24 April 2019

7 Automated Email Campaigns That Win Customers and Keep Them Coming Back

Email marketing automation is a powerful customer retention tool for online retailers. The trouble is, many companies don’t know which automated email campaigns are worth prioritizing and testing.

There’s significant upside to adopting email marketing. It generates the highest return on investment (ROI) out of the most common digital channels, earning businesses an average of $38 for every dollar invested, according to a VentureBeat Insight study. It also cites that “84% of marketers believe email is important or critically important for customer loyalty.”

Email continues to provide a high-leverage way to encourage repeat purchases, making your ecommerce business less dependant on the sometimes unreliable flow of new customers. Email marketing helps you build your brand and get better customers who spend more money with you.

Equally exciting is email’s potential to provide lasting value to your business with just a few starter campaigns. In fact, there are 7 automated email campaigns that nearly every ecommerce business can benefit from implementing.

I’m going to walk you through which email automations you should consider, what you need to know before you start broadcasting, and how to make the most of each email.

Table of Contents

  1. Abandoned cart email series

According to research from the Baymard Institute, as many as 81.4% of online shopping carts are abandoned. That’s a lot of money left on the table from shoppers who were interested enough to add your product to their cart.

Fortunately, there’s good news: While Business Insider estimates online retailers will lose as much as $4 trillion to cart abandonment, it also estimates that savvy ones can recover about 63% of that lost revenue. That’s why it’s crucial to have a cart abandonment strategy, and automated cart abandonment emails that support it.

To maximize effectiveness, take this automated email campaign further than a single reminder email. Consider a sequence of emails, and you can continue to reap the benefits long after you push the campaign live.

How to set up an abandoned cart email series

When you send your abandoned cart emails is important. Though there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, we generally recommend the following as a place to start if you don’t have your own data:

  • Email 1: send 24 hours later.
  • Email 2: send 48 hours later.
  • Email 3: send 72 hours later.

Over time, look at your data to determine if and how you need to adjust. Look at when conversion rates start to drop to determine when you can end the sequence. Don’t be afraid to send four, five, six or more emails, especially if that’s what your metrics are telling you.

Bottom line: If people keep buying from your cart abandonment emails, you should keep sending them.

Email 1: Remind shoppers of what they left behind

Most companies distribute discounts and promo codes immediately after a cart’s abandoned, and savvy shoppers have caught on. Some will abandon just to see if you’ll send a discount. If your go-to strategy is using offers, you’re throwing your margins to the wind. Instead, use the first email as a simple reminder: Tell shoppers that they left something in their cart. Show them a picture of the product if your template allows. Add low-cost benefits, and include a link that takes them directly to checkout.

Email 2: Handle objections

What’s the main reason people aren’t buying your products? Now’s a good time to address those objections head-on, and convince subscribers that your product is worth buying.

If you don’t know what people’s objections are, you’ll want to ask. Add a question to your first email that solicits feedback about why they didn’t complete the purchase. Run it for a month, and you’ll have a baseline of data around why people aren’t converting.

Use those insights to guide how you build out the second email of your cart abandonment series. Maybe you need to emphasize your free shipping or provide additional social proof through reviews and testimonials from happy customers.

Email 3: Offer a discount or incentive

If people haven’t converted after the first email, you’ll want to add extra motivation. Now’s the time to send a discount. Whether it’s a percentage, dollar amount, free gift or other offer, you’ll want to use something that both compels people to action and works well for your margins. Run an A/B test to find out which approach is more effective for your audience.

Remember to include a picture of the product(s) if possible, and an obvious link back to the shopping cart so customers can complete their purchase.

  1. Welcome email series

A welcome email is the first email someone receives when they join your mailing list. You can have a welcome email for customers, but in this case, we’re talking about a welcome email for new subscribers who haven’t converted yet.

According to 2016 data from Omnisend, welcome emails have an average open rate of 45%, versus 18% for promotional emails. Shoppers are actively paying attention to and engaging with these messages, so it’s a great opportunity for businesses.

How to set up a welcome email series

As you’ll see in the examples below, an effective welcome email has several goals:

  • Welcome new subscribers.
  • Give users an incentive to purchase.
  • Set the right expectations.
  • Connect with subscribers on other channels.

Welcome new subscribers

Your first email should welcome new subscribers and introduce your brand. Craft a few sentences that begin the story of your brand, how you’re different, what you have in common with shoppers, and why shoppers should be excited.

Give users an incentive to purchase

If you offered subscribers a coupon in exchange for their email address, make sure you set up your email automation to actually send the coupon code in the email. Create an obvious CTA that takes users directly to your website to redeem the coupon. If you offered a PDF or something else in exchange for an email, make sure it’s included in the first one.

Set the right expectations

The idea of setting expectations ties in with welcoming and introducing subscribers to your brand. You want them to look forward to future emails, so tell them what you’ll be sending, and remember to reiterate the value. Will you send helpful content, cool videos, promo codes, or something else? How will your subscribers benefit from this?

Get creative. Don’t be the one-trick online retailer who only sends discount codes. Treat your subscribers like friends, not as bits and bytes in your database.

Connect with subscribers on other channels

You might also want to link to your social media profiles and other channels where you’d like subscribers to connect. Rather than being the sole focus of an email, this could be a component to one or more emails. Including other ways to connect is a great way to get users to engage with your brand on multiple channels, giving you more chances to stay top-of-mind.

Mention your social media profiles, print catalog, brick-and-mortar stores and other mediums towards the end of your emails.

  1. Email nurture series

Automated email campaigns are perfectly suited for lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is when you guide shoppers through each stage of the sales cycle, ultimately driving them to purchase. Here the 3/47/50 rule for the approach to lead nurturing:

  • 3% of your visitors are ready to buy now.
  • 47% of your visitors aren’t ready to buy now, but they will buy sometime in the future.
  • 50% of your visitors will never buy.

It’s a general rule and not a scientific fact, but we find it helpful in outlining the benefits of nurture campaigns for ecommerce.

Most companies focus on the 3 out of 100 visitors who are ready to buy now, and then there’s the roughly half of all shoppers who will never buy no matter what we do. That means most stores are willingly leaving the 47% of potential customers unaddressed because they’re not nurturing subscribers properly. That’s where an email nurture series comes in.

How to set up an email nurture series

Instead of blasting people with promotions every week and focusing mostly on discounts, think about how you can add value outside of an offer. Your subscribers are people. Yes, they may want and need your product, but there’s a lot more that you can help them with. Doing so will help differentiate your brand from competitors, and establish yourself as an authority in your industry.

While you can put products in these emails, don’t make that the focus. Instead, prioritize the content that’s helpful to your subscribers, and doesn’t cannibalize your brand (i.e. don’t promote your competitors). Here are some specific ideas:

Email 1: Educate subscribers

Teach your email list something, either about your product specifically, or something relevant to your product or audience. The concept is to take one idea and see what it leads to.

Email 2: Help subscribers get to know your brand

You use the welcome email as the first introduction to your brand. Your email nurture series is where you can expand on your brand story.

Craft an email or series of emails that tell the story of your brand and why you’re different. Tie your brand to a bigger purpose if you can.

Email 3: Embrace storytelling

Everyone loves a compelling story, so if you can find a notable one from a staff member, customer or even your own life, use it as a topic for a nurture email. Short on ideas for stories?

Ultimately, stories are effective lead nurturing tools because they humanize your brand and make it interesting and relatable for shoppers.

Email 4: Engage based on site behavior

If a user has engaged with live chat, on social media or via some other means that you’re able to collect their email, send a follow-up message related to that initial action.

  1. New customer email series

The email you send to a first-time customer is critical. If you skip this opportunity, you could leave a significant sum of money on the table. You have the chance to start a relationship with shoppers that leads to lifelong loyalty and brand advocacy.


How to set up a new customer email series

The first thing to understand about new customers is that they’re in a precarious position. They trust you enough to buy something once, but they’ve probably had bad purchasing experiences before and, subconsciously, they’re afraid you might be another company that fails to deliver. If you do come up short, it’s unlikely they’ll buy from you again.

On the other hand, if you deliver on the customer experience, new buyers are more likely to become repeat customers who support your business for years to come.

Email 1: Welcome email

When to send: Immediately.

Similar to the series for new subscribers, the email for new customers welcomes them into your tribe, performs more brand indoctrination, and explains what’s next. How long will it take for their order to leave the warehouse? When will it arrive? What’s your return policy? This is also a great time to suggest related products, but it should have an obvious link to what they just bought, which will help avoid coming across too pushy.

Email 2: Check-in email

When to send: ~3 days later.

Check in with customers and ask them how everything went. Consumers are used to being ignored by companies during this process, and you can stand out by asking them to get in touch if they need anything.

Make it easy for them to get in touch. Tell customers to replay directly to the email rather than making them submit a contact form or support request.

Email 3: Product arrival

When to send: 2 days after the product should have arrived.

This is a simple email informing customers that their product should have arrived. Ask them if the product did in fact arrive and, more importantly, if it arrived safely. Knowing about potential problems as soon as possible is better than letting a frustrating situation fester. This also shows that you’re proactive in providing support.

Email 4: Product review

When to send: ~4-5 days later.

This is another simple email which you can use to solicit feedback. This helps to drive sales because today’s online shoppers use customer reviews during the purchase process. According to The eMarketer Ecommerce Insights Report, almost a quarter of consumers said they always look at customer reviews, while 40.8% said they use them often. Ask customers to leave a review for your product if they were satisfied with their purchase.

Email 5: Time-sensitive promotion

When to send: ~5 days later.

Create a time-sensitive promotion that relates to customers’ interests. Offer a discount on the same category of items that they bought in the week before. Living Social frequently uses expiring deals in their email automations, emphasizing how little time is left to snag the savings. They could take it a step further by offering personalized recommendations based on users’ browsing behavior.

Email 6: Follow-up promotion

When to send: ~1 day after the time-sensitive promotion.

Follow up on your promotion. Remind them of the time limit, such as if there’s only 24 hours left.

  1. Repeat customer email series

Repeat customers make up almost a quarter of revenue, although they only make up 11% of the customer base, according to a Stitch Labs report about customer loyalty. You’ll have an easier time creating an entire automated email campaign targeted at strengthening relationships with existing customers than trying to attract new ones.

How to set up an email series for repeat customers

Repeat customers should be treated differently than your new customers. They know, like and trust your business, and that trust is founded on previous positive experiences. What repeat customers need is relevant information and products that solve their problems. So with your repeat customers, your job is to focus more on offers related to customer interests and being helpful.

Email 1: Checking-in

When to send: 2 days after the product should have arrived.

This first email, like the check-in email for new customers, should make sure the delivery went well and the product arrived as expected. Depending on the product, this could also be a good time to ask for a review.

Email 2: Personalized recommendations

When to send: 4 days later.

Because these are repeat customers, you know more about their preferences. That makes it easier to send a product offer tailored to them. The best part? You don’t need to discount prices or offer a promo code. Simply curating personalized product recommendations is providing value enough. uses shoppers’ browsing and search history on their platform to offer up related destinations. They highlight the low prices available and the benefits of their customer loyalty program.

  1. Ecommerce email receipts

Email receipts are a virtual goldmine of sales and revenue: Receipts get an average open rate of 70.9%, compared with the ecommerce average of 17.9%, Conversion reports. That means that they’re the perfect place to make an offer and encourage your customers to take other kinds of action.

How to set up ecommerce email receipts

Optimizing your email receipts is relatively straightforward. Take your default email receipts with pertinent information, such as a transaction number, name/photo of the purchased product(s), shipping details, how to contact support, and payment information. Then add the extra stuff, like product recommendations, and links to your social media profiles.

  1. Re-engagement email series

Over time, your subscribers may start to ignore your emails. A re-engagement, or “win-back”, automated email campaign can reignite interest. One Return Path study found that nearly half of users who receive these emails will open and engage with subsequent ones.

How to set up a re-engagement email series

While there are a few ways to run automated email campaigns like this, there are some fundamentals to remember:

  • Begin with a reminder.
  • Follow up with an amazing offer.
  • Inform subscribers that you’re going to delete or unsubscribe them soon.
  • Unsubscribe inactive users.


Email 1: Meaningful discount

If subscribers haven’t responded to our first email sequence, introduce a meaningful discount paired with a compelling message to make a return visit. How big of an offer can you make? It could be a discount, free gift with purchase or even product bundle. Keep your margins in mind, but if there’s a time to offer a steeper discount than usual, that time is now.

You want to use something that’s going to push customers to your site to buy. Be willing to lose money on this sale; once customers are reengaged, they’ll spend more money with you in the future.

Email 2: Removal from list

Kindly inform subscribers that they’ll be deleted if they don’t respond or make a purchase. Give them a specific date or period of time to take action so they don’t put it off for later. This is a good place to remind customers about the offer you made in the last email.

Email 3: Unsubscribe

If they haven’t responded, follow through with your word and unsubscribe users. You’ll also want to let them know that they’ve been unsubscribed, in case they missed the first email or didn’t have a chance to respond. Include a link where they can easily resubscribe to your email list or adjust their email preferences. This is also a good time to give a final reminder of your offer.

Email marketing automation best practices

Mind your “from” name and email

Choose an effective subject line

Use the preheader text

Keep it focused

Remember mobile


Mind your “from” name and email

The name in the “from” field of the email is what shows up in inboxes. Here, you want to use something that’s familiar to subscribers. In many cases, you’ll want to use your brand or company name, like following here:

If your brand has a strong personal element, like Martha Stewart or Oprah, use someone’s actual name.

As far as your actual email address, make yourself accessible. Avoid the standard “” email address. If people want to email you, whether to ask a question, give feedback, or something else, they should be able to. Use something like “”, “” or “”.


Choose an effective subject line

The subject line is the first impression and will ultimately determine whether your emails are opened or not. Brainstorm several subject lines for every email you send and test two to three subject lines for every email. Over time, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t, and you can apply those learnings to increase the effectiveness of your email automation campaigns. Here are some best practices:

  • Avoid “sales” and other overused words. They don’t always trigger spam filters, but many subscribers will ignore them.
  • Personalize whenever possible. Include their name in the subject line or preheader text, and send personalized offers based on user preferences.
  • Variety is essential. Don’t reuse similar subject lines.
  • Keep it brief. Most people scan their inboxes, so make it easy on them. Use 50 characters or less.
  • Don’t go overboard with promotion. Avoid hype, all caps and exclamation marks. Sell the benefits, but be honest and straightforward about it.
  • Don’t mislead your audience. If your email contains a coupon code for a 10% discount code, don’t try to trick them into opening the email by saying something like “Dinner?”
  • If possible, include some sense of urgency.

Use the preheader text

After the from name and subject line, recipients see the preheader text. Often, this is the first line of the email or the standard “View email in browser”, but you actually have the ability to customize it.

Keep it focused

Once someone’s opened your email, you’ve won half the battle. Now you want to encourage click-through. Make the next course of action as simple as possible, giving them one main offer. If you have multiple offers, make it clear which one is the priority.


Remember mobile

More than half of people open email on smartphones, so it’s important to optimize your emails for mobile devices. Many email service providers automatically do this, but it’s important to test across devices to maintain a positive and consistent experience.

Create your automated email campaigns

Now that we’ve covered seven automated email campaigns you can try, as well as some best practices, make your way through this list to set up your sequences. Once they’re up and running, collect the data and analyze it to see how you can further improve your campaigns for ongoing results.

Remember, the sooner you start, the better. Every day through these campaigns you could be generating more sales effortlessly.




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