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The Advanced Guide to Email Marketing Automation

Did you know that, according to a tweet by the Data and Marketing Association, “over 75% of email revenue is generated by triggered campaigns, rather than one-size-fits-all campaigns? Automated email campaigns account for 21% of all marketing revenue”. Well, now you know.

Email Automation is here to stay and it’s the best time to embed it into your marketing strategy. In our previous article, we focused extensively on what is email marketing automation, how it’s done and why. In this blog, however, we will take a deeper dive into the art, introduce you to some email automation best practices, tell you what you should automate, and further give you some pro tips. If you are new to email marketing automation, make sure you check out first our Beginners Guide to Email Marketing Automation.

Best Practices

By now am certain you already have an email marketing platform in place. Maybe you’ve tried it and your ROI meets your expectations. Then I’m not after you, I’m looking for that person whose ROI is still worrying despite the huge efforts. The first thing I want you to do is to find a notepad, then let’s narrow down some of these smart practices when it comes to email marketing automation.


I’m a great fan of flowers, not the too common roses, but rather the red tulips (call me Mr. Romantic). However, these two fascinate me almost in an equal measure. Sadly, no matter how much I love them, they will never be the same. They are different flowers and I will always prefer Tulip Blossom. That’s the point I want to pass in this segmentation best practice. Your customers or subscribers are different. In terms of taste, what they look for when they come to your shop, what kind of email they open and which they delete. Understanding this is the first and very basic practice for an effective mailing campaign.

If you are looking to beat the competition, then drop those general newsletters. Stop sending emails just because you heard they generate returns. NO, it doesn’t work like that.

Quick, would you send your fiancée flowers if he/she is allergic to them?

Travelers may use different roads when going to the same destination. Sometimes it’s because of the scenery they prefer, the purpose of the trip but mostly because of their preference. With your customers, you need to identify these. You need to make sure that you can identify and separate them into different segments, mostly based on their preferences. If I’m your customer and over time you realize that I prefer valley roads to mountain ridges, then why take me on a journey full of mountain ridges? What’s your strategy there?

Importance of Segmentation

Segmentation allows you to group your customers/subscribers into logical and higher-converting groups. This ensures an email is sent to the right person based on your segment. On a far-fetched point, it also makes your work easier while guaranteeing a higher ROI.

Quick example, let’s say I wanted to get in touch with customers with abandoned carts. I could create a segment (this is a self-explanatory process if you use for them and then send out the right email.

To hit it while it’s still hot, always consider customer behaviour and preferences while segmenting.

Web Traffic and Customer Profiles

Understanding your customers is essential if you want to cater to their needs. If you want to guide them so they perform a certain action, you need to know how they navigate your site. This positions you in a better place if you want to push them further in the purchase funnel. That’s why accurate tracking of customer information is so important. You can do a lot using Relevon including what actions your users are taking.

With this information, you can do several things. For instance, since customer interactions are monitored, you can highlight your most popular products and include them in your email campaigns. Alternatively, you are able to understand better your customer buying intentions. If a visitor comes back to a certain product or category page multiple times, then they have a high interest and strong buying intention, hence you could send them an automated email.

A/B Testing

In the previous blog, we talked about the monitoring of campaigns. A/B testing is more so the same thing. Superior e-commerce marketers understand the necessity of regular and consistent testing. It helps you prune out the bad from the good. For example, instead of trying out one idea at a time, you could set up your communications so that two versions of the same message go out, each with different content.

Moreover, if you wanted to understand your subscribers better, you could send out emails with different subject lines. One indicating a limited-time offer and others not. This way, you’ll be able to understand how they react under pressure.

Setting Up Your Email Automation Workflows

A market automation workflow is a series of automated actions that are triggered by certain conditions or actions by your website visitors. For instance, sending out a welcome message when a new contact signs up on your site.

Workflow 1: Welcome Email

The first contact you make with a lead is essential for converting them into customers further down the funnel. This is called onboarding in marketing terms. When a new client signs up on your website, it’s the best opportunity to forge a strong connection at a time when they’re most interested in your offering and message. With marketing automation, you can easily automate a welcome message and have it sent to any new subscriber immediately after they sign up.

Welcome emails lay the foundation for your customer relationships and give you the chance to introduce yourself, all while learning their needs and preferences.

To be effective, welcome emails should:

  1. Make your readers want to explore more about your business or content.
  2. Encourage engagement with future email campaigns.
  3. Guide the reader on what’s next. i.e. the next steps they should take.

Workflow 2: Birthday Emails

Birthday emails are one of the simplest automation workflows to set up. If you already have the birthday of your customers stored somewhere, all you need to do is to create a birthday email template and set up a workflow to automatically send it to your contacts on the date of their birthday according to how you have stored them. This workflow can help strengthen your customer relationships while driving more sales on your website all with a very little investment on your end. To ensure that your birthday email does not come off as overly promotional or intrusive, it is important that you differentiate the content as much as possible from your other marketing communications.

To achieve this, you should put 2 things into consideration:

  1. Offering a gift.
  2. Personalizing the content by making it friendly and caring.

Workflow 3: Abandoned Cart Follow-up

According to studies, 60-80% of visitors on e-commerce sites end up leaving before purchasing after adding items to their cart. This is known as an abandoned cart. While this might be seen as an unavoidable loss of revenue, these users added products to their cart, which shows a higher level of intent to make a purchase. Because of this, most analysts estimate that around 60% of these lost sales are recoverable. This is why if you’re serious about boosting the sales on your e-commerce store, you need to start following up with potential customers who abandon carts and encourage them to come back and finalize their purchase.

Marketing automation enables you to accomplish this with ease by implementing a simple abandoned cart workflow that works like this:

  1. A visitor adds products to their cart in your online store, indicating that they are interested in purchasing those (or similar) items.
  2. An email is automatically sent if the purchase has not been completed after a certain period (e.g. 3 hours).

There are several strategies you can use to convince your customer into coming back and finishing their purchase:

  1. Reminding them of what they left in their cart
  2. Providing reassurance on common concerns that might have prevented them from completing their purchase (delivery time, return policy, customer reviews of the products, etc.)
  3. Offering a discount on their purchase
  4. Notifying them if the product is low on inventory or if there is a sale that is about to expire

Common Email Marketing Automation Missed Opportunities

Because e-commerce email marketing is such a big, wide area, and email marketing automation has so many options and applications, there’s also a lot of room for error. But, if you want to succeed in your business, you have to make sure you avoid these common mistakes.

After all, strategies are as much about what you should be doing as what you should not be doing.

Using More Than One Channel

When customers and subscribers are thinking about your brand, they’re not just thinking about how cool your emails look. They’re considering your products, and how you communicate with them. The style, the tone, the mood, the images. Customer relationships shouldn’t be about a specific channel. It should be about a specific message, no matter what channel you’ll use to get that across.

So why limit themselves to one channel?

Email marketing automation is about triggers or actions that cause messages to be sent out to subscribers. But you can use more than just email—and you definitely should, if you want to remain competitive. Use SMS/text messaging. Retarget on Facebook. Do what you need to do to get your message across. Just make sure your messaging is integrated and consistent, and your customer relationships will flourish.

Gathering Important Data (and using it correctly)

If you want to use great automation and segmentation, you’ll need to have greater data. This is something that you’ll need to collect from the first signup so that you can have more robust options in your marketing automation.

With Relevon, it’s pretty easy to get that extra information. You can simply just add the fields in your signup forms. If you have their birth dates, then you can set up the birthday automation workflows we mentioned above.

But without that data, you won’t be able to use those powerful email marketing automation features.

Focusing On Customers After The Sale

Getting someone to buy from you is one of the first goals you have as an e-commerce marketer. But getting that same person to buy from you again is the bigger goal.

You probably already know that it is 5-25 times cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire a new one. And that customers who’ve already bought from you are 5 times more likely to buy from you again—if they’ve had a great experience.

So why are so many eCommerce marketers stopping after the first sale?

That’s when all the real money is going to be made.

Instead of putting the first sale at the end of your marketing funnel, it should be closer to the beginning. Then, once they’ve bought from you, you need to make sure you have your workflows set up so that you can create loyalty, repeat customers out of them.

Secondly, you’ll also need to make sure you’ve got your customer reactivation workflows set up. That way, if a customer hasn’t bought from you in, let’s say, 60 days, they get reactivation emails that will include a great offer or discount.

Focus On Customer Journey

Sales are important, but more often than not, eCommerce marketers are focusing on the quick, short-term sale rather than the long-term one. This short-term strategy usually involves getting a user to go from a first-time visitor to a first-time buyer as quickly as possible.

That’s why many brands offer super discounts, free shipping, and other great perks.

But it’s also important that you focus on the long-term strategy: building up your brand and focusing on the customer journey.

The customer that knows more about a brand, can trust that brand, and can resonate with its goals and ideals, will be much more likely to buy a lot, and a lot more often, than a customer that simply buys because of price.

The battle for low prices is always a losing one, as more and more competitors come into the market. Instead, it’s important that you position yourself in a unique way in the market. That’s what Net-A-Porter did, and why they’re the biggest luxury online retailer (in the highly-competitive fashion niche). You just need to make sure you’ve got your email marketing automation workflows set up to turn them into loyal customers:

  • welcome series to introduce them to your brand
  • birthday series (email and SMS) to delight them on their special day
  • cart recovery series to make sure they buy the first time
  • unique order and shipping confirmation emails to keep them coming back
  • follow-up emails to stay top of mind
  • customer reactivation emails to activate them after they’ve gone quiet

There are loads of possible workflows (especially custom ones), but these will ensure you’ve got the most of the customer journey mapped out and you’re proactive in keeping them as lifelong customers.


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Eric Mumo

Eric is a Content Creator at Relevon. You'll find him researching, documenting and writing marketing and technical content for Relevon's Blog.