Email marketing for eCommerce companies today is all about sending timely and relevant emails to the right people, at the right time.
If you do this correctly, you achieve amazing results. Collectively our customers have generated over $140 million in sales.
So how do you achieve that?
By first understanding the customer lifecycle.
Think of the customer’s lifecycle as a journey. Effective email marketing happens when companies send customers emails that are relevant to what stage they are at in the customer lifecycle.
Example: a customer that has just made their first purchase would be in the green, New Customers section in the image below.
Rather than sending bulk generic emails to any and all customers every day, you must send emails that are targeted to specific customers at crucial points in their journey, and it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds.
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In 2017, eCommerce companies need to take into account all the different ways and times that a shopper will interact with their brand and purchase its products.
They could be:
- Browsing your online store from their desktop computer at home
- Browsing your online store from their tablet on the couch whilst watching TV
- Browsing your online store on their iPhone whilst on the bus on their way to work
- Looking at your marketing emails
- Following and interacting with your brand on social media
The key point is that consumers are using multiple devices when interacting with your brand.
You need to be thinking about the big picture, long term strategy, not just short term wins by blasting another ‘20% off’ promotional email and hoping for sales.
In order to use email to drive as many sales as possible and increase customer lifetime value, we’re going to dive into the email marketing strategy eCommerce companies should be using in 2017.
The Email Marketing Strategy for eCommerce Companies Looking to Increase Customer Lifetime Value
Most visitors who come to your site are anonymous. If you want to send them great eCommerce emails that convert, you must first identify them.
There’s four key ways we can do that:
1) Make it easy for customers to login to their account
If someone has purchased from you in the past, they may already have an account with you. Getting them to log in and stay logged in will help you identify them once they’re back on your site.
2) Pre-submit tracking
In the checkout process site visitors are invisible until they sign in. With pre-submit tracking, you’re able to increase the percentage of identifiable sessions once an email address is entered into a form field on your site (even if they don’t click submit or move to the next stage).
3) Email append
The Rejoiner email append feature enables you to leverage your existing newsletter sends to identify more customers.
4) On-site email capture
Email capture technology gives you multiple ways to capture an email address on-site and identify a visitor (we like to use Justuno).
Three email capture methods that convert well are:
- Pop ups for first time visitors where an incentive (20% off / free shipping / $10 off) is offered to sweeten the deal on their first purchase.
- Exit intent pop ups to engage and convert visitors with targeted offers. This is presented at the very moment they intend to leave your website.
- Contest pop up which offers the chance to win a great prize in exchange for an email address
All of these methods help us identify anonymous visitors so that we’re able to send relevant, personalized emails and track their behavior onsite. This helps us understand what products that person may be interested in and what emails we should send them in the future.
In order to know which emails you should send people in the future, you must first understand the key triggers and how they work.
Triggered Emails: 8 Effective Triggers That Will Help You Boost Sales
There are a number of ways to trigger emails based on customer behavior. This image below outlines the key triggers our customers use…
Here’s a brief description of each trigger (we will go into more detail for each point down below):
1) Browse Abandonment
A study from eMarketer showed that average eCommerce visit duration worldwide increased from 8.8 minutes in Q1 2015 to 9.4 minutes in Q1 2016. Customers like ‘window shopping’ online and if we’re able to identify them, we can see how interested they are in a specific product/category by how many times they visit specific pages on a site.
If they hit a certain threshold (ie. visited the ‘red shoes’ product page 3+ times but did not purchase) we can send them a browse abandonment email to get them back into purchasing mode.
2) New Subscriber Welcome Series
A new subscriber welcome series is the first email contact you’ll have with a visitor who has given you their email address which you capture via a pop up offering some sort of incentive (20% off / free shipping / $10 off), just as mentioned earlier.
This campaign helps to build trust with people who have only just discovered your brand, and you can encourage that first purchase by reminding the visitor of their incentive.
3) New Customer Welcome Series
Research shows that approximately 32% of eCommerce customers place a second order in their first year as a customer (this will vary from company to company). This welcome series focuses on building trust with a new customer, introducing them to social channels and encouraging that important second purchase which can increase your repeat purchase probability. We will explain this in greater detail down below.
4) Cart Abandonment
Cart abandonment is a very natural part of the eCommerce buying cycle. People get to the final stage of the check out process and leave. At Rejoiner, we like to think of this as a second chance to continue the conversation with an incredibly important group of potential customers by sending them a series of abandoned cart emails. We’ve found this to be one of the highest ROI campaigns you can send.
5) Cross Sell
If someone made a purchase of a particular SKU and you have a product that would compliment it perfectly, triggering a cross sell email can help customers get more value from their purchase whilst increasing your customer lifetime value.
Roughly 80% of your total revenue comes from 20% of your customer base. You should be trying to make more VIP’s and retain your current ones. Your VIP’s could be customers that have made a specific number of purchases or spent over a certain threshold.
Products that are used / consumed and need to be replenished at some point are ideal for a replenishment email campaign. Think of this as recurring revenue via email. If you sell coffee and it takes someone roughly 40 days to go through a bag of coffee, you should send them a reminder at day 35 to restock.
8) Win Back / Defection
A customer who is showing signs of defection, meaning that they have not purchased in an abnormally long period of time must be re-engaged as soon as possible otherwise it’s likely they’ll never buy from you again. Sending a win back campaign with an ‘offer they can’t refuse’ can help bring this customer back and get them buying from you again.
Rejoiner Can Create, Implement and Optimize These Triggered Emails for You…
For less than hiring a new employee.
That was a brief overview of all the triggered eCommerce emails you can send. Now we’re going to reveal eight emails almost every eCommerce company should be sending in order to grow their customer lifetime value.
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8 of the Best eCommerce Emails That Convert (Examples Included)
In general, there is a lower volume of triggered emails, but higher engagement and conversion rates thanks to better timing and contextual relevance.
Data & Marketing Association
The team at Rejoiner live by this quote.
We’ve found that sending less emails initiated by the triggers listed above is more profitable than the opposite strategy, that being; daily or weekly promotional emails with never ending and increasing discounts.
We will start this deep dive into each campaign with browse abandonment emails. This campaign helps companies move visitors further down the funnel, getting them back into buying mode and adding items to their cart.
1) Browse Abandonment Emails: Turning Window Shoppers into Customers
If you have identified a site visitor with one of the methods mentioned earlier in this guide, you’re then able to see which categories and products that person is looking at and what they may be most interested in.
With the average eCommerce visit duration increasing from 8.8 minutes to 9.4 minutes in Q1 2016, visitors are spending more time on site ‘window shopping’, and it’s our job as email marketers to use the data from their visits and purchases to deliver emails that move them into the checkout process.
With Rejoiner, customers are sending browse abandonment emails to re-engage customers who:
- Were looking at different products and categories on their site but didn’t add anything to their cart
- Looked at specific products on their site multiple times
- Looked at a variety of different products within a specific category
Browse abandonment email best practices
The mindset of a browse abandoner is that they are on your site, ‘window shopping’ from their mobile or desktop device. Because they haven’t added anything to cart, they’re not 100% sure what they’re after, or they just haven’t come across the right product yet. Whatever the reason is, prospects at this stage are still searching for what they want to buy and we need to give them a nudge and encourage them to buy the products they’ve actively shown an interest in.
Browse abandonment email case study
eCommerce fashion retailer (and Rejoiner customer) Amaroso, sell boutique womens clothing. Any person that visited a product page on Amaroso.com.au was sent a 2-step browse abandonment campaign like one below…
Email 1: The first email was sent 60 mins after they looked at a product page. This gives the shopper time to view other products on the site and make a purchase before we send them a campaign.
Email 2: Five days later, if they still haven’t made a purchase, we send them a second email that includes recommendations of top sellers from the category they were browsing five days ago.
Top sellers from the category they were browsing are dynamically inserted into the email campaigns.
In the second email we display the most popular items from that category in the hope that we can encourage them to go back to that category and complete their purchase.
2) New Subscriber Welcome Series: Introduce New Subscribers to Your Brand and Encourage That First Purchase
A new subscriber or pre-purchase welcome series continues the conversation with a email subscriber, letting her know that you appreciate her interest and telling her what to expect next.
Remember, just as you welcome people into your home or into a brick and mortar store, it’s important to provide a transition that deepens a relationship and guides the customer to the next step.
When should the welcome series go out?
Your potential customer is interested in your products and is seeking more information. Now’s not the time to be coy.
Here’s an example from Smile Direct Club…
They send a pre-purchase welcome email to new subscribers that request a smile assessment.
They start off the series with a huge 50% off to get straight teeth – all without having to leave home. This is likely an offer that their target market would not be able to refuse.
They also display two second chance calls to action:
- ‘Find Your Savings’
- ‘Book A Free Visit’
These can help increase click-through rates whilst helping people get over that hurdle of making their first purchase with a new company.
3) Welcome Emails for New Customers: Build a Stronger Connection with Your Customers and Encourage That All-Important Second Purchase
Once a visitor has made it over that first hurdle and become a customer, it’s important to get them to make that second purchase.
There are obvious reasons to want a second sale, like revenue. There are also less obvious reasons, like momentum.
RJMetrics reports only 32% of customers place a second order in their first year as a customer.
Once you take into account all customer acquisition costs such as:
- Advertising costs to acquire that customer (AdWords, Facebook and Instagram ads)
- Employee labour
- Outsourced packaging costs
There isn’t that much profit made from that first sale. Generally the profits come from repeat purchases.
Now while 32% may seem like a small percentage of customers placing a second order, one thing to note is that once they make that second purchase they’re 53% more likely to make a third, 64% to make a fourth purchase and 70% more likely to make a fifth purchase.
In the graph below you can see the increase in the repeat purchase probability (RPP) as a customer makes additional purchases.
If the RPP increases to 53% after the second purchase, focusing on getting that second purchase dramatically improves the chance that this person will turn into a very profitable customer for your business.
There are a number of ways to execute this campaign. Below we showcase Peak Design’s 2-step new customer welcome email series which helps them build trust with new customers and increase their RPP in the process.
Welcome Email Example from Peak Design
Model the seven steps Peak Design use into your new customer welcome series to help increase your chances of a new customer making their second purchase sooner:
- Welcome first time customers to the Peak Design Family
- Direct them to cool ‘New Stuff’ they can purchase
- Introduce customers to the Peak Design lifestyle with high quality images of people outdoors using their products. These images help customers future pace—i.e. mentally rehearse what their life will look like once they get to use the product they purchased.
- Convey the brand message:
- ‘We launch new products often, because we believe there’s always a better way to solve a problem’
- ‘We don’t listen to anybody but our own customers’
- Introduce customers to social channels (particular Instagram and YouTube due to the nature of Peak Design’s business)
- Direct customers to instructional videos so they can learn how to use their products properly (which helps ease the pressure on customer support)
- Make recommendations for products that work well with their first purchase
4) Abandoned Cart Emails: Reduce Your Cart Abandonment Rate and Recover Lost Revenue
The idea that 70% of online consumers engage with your site to the point where they are about to check out and abandon is nerve wracking.
The Baymard Institute, an eCommerce usability think tank, has aggregated cart abandonment data from various industry sources over the last 9 years. Bad news: Despite major advancements in technology and eCommerce user experience design, the average cart abandonment rate has remained constant.
Industry pundits portray cart abandonment as a problem that costs online retailers billions of dollars in lost revenue every year. Good news: This is an exaggeration. It’s human nature to test the waters before making a purchase. There’s no technology in the world that will eliminate it. We must accept the fact that cart abandonment is a very natural part of the eCommerce buying cycle.
What we can do is change our perspective and see shopping cart abandonment as a conversion rate optimization and customer service opportunity for us as eCommerce professionals.
How? By taking a customer-centric approach.
Customers are giving you an amazing signal of purchase intent when they abandon a transaction on your site. Think of cart abandonment emails as your second chance to continue the conversation with this incredibly important group of potential customers.
By building a quality abandoned cart email program, one of three things will happen when you follow up:
- You’ll win the order 10-15% of the time.
- You’ll find out why the customer didn’t buy and use this qualitative information to proactively improve your buying process.
- You’ll create a great customer service moment and leave an everlasting impression on the customer.
Why Customers Abandon Cart 70% of the Time
As you’ll see below, three out of the top five reasons given for abandoning an eCommerce website are cost or price related. The others describe customers who weren’t quite ready to buy yet:
- Presented with unexpected costs
- Just browsing
- Found a better price elsewhere
- Overall price to expensive
- Decided against buying
So how do we start recovering revenue from these customers that abandon? Start with these best practices…
Abandoned Cart Email Best Practices
- Approach your campaign with a customer service focus
Abandoned cart emails are your chance to continue the conversation with an extremely important group of customers: those that demonstrated the highest amount of possible purchase intent but still didn’t buy. Your job is to provide amazing customer service and find out why. To uncover these insights, include your toll free number prominently within the email and write your copy using a helpful customer service tone.
Send from a live, monitored inbox and ask your customers for feedback. Asking simple questions like, “Was there a problem?” or “How can we help?” will generate real, qualitative responses about what friction points are causing customers to abandon in the first place. This is priceless information.
To make customers feel more comfortable about providing you this feedback, send from a real person’s name and include a photograph of a real person in the footer of the email. The email Liftopia send is a great example to model.
2. Assume your customer will open abandonment emails on a mobile device
Over 50% of the 5,000,000 monthly emails sent by Rejoiner are opened on a device that is different than the one the customer originally abandoned on. Think about that for a second. More than half the time, customers will consume your email on a different device than where the first touch occurred.
If you are not employing session regeneration and customers are not signed in on their mobile devices (hint: they probably won’t be), customers will have a disjointed experience and will be less likely to go back and re-add items all over again.
Design and code responsive email templates so that they render well on mobile devices, as this is more than likely where customers will consume them. More importantly, regenerate cart sessions across devices so customers have a seamless shopping experience from device to device. (Session regeneration is the ability to restore a user’s previous shopping session regardless of the device they use to return to your site, this creates a frictionless experience for your customers and makes it easy for them to complete the checkout process.)
3. Segment abandoned carts for better targeting and filtering
For targeting purposes, segmentation enables you to identify your most valuable customers. For example, you may want to develop a special campaign for particularly high value orders or use a special offer for a customer shopping a particularly high margin SKU. The only way to accomplish this is with a flexible segmentation engine that can segment your customer data using demographic, transactional, and behavioral filters.
4. Track guests, registered customers and existing subscribers
A successful abandoned cart email program engages both guests and registered customers. Pre-submit tracking enables you to identify anonymous customers as soon as they enter an email address on your site, in real-time. So, place your email capture field as high on the checkout page as possible to give yourself the best chance to identify a guest customer before they abandon. Since registered customers have already given you their email address, you can use this to track their behavior as they move around your site.
To identify more customers earlier in the funnel, consider a triggered pop-up or opt-in that encourages customers to provide their email address earlier in the process. Tying the opt-in into your abandoned cart email program will enable you to identify a higher percentage of customers that express purchase intent, even if they don’t make it to the cart or checkout page.
5. Send a customer service email within 30 minutes of the cart being abandoned
The first abandoned cart email you send should have no other purpose other than to provide responsive customer service. Customers will abandon a purchase simply because they have unanswered questions, had a payment issue, or experienced a network delay while checking out.
Take the opportunity and use your first abandoned cart email to create a memorable customer service moment. Encourage customers to pick up the phone and call you or prompt them to reply to the email with their questions.
6. Trigger in real-time using the customer’s last action on your website
It’s hard to believe that there are still email vendors and eCommerce platforms sending “batched” cart abandonment email campaigns in 2017. This is a big missed opportunity for the retailers they serve.
A batched approach sends to all customers who abandon in a twenty four hour time period, at the same time. This method is sometimes still used because a retailer is using old technology, and sending them all at once (say in the morning) is easier than sending them manually each time someone abandons their cart.
In comparison, a real-time campaign triggers email sends on a per-customer level based on their last interaction on your website. Ensure your cart abandonment software gives you this ability.
Getting that first email out within 60 minutes of a customer’s last interaction on your site is critical for two possible outcomes:
- Getting a response from the customer about why they didn’t buy (before they buy somewhere else).
- Providing great customer service and winning back the sale.
7. Send a second and third email to customers who haven’t purchased
If your first email wasn’t successful at converting the customer or eliciting a response, try sending a second and third email. Track customer replies and suppress the remaining emails for customers who respond with customer service questions or convert. Sending 3 emails 30-60 minutes, 24 hours and 3 days post abandon is the most common cadence retailers start with.
Here’s a campaign from a Rejoiner customer to give you an idea of the % of revenue each email generates.
8. Employ discounts/offers intelligently
Including discount codes in your abandoned cart email program seems like a no-brainer. It is to some degree, but be aware of the pitfalls:
Common concern centers on training customers to abandon transactions on purpose, just to receive a discount. This can be mitigated with intelligent frequency capping. Frequency capping catches the customers who are abusing the system and stops any emails from being sent to them.
Another frequent concern is that discount codes included in abandoned cart emails will be leaked into the public domain. This can be eliminated by generating one-time use codes dynamically and making them unique to individual customers. This means that every customer will receive a unique code that can only be used once. (While this sounds complicated it’s actually pretty easy to set up).
Abandoned Cart Email Example by Kate Spade
The more nuanced argument against including discounts is the belief that you’re cannibalizing a sale that had a likelihood to happen anyway, thus giving away margin. This is partially true.
There will be a percentage of customers who abandon cart that would have come back to complete their purchase without an incentive. The only way to measure the true incremental lift of sending an offer versus not sending it is to run a hold out test. Hold out tests measure the purchase behavior of control groups who don’t receive any emails and compare the value of those customers to a test group of customers who do receive an offer. Comparing the revenue generated by the control group to the test group gives us a true understanding of how much additional revenue is being generated and if there is enough lift to warrant a coupon or offer.
5) Cross Sell Email Campaigns to Increase LTV
If someone purchases one of your products and you know they would get value from a related or complementary item, then this is the perfect time to send a cross-sell email to that customer.
Here’s an example from Rejoiner customer, Bavsound, an eCommerce company that sells BMW audio upgrades. Bavsound sends a cross-sell email campaign to customers that purchased a Stage One Speaker, offering a Subwoofer Upgrade to complement the original speaker purchase.
See the example below:
To make this campaign work, you simply find two products that can be used together: X and Y.
Using your email service providers segment builder, you then build the following segment: Has purchased X, has not purchased Y.
You should only send this campaign for products that work perfectly together, so that when someone opens this email their first thought will be: “This looks useful…”
And next thing they are on your site, looking at pictures of the product and getting back into buying mode again.
6) VIP’s: Your Most Profitable Customer Segment
The 80/20 rule states: 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
A general rule of thumb in business is that 80% of your profits are generated by 20% of your customers.
In B2C eCommerce, that ratio can be even more dramatic for some companies. On top of that, 80/20 is fractal, meaning:
- 20% of 20% of customers = 4% of customers
- Will deliver 80% of the total 80% = 64% of profits
In summary: 4% of customers will yield 64% of total profits.
So your job as an email marketer is to find who is in that 4%–aka your VIP segment–and market to them accordingly, encouraging them to buy more and grow your business.
To define this segment you need to think about the characteristics of what makes a VIP for your company. Is a VIP based on a customer’s:
- Total number of purchases?
- Total spend?
- Average order value?
- Frequency of purchases?
Define those business rules first, then set up a VIP segment so you know who to target, then thank your best customers for their business and give them special treatment, not just another discount. Here’s what we mean…
VIP’s are already loyal customers. Discounts can help encourage more purchases, but this group of customers don’t necessarily need (or want) more discount offers.
They want to feel special.
VIP email campaigns should target your best customers and make them feel appreciated.
The VIP email below is from the head of Men’s Design at J.Crew, telling a story about a new product, where it came from, and it gives the VIP a chance to buy it before anyone else (and before it sells out).
Take a look:
There’s no discount and no free shipping offer. Just exclusivity.
Here are a few ideas for VIP campaigns you can run:
- Invitations to new product launches
- Invitations to the company headquarters
- Invitations to private parties
- Invitations to private shopping experiences in store
- Exclusive products only available to VIP’s
Scarcity and exclusivity help to create wonderful offers and make VIP’s feel special and connected to your brand, and that just makes them want to buy more.
7) Replenishment Email Campaigns: Generate Recurring Revenue Each Month
Replenishable products are those that have an average useful life or are consumed over a period of time by your customers.
This includes products such as:
Segmenting these customers creates an opportunity for time-induced reorder campaigns.
If you sell consumable products, try segmenting customers based on what you believe is the typical consumption period for a given product, then trigger a campaign at the end of that consumption cycle. (i.e. For 30 day cycle of vitamins, send a re-order campaign at day 20).
You may find that customers just need a gentle push to drive that reorder, which means more recurring revenue for your company.
This campaign works best with products that have very predictable usage patterns. Identify the consumable used and build campaigns that target the exact moment the product is scheduled to run out.
Here’s an example from Rockin’ Wellness:
Rockin’ Wellness uses 30 and 60 day replenishments.
- If the product is meant to last 30 days, a replenishment email is sent out 20 days post-purchase.
- If it’s a 60 day supply, an email is sent out on day 50.
This campaign (above) triggers two emails at 20 and 25 days post-purchase to encourage the customer to stock up before they run out.
Replenishment email campaigns can provide a great source of recurring revenue if triggered at the right moment (and if customers cannot get enough of your products!)
8) Win Back Email Campaigns: Win Back Customers That You’re About to Lose
A win back email has the goal of re-engaging a customer who is exhibiting signs of defection. Defection means that the customer is no longer shopping with you and has not purchased for an abnormally long period of time.
The key idea is to measure what “normal” and “abnormal” periods of time look like for your customer base. You need to understand how long does it take the average customer to go from purchase 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, 4 to 5, etc. Understanding the average time between purchase periods gives us the ability to assess when customers have crossed the threshold into “abnormal” behavior.
We then plot average time periods between purchases and can understand what the customer lifecycle looks like for any business. Here’s an example:
Notice that in the early part of the customer lifecycle, engagement with the company is accelerating as the time between each purchase decreases.
These are customers who are heavily engaged with your brand and want more. Then after the 4th purchase, engagement starts to decrease and the latency between purchase events starts to increase. We’ve all been here as consumers — we start off heavily engaged with a brand and then lose interest over time.
The important part of this analysis as it relates to win back campaigns is being able to determine when that deceleration starts to occur. In the example above, deceleration starts after a customer has made their 4th purchase.
This is perfect moment to trigger your win back campaign as your customer is signaling signs of deceleration.. aka defection.
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Here’s the thing: This analysis brings to light that sending customers marketing before the point of deceleration is the equivalent of sending a promotion to a customer who was going to purchase anyway. It’s lost profit margin and abuse of your customer’s attention.
Now, once we determine the point of deceleration, it’s time to build a win back series to engage those customers who are behaving “abnormally”.
This is the rare case where we recommend pulling out all the stops with your discounting approach. Remember, these are customers who are defecting and it’s our job to get these customers back to the site and purchasing again to extend their customer lifecycle.