Email Marketing Guide for Shopify

Email marketing is a relatively affordable and scalable way to acquire and retain customers for your Shopify or eCommerce business. In fact, Shopify looked at order conversion rates across email, search (3.04%), direct (2.93%), and social (1.81%) — and email scored highest at 4.29%. 

So how do you launch a successful email marketing strategy for your Shopify business? In this guide, we’re going to show you…

  • How to use emails to get first-time customers, encourage repeat purchases and incentivize cart abandoners
  • What audience segments and email campaign types to focus on
  • Common email marketing mistakes to avoid
  • What email marketing platforms work best with Shopify
  • … and more.

Let’s get started.

Email Marketing 101

Before diving into all things email marketing on Shopify, let’s quickly run-through what email marketing is and does. 

As an e-retailer, you likely have an email list — at the very least from your existing and former customers. How you grow and engage that list will make a big impact on your online store’s growth. After all, that email list is one of your most valuable marketing assets — it’s something that no one can take away from you. 

Say, for example, you run social media campaigns across Facebook and Instagram, engaging with influencers and paying for sponsored posts to build an audience and drive new and repeat business. Now what would happen if, completely out of the blue, Facebook and Instagram shut down or changed their advertising policies and all your efforts were for naught? 

You’d still have your email list. 

Now this is a highly unlikely scenario, but you get what we’re saying: you’ll never lose your email list, so take advantage of it now to educate, build loyalty, and make sales.

Not only will you always have these emails, you’ll also have complete control over what you put in them. We’ll go over the type of content that will help drive engagement and sales, but overall, you want to hit the following general performance benchmarks:

  • 20-30% open rate 
  • 5% click-thru rate 
  • 20% total store revenue from email efforts

Now how do you hit these benchmarks on Shopify? Continue to the next section for tips on campaigns and segmentations that will drive results.

Best Email Marketing for Shopify

What type of email you send and to whom depends on a number of factors, such as where someone is in their buying journey and what’s going on with your business. Overall, there are three types of eCommerce emails: transactional, promotional, and lifecycle.

  • Transactional Emails: These include order-specific updates, like order confirmations, shipping notifications, etc. They have the highest open rates and click-thru rates, because customers are expecting to receive them. This means you have a great opportunity to engage them further. For example, use the order confirmation email to suggest related products or pre-ship add-on deals to repeat customers; include a refer-a-friend offer in the shipping confirmation email; follow-up after a customer has received their order to get feedback and/or a product review. Just make sure that any promotional content you include in these is at the bottom — i.e. below the information they’re expecting to find (like products purchased, total cost, expected delivery date, shipping address, tracking links, etc.).
  • Promotional Emails: These are your newsletter-type emails, where you share brand/product updates, introduce new products, promote discounts, tell customer success stories, etc. They’re a great way to keep your audience informed and engaged.
  • Lifecycle Emails: These are automated, triggered campaigns that get sent when someone makes a particular action. There are four kinds of lifecycle emails to consider:
    • Cart Abandonment: If someone abandons their cart, you can follow-up with an email series that encourages them to complete their order. According to Shopify, these emails can recover 5-11% of otherwise lost sales. Make sure these emails link back to their shopping cart, use high-quality images of the items they’ve left, and incentivize them to complete the purchase. You could start with a gentle reminder email, then follow-up a day or two later with a discount or free shipping offer.
    • Welcome Email Series: If they sign up for your email list, start sending them a welcome series right away. This series is intended to provide value and make them feel like they’re a part of your brand and whatever community you might be building in the process. Make sure to send the first email right after they sign up for it, especially if you’ve promised a discount code. Then, set expectations. In other words, how often should they expect to hear from you? What kind of content will they receive? How can they unsubscribe?
    • Second-Order Emails: Sometimes referred to as a “bounce-back” offer, these emails aim to encourage first-time buyers to come back and make a second order. One way to do this is to suggest related products or include a discount code or offer free shipping if they come back within a certain time frame.
    • Win-Back Emails: If you have customers that haven’t purchased or added to cart in 45 days, send an email or two trying to win them back. You could provide any relevant updates, offer incentives, conduct a survey to find out why they haven’t come back, etc.

In addition to these different types of emails, you should also segment your customers into different audiences, including:

  • New Subscribers: They’re brand new to your brand and haven’t yet purchased, but they signed up for your email list so they’re clearly interested. You want to build trust with them.
  • One-time Buyers: You want to keep them engaged and encourage a second purchase. Personalize recommendations based on what they bought in their first order — i.e. if they bought a pair of earrings, maybe they’d be interested in a matching necklace.
  • VIPs: These are your most loyal customers — the ones who make repeat purchases whether or not you’re offering a discount. You really want to nurture your relationship with them because they’re the ones who will likely become your advocates by recommending your products to their friends. Make sure they know how much you value them, continue to build their trust, consider creating a loyalty program, get their feedback so you can continuously improve, etc.
  • Lapsed Customers: These are people who have purchased from you in the past, but haven’t come back for more. After a certain amount of time (say 90 days or longer), it’s unlikely that they will come back. That said, you could try getting feedback as to why they haven’t returned — i.e. is it because of something you can fix or was it just a personal decision to not spend money.
  • Cart Abandoners: These are hot leads! They’ve added something to their carts, but then not pulled through with a purchase. Maybe they’re price shopping and looking for a deal to help them pull the trigger, maybe they got sidetracked. Whatever the case, you should engage them quickly post-abandonment. Send a gentle reminder about the items that are waiting for them, make note of any low stock alerts to create a sense of urgency, and/or incentivize them with free shipping or 10% off.

Okay, so that was a lot of information about what you should do with your email marketing efforts. How about what you shouldn’t do? In the next section, we’ve outlined 9 common email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them.

Biggest Mistakes Email Marketing and Shopify

No company’s email marketing efforts are perfect. But there are common mistakes you can learn from so that your efforts have the most impact on your bottom line. Here are 9 such mistakes — plus how to avoid them:

  1. Not Encouraging Opt-Ins: Make it easy for your website visitors to sign up for your email list. Use a pop-up when they first get to your site and make a compelling offer in exchange for their email (like 10% off their first order, free shipping, or a relevant piece of educational content). Consider also adding opt-ins to your header and footer as well as any highly-trafficked pages. 
  2. Not Getting Proper Permission to Email: Did you know there are laws around how you use email to market your business? Make sure you’re up to speed so that you don’t get fined. In the U.S., the most common is known as CAN-SPAM, which sets rules for all types of commercial messages. Such rules are outlined here. If you have any specific questions about how these rules pertain to your business, please consult a legal professional.
  3. Buying Lists: Your email list is only as good as the people who are on it — in other words, you don’t want an email list for the sake of having an email list. You want an email list with people who are most likely to engage with your content and buy your products. That’s why it’s never a good idea to buy a list. Not only will your email metrics fall below the suggested benchmarks above, but your emails are more likely to be marked as spam, which can hurt your deliverability.
  4. Not Running A/B Tests: If you’re not sure how to word something, what type of call-to-action is appropriate, or what image will convert more readers, run an A/B test. This is where you take a small segment of your email list and split it in half. Send the same email to each half, but make ONE change to one of the emails. Whether it’s the subject line, call-to-action, an image, a certain color. Whatever it is, keep the change to ONE thing so you can make a more confident conclusion about what will convert better for the rest of your list. All in all, A/B testing can tell you a lot about what works best — and what doesn’t.
  5. Not Testing and/or Planning Ahead: Before you send any emails, make sure all links are accurate and working, and confirm that your website and product listings are up-to-date, etc. The last thing you want to do is drive someone to a page that doesn’t exist or to a product that either doesn’t match what was in the email or has misinformation in the description.
  6. Writing Long Emails: To ensure that your emails actually get read, keep the length to 200 words or less and use high-quality images where appropriate. 
  7. Selling in Every Email: Sure, you can drive a lot of sales with emails, but you don’t want to use every email as an opportunity to sell. You’ll likely come off as spammy and greedy, which will encourage email opt-outs/unsubscribes. Instead, use emails to also highlight benefits and features, share testimonials/customer success stories, provide relevant educational content, etc.
  8. Relying Too Much on Discounts: You may have seen that some of our recommendations include adding incentives like discounts and free shipping to help convert potential customers. While this is a great way to close a deal, be careful how often you actually offer them. The last thing you want to do is set a precedent with your audience that you’ll always give them a discount if they wait long enough for it. Starting with gentle reminders then leading into discounts (like 5% off, then 10% off, and so on) can help you drive conversions without setting such a precedent — or losing money on sales.
  9. Not Including a CTA: With a few minor exceptions, you should always, always include a call-to-action, even if you aren’t including a straight sell. Find other ways readers can engage with you, whether it’s by reading your blog, following you on social media, taking a survey, etc.

By now, you know what to do — and not do — to build, segment, and market to your email list. So how do you actually manage these contacts and send your email campaigns? You’re going to need an email platform. In the next and final section, you’ll find a list of the top email marketing tools for Shopify.

Best Email Marketing Tools for Shopify

Do a quick Google search and you’ll see that there are a ton of email service providers that integrate with Shopify. You can find the full list on Shopify, but here are the top 5:

  1. Shopify Email: Shopify’s built-in email marketing platform allows you to send branded emails using their ready-made and user-friendly templates, manage and segment contact lists, track performances, and more. The best part? Shopify Email is free for all plans until October 1, 2020. After that, the first 2,500 emails you send monthly will be free.
  2. Klaviyo: Klaviyo can help you with overall marketing automation and recapturing lost sales. Customers who switch to Klaviyo see an average 67x increase in ROI.
  3. Seguno: Integrated with your Shopify admin, mobile app and Marketing section, Seguno allows you to manage all aspects of your email marketing without leaving Shopify. You can automate everything from product review requests to live countdown GIFs on sales and more.
  4. Omnisend: If you’re currently using Mailchimp and want to switch over to a platform that seamlessly integrates with Shopify, Omnisend might be a good fit. They offer easy migration from Mailchimp, single-click Shopify integration, and a wealth of automations to recover abandoned carts, lost customers, etc.
  5. Dotdigital: With dotdigital, you can manage the entire customer journey in one place with automated communications via email, SMS, social, chat, and more.

At the end of the day, you want to use a platform that covers all your bases, from functionality to user-friendliness to budget. At the very least, make sure your platform of choice hits the following criteria:

  • Shopify Form Syncing: Make sure you can connect your Shopify forms so data is easily transferred and appropriately stored, including contact information, purchase history, etc. 
  • Segmenting & Reporting: Make sure you can create multiple audience segments so you can tailor communications accordingly, then track how those communications are performing. 
  • Visual Editor: Look for visual email editors with simple drag/drop features so you don’t have to spend time learning HTML.

If you’re ready to launch or improve your email marketing efforts and need a cash flow boost to help cover the cost, check out Instant Advance for Shopify. Instant Advance is also available to businesses on Amazon. Need to get paid faster for your Amazon sales? Get paid the next day, every day for your Amazon sales and protect yourself against unavailable balances with Instant Access

Victoria Sullivan
Victoria Sullivan is a Marketing Manager at Payability. She has over eight years of social media, copywriting and marketing experience. Prior to joining the Payability team, Victoria developed social media content and strategies for top technology brands such as Skype and Samsung. She holds a degree in Advertising from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She can often be found in a yoga class or working on her fashion blog.

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