email frequency:

"Fortunately, there’s some data on how often people like to get emails. But remember, they didn’t ask your subscribers. The chart below from MarketingSherpa gives you an idea of optimal send frequency.

This survey was conducted in January 2015. It’s based on how 2,057 adults answered the question, “How often, if ever, would you like to receive promotional emails (e.g., coupons, sales notifications) from companies that you do business with?”

marketing sherpa

Clearly, the two most popular choices were “At least monthly” and “At least weekly.” The third most popular choice was “weekly”, and the fourth option picked most was “monthly”.

Weekly emails are so effective that many marketers send them. Monthly emails can be effective, too. But there’s always a concern that mailing monthly may be so infrequent that subscribers might forget who you are, and thus be more likely to delete your messages.

According to Return Path’s ebook, “Frequency Matters: The Keys to Optimizing Email Send Frequency”, “under mailing” can cause some thorny issues, like:

  • Poor or inconsistent sender reputation
  • Higher complaint rates
  • Lower lifetime value
  • Difficulties keeping your subscriber list clean
  • Increased risk of triggering spam traps
  • Lost revenue

As always, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, so we encourage you to see what works best for your subscribers.

A good option is to let each subscriber control how often they get emails through a preference center.

Video marketing blog ReelSEO does a good job of this.

When a subscriber clicks through they land on a preference page that looks like this:

email marketing

The preference center gives subscribers a simple way to select how frequently they want to receive emails and puts them in control of communications."


24. What Are The Main Key Elements of a Great Welcome Email?


John McIntyre


"There are 6 key elements to a great Welcome Email.

1. Subject line: I like "Wecome to the family (please read)".

ecommerce email

2. Headline: Some variation on the subject line, or simply say the same thing.

email marketing

3. Gift: Give them a coupon, ebook, or some kind of valuable thing they signed up for.

welcome email

4. Benefits: List 3-5 benefits of being a subscriber/customer.

email example

5. What's next? Explain what happens now with the emails. What will they receive? When? How does the newsletter work?

email template

6. Call to action: Lastly, give them something to do... click a link, buy a product, etc. Keep it simple. One call to action is enough. One is usually better than three, or more, because it means they don't have to think about what to click."


25. What Are the 2 Most Important Elements to Get Right In Transactional Emails?


Nigel Stevens


"1. A big key to successful transactional emails is personalization. Showing customers that you understand their needs with relevant up-sells and cross-sells is a positive experience, but sending the same offers with no personalization can come across as spammy.

2. Provide a consistent experience across channels. If you personalize a customer email, you should  personalize the experience on your website for that same customer. Communicating a disjointed message will make them feel that you're not catering to their particular needs and wants. "


26. Can I Get More Sales From The Email Receipts I send to Shoppers?


Tucker Schreiber


Tucker reveals 5 ways you can get more sales from your email receipts in his original article on Shopify:

"1. Use Email Receipts as a Way to Upsell Related Products

Some big players in the ecommerce industry have already been doing this for a while.

For example, as far back as 2006 Amazon, reported that 35% of its revenues were as a direct result of its cross sales and up selling efforts.  That’s mostly through email receipts.

Here's an example of what an upsell might look like in an email receipt template:


Try incorporating some product up selling in your email receipt template to see if there is an increase in orders.

Here are some examples of other ways you can use this idea in email receipts:

2. Offer a Discount Code to Incentivize a Future Purchase

By offering a discount code in your receipt email, you’re offering an incentive for the customer to come back and make another purchase.

A study shows that 44% of email recipients made at least one purchase last year based on a promotional email that included a coupon code.

Here's an example of a content block from an app called Receiptful that generates a unique coupon code for each customer that makes a purchase:


Even if the discount is something as small as 5%, or $1 off their next order, savings are savings—and in the mind of a consumer, any savings are good.

Another thing to consider about coupons as a promotional tool, is that they have multiple uses.  You can use them to:

  • Track sales for online and offline marketing campaigns
  • Offer time-sensitive discounts to incentivize another purchase
  • Include them on your physical retail receipts

3. Promote Your Social Media Accounts to Keep Customers Informed

A study by MarketingProfs shows that more than two-thirds of business leaders plan to integrate social media within their email marketing efforts.

So why aren't you?

Simply include links to your social accounts in either the footer, or in a content card on your email receipt template.

Here's an example of how The North Face includes their social accounts in their email receipt templates:

ecommerce email

While it is a fairly basic way to use a receipt email—there are other opportunities around social media here as well.

Some ideas are:

  • Share with 10 friends and get 10% off your next order
  • Every time you refer a friend, you get $1 off your next order
  • Every time you refer a friend and they make a purchase, your next order is free

The number of different variations goes on, so consider testing a few different strategies to see which ones stick and generate sales and high engagement.

4. Get Immediate Feedback from Paying Customers

You can get immediate, valuable feedback from paying customers using email receipts.  Retail stores and restaurants have been doing this for a long time.  Often, they'll include a contest entry by completing a feedback survey.  You can do the same for your online store.

This will give you some insight into the purchasing flow for your store, as well as any pain points a customer may have experienced during the checkout process.

Take a look at this email that solicits feedback from customers of Warby Parker:

ecommerce marketing

Here are some questions that might be worth including to get some feedback from your customers:

  • How did they feel about the overall purchasing process?
  • Did they feel the product was fairly priced?
  • How did they find your store?
  • When do they expect the product to be delivered?
  • How can you improve your checkout flow?

5. Have Customers Share Their Purchase on Facebook

Shopping makes anyone feel good.  Research shows that shopping activates key areas of the brain, which boosts moods and triggers the release of brain chemicals that give you a "shopping high".

Using email receipts, you can take advantage of that brief moment when dopamine is released into the brain.

Try to encourage customers to share their purchase on Facebook when they're still feeling excited and have a "shopping high".

Here's an example of what this might look like from the team at AddShoppers:

social media for ecommerce

In a previous post, we discovered how powerful referral campaigns are.  By including this in your email receipt, you're making it easier for customers to refer their friends.

Why is it important to make it easily sharable?  Because customers who have been referred by their friends spend on average 13.4% more."


27. What Other Email Campaigns Should I Be Sending In Addition to Newsletters and Transactional Emails? What About Behavioral Emails?


Daniel Kohn


"Newsletters and promotional emails are great because they cover your entire audience and you can easily send out an email blast to your entire list.

Behavioral emails are also key to increasing sales with email because they are emails that can be personalized to each shopper and address the behavior of each shopper on your site.

Behavioral emails can include post-purchase emails like emails asking for ratings and reviews and replenishment emails.

Other types of behavioral emails include browse abandonment and cart abandonment emails. These are very important to send to the shoppers who drop off earlier on in the shopping funnel because you can capture more sales by converting more of your site traffic.

What's great about behavioral emails is that due to their personalized content they tend to outperform broadcast emails siginficantly.

browse abandonment emails convert 7x more than any other marketing channel

Here, behavioral emails converted nearly 6x higher than all other marketing campaigns."


28. What Can I Do To Better Personalize The Emails I Send To My Shoppers?


Daniel Kohn


"Personalization in email is definitely a hot topic for eCommerce businesses.

Sometimes retailers tend to think that if they insert the shopper's first name into a subject line or in the body copy, that's personalization.

It's nice, but that's not real data-driven personalization.

To achieve true personalization in your email campaigns, add personalized product recommendations that match the shoppers' behavior and interests.

Emails containing personalized product recommendations tend to outperform non-personalized emails by having significantly higher CTRs and generate more revenue."

ecommerce email marketing

Emails containing personalized product recommendations convert much higher than other emails. Take a look at the performance on these personalized email campaigns:

ecommerce recommendations

As you can see, the emails with more personalized product recommendations generated much more revenue for this online retailer."



29. What Are Some Common Pitfalls When It Comes To eCommerce Email Automation and How Can I Avoid Them?


Sam Mallikarjunan


In his oringal article on Hubspot, Sam shares 7 common mistakes when it comes to email automation for eCommerce:

"1) Treating B2C as faceless entities and B2B as real people

It's impractical for most ecommerce retailers to manually go through all of their customer records and engage personally with each of them like they do in the B2B world, and this is where marketing automation gets it's great value. In the B2B sales world, a real human being can manually review a given contact record and make human decisions about how to create a personalized and contextually relevant buying experience. In the B2C ecommerce world, that's impossible given the sheer volume of customers we deal with.

Because of this, many ecommerce marketers have decided that if they can't treat manually each contact as an individual person that they're going to treat all contacts the exact same. They blast their entire email list three times a week with a coupon and call that email marketing. They show everyone the exact same content on their website. They sometimes even ignore messages and comments coming in through social media because of the sheer volume of them instead of using marketing automation to solve these problems by collecting contacts into similar buyer personas that can receive a more targeted engagement.

2) Branched Logic vs. Lifecycle Nurturing

Probably one of the biggest mistakes in marketing automation is the idea that the customer should agree with you about what their next step should be. Traditional, "branched logic" marketing automation goes something like this:

  • Contact does X.
    • Send them an email asking them to do Y.
  • Time passes and contact doesn't do Y.
    • Send them an email asking them to do Y.
  • Time passes and contact doesn't do Y.
    • Send them an email asking them to do Y.
  • Time passes and contact doesn't do Y.
  • Time passes and contact doesn't do Y.
    • Stop sending the contact any more emails - they're obviously a bad contact that's never going to buy. Add them to the main list and blast them three times a week with a coupon along with the rest of the schmucks.

The sin here is assuming that the "buying cycle" (which we call a cycle yet somehow always illustrate as a linear process) involves a set journey that customers go through, and if they've done action X that action Y is the only plausible next step for them to do. It doesn't, for example, account for the fact that if I'm in the comparison phase and I discover a new feature I didn't know about that I might move back into the research phase of the buying cycle and that the types of content you should send me should reflect that change.

Instead, flag specific lifecycles that contacts can be in and nurture those with relevant content. The buying cycle is more complex than a linear, branched process - and people can go backwards. Respect that.

3) Ignoring the customer after the sale

We've talked before about the limitations of transaction-oriented unit economics and how that can ruin both the user experience and the success of your marketing campaigns. Ecommerce marketers may know intuitively that it's easier to sell to people who have already bought from you, but many of them are not doing anything more sophisticated than sending coupons three times a week to everyone who's bought before.

People are very excited in the intermediary time between completing the order and when it's delivered. There's a massive anticipation people experience. Use that time after the transaction to inform them when it will be delivered, send them relevant blog articles about how to use your product (see section: product adoption, the forgotten war), and introduce them to your social community. Also give them a chance to share their excitement with their social community - capitalize on that excitement to make acquiring your next customer cheaper! You can also follow up after they've received the product with a survey, such as a Net Promoter Score survey, that gives you valuable data about how your products are received and can also nip potential customer service issues in the bud.

After they've had a chance to use the product to address to reasons they bought from you, don't ignore customized remarketing. Up-sell, cross-sell, and re-sell marketing activities are the most powerful levers in increasing ecommerce customer LTV - yet again many marketers simply send them "specials" and coupons of what they want to promote instead of sending the customer products that are relevant to them. If you've gathered pre-transactional intelligence about the contact, such as why they want to buy a specific product and what they're using it for, you can create a highly relevant experience that respects that fact that a new purchase starts at the beginning of the buying cycle again. Just because I bought an HDTV doesn't mean that you should just send me a coupon for 3D glasses. I didn't even know those had advanced beyond the red and blue plastic lenses - much less that movies didn't look awful through them anymore. Once you introduce me to that, I start at the beginning of the cycle again.

4) Limiting yourself to just email

Customers don't think of their relationship with a brand within the confines of a specific "channel" such as email. They have a holistic relationship and concept of the value of a brand that extends across all digital and offline channels. Telephone interactions, live chat on the website, social media interactions, and visits to physical locations are all relevant to them and whether or not they buy from you (or buy from you again). Don't restrict your marketing automation to just email.

For example, you may want to have a special list of contacts that are flagged as a promoter through your post-transactional NPS survey (see above) and use marketing automation to detect if that customer has a Twitter account and then trigger an email to your social media team to follow and engage with them on Twitter. You may want to have dynamic content on your website that reacts to behaviors customers have taken, such as specific product detail pages they've viewed or other information you have about them. Since the customer views relationship between them and your company from a holistic perspective, your marketing automation should work in tandem with the various customer touch points.

5) Focusing on products over problems

Amazon was at the bleeding edge of technology a decade ago when they decided that someone who bought the same product as someone else might be interested in other products that someone else has purchased. It was a huge win! However, ecommerce marketing has grown beyond that.

The psychographic dimensions of buyer persona cohorts are strongly tied to the "why" of a customer's engagement with you. What are they using your product for? If you're selling camping gear, is this person solo backpacking across the Appalachians or are they camping with their family? The reason they're buying from you - what modern marketers would call the "job-to-be-done" - is equally as important as what they're buying from you. Instead of making the entire context of your engagement with them around what they're buying, identify the why (either through behavioral analysis or - and I'm being really radical here - asking them) and use that in your marketing automation to frame the conversation of your persuasive messaging.

6) Relying on Big Data alone

As referenced above, your marketing automation should rely on more than just the Big Data behavioral analytics. You'd be surprised how much information people are willing to give you if they understand why you're asking and what you're going to do with that information.

For example, I've rated over 700 movies for Netflix - a significant investment of time - because I know that they're going to use that information to improve their product recommendations for me. I know that they're focusing on improving my experience with them, so I'm willing to answer almost any questions they ask about my entertainment preferences.

Make the case to your prospects and customers - if you really are using their information for noble and not nefarious ends - as to why they should choose to share information with you and you can get very specific information that can help your marketing automation become laser targeted. Selling camping gear? Ask them where they're thinking about camping and when they're planning to go and tell them that you'll send them a guide customized to that region. Based on that information, you can not only send them highly targeted product recommendations (camping in the Northeast can be very different than camping where I'm from in Florida) but also make your emails come at the right time to help know when you need to shift from education to urgency building.

Which brings us to our final sin:

7) Ignoring the 4th dimension

In physics, depending on your theories around space-time, there's an all-important 4th dimension that plays an incredibly important role in the functioning of the universe: Time. Physicists treat time with equal weight and care as they would depth or length.

In ecommerce marketing, time is an equally important variable as what you're sending the customer. The most highly relevant message at the wrong time can still fall flat and fail. In fact, - who will send awesome food to your home instead of you having to go to restaurants - saw a 4,200% increase in sales from their email marketing simply by starting to send people emails about food at the time of day when it will be most influential.

If I'm buying breakfast food, why would you send that to me at 2PM? If I frequently order lunch for my office, is sending that at 7PM a good idea?

Respect that 4th dimension of time and make sure you're getting the right message to the right people at the right time."


30. What Are Some Best Practices To Have In Mind When Automating eCommerce Email Campaigns?


Pamela Hazelton


In her original article on, Pamela shares some best practices for automating emails:

"The core components of automated, non-transactional emails are as follows.

  • Clear subject line. The recipient should immediately recognize what the email is about, and why he is receiving it.
  • Concise, personalized message. Each message type is sent for a specific reason. Stay on topic and use links when needing to provide lengthy details.
  • Marketing that suits the email. If you want to cross-sell or entice with a coupon, make sure the coupon is relevant to the message. For example, a bridal registry confirmation may include a coupon that’s applied only to items on the registry.
  • Timeliness. Some tasks, like account or wish list creation, should trigger the immediate sending of an email confirmation. Other types of messages, like those addressing cart abandonment, should be sent a few hours after occurrence. If automation is not an option, consider setting time aside regularly to send out certain types of emails, such as saved or abandoned carts.
  • Selling only when necessary. Not every email type should include product recommendations or coupons. In fact, flooding shoppers with coupons is a sure way to leave them waiting to purchase again until there is a discount available. Instead, focus on what matters most to the shopper in each message."


Make eCommerce email marketing the next big win for your online business.

Got a question about eCommerce email marketing that we didn't answer here? Share it in the comments!


Daniel Kohn is the CEO and co-founder of, a company that helps eCommerce stores and online retailers increase sales, average order value, and lifetime customer value through email. Download SmartMail’s 4 highest converting email templates to help jumpstart your eCommerce email marketing program.


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