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E-Commerce Email Marketing 101: 11 Must-Have Emails

If you’re like most e-commerce marketers, email marketing is an integral part of your business.

You’re building an email list, emailing frequently (albeit not too frequently) and mailing interesting and relevant content to your audience.

But as effective as email marketing is, it’s not enough on its own.

In fact, according to a recent survey by Campaign Monitor, 44% of marketers say increasing engagement rates is their number one challenge:

The truth is, effective e-commerce email marketing isn’t about the right strategy; it’s about the right sequencing.

Mail the right emails at the wrong time to the wrong prospect, and people will opt out of your emails (or worse, move to a competitor).

Send the right emails at the right time to the right prospects, however, and you won’t just have lifelong customers…

…you’ll have evangelists for your business.

In this article, I’m going to show you eleven e-commerce marketing campaigns you need to send to increase engagement, improve your bottom line, and more important, reduce churn.

Let’s get started.


There are many types of e-commerce emails.

And, with any luck, you’re probably sending many already.

But the following emails work for countless businesses and with a little tweaking and personalization, they’ll work for you, too.

I’ve categorized the following emails under three key areas, each with its own objective:

  1. Welcome

  2. Trigger

  3. Retention

While there’s no rule for the order in which you send the below emails, I’ve tried to organize them as logically as possible, simulating a new visitor’s journey from joining your company newsletter all the way to becoming a customer and beyond.

Let’s look at each email more closely.

Part 1. Welcome Emails

1. The Welcome Email

You only have one chance to make a good first impression.

And if your introduction to a new prospect isn’t memorable, your follow-up campaigns won’t be, either.

Driving 3 times the transaction and revenue per email than any other promotional mailing, the welcome email is the maître d’ of your onboarding workflow.

Its role is to thank visitors for joining your company newsletter, pace expectations for what’s to come (including how often you’re going to email) and, when implemented correctly, simplify your sales process.

Outdoor Voices preface their email with playful copy to remind their readers they’re human, too:

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

So, whether you’re welcoming new users to your community or pushing for a sale, make it count.

2. The Curation Email

Curation is effective because it allows recipients to choose what they want to learn more about.

It’s why many online writers offer “Start Here” pages on their sites and why e-commerce stores often showcase their best stock, first.

But there’s another reason why it works well:

It allows email marketers to segment recipients based on interest.

Here’s an example:

Imagine you’re running an online furniture store and your newsletter curates the best furniture under the following categories:

  1. Seating

  2. Lighting

  3. Storage cabinets

  4. Decorative objects

  5. Tables

  6. Serveware

If you’re using tagging with an email marketing service like Infusionsoft, and one recipient always clicks a link to, say, seating, you can begin scoring that prospect based on their click activity.

Over time, if you only email promotional campaigns related to seating, that prospect is more likely to become a customer AND remain on your list due to the relevance of your offers.

3. The Engagement Email

Back in the golden age of direct response marketing, copywriter Gary Halbert was famous for attaching dollar bills, $2.00 bills, Japanese yens, and even Mexican pesos to his sales letters.


Because he needed to get his prospects’ attention.

With the average office worker receiving as many as 122 emails per day, you need to get recipients engaging with your emails if you want visibility in their inboxes.

While attaching cryptocurrency to campaigns might not be a viable option, it is possible to increase engagement in other ways (and without breaking the bank).

Whether you’re offering free shipping or inviting recipients to start a free trial of your product, give readers a reason to engage with your campaigns and remember—make it memorable.

4. The Referral Email

It’s no secret that referring others is one of the most effective lead generating strategies in marketing.

In fact, according to a recent survey by Ogilvy, 74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision.

You might already be asking for referrals on your thank you page (and if you’re not, you ought to be), but are you doing it in your email campaigns, too?

Part 2. Trigger Emails

Otherwise known as “transactional emails”, trigger emails are emails that are triggered by a particular action taken by a recipient (such as visiting a product pricing page).

While trigger emails apply to any action (e.g. a recipient resetting their password), their primary purpose is to gently nudge a prospect along the buyer’s journey until they become a customer.

In fact, a study by Experian found trigger emails not only have eight times higher open rates and click-throughs; they generate as much as six times more revenue:

So, with that said, here are four e-commerce trigger emails to include in your marketing.

5. The discount email

Discounting products is popular with many e-commerce businesses.

And for good reason:

It works.

A study by VWO found 72% of Millennial shoppers are open to retargeting via discounts.

Moreover, 54% of shoppers are likely to purchase abandoned products if they’re offered again at a discounted price (more on that in a moment).

6. The cart abandonment email

I get it.

People get distracted.

They go to make an online purchase and something rivets their attention.

There’s a knock on the door, they get a Facebook notification, their phone rings…

…and their cart is abandoned without a second thought.

You can’t always convert abandoning shoppers, that’s a given. But you can make an effort to reach out to learn why they didn’t complete their purchase and use their feedback to improve your checkout process.

7. The order confirmation email

After analyzing 100,000 email receipts, Conversio made an interesting discovery:

Every order confirmation email earns e-commerce stores $0.25 of extra revenue:

Doesn’t sound like much, right?

I didn’t think so, either.

Until you look at the math:

For every 100 receipts you send, you can make an average of $25 of extra revenue with no extra effort.

Not bad for an automated email, huh?

Your order confirmation email is prime email real estate. Yes, it’s nothing but a digital receipt, but it’s also a way of reminding shoppers that buying from you—rather than a competitor—was the right decision.

8. The upsell/cross-sell email

You’re probably already familiar with upselling and cross-selling.

If you’re not, here’s a quick refresher:

  • Upselling is when you invite a prospect to purchase a more expensive item in an attempt to make a more profitable sale

  • Cross-selling is when you recommend a related or complementary product

It’s why McDonald’s asks, “Do you want fries with that?” and why Amazon reminds you of products that are frequently bought together:

With the average repeat customer spend 67 percent more in months 31-36 of his or her shopping relationship than in months zero-to-six, it’s no surprise many e-commerce businesses regularly upsell products to customers who have already made a purchase.

If cross-selling isn’t a viable option for your business, you might consider tiered-pricing.

Part 3. Retention

We all know it costs 5-25 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.

So, how do you reduce churn and improve customer loyalty in the long-term?

By sending emails that remind your audience they’re still important to you.

Here’s how…

9. The re-engagement/win-back email

It’s happened to me and I bet it’s happened to you, too.

You invest your time, attention, and energy in growing your email list only to have a percentage of your readers unsubscribe, or worse, emotionally disengage entirely (costing you money in the process).

Email marketing databases naturally degrade by about 22.5% every year so it’s essential you re-engage members who have emotionally “checked out” (especially if you want to reduce email unsubscribe rates).

10. The survey email

If you don’t ask…

(Say it with me now)

You don’t get.

Similarly, if you don’t regularly ask your prospects/customers what they’re looking for, how can you expect to give them what they want?

Asking what your customers want works for many companies, and it can work for you, too.

11. The customer appreciation/thank you email

Sometimes, we don’t say thank you enough.

And even if we do, rarely do we really mean it.

Thanking your audience goes beyond thanking them for subscribing to your newsletter or making a purchase; it’s about recognizing they’re the reason why you’re in business.

It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of everyday business life. But sometimes, it really pays to thank your customers.

How can you give back to the people who’ve made you are your company what it is today?

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