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Email Marketing: a Vital Strategy for Ecommerce

by Stacey Trock

May 7, 2020 / Updated: September 29, 2022

Email marketing is an essential component of your overall marketing strategy. With an ROI of 30:1 (boasting the highest conversion rates around!), it’s one of the most powerful tools in your marketing toolkit.

We love email. Not only is it one of the only channels you completely control, but it also a powerful way to build brand trust, earn repeat business, and bring in revenue.

Email Marketing Strategy Webinar

This content was initially produced as a webinar with Helen Hulskamp, our web analyst who dives deep into stats and creates amazing, efficient email systems that deliver results. You can watch a recording of the full webinar and view the presentation slides. Keep reading for the best hits from the presentation, followed by a summary of questions and answers from the recording.

If you would like to browse our traffic-building offerings, such as Klaviyo Setup & Strategy for Shopify, you can view the full list of packages available.

Email is a Traffic Channel You Control

Although customers can find you through a variety of ways (search, social media), email is a channel you completely control and own.

What does that mean? If you have a Facebook page for your business, you’re using a service that Facebook provides. They can (and do) change the algorithm, meaning that only a small percentage of your fans see your posts. And if you decide to leave Facebook (or if for some reason, Facebook closes your account), your access to those fans is gone forever. Because you don’t own any of that contact information.

With email, a customer gives you permission to contact them. Even though you’re using an email service provider, the list is yours. And if you switch email service providers, you can download the list of contacts and import them into your new provider. It’s your list, which can’t be taken away from you.

The same is true of any social media network. You may also receive traffic from google, but the search engine has its own algorithms that moderate your appearance in search results. You may also receive inbound links from another website, but the owner of that content can change their links at any time.

Building an Ongoing Relationship with your Customer Through Email

When someone first visits your website, they are usually just becoming acquainted with your brand. As they gain more exposure to you, their level of trust, and confidence in your brand grows. Some customers may become loyal, repeat customers. This is represented by the following stages of customer awareness:

Awareness > Consideration > Conversion > Loyalty

Many visitors aren’t ready to shop the first time they come to your site, even if you’ve written the most amazing blog post, ever. If you haven’t established a way for you to contact them again, then you’ve lost the ability to nurture that relationship. However, even the most casual relationship can grow if you connect with the reader by sending them interesting content. Email is a direct connection to a customer.

We’re finding that a personal connection is more important right now than ever. And while people are becoming tired of boilerplate emails from numerous companies, they’re increasingly looking to engage with emails that connect.

Repeat Customers

It is easier to sell to an existing customer (who already knows your product and has committed to at least one purchase) than it is to find a new customer who doesn’t know you and make a sale. For a company that is using the automation and segmentation techniques described here, 25-40% of business revenue comes directly from their email campaigns, compared to 5-6% of overall revenue for companies not using advanced email marketing techniques.

High Conversion Rates

Email is the highest-converting channel. For a website that is experiencing a conversion rate of 1-3%, it’s normal to see a 5-7% conversion rate on emails. Isn’t that amazing? Can you imagine converting that many more sales?

So, let’s send amazing emails! After all, these are engaged customers who already asked you to contact them! Let’s make it count and make your business thrive at the same time.

Sugar + Spruce newsletter template design for a bath and body apothecary
Newsletter template design by Ann Parker for Sugar & Spruce

Advanced Email Marketing: Segmentation

‘Segmentation’ means dividing up your email list so that you can target a sub-segment of your list with emails that are directly relevant to them. Targeted emails receive higher engagement, with 2x higher open rates, 3x higher revenue and lower unsubscribe rates.

Segmentation is about crafting emails so that you are addressing a customer where they’re at. Although the options are endless, popular segments allow you to:

  • Recommend products based on what they like
  • Avoid pitching a product that someone has already purchased (feels repetitive and salesy)
  • Shower additional appreciation and offers on repeat customers
  • Provide additional information to a new or inactive customer

A few examples of segments:

  • If you run a physical shop as well as an ecommerce site, you may segment your local customers so you can send them an event announcement
  • If you run a clothing shop, you can segment customers based on their purchases, perhaps only recommending women’s clothing
  • If you ask for your customer’s birthdays, each customer could receive a special birthday treat!
  • Your most loyal customers can be put into a VIP segmentation, allowing you to extend a limited-time offer or custom work

Both Klaviyo and Mailchimp allow you to create segments in your list.

Advanced Email Marketing: Automated Flows

Automated flows are behavior-triggered email sequences. An automated flow contains emails that are crafted to address a subscriber at a specific moment in their journey, sending an on-target message during the best time window. An automated flow can be as short as a single email or contain several emails.

These are distinguished from a typical email campaign. For example, you may send out an email newsletter on January 1st wishing your readers a Happy New Year, and everyone on your list receives the message on the same date. However, with an automated email, the user receives the email on an individual timeline, depending on when they complete the requisite trigger action. A common example is a welcome email, which is sent following a subscriber joining your email list.

A Welcome Series Flow (that you can grab and implement, now!)

A welcome series is one of the most important flows you can set up for your email list. Besides welcoming a new subscriber to your newsletter, a welcome series is an opportunity to raise a subscriber’s level of awareness. If a subscriber is simply aware of your brand, through a carefully-crafted series of emails, you can educate that customer about your brand and convert them into a customer.

An automated welcome sequence begins with a welcome email that is sent immediately upon signup. This is the perfect email to include a discount for a purchase or a free download promised as a sign-up incentive. As one of your customer’s first exposures to your brand, it’s important that your copy be captivating, encouraging the reader to open future emails from you.

The welcome series is not about selling. It’s about warming people up to your brand and showing them what they can expect to hear from you. Provide value to your subscribers and demonstrate that you’re a company they want to purchase from.

Here’s a series of emails that you can grab for your welcome series:

  1. Welcome + your brand mission
  2. Behind the scenes
  3. Answer common questions
  4. Smooth over hesitations
  5. Provide social proof
  6. Educate and provide value

If you’d like more information about copywriting for welcome series, this package is available in our limited-time offerings.

Domi and Frisk newsletter design for cat tree company by Aeolidia
Newsletter template design by Ann Parker for Domi + Frisk

The first email when someone signs up for your newsletter (the ‘welcome email’) has the highest open rate, so it’s important to talk about your most important information when a reader is most engaged. Impress and engage them!

Explore Customer Journey Email Flows

Once you’ve implemented a welcome series, don’t stop there! It’s important to consider all of the touch points on the customer journey and set up an automated email sequence for each key experience. Advanced automation flows can allow you to:

  • Recover abandoned carts
  • Reach out to potential customers
  • Thank new and returning customers
  • Follow-up on purchases
  • Win back lapsed customers
  • Sunset unengaged subscribers

Putting these advanced automated email flows in place is what allows you to fully maximize your email ROI.

Email Basics: Kick-start your Email Marketing into High Gear

Your email subscribers have asked you to put an email in their inbox! So give them what they want. Here are some best practices for an effective email marketing strategy:

Make signing up for your email easy and everywhere

Convert casual traffic into a newsletter subscriber by making it easy to sign up for your email list. Use a pop-up on your website and put an email signup on your website’s footer. Collect email addresses on social media, on your website, in your packaging, and at in-person events.

Integrate your email with Shopify + turn on tracking

Integration allows you to use web browsing and purchasing information for segmenting your list. We work with Klaviyo (or Mailchimp using ShopSync). Turn on UTM tracking in Klaviyo or Google Analytics Link Tracking.

Have an enticing sign-up incentive

It doesn’t need to be a discount (although there’s nothing wrong with that)! Give people a reason to sign up for your newsletter with a little something extra. And by the way, use captivating language at sign up. Go a bit beyond ‘receive our updates’ to encourage people to enter their email.

Set up a welcome series

We’ve already said this, but it’s so important it bears repeating. A welcome series is one of the best uses of your time, as it will go out to a new subscriber time and time again, for years. Done well, it will grow casual browsers into repeat customers!

Provide amazing content

Send out amazing content that your audience wants to hear. Give a genuine value. Connect in an engaging, personal manner.

Keep it simple

Stick to one main idea per email. It’s fine to include some favorite links, recommendations, or upcoming events, but an email isn’t a novel! For more information, direct readers to your website.

Have a call-to-action

Tell your email readers what you want them to do. Most of the time, this will be clicking through to your website. Clicking through to your site is also great for your email stats, telling service providers that you send great emails!

Have a goal

Check your stats, do analysis, and aim to increase your subscribers and conversion rate. You can’t improve what you don’t measure!

Send emails, consistently

Aim to send your readers 4-12 emails per month. Some of these may be automated. Sending 1 email a month lets readers know that you still exist, but isn’t fostering a relationship.

Keep your list clean

A clean list (that is, culling inactive users) is incredibly important to maintain an active, engaged list. Regularly clean your list. You’ll want to remove inactive contacts and consider creating a sunset flow to engage subscribers. Klaviyo’s guide to cleaning your list shares details and steps.

Ensure you’re reaching customers at key touch points in their journey

Well-timed and on-pointe emails allow you to maximize your conversion rates. Connecting with subscribers at key points on the customer journey, such as when they have items remaining in their shopping cart or haven’t opened an email in 6 months. Doing so harnesses the full power of email marketing.

Try it out, and see your reach and conversions increase as your engagement does! By implementing these best practices, you’ll find that email marketing doesn’t need to consume a lot of time, and yields results that produce dividends.

Hire Aeolidia for email marketing help

We’d love to get you set up with a marketing strategy and highly-converting email automations. Learn more and get on our schedule here:

Request this service

Sugar Paper custom newsletter template for stationery designers
Newsletter template design by Do-Hee Kim for Sugar Paper


Below are the (abbreviated) answers from our live webinar.

How much does Klaviyo cost?

At current, Klaviyo is free to 250 customers, and Klaviyo’s pricing is available on their site. It’s important to keep in mind that with the advanced flows, you aren’t only emailing your list, but also users that engage with your site or make a purchase, so the number of users is typically larger than your subscriber number.

Don’t worry too much about paying for quality email marketing software, because it’s a tool that will make you money! It’s an investment.

Can you compare Klaviyo with Shopify’s new email program?

We haven’t investigated this new feature deeply, but at current, it seems like the Shopify program designed for just getting started and doesn’t support the advanced features we’ve mentioned.

Should I sign up for Klaviyo?

If you are looking to level-up your email marketing, it is incredibly difficult to do so without an intensely rich data connection with your ecommerce platform, list segmentation and automated flows to target your segments. For this advanced level of email marketing, we recommend Klaviyo and Shopify. That said, it’s not worth paying for Klaviyo if you aren’t going to use the data you’re provided. Many shops find it more accessible to use a platform like Mailchimp and segment their lists implementing a welcome series automated flow. You can learn more and sign up here.

Why should you clean your list and remove unengaged subscribers? You never know when they might reengage or something might loop them back in.

Email service platforms charge by the number of subscribers on your list. So, the first disadvantage of having inactive subscribers on your list is that you’re paying money to keep them on every month. When you begin your list, this may not seem like a lot, but as your list matures, you’ll accumulate dead email addresses that really add up.

When you send an email to your list, the goal is that 100% of your subscribers receive the email in their inbox. However, some of those messages are filtered as spam. One of the metrics email providers use for making that judgment is based on how engaged your list is. The more engaged your subscribers (higher open rates, click-throughs…), the higher-quality content your list is presumed to have, and less likely to be considered spam. Culling your list raises your engagement rate.

We recommend sending a re-engagement campaign to attempt to get inactive subscribers active again. This may mean offering a discount or your best content. If a subscriber doesn’t open/click when you’ve put your best foot forward, they aren’t going to engage with any of your later content. We’ve put some links about this topic in this blog post under Best Practices > Clean your list.

If you switch from Mailchimp to Klaviyo, will you lose all your data?

You can integrate Mailchimp with Klaviyo and all of your click and open details come through, so you have that historical data. And you can leave them synched up for a while you’re getting set up so new signups are migrated over.

Thoughts on Flodesk?

They have beautiful email templates! When the Shopify/Mailchimp breakup happened, we did a lot of research about which we wanted to use. Because of our focus on segmentation and data, we selected Klaviyo as the best for our needs.

How do you know your emails aren’t going into junk mail? Is it possible they would be interested if they could see your emails?

Look at your open rates and you want them to be 20% or higher. If your open rates are lower than 15%, you should be worried and clean your list. Your email marketing software should also show you how many of your messages are marked as spam, which is not a good thing.

This is why it’s so important to keep your list clean because once Gmail identifies your list as spam, it’s really hard to get out of that. In general, though, people are probably worried about this more than they need to be. 20-30% is a typical open rate.

What’s the best way to get email sign-ups?

You should have email sign-up everywhere you can. Have a pop-up, but make sure it isn’t annoying (read our blog post on pop-up best practices). Use an email pop-up program that allows you to have some targeting capability. Insert a sign-up form in your footer, on social media and also have a physical form if you do in-person events.

When you’re asking for someone to sign up, think about why they would want to sign up? Tell them why they need to sign up!

Check out our blog post on suggestions for opt-in incentives (doesn’t have to be a freebie!).

Do you have tips for getting people to sign up from social media?

It depends on what your goals are. Typically, your goal is to have potential customers go to your site, and it’s there that they’ll sign up for your mailing list.

Of all the examples we saw (like the welcome series), should written in platforms like Mailchimp?

Yes, your email provider will make it pretty easy for you to create these in the program. There are likely even some starter flows, which you can tailor according to your customer habits.

Is it possible to import Etsy customers into Klaviyo? Our Shopify mailing list has always been our number one conversion source, but we haven’t been taking full advantage of the advanced strategies described here.

You would want to check on the latest policies to see what is permitted. Technologically speaking, you can import any .csv file into your mailing list, but you’ll need to check Etsy terms and conditions to see whether you have permission to do so (an audience member suggested that at the time, this is against Etsy’s terms and conditions).

One idea is to insert sign-up information in your packaging, a customer will receive the call-to-action when they open their physical package.

What is your tip-top recommendation for the email platform if you are going to invest in Shopify so you can build both together optimally?

We recommend Klaviyo!

I am on Squarespace and are testing their email.  What are your thoughts on them?

If your main focus is selling products, we don’t believe their ecommerce is as powerful as Shopify. It can, however, be a great fit for other types of businesses.

What’s a good email frequency to stay connected with customers?

It will depend on your businesses, but if you’re just starting out, emailing once a week is considered very practical. At least email monthly, but that’s not going to be a revenue-generating strategy. Longer than a month can confuse customers when they do get an email from you in their inbox. As you build your automations, some of these emails will be automated ones.

Should you email if you only have 10 subscribers?

Yes. Email them. They asked to hear from you. You can add that content to a blog post or social media to get more visibility.

Is it considered good or bad form to add wholesale shops, who you believe would be interested in your product, to your mailing list when you currently only sell directly to the public?

First, you want to make sure you have permission before you add anyone to your list. If you have wholesale subscribers, you would want to be sure to segment them from your retail customers so that the emails they are receiving are appropriate.

How large should my mailing list be before I start bothering with segmentation?

You can start segmenting even when your list is only a few hundred contacts. I took a look at your products and here are some ideas:

  • Subscribers who have been on your list for X months but never made a purchase: Try to get these folks off the fence. You could offer them something a little extra that you don’t want to offer to your whole list. Or maybe feature some lower-priced products in their version of the newsletter.
  • Customers who have purchased lower-priced items from the non-print collections (cards, pins, stickers, etc): encourage them to buy from the Prints collection
  • Customers who have purchased prints one time: show them photos of multiple prints together on a gallery wall to turn them into collectors
  • VIPs: either based on lifetime spend or average order value
  • Repeat customers: 2+ orders – show your appreciation, ask for testimonials or reviews
  • Unengaged subscribers: no opens or clicks for X months
  • Geographic segments: eg. feature the PNW Peaks print to people in the Pacific Northwest

I hope that helps you get started.

Hire Aeolidia for email marketing help

We’d love to get you set up with a marketing strategy and highly-converting email automations. Learn more and get on our schedule here:

Request this service

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