The ultimate guide to getting started with email automation for eCommerce

Email automation is a topic that is often spoke about. However, there is a very large number of eCommerce stores that do not currently utilise this powerful tool.

I did a little experiment recently. I signed up to 100 eCommerce store’s email lists and only 4 of them sent me an actual welcome email.

This is huge! Especially when you consider email marketing is 40x more effective at getting customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.

This doesn't even factor in the long-term impact of building better relationships has on your average customer lifetime value...a big increase.

By not using email your eCommerce store is leaving a ton of money on the table!

This prompted me to write this article about how to get started with email automation for eCommerce.

I want to help you set your business up for long-term success by helping you implement an effective email automation system.

In this article I will walk you through the basics of email automation and then give you 5 tips to help you go pro.

getting started with email automation for eCommerce

What is email automation?

Email automation is the process of sending an email automatically based on actions the recipient takes.

This can simply be an email sent after signing up to a newsletter. Or even an email sent to someone who has purchased a certain item from your store.

If you think this sounds little complicated, don't worry, there are email platforms available that make setting up this automations incredibly straightforward.

I will recommend a couple great platforms that make it really easy to get started with email automation at the end of this article.

Why use email automation?

"Email is the most effective marketing channel with an ROI of 4400%"

Email automation allows you to create better and more seamless customer journeys. The best part is, once you have setup your automations, you can sit back and let the software do the work for you.

Well, you always want to optimise but the effort needed from you is very little.

Then you need to factor in the cost of email marketing which is almost non-existent. Once you collect someones email address, you are able to promote to them again and again with the only cost being your email platform.

This makes email marketing the most effective marketing channel with an ROI of 4400%.

Couple this with the fact that people are now so used to email that they expect it at certain times. 74% of people who subscribe to an email list expect to receive a welcome email.

If you are not sending this email you are potentially disappointing your customers. Automation is really the only option if you want to deliver a welcome email efficiently.

Email marketing cannot be ignored

Types of email automation

Email automation generally falls into two categories.

  1. Triggered emails

  2. Drip feed

They can be used in conjunction or on their own.


This refers to an email that is sent based on an action the recipient has taken. As mentioned before, this can be as simple as filling in your email list subscriber form. You can also send emails triggered by a specific item purchased.

Many email automation platforms even have the functionality to send an email based on a specific web page someone has visited.

Picture this, someone views a certain product on your store but doesn't buy. That's OK, you have set up an automated email to send to that person with a deal on the product they are interested in.

Instant increase in engagement and sales!

If you have enough data on your customers, you can setup an email to send them on their birthday.

"It's your birthday, treat yourself!"

You can even create a trigger to send an email to people who have purchased from your store on multiple occasions.

"Hey VIP, here is a discount for being such an awesome customer."

Are you starting to see the bigger picture yet?

Email automation has the ability to create more meaningful interactions with your customers and prospects. These interactions build relationships and increase sales.

Drip feed

A drip feed is a sequence of automated emails that are setup to send over a specific period of time. As eluded to in the name, the point is to drip feed the recipient relevant information. Usually to move them closer to a purchase.

This is a great way to warm up new leads or sell higher value products to new customers.

Working together

An example of these two types of automations working together is an email welcome sequence. As mentioned above, a great practice is to trigger a series of emails to send when someone signs up to your list or becomes a customer.

You have the trigger from the sign up action and the drip from multiple emails being sent over a specific time period. This will increase customer engagement and build better relationships.

5 tips to go pro

We now know the basics of email automation and have considered how we could use them in our marketing. Let’s delve a little deeper and see how we can really start to maximise your ROI.


To be really effective with email marketing, you have to segment your list. This means dividing your email list into groups based on interests, actions, age, etc. How you divide your list really depends on the data you collect and what is important for your business.

For eCommerce, many email automation platforms have the ability to integrate into your website. This allows them to collect data on what web pages your customers visit and their purchase history.

Using this data, you can split your list into groups based on the products they are interested in. This will allow you to target your email marketing more effectively.

Also consider, your customer journey and the different stages they might be at. New leads might need warming up to your brand compared to long time customers who are more interested in your latest products.


Segmenting your list and sending relevant offers will go a long way towards personalising your emails.

Other forms of personalisation could include using their name within the email, sending a coupon to them on their birthday, or even mentioning their location.

Using simple tactics like this will help to build a great relationship with your customers and get them coming back to your store to buy more.


When undertaking any new marketing project, one of your first actions is to establish what you want to get out of it. Your goals.

Email automation is no different. Figure out what you want to achieve and then measure your results. Without knowing how well you are doing you will not be able to know what ROI you are getting and more importantly, you won’t be able to improve on your current results.

Useful metrics are;

  • Delivery rate - How many of your emails are being delivered? A low delivery rate could mean that your server could be blacklisted and you will need to figure out why.

  • Open rate - This is the number of people who actually opened your email. The biggest factor affecting this will be your subject line.

  • Click through rate - This is the number of people who actually take action from your email and click through to your website. A large part of this could be down to the call to action you are using or if the content is relevant in the email.

  • Conversion rate - This is the important one. How many sales are you making off the email? Some of your email automations might not be focused on selling but a lot of them will be. Make sure you are tracking this because, at the end of the day, you are trying to increase profits.

  • Unsubscribe rate - This is an important one to monitor to make sure you are not upsetting your list. If you have a high unsubscribe rate, this means people are not happy with the emails they are receiving, There could be a number of factors affecting this including; frequency of emails, email content, and relevance.

Split Test

Split testing is a common tactic used to increase the effectiveness of your emails. In email marketing, this is commonly used to test subject lines. But it can also be used to test email elements such as your call to action or image used.

When conducting a split test, also referred to as an A/B test, make sure you are only changing one element of the email. This will help you understand what is and isn’t working.

Most email automation platforms have the ability to send an A/B test to a small percentage of your list. Then it will send the best performing email to the rest of your list. You can choose how it determines the best performing email by selecting the metric it measures.

A lot of people will go by the best open rate. In some instances a high open rate is great, however is that what you are trying to achieve from the email you are sending?

In most cases for eCommerce you want to get people to your website and buying. So choosing click through rate will be a better option when determining the effectiveness of your emails.

Use cross-selling

Building relationships and improving your brand reputation are important aspects of email marketing. But let’s get real, most store owners want to improve that bottom line. Make more money!

That’s why you need to use proven sales techniques like cross-selling in your email automation.

What is cross-selling?

Cross-selling is is the process of selling someone a product that complements the product they just purchased. Think phone cases for mobile phones or laptop covers for laptops.

You are starting the see the potential, right?

People just bought a shiny new toy, they don’t want to damage it. Maybe they need a cover to protect it. Right there, you have identified a problem and are offering a solution while adding value to your customer. Sales 101!

How to use cross-selling in email automation?

I personally don’t recommend using it in your first email to a new customer as I think this should be kept for building the relationship. However, stores do and it is very effective for them.

I think the cross-sell is best kept for the second email in your welcome sequence. Include a gallery of complementary items you have for the product your customer has just purchased. Put your best sellers in the top and bottom row as these get the most clicks. Use wording like “Here are our top picks for you”.

You can even go so far as to spell out the problem. “Want to protect your phone? Here are some great cases…”

From this simple email, you are going to see a decent increase in sales.

Choosing the right tool

When getting started with email automation, especially if you are doing it yourself, think easy-to-use. You don’t want to choose something with a big learning curve. There are some tools out there that are incredibly powerful but come at the price of being more difficult to use.

I recommend starting with a tool like MailChimp or Get Response. Both have a small learning curve and have some pretty powerful features.

They are also very affordable and have free trials. What’s stopping you from getting started today?

Stop leaving all that money on the table!

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