The Ecommerce Executive’s Guide to Email Marketing

Updated: September 19, 2022

If you’re a leader, owner, or executive of a DTC brand you may view email marketing as just another marketing channel. Your team sends promotional emails that make some money and every once in a while you may send some content emails. You’re probably using an abandoned cart flow to recover lost checkouts. But are you using other key automations that build real customer relationships and drive lifetime value to its fullest potential?

Surprisingly, compared to paid marketing, many treat email as a less important channel, with little to no intentional strategy behind it.

If that is you, you’re not alone. But you are also missing out on a ton of short and long-term opportunities doing it this way.

The truth is your email list and the email strategy you build are valuable assets. You need to treat it as such— not undervalue it.

Why Your Email List Is One Of Your Most Valuable Assets

Email is an owned marketing channel (possibly your only owned channel), which is quite different than a paid marketing channel. You do not own Facebook, Instagram, Google, or any other platform that you choose to run ads on. Therefore you have zero control over the outcome or longevity of these channels. Their algorithms and rules change frequently. They even have the potential to shut down your account without much warning. If you’re a brand that relies on these paid channels for traffic and revenue, that’s a huge vulnerability.

In contrast, your email program is one of the only marketing channels that you truly own and can scale without barriers or risks.

Your goals for your email channel should be to:

  • grow a healthy and engaged list,
  • nurture those relationships at scale to increase loyalty and grow real customer LTV,
  • and create predictable revenue based on your marketing and promotions calendar.

Do this, and email will significantly impact your business. In fact, we encourage brands to strive for at least 30% of their revenue to come from email. That (or more) is completely possible if you prioritize this channel.

In this post, we will explain how to rethink your understanding of email marketing and your email list, as well as why it’s the highest valued asset in your ecommerce space. We’ll also dive into our top advice on how to guide your team to run a very effective email marketing program. Let’s get to it!

Is Your Current Email Program Healthy?

Before we dive in, here are some questions to consider to determine how your current email program is performing.

  1. What is your revenue per email address per send? The sweet spot should be above 10 cents per unique email sent in a campaign.
  2. What percent of your total revenue does email account for? Email should account for upwards of 15% of your total revenue. As mentioned above, in healthy, mature programs, this number is upwards of 30%. Not there? That means a healthy program could add 30% to your top line.
  3. What’s your customer LTV (lifetime value)? We like to see customer lifetime value at least 2.5 to 3 times your AOV (average order value). This should grow over time, and email is the front line for accomplishing this.

The Correct Approach to Email Marketing

There are a few things about email marketing that you need to understand before we dive into how to create a successful email program.

First, you need to approach email with a proper understanding of its value. When you have a curated list coupled with a winning strategy, email marketing can yield the highest ROI of any other channel in your marketing plan. There are also very few costs involved. You’ll pay for a platform and for your team to do the work, but that’s it. You don’t pay per send or pay per click like you would on other marketing channels.

Next, when thinking about your list, keep quality over quantity in mind. Of course, the goal is to grow your list as much as possible. But do not accumulate giant lists of unengaged names. Building your list as quickly as possible through clickbait and sweepstakes is an old-school method that will not work. Focus on acquiring a truly interested audience that will drive real value, even if it’s small.

It’s also important to realize that a solid email strategy is the best way to develop customer lifetime value (LTV). This is the key to success in real, healthy growth in any brand, big or small. You’ve probably heard it said that it’s more efficient to re-engage existing customers than to acquire new ones. Well, email marketing is the most intentional and efficient way to do just that.

While communicating with your customers in order to grow LTV, you’ll likely find a core audience rise to the top. These are the names that are most active and engaged— the people who consistently open emails, click through to your site, and purchase more than once. If you treat them well, they will shift from being regular customers to raving fans. This is ecommerce gold. Your fans are your most important group of customers, and you can leverage this asset in several areas of your business to drive real sales.

Pro Tip: Do you want to build an email marketing program that drives REAL results? Consider investing in our step-by-step guide, The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce Email Success, to share with your marketing team! This is the playbook we use to create email programs that drive significant revenue for our brands.

4 Areas of Focus for a Strong Email Marketing Strategy

1. Platform Selection

The email platform you choose is a key decision in your strategy. It needs to be cost-efficient, as well as deliver quick and easy value for your team. Here are a few requirements to keep in mind as you decide on the right platform for you:

  • Integration: The email platform must integrate well with your ecommerce store so that data can flow seamlessly between the two. This is crucial for your program to thrive. This will allow you to easily search, store, and report on revenue attributed to email. This will also allow you to quickly segment (or group) customers from your email list based on behaviors and interests they have taken on your site.
  • Ease of use: Traditional email platforms are over-complicated and waste a lot of time getting emails written and lists created just to allow you to send the campaign. Thankfully, there are newer options out there (like Klaviyo) that are user-friendly and highly efficient. Whatever you choose, your team needs to be able to QUICKLY create effective promotional emails, segment customers based on purchase history or other behaviors, create automated sequences, and report on direct revenue attributed to each email sent.
  • Budget: Back in the day, those complex, older platforms we just mentioned would break the bank and have long contracts. That’s not the case anymore. Klaviyo’s subscriptions (our top choice) bill based on your email list size and the number of emails you send per month. This is much less expensive than old-school platforms.

If you’d like to learn more about Klaviyo and things to keep in mind when selecting a platform, read our Complete Klaviyo Review for Ecommerce Email Marketing.

2. Email Campaigns (Promotions and Content)

The second area of focus will be marketing (or promotional) emails. These are one-off emails based on your team’s marketing calendar. If you don’t have a marketing calendar that covers every marketing channel you use, your team needs one ASAP. You’ll never reach your goals if you don’t plan months in advance. If your team does not use a unified marketing calendar they are likely running around in chaos and with no clear path to hit revenue goals.

You’re probably already sending marketing emails to announce sales and new product releases, which is perfect. However, it’s important to note that not all marketing emails should focus solely on selling. We follow a 1:1 ratio of emails that push sales to emails that push valuable, helpful content. Selling non-stop is a sure way to burn out your customers and see unsubscribes increase quickly.

3. Automated Email Sequences

Third, you’ll need automated emails, which are a series of emails that are pre-built and typically include dynamic customization.

Technically, they are sent based on a logic tree where certain messages are sent in response to various actions or behaviors from your customers. These actions and behaviors, such as purchasing a certain product, joining a certain list, or spending a certain amount, act as triggers that prompt these message flows.

Translation: Automated sequences allow you to have personal communications with your customers based on specific actions they have taken at scale, which equates to more sales with no additional work or marketing spend.

This may sound complex, but you have likely received these types of emails before. The top three sequences you MUST have running are:

  • Abandoned Cart: Triggered when a customer starts checkout but does not complete it. This series of two to three emails follow up on the item/s they left behind with a reminder to complete checkout.
  • Welcome Series: Prompted when customers sign up for your email newsletter prior to purchase. These emails tell your brand’s story, show off what you have to offer, and typically include a welcome discount.
  • Post Purchase: Triggered by a purchase, this sequence is designed to thank the customer for purchasing, educate the customer on the product and how to use it, and possibly offer a discount for their next order.

You can start simple with the three listed above, and eventually get more complex for more specific audiences. For example:

  • Once customers reach three or more purchases, you might automatically welcome them to a VIP Customer List and treat them to more specific content or offers.
  • If a customer has not purchased in a while, you might automatically send them a series of “winback” emails to showcase what’s new and offer a coupon if they’d like to come back today.
  • If a customer buys a product that has complimentary items at your store, you could automatically send emails that cross-sell those additional products.

Whether you’re running simple or more complex automations, here is the key takeaway: Automated email sequences are the most effective way to increase customer lifetime value at scale. And as we mentioned at the top of this article, developing customer lifetime value is critical to extreme growth in any brand. For more on this, check out 8 Automated Email Campaigns Your Ecommerce Store Needs.

4. Segmentation

The last piece of the puzzle is customer segmentation, which means grouping customers from your list based on certain actions or attributes in order to communicate with them on a more personal level, at scale.

For example, you might want to send a promotional email only to customers who have bought a certain product in the past. Or, you may want to send a coupon to customers who have not purchased in the last year. Or, you may want to thank your top customers. We even use segmentation to poll customers who have bought one product to see if they’d like us to release a better version. Even if you want to send the same message to your entire list, you could still use segmentation to break your list into different types of customers and tweak the design or copy of your email to appeal to different audiences.

Another important use of segmentation is to exclude unengaged, unsubscribed, or suppressed emails. For unengaged contacts, there are efforts that can be made to re-engage those names (such as win-back campaigns and flows). But continuing to include these names in all of your regular email sends can cause issues such as spam complaints or a high unsubscribe rate. It also dilutes the engagements metrics and makes it hard to see how engaged your core customers actually are!

So why go to all this effort for segmentation? In short, the more you can tailor your email communication to specific customers, the more effective your emails (and the higher your engagement) will be.

Fortunately, this is a very simple process with a modern email platform built for ecommerce. Platforms such as Klaviyo automatically collect and store all kinds of customer data from your ecommerce store, which allows you to create segments quickly and easily.

Want to See More Revenue from Email?

There is a lot that goes into a winning email marketing program, but it starts with understanding its potential. Never underestimate the value of your biggest marketing asset: your customer email list. Used wisely, you will be able to acquire new subscribers, grow relationships with current customers, and most importantly, turn those customers into raving fans.

If you’re still not convinced that the ROI is there, think again! We’ve recently published a case study that breaks down how we used Klaviyo email marketing to grow one client (Groove Life) from brand new to over 8 figures in revenue in just three years.

This job is not for the entry-level marketer or an eager intern. It requires experience to strategically grow your list and use it skillfully to make revenue. If you want to win in ecommerce, hire an expert to help get your email marketing strategy in order.

If you’d rather keep email marketing in-house, be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce Email Success. This is an info-packed instant download that will walk you through how to implement all we discussed here and more. It’s the perfect way to ensure your marketing team is on the right track for success!


Looking for experienced experts to help guide your email strategy?

Get in touch with us



Additional Reading:
How We Helped Groove Life Leverage Klaviyo Email Marketing to Explode to 8 Figures in Just 3 Years
9 Easy Email Segmentation Strategies that Increase Conversions
7 Ecommerce Email Marketing Examples to Inspire Your Campaigns
8 Automated Email Campaigns Your Store Needs
6 Ways to Scale Customer Lifetime Value While You Sleep
8 Email Marketing Tips to Make CTR and Open Rates Skyrocket
8 Reasons Klaviyo is a No-Brainer for Ecommerce Companies
The Holy Grail of Ecommerce Success: Creating Lifelong Brand Fans