Ecommerce Email Marketing Strategy

5 Fundamentals of ecommerce email marketing for more conversions

Ecommerce email marketing is still the most effective magic trick up the eCommerce entrepreneur’s sleeve with the highest ROI.

Everybody jumps the wagon and there are no signs of email output volume decreasing in the near future.

In result, people are becoming more and more resistant to all the junk cluttering their inboxes.

How to break the clutter then?

We recommend – first and most importantly- going through the fundamentals of an email marketing strategy,  fixing them and then creating each campaign sticking to email best practices.

No cheap tricks, no annoying of customers, no unsubscribers.

It’s better to be the classy guy or girl who enters a room with style and makes everybody else feel not dressed up for the occasion.

Wow, a style guide! Why not – these are the fundamental email marketing best practices we compiled so you can outshine your competitors and delight your audience.

(Listed in order of appearance as you create a new email campaign.)

The basics of email marketing conversions:

  1. Sender reputation can make it or break it
  2. How often is it best to send emails?
  3. Can I send an email to all people on my list?
  4. Boost Open Rate with irresistible subject lines
  5. Email conversion: what to write to get those clicks

Sender reputation can make it or break it 

Email providers have ranking systems to monitor the quality of every email campaign sent through their service because – well – any spam, fraud, or a technical issue (e.g. servers down) brings on trouble for them, too. That’s their way of filtering good- and bad-intentioned senders.

The rankings are based on simple statistics like open rate, click rate, spam complaints, unsubscribe rate, as well as output volume.

I have no bad intentions, you say. Sure, but have you thought how your eCommerce emails look to an average recipient?

If you were them, would you break your fingers clicking on every call-to-action? You might be more of a spam than you expect.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as the saying goes.

Here is what MailChimp statistics say about the average email performance in eCommerce in 2015.Email Performance Stats 2015Email Performance Stats 2015 EcommerceIf you did worse on any of these, you might be harming your reputation. And bad reputation means you can send fewer emails per hour.

So if you try to email everybody on your list at once, emails will only get stuck in a sending queue and then get deleted (times vary, but usually after 48 hours).

Wait, what?

Yes, providers queue your email campaign and send only as many emails per hour as permitted based on your reputation. If your quota is 1000 emails/ hour and your list is 100,000 people – it’s simple math that it’ll take 100 hours to send all emails. Your email campaign is doomed.

А bad reputation is hard to fix and can even lead to a ban. Yes, it happens and you have to switch platforms, along with other issues.

Good reputation, on the other hand, means your emails are sent fast and your hourly quota moves up over time.

So next time when you load your whole email list, think again.

You’d better use customer segment, which we’ll look at in just a few moments below.

Tip: Why Bounce Rate is bad and how to avoid it?

It signals disinterest and disappointment from the recipients. They only open it and disengage. A total bounce rate higher than 2% gets you in trouble with providers because they don’t want to facilitate spam.

First, are you sure real people receive your emails? Guard off invalid email addresses with a line of code (only one @ symbol, known domains, etc.) or ask for entering the address twice.

Then, to keep it under control, make sure your email list is real and up-to-date – if you notice some recipients bouncing over and over, better remove the trouble makers.

Another thing is not to mislead them with the subject line and talk about something entirely different in the email. That’s frustrating enough to get you even blocked.

How often is best to send emails?

All experts agree that event-triggered emails (also known as transactional) are the best eCommerce marketing strategy. Extending an interaction over email guarantees the recipient remembers you and is more likely to read what you have to say.

In the examples above, all emails are sent after a visitor did something on the site and in connection with that action.

Great email trigger events :

    • signing up
    • cart abandonment
    • wishlist item on sale
    • order receipt
    • order delivery
    • new products in, similar to purchased before
    • you have some really good resources on using your products – especially, something they’ve already bought (this shows you care about their experience with the product, not just the sale)
    • personal benchmarks (if you have permission to use this information) – birthday, membership anniversary, etc.

Also, check out the automated email campaigns every store should use.

In all of these cases, you’d be providing support throughout their journey and establishing yourself as a partner that adds value. Otherwise, you risk being irrelevant and, therefore, ignored.

Based on the customer’s interaction with your site, you can create almost-personal email marketing campaigns. This way, your recipients will never get the chance to think, “Why am I getting this email now?”

Flooding with emails is frustrating in itself – so many people cannot deal with the overload and promotional messages are the first to go. There’s no sound reason to annoy them even more.

Rather, use people’s behavior in your own favor and build on it.

Tip: Personalize messages based on what people did

This means looking into your CRM and tailoring promotions to each taste.

For example, if those people only visit one product category all the time, you should respect their preference and focus on that range of products in your offers to them. Trying to push them out of their comfort zone most probably won’t work well.

Another example is the overuse of discount codes and coupons. In some cases, you might even be hurting your own profitability giving them so easily. There are always customers who have never used such a coupon even when they received it via email. Apparently, they”re not interested – give them something else.

Can I send an email to all people on my list?

You probably can, but you shouldn’t.

At Metrilo, we are fans of the “Divide and Conquer” philosophy. A special email campaign targeting a smaller group of people would give them more relevant offers and provide additional value is always better.

Examples of customer segments:

  • high LTV customers
  • customers who haven’t ordered anything in the last 30 days
  • people who visit your site a lot, but don’t buy anything
  • customers from a specific city
  • customers who order a specific product regularly

Of course, these are simplified – in a good CRM platform, you can make even more precise segmentations.

The result is a well-targeted email campaign, not a massive blast to all your subscribers. Your sending quota won’t be exhausted by one email campaign (as we explained above) and all your emails will be sent (chances are your subgroups are much smaller than your whole list – 500 recipients is much better than 50,000).

Remember your sender reputation – the provider sees you’re not a spammer. When people recognize the value in your email, their actions show it and you get high open and click rates.

Tip: Paid lists are not among the eCommerce email marketing best practices

They’re not qualified leads and will only bump up your unsubscribe rate and even spam complaints because those people never wanted your emails.

The same goes for emails obtained at trade shows/ networking events. It does look like consent for marketing messages, but it really isn’t – maybe they got your business card too. To be sure, ask politely for permission to email them marketing messages (a checkbox will do). Better get a few “no”-s than a few “mark as spam”-s.

Better, take the time to build an email list by offering something irresistible in exchange – exclusive prices or expert advice, early access to new products, or even a free sample (test this, it might work well, but might lead to unsubscribes later).

In an era of promotional content, they need to be convinced you’ll provide real value. This way, your subscribers agree to receive messages from you.

Once you have a nice and real email list, it’s time to get those emails opened!

Boost Open Rate with irresistible subject lines

Open rate depends on a catchy subject line and a human sender.

An email campaign, sent from a person’s account on behalf of the team, would perform far better. Maybe it’s people’s ego – having a dedicated team member taking care of us makes us feel so special (even though there’s hardly anyone left who doesn’t know about marketing automation).

If you want to get anywhere with email marketing, you need people to open the email. You’d better not rely on “making an impression” – if they don’t open it for more, you’re not making a good impression.

A catchy subject line. Easy to say, not that easy to come up with.

Let’s define what you should avoid first. The easiest way to be marked as spam is to
sound like one:


To avoid triggering spam filters, stay away from phrases like “as seen on”, “buy”, “Buy direct”, “Buying judgments”, “Clearance”, “Order”, “shopper” or “Orders shipped by”.

See what they have in common? These are all generic calls to simply buy from a faceless merchant – no value provided in the best-case scenario.

In the worst-case scenario, subject lines that involve winning a competition, an urgency to respond or stating a monetary prize/bonus without explanation look more like a clickbait that opens up the door for malware.

If your product is any good, you should be able to pull off a subject line that gets attention.

Tip: The perfect subject lines formulas

The more original, the better – spam problem is solved and your email campaign stands out in the inbox. The following are among the ecommerce email marketing best practices for getting people to listen:

  • Questions

Get people interested, but not mislead them what’s to follow.

“Hey, Ashley, what’s up?” is not the question we have in mind. That’s just creepy.

Here are a few quick-brainstormed ideas for subject lines for a coffee roasting online store (yes, it’s always coffee time):

“What does your taste for coffee says about your personality?”

“How will you get out of bed tomorrow? Your Africa blend is not on its way to help you.”

“Still dreaming of that brass coffee pot? It’s dreaming of you, too – at half the price.”

“Hey, Ashley, did our Arabica blend make you a morning person? How was your first cup?”

You get the idea.

  • Email subscriber exclusive

It’s a clever way to go around their suspicion to shady promotions.

You remind them that they opted in for your messages right away so it’s ok to open it. At the same time, it feels good to qualify for a discount without doing anything.

Also, it plays mind tricks on the recipient. It sounds like a rule that email subscribers regularly get such discounts.

  • New product launch

Vertical Response gives two great examples of attention-grabbing subject lines about new products: “You’re Invited! New Product Launch Party at [Your company]” and “Introducing our latest…[product/feature here]”.

That’s a valid reason to reach out to your email list, especially the people who have shown interest in the particular product category. People don’t want to miss on new trends and are always curious about new tech, materials, styles or opportunities.

Our recommendation is not to overuse this tactic, though, because it’ll stop working after the 5th “new collection” of items you introduce (that really don’t look that different from your old ones). Be sure to highlight what’s new and why it’s better.

  • Changes

Even if people don’t engage with your emails often, a subject line about changes always draws attention. Maybe it’s the fear of missing out, but it works.

Honestly, when we announced changes to our blog, we saw one of the best open rates ever. Of course, this trick should be used very carefully because – obviously – you can’t have changes every week and expect the same high level of interest.

  • List

Email or not, people want to skim through the info fast and get their takeaways. So to get your email opened, promise them it’s simple to read and easy to understand.

That’s why we all love lists. They have a clear structure and can be read really fast. A list gives information without wasting too much time on details.

If it fits with your content goals (in e-commerce email marketing should balance between content and promotion), use lists to entertain and educate.

Email List Example


Sumo Me has a whole other lot of surprisingly effective ecommerce email ideas like “The Nazi email” – check them out, you might find something to steal. If not, the Moz blog explored different types of subject lines and when they work.

Email conversion: what to write to get those clicks

Now that people have read your message, you have to make them click on the link/ button provided – that’s your goal. It can lead to a product page, special offer, resource, game, social media, etc.

The click rate is the real indicator whether the campaign message works.

It gets people to do what you want them to.

However, not all your customers and visitors are interested in the same products and you surely cannot be useful to all of them with the same message.

Effective email marketing examples

Even the best segmentation can be ruined by hard sale emails. Ecommerce email marketing is more like an informational channel that keeps your brand top-of-mind.

So here are a few suggestions what you can say in some of the most common e-commerce email campaigns (based on the trigger events mentioned earlier):

  • signing up – don’t start selling right away. Use this as a welcome message instead and walk subscribers through the member’s perks and resources available (tutorials, videos, exclusive social media groups, etc.). Initiate them into the community and not into the product catalog.
  • cart abandonment – that’s the most common one, but you have to do it. Use it as an opportunity to discover what stopped people from completing the order the first time and fix it.
  • wishlist item on sale – happy customers are returning customers. Show them that you care more about them getting what they wanted than your profit margin. We have to admit, we like those offers in our inbox as well.
  • order receipt – the Shopify blog calls them “a virtual goldmine of sales and revenue”. With the highest engagement rates of anything you’re likely to send, it’s a terrible waste if you don’t weave in another call to action. Add a styling tip of the purchased item or a set-up guide; offer an accessory or give them a discount coupon for their next purchase.
  • order delivery – checking if everything’s ok with the delivery is basic. Asking for first impressions of the purchase and a review is next level. To encourage your customers to share pictures of themselves using/ wearing the product is pro level. Just don’t let them say Goodbye.
  • new products in, similar to purchased before – that’s an easy one. Use their order history to decipher their preferences and offer only what’s likely to appeal to them. This way, you stay on their radar – you have the things they like (despite carrying another 10,000 items they couldn’t care less about). If you just pushed products indiscriminately, they’d tune you out.
  • really good resources on using your products, repurpose tutorials, trends, connoisseur tips & tricks – these can be used for ongoing engagement. You’ve heard it before and here it is again – your customer interaction is not limited to the sale. Add value whenever you have the chance. People rarely would turn down a good resource or an entertaining article.

No product is boring – there are surely related topics to create great email content about. Here a few ideas to win customers and keep them coming back.

However, good and relevant content is not everything to send your Click Rate through the roof. It needs to be presented in a “clickable” way – people don’t want to do the effort for your marketing.

One experiment by Digital Marketer showed that using a link instead of a CTA button can completely kill your click-through rate.

A CTA button increased the click rate by 22%.

Tip: What CTA buttons work best in eCommerce emails?

Ecommerce Email Marketing Example CTA

Usually, it doesn’t have to be anything special, just convenient enough for people to click and do what you want them to do – buy, read an article, enter a contest, etc.

E-commerce expert Tucker Schreiber suggests you don’t even need many colors or wild copy – just something clear on what’s to follow and a button that stands out.

For an extra appeal, try these for your CTAs:

  • A good, branded template and high-quality images
  • Using  words close to your product like Cook it, Dress for success, Brew it 
  • Tie the call-to-action with the whole message, repeating the key benefit you’re offering as the action required
  • Using action verbs like try, take, claim, enjoy, create, reserve, get 

How not to be reported as spam or abuse

Abuse or spam reports are basically one and the same thing – it’s the recipient’s way of signaling they find your messages offensive, intrusive or crazy frequent.

Goes without saying, if people mark you as spam or unsubscribe a lot, your sender reputation goes down.

It’s absolutely possible to get blocked by your provider because they’re concerned with their overall deliverability and in such case, you’d be hurting it.

To prevent it, don’t be a spammer. There, we said it again.

Yes, you may be just doing your eCommerce marketing and yes, we know you have to hustle, but 3 emails a day is too much. As we’re talking about event-based email campaigns, you can pace the messages reasonably.

Imagine your poor customers, getting tons of emails. Can you even offer them good stuff 3 times a day every day without getting bored with your own voice? Yep, they’ll probably just ignore you or worse, think, “Who the hell are you?” and hit the spam alert button.

Quick note: Sometimes, people hit “Report as spam” because they’re too lazy to scroll/ can’t find an “unsubscribe” button. Make it easier to unsubscribe (better that than being reported as spam) and don’t expect those people to change their habits.

Last tip: Make your emails look professional

Ugly emails are easier to ignore. On the other hand, an awesome-looking email with visuals and branding might catch recipients’ attention when they didn’t intend to give it more than a glance.

In Metrilo’s email composer, it’s fast and easy to create beautiful email templates even with no help from a designer or developer. Usually, spammers don’t put much aesthetics into their messages.

In conclusion:

The most important things is to learn from experience. Your email campaign stats will show you what works with your audience – people’s interaction with your messages is direct feedback. Keep doing it and drop what’s not. You might find yourself running a few completely different  campaigns for different subgroups and that’s great – everybody’s happy!

You might find yourself running a few completely different  campaigns for different subgroups and that’s great – everybody’s happy!

The beauty of eCommerce email marketing is its power to deliver personalized value while being fully measurable.

In the beginning, we suggested you stand out by being classy and well-balanced instead of blasting blunt sales messages like a sinking ship. Every email campaign should show your values, efforts and professionalism, and not how desperate you are for some revenue.

Your customers would appreciate this self-assured approach and reward you for it – it feels good to do business with companies that know where they stand.

For ideas how to create cool email campaigns, you might find our  Email Composer feature useful. If you need extra inspiration on what content you can include in your emails – check out these content marketing examples. And lastly, for more technicalities on reputation, quotas, anti-spam legislation and so on, visit our Help Center.


About the author

With experience in FMCG and marketing, Dimira writes to help the brands of tomorrow succeed and believes passion is a key ingredient in any business.

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