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

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

Email marketing guide for ecommerceThis is a guest post by John McIntyre. John is the founder of ReEngager, an agency that helps ecommerce stores increase total sales by 15-30% with email marketing.

Email marketing can be HUGE for ecommerce stores and online retailers.

Problem is, most companies do it wrong. Or they just don’t do it at all. But we’ll get to that in a moment. First, check this out...

Did you know that the total number of worldwide email accounts is expected to increase from nearly 3.9 billion accounts (yes... BILLION) to over 4.9 billion accounts by the end of 2017?

We’re talking about more than HALF of the world’s population with email accounts. More than half the world’s population opening emails, reading emails and buying from emails.

Now get this:

Email now accounts for more than 7% of all ecommerce user acquisitions making it the second most effective customer acquisition channel (behind search at 15.9%).

Plus, the customer lifetime value (CLV) of customers acquired through email is 12% higher than average. To put that into perspective, Twitter’s CLV is 23% lower than average.

So not only is email more effective at acquiring customers for ecommerce stores than almost everything else, it gets you better customers that spend more money with you.

Given everything I’ve just mentioned, it’s not surprising that the average return on email marketing investment is $44.25 for every dollar spent.

You read that correctly.

The average return on email marketing investment is $44.25 for every dollar spent.

Are you excited yet?

It’s statistics like these that get me excited about about email marketing. That’s why I’ve put together this blog post on ecommerce email marketing. I want you to see the benefits of email - not just in a blog post like this, but in your business and in your bottom line.

So let’s get into it.

Here are 7 automated email campaigns your store needs NOW.

1: Abandonment Cart Email Series

According to Baymard Institute, an independent web research company in the UK, 67% of online shopping carts are abandoned.


In other words, 67 out of every 100 potential customers is browsing your website, looking at products, adding products to their cart, and going to the checkout page because they intend to purchase.

But then they leave.

Based on these numbers, a small store with $2 million in annual sales is losing more than $4 million every year to cart abandonment.

Here’s the good news:

While Business Insider estimates online retailers will lose as much as $4 trillion to cart abandonment this year, it also estimates that savvy retailers will be able to recover about 63% of that lost revenue.

That’s why it’s crucial that you have a great cart abandonment email series (as well as a well-thought-out cart abandonment strategy, as explained here in another post).

I’m not talking about the default one-email cart abandonment strategy that most platforms ship with. I’m talking about investing the time, energy and resources to create the most effective cart abandonment email series possible.

“The whole shebang”, as they say.

After sending cart abandonment emails, Radley London recovered 7.9% of lost sales, Boot Barn recovered 12% of lost sales, and Envelopes.com cut cart abandonment by a whopping 40% with emails targeted at three types of abandoners.

So do cart abandonment email series work?

Yessir (or yesma’am).

Yes they do.

How To Set It Up

Instead of the default email sent through your platform, you’ll get much better results when you strategize and customize.

Here’s a typical sequence we build for our clients:

Email 1 is a reminder.

Most companies throw out discounts immediately, and people know this. Some people will abandon just to see if you’ll send them a discount. So if your go-to strategy is throwing out discounts whenever someone shows slight disinterest in your products, you’re throwing margin into the wind.

Instead, use the first email to remind them. Tell them that they left something in their cart. Show them a picture of it. Add some benefits (people love free shipping) and include a simple link to complete their checkout. Done.

Email 2 is an objection handling email.

What’s the main reason people aren’t buying? If you don’t know, you’ll need to ask them. Add a question to email one that says something like “Why didn’t you buy? Please hit reply and let us know”. Run it for a month. At the end of the month, you’ll have some good data on why people aren’t buying.

This data is worth its weight in gold. Use it to improve your entire sales process and use it to build out email two of your cart abandonment series. Maybe you need to emphasise that you have free shipping. Or that your security is top notch. Or build social proof by telling stories about past customers. The only way to know is to ASK your customers why they’re abandoning their carts.

Email 3 is a discount email.

If people haven’t bought by now, they’re in the slow lane and we need to kick them into the fast lane. Give them a discount. 5%. 10%. Whatever works for your margins (and you’ve found works best with your customers).

Every email should include a picture of the product(s), and an obvious “complete shopping cart” link to complete their purchase.

What about timing?

Email 1 - send 24 hours later.

Email 2 - send 24 hours later.

Email 3 - send 72 hours later.

Why wait 24 hours to send the first email? In this study with Envelopes.com, MarketingSherpa achieved best results by sending the first email 24 hours later.

I know of a company who uses a seven email cart abandonment email sequence. Why so many emails? Because they don’t stop sending emails until the conversion rate drops. So don’t be afraid to send four, five, six, or more emails. If people keep buying from your cart abandonment emails, you should keep sending them.

Recommended Cart Abandonment Email Tools

Example 1 - FiftyThree

I like FiftyThree’s approach. Simple. Direct. Honest. It’s immediately obvious why they’re emailing you, as well as what you need to do next.

fiftythree email

Example 2 - Black Milk Clothing

I love this one. Great subject line. This is one of the few moments when all caps can work. The use of the cute puppy with “meme” text on there grabs your attention and reminds you that Black Milk Clothing is down to earth and in touch with pop culture. A great example to model.

black milk abandoned cart

Example 3 - Hello Merch

Here’s Hello Merch keeping it simple with text only. This is the type of email you need at a bare minimum. If you have to choose between allocating resources to designing a beautiful email, and just sending more emails, you’ll get more bang for your buck by sending more emails.

complete your purchase hello merch

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2: Welcome Email Series

Did you know that 74.4% of consumers expect a welcome email when they subscribe? Plus, subscribers who receive a welcome email show, on average, 33% more long-term engagement with that brand. Finally, welcome emails generate 4x the open rates and 5x the click rates compared to other bulk promotions.

Here’s the nail in the coffin:

Welcome emails can see more than three times the transactions and revenue per email over regular promotional emails.

Pretty cool, right?

That’s why you need a welcome email.

Hang on.

What’s a welcome email, you ask?

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 bought anything yet.

They’re people who have subscribed on your website via a pop-up or sidebar opt-in form, usually to claim an incentive of some kind (like a discount, buyers guide, or video course). In some cases, they may simply have signed up to get your “free newsletter updates” (*shudders*).

How To Set It Up

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

  • Welcome them to the family
  • Begin the brand indoctrination process
  • Give them the incentive
  • Set expectations
  • Encourage subscribers to connect with you on other channels

Let’s look at the specifics of each one.

Welcome them to the family.

This is the easy part. Welcome them to your family. Welcome them into your tribe. Literally say “Welcome” or “You’re on the list”.

Begin the brand indoctrination process.

As you’ll see in the examples below, Huckberry does a great job of this. You want to craft three to four sentences that begin the story of your brand, why you’re different, and why people should be excited about doing business with you. This is more an art than a science, and you should look to the examples below for inspiration.

The key thing is to focus on what makes you special.

Give them the incentive.

If you offered them a coupon in exchange for their email address, give them the coupon code in the email PLUS a dead-obvious call-to-action (ie. button) that takes them to your website to use their coupon. If you offered a PDF or something else, give them a link to it here.

Set expectations.

This ties in with the brand indoctrination process. You want them to be looking forward to your future emails, so tell them what you’ll be doing with them in future. Will you just be blasting them with promotions and random discounts, or will you be providing helpful content, cool videos, or something else?

Get creative. Don’t be the boring online retailer whose only trick is to throw out a discount. Treat your subscribers like friends, not as bits and bytes in your database. Would you blast your friends with nothing but discount offers? Or would you share cool stuff you found with them and other content that’s going to help them solve their problems?

Encourage subscribers to connect with you on other channels.

Now it’s time for you to link to your social media profiles. Do not, and I repeat DO NOT make this the sole focus of your email, as you’ll get a higher return pushing people to your store. You know, the place where people actually buy stuff.

However, do be sure to mention your social media profiles towards the end of your emails, and give people a reason to connect with you on those platforms (ie. Like us on Facebook to hear about upcoming deals, competitions, and customer stories instead of just Like Us On Facebook).

Recommended Tools

Mailchimp will get you started with email marketing, but if you want to unleash the full power of email (and implement all the campaigns below), you’ll be much better off with an advanced platform like Klaviyo or Remarkety.

Example 1 - Ann Taylor

Loud and proud. The email is designed to look like a website, so that’s how people will engage with it. Ann Taylor makes great use of a discount down at the bottom.

ann taylor gift

Example 2 - Huckberry

Huckberry does a great job with this email. It’s clean and easy to understand. It’s dead obvious it’s a welcome email. Plus, they set the stage properly, informing the subscriber what Huckberry is all about (they partner with leading urban and outdoor brands to bring you a curated selection of apparel and gear at members-only prices) and what they can expect (sales begin on Tuesday… etc).

huckberry welcome

Example 3 - NOMAD

I like how simple this welcome email from NOMAD is. It’s mostly text, but it hits the nail on the head when it comes to welcome emails. It sets the stage just like the Huckberry email, and doesn’t come off as salesy or hypey. They could improve it by asking a specific question like “What’s the #1 thing you’d like to get out of being on this mailing list?” instead of “We’d love to hear from you”. People are more likely to take action when you tell them exactly what to do.

nomad welcome email

Example 4 - Overstock

Overstock’s email is simple and elegant. Hits with the incentive (10% off coupon) as soon as they open the email, and sets the stage properly (Sit back and enjoy…). They could improve by making the coupon button bigger and more obvious, as well as offering something more than just “exclusive deals and coupons”.

Overstock coupon

Example 5 - Michaels

I love love love Michaels’ emails. Great design, check. Great copy, check. Great call-to-actions, check. Great subject line, check. Seriously. This email is worthy of study. Add it to your swipe file.

thanks for signing up confirmation

3: Email Nurture Series

This is where it gets interesting.

Get this:

When brands nurture subscribers, they get 50% more sales ready customers. Plus, nurtured subscribers make 47% larger purchases.

However, the sad fact is that most online retailers aren’t doing nurturing properly, if they’re doing it at all. Lead nurturing, as it’s called in the B2B commerce world, has been a key part of marketing campaigns for years, but it’s only now that ecommerce companies are catching on.

The idea behind nurturing subscribers is simple.

At ReEngager, we call is the 3/47/50 rule:

  • 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 only, and not a scientific fact, however we find it’s helpful in explaining to our clients the benefits of nurture campaigns for ecommerce.

Most companies focus on the 3 out of 100 visitors who are ready to buy now. Roughly 50 out of 100 will never buy no matter what we do.

That means that most stores have 47 potential customers that they’re not closing because they’re not nurturing subscribers properly.

How Set It Up

My best advice for creating an amazing email nurture series is to “be cool”.

I’m serious.

To use the old and tired cliche of dating as a metaphor for marketing, don’t be the needy, insecure guy who is sleazing up onto women who don’t want him. Be the confident, strong, man (or hey, the confident, sexy woman) that everyone wants to meet.


Be cool.

OK… OK...

What does “be cool” actually mean for ecommerce and online retailers?

It means, instead of blasting people with promotions every week and using discounts as your only trick to get someone’s attention, start thinking about how you can add value to their life outside of a discount, and outside of a sale.

Your subscribers are people. Real human beings with wants, dreams, hopes and fears. Yes, they may want and need your product, but there’s a lot more that you can help them with. If you go above and beyond the call of duty by adding value where you don’t need to, you’ll stand out from your competitors.

Here are some specific ideas:

Educate them.

Teach them something, either about your product, or about something else. It could be specifically related to your product and niche, or it could be something that’s related to your demographic.

For example, take Leesa Sleep, one of the winners of the 2015 Shopify Build a Business competition. Instead of just emailing their database with information about mattresses, they could teach people about:

  • what goes into a good mattress
  • the dangers of sleeping on a bad mattress over 10 years and how it affects your back, posture and digestive system
  • how the old, bloated mattress industry is cheating consumers with their inefficient distribution model
  • the science of good pillows
  • why the thread count of your sheets matters
  • Spotify playlists that are perfect for sleeping
  • the best 5 alarm clocks for waking up in the morning
  • famous early risers
  • the science of sleep and how our sleep quality (or lack thereof) affects our health and wellbeing

I could go on, but you get the idea.

For almost any product, there’s an endless list of things to write about.

Here’s the thought process:

  1. We sell mattresses.
  2. We sell mattresses, so we can write about mattresses.
  3. Mattresses are for sleeping, so we can write about sleep
  4. Sleep is related to early risers, so we can write about early risers.
  5. Our mattresses help people sleep better, so we can explain the science of sleep.

And so on.

The idea is to take one idea and see what it links to.

All of the topics above would be interesting to a potential customer for Leesa Sleep. If I was on their mailing list and considering investing in a mattress, I’d be ready to hit the buy button after just a few emails on the interesting, educational topics above.

Brand Indoctrination.

Remember how I said you need to do a little brand indoctrination in the welcome email?

Your email nurture series is where you can expand on that story.

Craft an email, or series of emails, that tells the story of your brand, and explains why you’re different. Tie your brand to a bigger purpose if you can.  Leesa wants to disrupt the bloated and inefficient mattress industry. Plus, they have a social program whereby they donate one mattress to charity for every 10 mattresses they sell. Both of those things are perfect topics for brand indoctrination emails.

The goal of the brand indoctrination emails are to indoctrinate people into your brand. To create a neat little space in the brain that your company occupies. In Leesa’s case, the goal is to make people think “Leesa” whenever they think “mattress”.

Personal stories and stories from customers.

Everyone loves a good story, so if you can find a good story from your own life, or someone on your team, or even a customer, use it as a topic for a nurture email.

It could be a customer success story. It could be a story about what inspired the company. It could be a story about anything. It just needs to be somewhat interesting.

Stories are a great way to use social proof and position yourself as the preeminent leader in your industry, especially if you can get customers on HD Video.


Nurturing comes down to being interesting, helpful and down-to-earth.

Like I said above… be cool.

As for product offers and promotions, you can mention your products in your nurture emails, and link to your website. Just don’t make your products the focus of every email.

The content can be videos, audio, blog posts, podcasts, links to content on websites other than your own, and so on.

At the end of the day, anything and everything that’s helpful to your subscriber, and doesn’t cannibalize your subscribers (ie. don’t promote your competitors) is great fodder for nurture campaigns.

Recommended Tools

Example 1 - Huckberry

Another great email from Huckberry.

Huckberry’s brand lends itself nicely to nurture emails, with their curated approach to products. This email is a great example of nurturing (instead of always selling) and can be applied to any store.

Instead of coming out “guns blazing” with your latest promotion, tell a story, be friendly and be cool.

huckberry email campaign

Example 2 - Fandango

This is a simple example from Fandango, a company that sells movie tickets. Instead of promoting the movie tickets themselves, they’re promoting content about the Academy Awards. This leads smoothly into sales once people are on their website and doesn’t sacrifice the relationship for the bottom line.

nurture email campaign

Example 3 - Michaels

Here’s Michaels again with another killer email. Awesome subject line, and great use of a symbol to stand out in the inbox. Great design. Easy to understand. Numerous call-to-actions pushing people back to Michaels’ website to buy. Flawlessly executed.

michaels nurture email

4: New Customer Email Series

Congratulations! You have a customer.

Now what? Do you give up on email marketing because now you’ve sold them something?

Absolutely not.

This is one of the most critical steps in your email marketing program. If you screw this up, you’ll be leaving a vast sum of money on the table.

Don’t believe me? Check this out...

Did you know that it’s 10 times more expensive to acquire a new customer compared with selling something to an existing customer? Plus, repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers.

Treat your customers like royalty. Seriously. A 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%.

Do you see now why this stage is absolutely critical in your email marketing efforts?

This is why the smartest marketers in the world focus on the “back end revenue”.

Think about it. You’ve spent a lot of money to acquire your new customer. You have a choice:

Go spend the same amount to find another customer, or spend much less by selling something to an existing customer.

Easy choice, isn’t it?

How Set It Up

If you’ve made it this far through this blog post, you probably understand the idea with email marketing. It’s a simple communication tool, and we’re maximizing it by combining it with technology that allows us to target different segments of our database (new subscribers, new customers, repeat customers, and so on).

The thing you need to understand about your new customers is that they’re in a precarious position. They trust you enough to buy something once, but subconsciously, they’re afraid you’re going to mess everything up, and if you do, they’ll never buy from you again.

On the other hand, if you do an excellent job throughout the purchase and delivery process, they’ll become long-term customers and support your business for years to come.

Email 1 - The welcome email. (send immediately)

Similar to the welcome series for new subscribers, the welcome 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? How many days will it take to arrive? What’s your return policy?

This is also a great time to suggest related products, but it must be done naturally, with an obvious link to what they just bought, to avoid coming across as too pushy.

Email 2  - Is everything ok? (send 3 days later)

Check in with them. Ask them “is everything ok?”. Customers 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.

Don’t make them fill out a contact form or support request either. Tell them to reply directly to their email (one good reason to use an email like hello@yourdomain.com instead of no-reply@yourdomain.com - but more on that below).

Email 3 - Did your product arrive? (2 days after the product should have arrived)

This is a simple email. Ask them if their product arrived safely.

Email 4 - Request a product review. (3 days later)

Another simple email. Ask them to leave a review.

Email 5 - Time-Sensitive Promotion. (4 days later)

Create a time-sensitive promotion that relates to their interests. An example is a discount on the same category of items that they bought in the week before.

Email 6 - Time-Sensitive Promotion. (1 day later)

Follow-up on your promotion. Remind them of the time limit (ie. 24 hours left).

Recommended Tools

Example 1 - Toys R Us

babies r us gift card

Example 2 - Moo

moo new customer

5: Repeat Customer Email Series

As you discovered above, repeat customers can be the lifeblood of your business - if you use email marketing to capitalize on them properly.

I won’t go over the stats again here, as I’ve done so above. What I want to point out is that repeat customers should be treated differently to your new customers. They don’t have trust issues anymore, otherwise they wouldn’t have bought again. They know, like and trust you.

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What they need is relevant information and products that solve their problems.

So with your repeat customers, your job is to lay off the trust building and focus more on relevant offers and being helpful.

How Set It Up

Email 1 - The welcome email (sent immediately)

Similar to the welcome email for new customers, this email welcomes them in, reminds them of the benefits of doing business with your company, and tells them what’s next.

It’s worth pointing out here that you should never stop selling. While you can back off a little bit with your repeat customers, never stop highlighting how and why you’re so awesome.

Email 2 - Product review and check in (2 days after the product should have arrived)

Check-in with them. Ask if their product arrived. Ask for a review.

Email 3 - Related product offer (4 days later)

Send a related product offer (ie. people who bought this also bought). If you can’t do specific products, offer something in the same category. Make it time sensitive (48 hours only). It doesn’t have to be a discount.

Instead of subtracting value to give them a cheaper price, add value to keep the same price. You can add a gift, package something in with it or give them points on their purchase.

Email 4 - Follow-up on related product offer (1 day later)

This is a simple reminder email so people don’t forget your offer.

Recommended Tools

6: Ecommerce Email Receipts

Sadly, most companies never touch their email receipts, despite the fact that they’re a virtual goldmine of sales and revenue.

Email receipts get an average open rate of 70.9%, compared with the ecommerce average of 17.9%, so these emails get the highest engagement scores out of any emails you send. That means that they’re the perfect place to make an offer and encourage your customers to take other kinds of action.

I mean, think about it...

They’ve just handed you money. They trust you. They believe in you. They like you. Now it’s time to capitalize on that positive attention and put it to good use.

How Set It Up

Optimizing your email receipts is relatively straightforward. Take your default email receipts, add product recommendations, and all the important information they need (transaction number, photo of the product/s they just bought, shipping details, who to contact if they have any questions, and so on).

Recommended Tools

Receiptful is great for showing tailored product recommendations. It can be more difficult to show product recommendations with other apps.

Example 1 - GoDaddy

This email receipt from GoDaddy is perfect. It gives you the important information you need (customer number, username, receipt numbers), makes an immediate offer (save 25%), offers related products (website builder, SSL certificates, and business class email), and tells you to download their app.

godaddy new order email

Example 2 - BarkBox

Here’s BarkBox keeping it simple. They tell you that your order has shipped (keeping you in the loop), throw in a quick benefit-based sentence (it’s filled with tons of treats…) and give you the important info (DHL tracking #). They then tell you delivery takes 2-10 days after it leaves the warehouse, and 24 hours for your confirmation number to return information. Plus, they promote their gift option, and their social media accounts at the bottom. BarkBox ticks all the boxes.

barkbox welcome

Example 3 - Express

This receipt from Express is classy. It’s simple. Like the others, it gives you the important information you need. Plus, it reminds you that they have free shipping on orders over $125, and pushes you to either suits or dresses (catering to men and women at the same time). It’s a decent email, however they could improve it by making a specific offer of some kind (ie. related product, discount, bundle or points).

express email receipt

7: Re-Engagement Email Series

Over time, your subscribers - prospects and customers - will gradually tune out of your email. They’ll stop opening. They’ll stop clicking. And they’ll stop buying.

This is the campaign you use to get them back. It’s the campaign that reengages and reactivates inactive subscribers.

You want to do this to get more sales, of course. But that’s not all. You also want to do this to show Google and the other email providers that people actually want your emails. In other words, if a large portion of database is inactive (ie. they don’t open or click your emails), you’ll be much more likely to hit the promotions tab, or worse, the SPAM folder.

In this interview with Campaign Monitor, a Gmail representative with the Gmail Anti-Abuse Team said that they want to “see evidence that your recipients love, or at the very least, want your messages”.

So yeah. This is hella important for your business.

Does it work?

MarketingSherpa reengaged 8.33% of CNET’s database with a win back email, and then another 8.57% with list-cleansing emails.

That’s over 16% reactivated. An additional 16% of CNET’s database responding to emails, clicking links and buying things.

As you can see, re-engaging your database of prospects and customers is a clear path to revenue. Just do it.

How To Set It Up

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

  • Begin with a reminder (such as “We’ve missed you” or “Where are you?”)
  • Follow up with an amazing offer
  • Inform them that you’re going to delete or unsubscribe them soon
  • Unsubscribe them

Simple, right?

Here’s the reengagement campaign structure we use for clients (send to subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked an email in 60 days):

Email 1 - We’ve missed you

Often includes a cute cat or dog with a sad face, some supporting copy to generate some sympathy and links to cool products (a small discount works great here).

Email 2 - Big discount

If they still haven’t responded, it’s time to bring out your biggest gun. In other words, what’s the best, biggest, most awesome offer you can give them? 20% off? 50% off? 90% off? Maybe a bundle? Think. Make them an offer they can’t refuse.

You want to use something that’s going to get them racing to your website to buy.

Be willing to lose money on this sale, as once they’re reengaged, they’ll spend more money with you in the future (and that’s where you’ll make your profit).

Email 3 - You will deleted in X days

Kindly inform subscribers that they will be deleted in 7 days if they don’t respond or make a purchase. Remind them of the crazy awesome offer you made in the last email.

Email 4 - You have been unsubscribed

Let subscribers know that they have been unsubscribed. Remind them of the crazy awesome offer again, and give them a link where they can resubscribe to your email list.

Recommended Tools

Unless you’re using one of the better providers like Klaviyo, you may need to massage your database in excel to get your inactive leads. To segment and remove inactive subscribers from MailChimp, read their documentation on the topic. However, once you’ve got your list of disengaged subscribers, you can use any email platform to send the campaign.

Example 1 - True Citrus

In this case study from WhatCounts, you can see all the right elements of a reengagement campaign at play. The campaign was sent to contacts who had not opened or clicked an email in 60 days.

Email 1

This email kicks things off with a bang. It immediately explains the reason for the email (you’ve been a little distant lately) and explains that True Citrus isn’t going to continue sending emails unless “you’re still committed to this too”. Kudos to WhatCounts for blending personality and pizazz with marketing strategy. The special offer included with email is also well-timed.

true citrus customer retention email

Email 2

A beautiful follow-up. Explains in simple terms what needs to happen for the subscriber to remain on the list, and reminds them of the offer.

true citrus improved retention email

Email 3

The final email in the campaign unsubscribes the subscriber nicely. Sending an email like this will do a few things: One, build respect with your subscribers, since you followed through on your promise, and two, improve your deliverability score, since you’ll no longer be emailing people who don’t respond to your emails.

true citrus subscription expired

Example 2 - WeddingWire

Here’s a simple example from WeddingWire.

Instead of just making an offer, you can also ask for feedback on why they’re not responding. You will gain some fascinating insights that will help you to improve your overall email marketing approach.

wedding wire email

Email Marketing Best Practices

To help you nail your email marketing strategy, I wanted to include some email marketing “best practices” or “fundamentals”, so you don’t make any easy-to-avoid mistakes.

Your “from” name. If your brand doesn’t include a strong personal element, like Martha Stewart or Oprah, don’t use a personal name. Use your brand or company name, just like DODOcase does here:

dodocase from email

Your “from” email. Don’t keep yourself at arms distance from your customers by using a standard “noreply@yourcompany.com” 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 “hello@yourcompany.com”.

7: Re-Engagement Email Series

Your subject line. Your subject lines are one of the most important things in email marketing. You have 4 seconds to grab your readers’ attention and interest them enough to open and read your email (Litmus). Screw this up and you might as well not even bother. Brainstorm several subject lines for every email you send. Always be testing. 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. Use their first name and/or last name. Mailchimp research suggests including their city name is even better.
  • Variety is the spice of life. Don’t keep re-using the same subject lines, or even similar subject lines. Marketing is about interrupting patterns, and you’re not interrupting anyone’s pattern if you keep saying the same thing.
  • Short is best. Most people scan their inboxes, so make it easy on them. Keep it to 50 characters or less.
  • Always be testing.
  • Don’t go overboard with promotion. Avoid hype, all capitals, and exclamation marks. Sell the benefits, but be honest and straightforward about it.
  • Ask lots of questions. Subject lines framed as questions often perform better.
  • Don’t mislead them. 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 you do, you’ll leave a sour taste in your subscribers’ mouths and they’ll stop responding.
  • Always be testing.
  • If possible, include some sense of urgency (ie. 5 days left, 24 hours to go, final call), but don’t over-do it.

Oh, did I mention? Always be testing.

Your “pre header” text. After the from name and subject line, the next thing people see is the pre-header text. This is usually the first line of the email, however, often with ecommerce emails that use a ton of HTML, it gets populated with boring stuff like “View email in browser”. That’s not getting anyone excited. You want the pre-header text to continue the vibes in the subject line and maintain the excitement so that they actually open their email.


bad preheader text


good preheader email text

The opening of your email. Pow! Congratulations. Someone just opened your email. Now what? Make it as simple as possible. Give them one offer. One call-to-action. If they have to think about your email, you’ve lost. Your headline, body copy, photos, and call-to-action should all flow together like Slash’s solo in the Guns n’ Roses epic “Sweet Child Of Mine”. If possible, be fun. Add personality. And always try to add urgency. In some cases, it makes sense to have multiple call-to-actions, but be careful that you don’t confuse your subscriber.

The design of your email. Let’s go back to the example from Ann Taylor (copied below). Pay close attention to the email design. What do you notice about it?

If you said “it looks like a website”, 10 points for you. Look at how the email is put together. It looks like a website, with the header up the top, a menu bar with links to the different categories on their website (New Arrivals, Clothing, Shoes, etc), body copy in the body, and a footer with social media links.  

Given that Ann Taylor’s email looks like a website, how do you think their subscribers will interact with their email?

As though it’s a website.

In other words, not only are people going to click the obvious buttons in the body (ie. Shop New Arrivals), they’re also going to click on the top menu bar. The end result is more traffic to your website and more customers to feed into your various automated lifecycle campaigns. Booyah.

ann taylor email

Mobile compatibility. 51% of people open their emails on smartphones, so you sure as hell better be optimizing your emails for smartphones and tablets. If not, you’re going to create a jarring experience for more than half of your database - prospects and customers alike.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if your emails are spread out over various platforms and payment providers (Shopify, PayPal, your old ecommerce platform)?

In an ideal world, everything integrates together like a well-oiled machine. And with tools like Zapier, it’s easier than ever to integrate.

However, sometimes it’s just not possible. So what should you do?

Firstly, you should figure out if you can integrate everything together. It’ll make your life easier, and it’ll ultimately boost sales because you’ll be more effective in your marketing efforts.

While you’re figuring out the integrations, download CSV files of all your databases and get them organized into prospects, customers, and so on (organizing a spreadsheet is beyond the scope of this post). Then add that database to Mailchimp or another email software and start sending.

How can we build genuine rapport with our database?

Be cool.

In 2015 and beyond, business is about trust and relationships.

If you’re the company that blasts everyone once or twice a month, and that’s all you do, you come across like a money-hungry monster that doesn’t care about your customers.

On the other hand, if you take the time to learn about your market, and then use those insights to drive nurture campaigns, you’ll build genuine trust and rapport, whereby people will choose your company over your competitors, even if your competitor offers them a cheaper price.

How do we figure out what information to send our database so we’re not just blasting them with offers/discounts/promotions?

See above.

You have an unlimited number of topics to talk about.

Here’s the mattress example from Leesa again:

  • what goes into a good mattress
  • the dangers of sleeping on a bad mattress over 10 years and how it affects your back, posture and digestive system
  • how the old, bloated mattress industry is cheating consumers with their inefficient distribution model
  • the science of good pillows
  • why the thread count of your sheets matters
  • Spotify playlists that are perfect for sleeping
  • the best 5 alarm clocks for waking up in the morning
  • famous early risers
  • the science of sleep and how our sleep quality (or lack thereof) affects our health and wellbeing

What if you’re selling cosmetics and beauty products?

  • how to protect your skin from the sun
  • how these 5 celebrities keep their skin young
  • how to make yourself look like Angelina Jolie
  • why hot showers are bad for your skin
  • 10 foods that make your skin glow

Let’s try something boring, like outdoor furniture.

  • the ergonomics of outdoor furniture
  • 5 party ideas for the summer
  • our favorite party playlists on Spotify
  • the best ice cooler for your beer
  • 7 amazing backyards
  • 3 incredible treehouses
  • 5 plants that increase your outdoor ambience
  1. Not boring enough, apparently. I’m trying to find something that’s so boring that I can’t think of anything to send them other than promotions. Ask me in the comments and I’ll keep trying.

How about toilet paper…

  • the myth of 3-sheet toilet paper
  • why soft toilet paper is bad for you
  • 5 amazing ways to protect the environment with your toilet
  • weird gifts you can make with toilet paper (like origami)
  • 7 crazy ways people are using toilet paper to improve their lives (without being in the bathroom)
  • what your toilet paper choice says about your personality

Crazy, right?

There is no limit to the amount of things you can write about, even if you’re selling something as boring as toilet paper. If you can’t think of anything, you aren’t thinking hard enough.

Whew. Now that we’ve covered best practices and frequently asked questions, you’re probably wondering...

What’s Next?

Waaaait. Don’t go without making a note to execute on this.

Grab a pen and paper. Or open up your favorite project tracking app. Write down the 7 campaigns here as well as the best practices, and pick a date to get started on the first one. Remember, the sooner you start, the better. Every day without these campaigns is a day with more lost sales.

Need help getting started? Download these 7 responsive ecommerce HTML email templates. I created 1 template for each campaign here - 7 templates total. They’ll get you started down the path of awesome email marketing.

Happy emailing!
7: Re-Engagement Email Series

About The Author

John McIntyre is the founder of ReEngager, a done-for-you ecommerce email marketing agency. ReEngager helps ecommerce companies increase total sales by 15-30% with email marketing. Download 7 responsive ecommerce HTML email templates here (one template for each campaign in this blog post) and increase your store’s revenue with email marketing today.


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