The Ultimate Guide To eCommerce Email Marketing

Posted October 10, 2016 by   in Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, eCommerce Website, Email Marketing, User Experience, Web Design, Web Design Strategy, Web Development

In the (growing) digital world we live in, there’s no shortage of channels which can drive sales in your internet retail store; and the list continues to grow with the constant emergence of new channels such as Jet and SnapChat. It’s easy for us ecommerce marketers to focus on the bright and shinny object and lose sight of the more traditional channels which have been proven (for years) and continue to drive most of our sales.

Yet the traditional channels of organic placement, PPC advertising and email dominate the source of orders and revenue growth. Custora recently published the June 2016 ecommerce orders by channel report which shows the continued dominance of these three channels.  


Email should be the channel in this list which jumps out most, but probably didn’t, did it? Amongst the tried and true online marketing channels driving most e-commerce purchases, email is often times forgotten. I get it…it’s fun to watch organic ranking climb and it’s fun to see your PPC ads outperforming your competitors. Afterall, SEO and PPC are commonly thought of as “new customer” acquisition channels – and what ecommerce marketer doesn’t covet new customers?

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The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce Email Marketing


Acquiring Customers with SEO and PPC

Dominating in SEO and PPC can certainly provide growth! Attaining a #1 ranking on Google (and Bing/Yahoo of course), can be the fuel behind growing a $5m internet retail business in less than 2 years. And the immediacy of PPC allows you to jump ahead of the competition quickly while you’re wanting to earn that top spot organically.


The growth through SEO and PPC can be very exciting but we can’t lose sight of the cost associated with these acquisition channels. In most cases it’s worthwhile/profitable to incur the higher acquisition cost associated with SEO and PPC because of anticipated high AOV (average order values) or repeat purchase and a high LTV (life time value). While these channels are great for initial customer acquisition, they likely aren’t your most profitable order channel.

The Most Profitable Order Channel – Email!

This is where our good ol’ friend, email kicks in. While email isn’t an initial visitor acquisition channel, it can and should be your most profitable order channel! Yes it’s a chicken and egg argument; implying that you must have already acquired the visitors/customers before you can email them, but it’s difficult to argue that email isn’t the most profitable order source! Even for ecommerce stores who live in the $5m annual revenue and less space, a single email can generate tens of thousands of dollars!


Let’ take a look at the total spectrum of email marketing for ecommerce! Below we’ll cover:

  • Ecommerce Email Audience Segments
  • Capturing Email Addresses
  • Email Capture Bait
  • Ecommerce Email Marketing Software
  • Revenue Generation Opportunities By the Numbers

Ecommerce Email Audience Segments

Like anything in marketing, we need to first define our audience. If you’re emailing all consumers the same way, the same offer, and with the same cadence, you’re missing out on a lot of profit! We generally break down the email audience segments into three categories:

  • Tire Kickers
  • Shoppers
  • Customers


Each of these segments offers us a different marketing / sales opportunity, and they should each be treated uniquely. We need to first understand each segment, and then define what our desired outcome for each segment is.

Tire Kickers

The Tire Kickers are visitors that come to your ecommerce store but have very little buying intent. These people are in the beginning phases of their buying journey and are likely in the Awareness and Research sections of the ecommerce conversion funnel. As a result, the odds of these people buying on their first visit is pretty minimal. These people will browse around but don’t expect them to buy, so let’s own that! Our desired outcome for tire kickers should be to, capture their email address! Don’t have false expectations and try to force them into a purchase, or get frustrated when they don’t. Instead, let’s focus on getting their email address!


The Shoppers are visitors that come to your ecommerce store with a legitimate buying intent. They are much further down the conversion funnel in the Consideration or Purchase sections and are likely to at least select a few products and begin the checkout process. But…this is likely where the drop off occurs and they abandoned the checkout. These people are not likely to complete the purchase on their initial or even second visit, but we may be able to get them to recover their abandoned checkout. Our desired outcome for the shoppers should be to, recover the order using abandoned cart marketing tactics. Don’t get frustrated with a high abandoned check out rate as industry averages suggest it will be nearly 75% of all shoppers! Instead, plan out a sophisticated abandoned checkout flow and turn these shoppers into customers.


The Customers are shoppers who actually did make a purchase from you, hopefully multiple! These are people who have already given you their hard earned money and have an established trust with your brand and products. These people are likely to buy from you again! Our desired outcome for these people, is to get subsequent purchase!

Capturing Email Addresses

Capturing the email addresses varies for each audience segment. To get the email address of Customers we don’t need to do anything different – yay! Email capture is baked into your shopping cart’s checkout process – if it’s not, change platforms.

Capturing the email address of the Shoppers is a bit more challenging and to do so, we need to rely upon an abandoned cart system. Most shopping carts have an abandoned cart workflow in place, but many of them capture the email address late in the checkout process.

For example, BigCommerce by default does not register the cart / checkout as abandoned until the consumer completes the Shipping Details section of the checkout page, which is step 3 of 5! That requires three clicks and completing 23 fields. Admittedly, browser auto-complete can help minimize this, but it still remains that by default the abandoned cart workflow is triggered very late in the process. If your cart is similar you’ll need a custom integration to grab the Shopper’s email address as soon as they enter it (typically the 1st or 2nd field entered) and pass it to a 3rd party marketing automation system such as Klaviyo, Bronto or Emarsys. According to our retail stores, by capturing the email address as the 1st or 2nd field you can increase your “abandoned cart” email acquisition by approx 44%!


The Tirekickers segment offers the most opportunities for email capture, as statistically more people will fall into this segment. There are a litany of potential capture points we can explore based on your product and audiences, but we need to be careful as to not disrupt the path to checkout completion.

Email Capture Points:

  • Home page entrance popup
  • Home page exit popup (consumers leaving the screen)
  • Home page timed duration (best for consumers on mobile)
  • Category page exit popup (consumers leaving the screen)
  • Product detail page exit popup (consumers leaving the screen)
  • Cart page exit popup (consumers leaving the screen)
  • Blog/article scrolling popup (great for blog content)



In addition to the various capture points, there are a few different email capture styles we can deploy. Again, be sure to deploy and test to determine which style works best with your product and audiences.

Email Capture Styles:

  • Popup modals (window appears over page content)
  • Overlay screen (screen blacks out to display the offer)
  • Banners / panels (hello bar, side bar, etc.)



Email Capture Bait

Consumers are pretty protective of their email address these days. Think of yourself, how cautious are you to casually hand out your email address – you’re likely pretty protective. So we first need to realize that unless there is a connection with our brand and product, the consumer simply won’t give us their email address. Secondly we need to subscribe to the fact that consumers will only give us their email address if we’re giving them value; something we affectionately call “the bait”.

The bait can be a number of things and most importantly we need to put ourselves in the shoes of the consumer when defining the bait. Don’t be quick to jump to conclusions and assume you have to give profit away in the form of a percentage off or free shipping. Yes, both do work to entice consumers but there’s a time and a place for giving away profit, and that place is not for top of funnel consumers such as Tire Kickers.


In many cases the Tire Kickers are still early in their shopping process at at the top of the conversion funnel in the Awareness or Research sections. Simply stated, these people are looking for information and are not likely ready to buy at this point. A few examples of effective baits for Tire Kickers are:

  • informational articles
  • product guides
  • product comparison guides.

As the consumer progresses through the conversion funnel, we need to be prepared to give a way some profit. There are a number of ways to consider providing financial incentive for those in the Consideration and Purchase stages. Free shipping is always of value to the consumer and in many cases a (relatively) fixed cost to the business. Meaning shipping cost only increase marginally for higher order value, unlike a percentage off coupon which is proportionate to the size of the order. The dollar amount off tactic is the preference of many ecommerce marketers. This approach better protects your profit as it can be controlled more that a percentage off.

Email Capture Bait Examples:

  • Informational Articles
  • Product Guides
  • Product Comparison Guide
  • Free Shipping
  • 10% off (don’t give discounts to customers who are not ideal clients)
  • $15 off
  • Free Product Giveaway

Ecommerce Email Marketing Software

There is a wide selection of ecommerce email marketing softwares for you to choose from. The cost for email software ranges from $50 a month to $50,000 a year. While your ecommerce email marketing software should be a significant investment into your business, the cost ultimately needs to align with your profit goals. And while changing platforms can be painful, it’s best to start with the platform you can afford for now, and grow into a more expensive / effective one later.

A deciding factor directly following cost is the functionality of the email marketing system. The span of  features & functionality is as broad as the cost range but there are a few must haves:

  • Integration: to your shopping cart
  • Segmentation: of subscribers into specific segments allowing you create more targeted communications
  • Automation: of workflows that work independently of you to progress the consumer to the next stage of the conversion funnel.

Here is a few of the more well-known ecommerce email marketing systems:

mailchimpAt the low end of the spectrum we have MailChimp who admittedly has added a lot of functionality and features recently for ecommerce but is somewhat late to the game.

klaviyoIn the middle of the spectrum is Klaviyo who was designed primarily for ecommerce businesses. It’s a solid tool which offers good functionality. While am an advocate for Klaviyo, be cautioned as it’s a younger company and some areas of their business such as support are still lacking.

emarsysbrontoOn the high-end of the spectrum we have Emarsys and Bronto, who are both older businesses that again are focused solely on ecommerce. Both platforms offer more than just email, offering both a marketing automation platform and services.

Revenue Generation Opportunities By the Numbers

To fully understand the magnitude of the opportunity at hand, we need to look at the numerous people that visit your site and how many hit the various pages of the conversion path. The below chart shows what percentage of the people visiting your site should hit the product pages, cart pages, checkout page, and order completion page.


Home page to Category / Product Detail page CR = 80%
Category / Product Detail page to Cart page CR = 10%
Cart page to Checkout page CR = 50%
Checkout page to Checkout Completion CR = 50%

For the Tire Kickers, our opportunities lie mostly with the home page, category page, product detail page and blog/articles. These pages make up between 80-100% of the total unique page views! Keep in mind that Tire Kickers will be by far the largest audience segment, but also have the lowest buying intent – at least at this point. So if during a given month your site had 200,000 unique pages views, at least 160,000 potential attempts to capture email address.

Admittedly we’re talking unique page views here so if we want to attempt to boil this down to unique sessions (assuming you may only want to show an email capture point per unique session), we can safely assume 4 pages / session; or 40,000 unique sessions. Yeah, that’s still a big number!

The opportunity to capture email addresses for the Shoppers segment primarily occurs on the checkout page. These people generally equate to 4% of the total unique page views. So if during a given month your site had 200,000 unique pages views, we’d have approximately 8,000 potential attempts to capture email address. Even with a customized checkout page which attempts to capture the email address as the very first field (as shown below at, we’re not going to bat 1,000. However, you should expect to capture email addresses for 80% of the consumers who hit this page; or approximately 6,400 email addresses.


For our last and arguably most valuable segment the Customers, we potentially capture their email address once as an abandoned cart, but then again when the purchase is completed. Assuming your store is converting at 2%, and if during a given month your site had 200,000 unique pages views, approximately 4,000 purchases occurred giving you that many Customer emails addresses.

Why is Ecommerce Email More Profitable

There are two primary reasons why email should be your most profitably channel are:

  1. because you’re marketing to consumers who have already expressed a strong interest in your brand / product (if not having already given you money), as compared to consumers who have never been to your site as is the case with many acquired through SEO and PPC.
  2. and because much of your email marketing system can be setup to run automatically with limited labor cost, unlike SEO which is very labor intensive and PPC which has both a labor and a direct marketing cost to the ad platform.

Setting up your email marketing software certainly takes a significant amount of time. Arguably equal to that of your SEO or PPC campaigns. You need to integrate with your store, create the numerous email acquisition points, create your bait, craft your messaging and design your email templates – that’s a lot! And once your system is in place you need to be measuring the performance and testing to achieve improvements. However, all of this is accomplished with a minimal direct expense, and mostly your time – or that of someone on your team.

Keys to Being Successful with Your Email Marketing

The keys to being successful with your email marketing are simply:

  1. Put yourself in the shoes of your consumers, and speak to them uniquely.
  2. Remember where in the conversion funnel it is that you’re interacting with the consumer.
  3. The objective of each touchpoint is to move the consumer to the next point of the conversion funnel.
  4. Create bait that the consumer finds valuable.

Is  your ecommerce email marketing system one of your top 3 channels? Is your email marketing channel the most profitable?