The Power of (Love) Email Automation

The Power of (Love) Email Automation

Email automation can help your brand scale communication with a whole range of customers without requiring significant resource or cost. How? Read on!

Written by Louis Thompson

13 min read

3 Email Marketing Automations to Drive Revenue & Engagement

In typical marketing fashion, I crafted a blog title that made you click through to this page in a vain attempt to find out what “The Power of Love” truly is, or maybe you thought there would be a YouTube video of the hit song by Celine Dion or Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Unfortunately, none of the above is the case, but we have put links to the relevant YouTube videos, should you want to listen to any of those songs while reading this post - which is in fact about email automation and how it can help your business.

Struggling for time? Let me give you the TL;DR version. Email automation can help your brand scale your communication with a whole range of customers without requiring significant resource or cost.

For those of you with longer attention spans who want to relax by reading the lengthier version of the post, you’re in luck.

Where Did Email Marketing Start?

Before we get into specifics around automation, let’s talk a little bit about email.

The first use of email marketing was actually in 1978 by Gary Thuerk, making it one of the oldest digital marketing tactics. He sent the email to around 400 recipients (none of which double opted in) on behalf of Digital Equipment Corp. This email alone created around $13 million in sales which even by today's standards is a pretty good return.

From as early as 1989 people have been predicting that email would be replaced by other emerging technologies and despite somebody writing something every year since proclaiming the death of email, it continues to be one of the most valuable tactics you can use as part of an integrated strategy.

That doesn’t mean you should immediately jump on your email marketing platform and start hitting people with emails every day. In fact, in an October 2017 survey, 1 in 4 people said that getting too many emails was the main reason they would unsubscribe. If I Googled for long enough, I am sure I could find another, more recent survey that ratifies this data too, but common sense tells us that this is obvious even without doing a survey.

My point is, even at a very basic level, email marketing can yield impressive results when done correctly. It is still an opportunity to communicate with your whole audience for a very low cost and deliver messages directly rather than depending on an algorithm to present your message.

Advances in technology and email marketing technology specifically just means that we can now easily do what we should have been doing for a long time anyway i.e. making our messaging and communication more personalised. Yes that means segmentations of data, understanding of customer behaviour and lots of other things, but that feels like another blog post to me. For now let’s focus on the automation side of things and try to create a great foundation in automation that is personalised, effective, engaging and drives revenue.

Email Automation

In its simplest form, email automation means you can automatically send an email, or series of emails, to users based on different behaviour triggers. Think “If this then that” for email e.g. IF [customer abandons cart] THEN [send abandoned cart email]. This is one of the most common automations. In fact, Shopify does this out of the box without you even having to think about it.

Where automation can get exponentially more effective and interesting is when you expand automation flows out across different behaviours/triggers, over extended periods of time and adjust/personalise them as people’s behaviour changes.

To be clear, not all email marketing platforms are going to allow you to do all of these kinds of things. Some platforms offer simple automations and others more complex, behaviour based automations. It’s also worth considering that not all website platforms are going to be automatically passing the data you need to your email platform that it will need to properly execute email automation.

We are lucky enough to be working on shopify and with key email marketing partners like Klaviyo and Bronto that allow us to implement the integrations we need very quickly without the need to significant technical planning or developer intervention. Shopify not only passes over a whole wealth of data about customers, both of these email marketing platforms allow you to utilise that data in a really effective way.

Right...that’s the “let’s talk about our partner” bit done, let’s talk about some actual automations you can get set up straight away and should have a direct impact on everything from customer engagement through to revenue generation.

Abandoned Cart Email Automation

As I mentioned before, Shopify will give you a single abandoned cart email out of the box. You don’t have to do anything if you really don’t want to, however, there are some restrictions with this.

1 - You only get one abandoned cart email

2 - You are limited on the time delay you can set on an abandoned cart i.e. you can only send your email either 1 hour, 6 hours, 10 hours or 24 hours after a checkout is abandoned.

Shopify recommends an abandoned cart at 10 hours, but in my experience, multiple emails work better overall as long as they are implemented correctly. Our standard abandoned cart flow looks something like the below and is then adjusted and optimised based on performance.

First Email - One hour after cart abandonment

This email is just a gentle reminder. In many cases when someone abandons their cart, they just need a little nudge. At this point, they may have just been distracted by something shiny and just need a little reminder. Don’t make the mistake of putting a discount code in this email. I’m not saying it won’t be effective, but users have been well trained to see if an abandoned cart email contains a discount. If you do this, you are essentially telling your user that every time they abandon cart they will get a discount.

Second Email - One day after cart abandonment

As opposed to simply giving people a little nudge, the second email should serve to reinforce and remind people why they may have wanted to make a purchase in the first place. This could be reinforcing brand values or even discussing USPs of the products themselves. Generally speaking, we still avoid promoting any specific incentive at this stage, and certainly not a monetary incentive. You can use a variety of tactics to increase cart recovery depending on what kind of brand you are, but creating scarcity or limiting time can often work well. Potentially think about discussing stock levels or the amount of time left to recover the cart to encourage people to make their decisions.

Third Email - 6 Days After Cart Abandonment

In previous abandoned cart emails, I recommended no discounts to avoid losing out on a full price sale, however, by day 7, if someone hasn’t already purchased, it is looking like they need a little more than a nudge. It’s this point where discounts can have a larger impact on conversion. Whereas the first two emails happen in quite quick succession, the 3rd email has given them time to forget what they were doing completely. If you are not careful, it is also a great opportunity to annoy people away from your brand. That’s why you have to add more value than you may have done previously.

Even a small discount or added value (e.g. a free gift or potentially some directions to a hidden treasure) can take a customer who has disengaged from the idea of purchasing and drive them back into the process.

These three emails are obviously a starter and you should monitor closely and make your own tests to see what works best for you customers. Look at the data and test all of the elements to see what improvements you can make, but it should be clear that abandoned cart emails are usually one of the highest revenue drivers when it comes to email automation. If they aren’t driving revenue, it’s likely they your setup isn't right rather than abandoned carts just not working.

Welcome Flow Email Automation

A welcome flow is a little less transactional than some of the other automations we’ll discuss in this post, but its value goes far beyond direct revenue. Different people will utilise this in different ways, but generally speaking our rule for a welcome flow is anyone who signs up to a newsletter/accepts marketing, but is yet to make a purchase.

What this email flow is absolutely, unequivocally, not designed to do in the early stages, is shove so much product down people’s throats that they sick up a fully stocked ecommerce website. Take your time.

The welcome flow is there to do a few things before you start talking about your product, but the main outcome is having customers who build up a rapport and relationship with your brand and feel like you are adding value to them rather than just asking for their cash. The only time product should come into play in the early stages of a welcome flow is if you offered some kind of incentive to get people to sign up. If this was a discount code then give them the code straight away and show them the products you recommend.

You can also get success by offering people exclusive or private content that they can only get via your email marketing e.g. “Sign up to get our top 5 tips on x” or “Download a Free Copy of our Ebook on X”. In this case, your welcome flow is defined by how people sign up.

The important thing to remember is that when people sign up to your newsletter or site, they are exchanging their data and they expect something in return. That may include information about products, but if it only includes product, they will eventually unsubscribe or worse, become apathetic and just stop engaging with your emails.

Here’s what a foundation welcome flow might look like off the back of an incentivised sign up:

Email 1 - Immediately after sign up

The first and most important call to action post-signup when the signup has been incentivised if to give people free, unrestricted access to the incentive. There is no need for pre-amble. People have clearly given their data in exchange for something and you should make sure they get it straight away. If a discount, make the discount code clear and link them to the relevant area of the site where the discount can be used. With Shopify, you can also auto-apply the discount code so the user doesn’t have to worry about copying and pasting. For free downloads etc. give them a direct link to the download.

It’s worth noting that there are lots of “If this then that” type scenarios off the back of this initial email that I won’t go into. If user clicks link to download free item then move to email two, otherwise send reminder email regarding free download. The same applies with discount codes i.e. If user makes a purchase using discount code, move to email two otherwise send reminder of discount. My recommendation would be to start with the basic foundation and build logical complexity piece by piece.

Email 2 - 7 Days After Signup

Use this as an opportunity to tell more of your brand story. Personally, I would take sales out of the equation completely at this point. Your aim should be to continue to add value to the user and build a relationship. Anyone who owns a business will be aware of the LinkedIn demons who connect with you and instantly pitch you their wares. Well sending someone a sales email immediately after a sign up is the equivalent and it’s as annoying in direct to consumer sales as it is in business to business. Talk about your core brand values and why they might resonate with your customer base.

Email 3 - 14 Day After Signup

Continuing along the lines of building brand salience, talk through why you do what you do and why you do it so well. There is the chance for you to ask for something small in return at this point. Point people in the direction of your social media profiles and give them a reason to follow. You could even showcase some of your flagship content on your blog.

Email 4 - 21 Days After Sign Up

At long last, you can start to introduce product. I know you have been tempted with every email, but if you offer enough value early on, when you finally do introduce product, the likelihood of people buying into your vision and therefore purchasing your product is much higher. What you should also have at this point is some user behaviour data at your disposal. If you have managed to drive traffic to your site and people have started browsing products, then your recommendations can be much more personalised. With some email service providers (e.g. Klaviyo), you can insert these dynamic blocks and have products pulled in automatically based on previous behaviour.

Alternatively, there are a variety of apps such as Nosto that work to segment users by their affinity to specific products and collections and have these populated within each email.

Once you have setup your initial welcome series, you can continuously extend it with standard campaign/content emails that aren’t time sensitive, or choose to move people into different automated flows based on their previous behaviour.

Post Purchase Email Automation

It’s a long established fact that the cost to acquire a new customer is much higher than the cost to retain and engage existing customers. It can cost up to 5 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one and not only that, increasing retention of existing customers by just 5% can increase profits by anywhere between 25% to 95%. These numbers are quite broad, but what is clear is, if your customer journey ends after the first purchase, you are almost certainly missing out on revenue that should be fairly easy for you to pick up.

A post-purchase email workflow can help you to pick some of this revenue up with little to no extra effort on your part while simultaneously having an amazing impact on your customer journey. Before you dash off to set up a post-purchase email workflow where you throw a load more products at people, please read on. There are a few things to consider.

A post purchase email workflow should focus on doing a few things before it tries to introduce new products to people.

1 - The transactional post purchase emails should work to keep your users fully informed on everything from order confirmation and product dispatches through to tracking shipping. This is all covered off as standard within Shopify so if you are using the platform, just make sure everything is branded and utilises your tone of voice.

2 - It should make sure the user is happy with their product and offer them the opportunity to raise any issues, give clear instructions on returns and this should all happen before you ask for feedback. You can usually get this right by setting the time delays on your post-purchase flows to coincide with expected deliveries.

3 - Once you are happy that the customer has received their items and is happy, ask for reviews. Reviews can be used across all digital platforms as “social proof”. This means you can utilise the experience of existing customers to bolster confidence and encourage purchases with new customers. This can be done through your existing email service provider but platforms like Trust Pilot also have some built in templates and automation you can use in line with your general automation.

4 - Is the user making the most of their product. Sometimes users buy things that require little to no explanation, but some products have multiple uses and your users may not even know about them. Send them videos, tutorials, blogs and whatever else you can think of to show them how they can get the most out of their purchase without asking for them to buy something extra on top.

The above should be the minimum foundation of any post purchase email workflow. It may need you to work out timings across multiple platforms to make it feel seamless, but what it does mean is you can ensure that when you start talking about product, you are talking to customers who have successfully purchased and had a good experience with your brand.

When you start to talk about product, there are a few ways you can ensure that what you are presenting to the user is relevant. This varies depending on the product but there are some basic questions/principles you can use to put this together.

1 - Is your product likely to be a recurring purchase? If you know your product goes through a natural replacement cycle (like tyres on a car), then you can estimate when your user is likely to be looking at their next purchase and should set your post-purchase product reminders in line with this life-cycle.

2 - If your product is not consumable and another purchase is not likely in the very near future your focus should be on relevance. What additional products will enhance their existing purchase or potentially be closely related based on their interest? As with other email workflows, these cross-sells can be dynamically inserted into email using “if this then that” type functionality i.e. if user bought a bicycle but not a helmet, cross-sell from the safety equipment category.

3 - How long ago did the user buy the product? If the user bought the initial model when it first came out and you have released a product that you think is an all around better fit for them, let them know why. Maybe even offer them the opportunity to trade in their old model.

These are just a few principles that underlie post-purchase automated workflows. Use your own data and insights to expand these out and make them as personalised and relevant as possible to your audience. Just remember to ensure the customer has everything they need and is happy with the purchase first and sell to them later.

Conclusion

The core reason for automating email marketing is to give any brand, big or small, the ability to scale their email marketing efforts without having to add significant time or resources. I would estimate that with a good email marketing provider with a solid integration to an ecommerce platform like Shopify, the foundation automations could be set up and running in less than 1 day depending on the complexity of your email designs and personalisation elements. You can then work on expanding thee bit by bit until eventually you have expansive, data-driven, heavily personalised email marketing that works for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (until the robot uprising when automated programmes will inevitably demand the standard 5 day working week).

There are a whole host of other automations you could also look to implement and there are far too many to mention here and it is very much dependant on the data your hold for you users. For many of our clients, we look to enrich data over time in order to enable further automation.

This could be birthdays, anniversaries or even taking shopping behaviour data like customer lifetime value, 'time since last purchase' or lapsed subscribers.

Each one of these data points give you the opportunity to communicate and add value to your users and increase revenue with little to no extra effort on your part.

Little effort doesn’t mean no effort by the way. There is still work to be done once an automation is up and running, even though the bulk of the effort is in the setup. Like all things digital, the job is rarely complete. You should be reviewing your data, assessing if there is anything working particularly well or particularly badly and expanding the good stuff while removing the bad. You can also think about split testing specific elements of specific email to see if you can improve open and click through rates. Look at the subject lines and call to actions etc. and try different wording, colours, positioning.

Implement, test, learn, adjust, repeat.

This should be the mantra for all digital marketing and email is no exception.

As always, if you are struggling to get results or need some help with any aspect of your digital marketing, get in touch and one of our specialists will be more than happy to help you out.

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