Ecommerce

Ecommerce Marketing Automation Guide: 5 Steps to Effortlessly Boost Sales and Efficiency

Inka WibowoSarah Baxter

By Inka & Sarah

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ecommerce marketing automation

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If you’re a busy ecommerce store owner, here are a few things you don’t have time for:

  • Endlessly copy-pasting email addresses onto different mailing lists
  • Sending post-purchase thank you emails one by one
  • Keeping track of a long record of customer purchase histories

Fortunately, there’s no need to do any of these tedious tasks manually. Ecommerce marketing automation simplifies your busy life by automating work which would otherwise take tons of time and brainpower. This could include email marketing automation (see some automated email examples here), automating social media posts or digital ads, and more.

It also makes it easier to reach the right customers with targeted segments and personalized messages, leading to more sales. Plus, it saves time and gives insights into what's working and what's not, which can help your business grow.

In this guide, I’ll show you how you can take advantage of marketing automation as part of your ecommerce email marketing strategy. I’ll explain its biggest benefits, and walk you through how to get your ecommerce marketing automation strategy off the ground in 5 simple steps.

The benefits of ecommerce marketing automation

If you’re looking to improve the effectiveness of your ecommerce email marketing efforts, marketing automation offers a huge range of benefits. It saves you time by taking care of repetitive tasks, like sending emails and sorting customers based on their interests. This means you can focus on growing your business instead of getting bogged down in routine chores.

Plus, it helps you connect with customers in a more personal way. By sending tailored messages to different groups of customers, you can establish a closer connection with them and increase the chances they'll buy from you again.

Another big benefit is that marketing automation helps you figure out what works and what doesn't. You can see which emails are getting opened and which ones are getting ignored, so you can tweak your strategy to get better results.

Finally, as your business grows, automation scales right along with it. Whether you're dealing with a holiday rush or trying out new marketing ideas, automation tools make it easy to keep everything running smoothly. So, if you want to save time, boost sales, and build better relationships with your customers, marketing automation is a great solution.

And it doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Most affordable email marketing platforms include automation features, at no extra cost. In fact, many offer freemium plans that let you send automated campaigns to a limited number of subscribers, meaning you can start with zero investment, and scale up only when you need to.

What can you do with marketing automation?

To start, here’s what you can expect to do with any ecommerce marketing automation software:

Automated flows

A “flow” in automated marketing is like a chain reaction that happens when customers do certain things or meet specific criteria. The steps in the flow are activated by triggers. These triggers could include visiting your website, abandoning a cart, or purchasing a product. When a trigger event happens, automatic marketing responses are set in motion, such as sending an email or adding the customer to a particular list or segment.

Marketing automation can let you create these basic automated flows (and more):

  • Abandoned cart emails
  • Welcome emails for new subscribers
  • Post purchase upsell emails
  • Re-engagement emails for inactive subscribers

automated marketing flow

A typical automated marketing flow might look something like this.

Email Campaigns

Email marketing campaigns are usually created for special events or sales. In contrast to an automated flow, which generally runs permanently in the background and sends emails when triggered, an email campaign is typically a one-off event. Marketing automation tools can help you schedule these campaigns in advance, and make sure you’re sending them to the right audience. Common features include email personalization, list management, and A/B testing.

Here are examples of email campaigns you can set up using any ecommerce email service provider:

  • Newsletters
  • Black Friday deals
  • New product launches
  • Exclusive deals for subscribers
  • VIP Customer appreciation emails
  • Pre-order opportunities for new releases

Segmentation

Think of email segmentation as the art of organizing your audience into groups based on similar traits or behaviors. Segmentation is crucial because it lets you target your marketing messages to fit each segment's unique characteristics.

With ecommerce marketing automation software, you can sort your customers into segments such as:

  • Frequent buyers vs. one-time purchasers
  • Newsletter readers who click through vs. those who don't
  • Customers grouped by geographic location or demographic data
  • New subscribers vs. customers who have already purchased
Pro Tip: The world of marketing automation is filled with jargon. Some platforms use different words that mean the same thing (or something very similar). Here are a few examples to look out for:

Flow: workflow, automation template, customer journey, recipe (!)

Trigger: Entry point, action, condition, rule, event

Segmentation: Grouping, targeting, filtering, audience selection

How to get started with ecommerce marketing automation: 5 simple steps

1. Set clear goals for your automated campaigns

Setting clear goals is an essential first step for your ecommerce marketing automation strategy. Firstly, clear goals provide direction and focus. They help you identify what you want to achieve with your email marketing efforts, whether it's increasing sales, driving website traffic, or boosting customer engagement.

By knowing exactly what you're working towards, you can prioritize tasks, allocate resources effectively, and, most importantly, stay on track.

Secondly, setting clear goals allows you to measure progress and performance. By establishing measurable goals, such as a target conversion rate or revenue generated from email marketing, you can track performance over time, identify areas for improvement, and make decisions that are backed by data.

Some examples of specific, measurable goals you could set include:

  1. Increase sales: You could set a specific revenue target to be generated through email marketing campaigns within a certain time frame. For example, aim to increase monthly sales by 20% through email campaigns targeting abandoned carts and upselling/cross-selling products.
  2. Grow email list: Set a goal to increase your email subscriber list by a certain percentage within the next quarter. For instance, aim to grow your email list by 25% by implementing strategies such as offering exclusive discounts or creating compelling lead magnets to attract new subscribers.
  3. Improve engagement: Aim to improve email engagement metrics, such as open and click-through rates (although be aware of this one potential issue with measuring open rates). For example, aim to achieve a 30% increase in email open rates by optimizing subject lines, personalizing content, and sending emails at optimal times.
  4. Reduce cart abandonment: Set a goal to decrease cart abandonment rates by implementing automated email workflows targeting abandoned carts. You could aim to reduce cart abandonment rates by 15% by sending timely and compelling cart recovery emails with enticing offers or incentives.
  5. Enhance customer loyalty: Set a goal to improve customer retention and loyalty through targeted email campaigns, such as increasing customer lifetime value by 10% through loyalty programs and personalized nurture emails.

2. Choose the right marketing automation platform

Investing time and effort into choosing the right platform upfront can save you a lot of headaches down the line. The last thing you want to be doing is overpaying for a fancy platform that offers way more than you need, or to be constrained by a basic platform that doesn’t support your requirements.

If you’re already sending out email marketing campaigns, do some research to see whether the platform you’re using offers automation features that you can take advantage of. For example, Shopify Email lets you send abandoned cart campaigns, welcome emails, winback emails, and other automated campaigns.

shopify email automations

Some of the pre-built automation templates available with Shopify Email

But if you’re planning to set up more complex automations, I’d recommend checking out our detailed guide on ecommerce marketing automation software. In it, we take you through the pros and cons of using popular tools like Omnisend, Klaviyo and ActiveCampaign for setting up your automations.

Klaviyo SMS

Advanced automation tools like Klaviyo allow you to set up SMS automations alongside your email campaigns

Also be sure to:

  • Consider factors such as the size of your email list, the frequency of your campaigns, and the level of automation you require. This will help you narrow down your options and focus on platforms that can meet your needs.
  • Look into how well the marketing automation platform integrates with tools you’re already using, e.g. your ecommerce platform, CRM system, analytics tools.
  • Compare pricing plans and consider your budget constraints when choosing an email marketing platform. Look for platforms that offer flexible pricing options based on the size of your email list and the features you need.
  • Take advantage of free trials and freemium plans to explore the platform's features, user interface, and overall usability. This hands-on experience can help you assess whether the platform is the right fit for your ecommerce business.

3. Segment your audience (and take advantage of automation to do this)

Segmenting your existing (and new) subscribers is a powerful strategy that allows you to tailor your messaging to different groups of subscribers based on their preferences, behavior, and demographics. This can lead to higher engagement, more conversions, and improved customer loyalty.

For example, you could segment your audience based on their purchase history, targeting customers with relevant product recommendations, cross-sell or upsell opportunities, and loyalty rewards. You could create segments for first-time buyers, repeat customers, high-value customers, or customers who haven't bought anything in a while.

Or, you could segment your audience based on the products they've viewed, items they've added to their cart but haven't purchased (abandoned cart), or products they've shown interest in through wish lists or saved items.

Another common way to segment audiences is based on their engagement with your emails, such as open rates, click-through rates, and email interaction. This allows you to target active subscribers with promotional offers or exclusive content, and re-engage inactive subscribers with targeted reactivation campaigns.

Sound like a lot of work? The great thing about automation is that you don’t have to do all this on your own. Many email marketing platforms often include features such as:

  1. Pre-built segments: Some email marketing platforms, such as Omnisend and Klaviyo, provide pre-built segments based on common criteria such as engagement level, purchase behavior, or demographics. These segments are ready-made and can be easily applied to your email campaigns without the need for manual setup.
  2. Automation workflows: Automation workflows allow you to set up automated email sequences based on specific triggers or actions taken by your subscribers. Most platforms offer pre-built automation workflows tailored to ecommerce businesses, such as welcome series, abandoned cart reminders, post-purchase follow-ups, and re-engagement campaigns.
  3. Dynamic content: Dynamic content enables you to personalize email content based on segmentation criteria, such as including product recommendations or offers tailored to each recipient's preferences and behavior. This allows you to create highly relevant and engaging emails that drive conversion and revenue.
Tip: If you’re new to the email marketing game and don’t have a list of subscribers to work with yet, check out our comprehensive guide on how to build an email list.

4. Set up your automated campaigns

Now that you've selected your email automation software and have your segments created, it's time to roll up your sleeves and start setting up your automated campaigns!

There are two routes you can take to get started: the easy way and the more complex way. For beginners, I recommend starting with the simpler option, which involves leveraging the pre-built automation workflows offered by your platform. For instance, platforms like Omnisend and Klaviyo provide a library of pre-built workflows tailored specifically for ecommerce needs, such as welcome emails and abandoned cart campaigns.

Klaviyo’s Automation Workflows

Klaviyo offers standard pre-built automations, as well as advanced ones such as purchase reminders and back in stock notifications

To kickstart your automation journey, create some simple segments that capture a broad range of your audience's interests and behaviors. These segments should filter in a decent amount of targeted contacts without being overly restrictive.

Next, craft personalized emails to promote these assets, adhering to best practices for writing effective marketing emails. Personalization is key in ecommerce, so tailor your messaging to resonate with each segment of your audience.

javy abandoned cart email

An example of an abandoned cart email used by coffee retailer Javy (Source: Really Good Emails)

Before launching your campaigns, thoroughly test them to make sure your contacts will receive the intended communications. You can do this by inserting yourself and your team members into the segments, and checking whether the emails get received at the right time.

Once your initial campaigns are up and running smoothly, it's time to think about expanding into more complex workflows, such as re-engagement, upsell or winback campaigns. These might involve using more granular segments, precise triggers, and content specifically created for each campaign. Consider how different workflows should interconnect and when contacts should exit one workflow and enter another.

Finally, keep a close eye on the results and be prepared to iterate and optimize your automations as needed to drive continued success for your ecommerce business.

Remember – all your automated emails should follow the rules of permission-based marketing. Ensure that your email marketing practices comply with relevant regulations, such as the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR. Obtain consent from subscribers before sending them marketing emails, and provide clear options for opting out of communications.

5. Review and optimize your campaigns

Of course, your ecommerce marketing automation journey doesn’t end there! Keeping a close eye on your email marketing performance is essential for making sure your campaigns hit the mark.

Regularly monitor key metrics like open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and revenue generated from email campaigns. Use analytics tools to track performance, identify trends, and gain insights into your audience's behavior.

For example, if you notice a drop in open rates for a particular email campaign, investigate possible reasons such as a poor subject line or timing issue, and make adjustments accordingly. Similarly, if a certain type of content or offer consistently performs well, consider incorporating more of it into your future campaigns.

Experiment with different elements of your campaigns, such as subject lines, send times, and content formats, to see what resonates best with your audience. Use A/B testing to compare different versions of your emails and identify what drives better engagement and conversion.

Finally, the email world is always changing, so it's important to stay in the know. Stay curious and keep learning about new trends and techniques. Hang out in online forums, read blogs, and chat with other ecommerce enthusiasts. Don't be afraid to try new things – like adding fun GIFs or quizzes to your emails – to keep your customers engaged. By staying curious and keeping up with the latest trends, you'll keep your emails fresh and exciting for your customers.

Should you use discounts as part of your ecommerce marketing automation strategy?

Offering discounts as part of an automated email strategy can be a powerful tactic for ecommerce owners, but it's important to use them strategically and thoughtfully. Here are some effective ways to use them:

  1. Attracting New Customers: Offering a discount or incentive, such as a percentage off or free shipping, can be a good way to attract new customers and incentivize them to make their first purchase. For example, a welcome email with a special discount code for first-time buyers can encourage visitors to become paying customers.
  2. Recovering Abandoned Carts: Discounts can be particularly effective in recovering abandoned carts, where customers have added items to their cart but haven't completed the purchase. Sending a targeted email with a discount or incentive can remind customers of the products they were interested in and encourage them to complete their purchase.
  3. Driving Repeat Purchases: Discounts can also be used to incentivize repeat purchases and encourage customer loyalty. For example, offering a discount code on a customer's birthday or anniversary can make them feel valued and encourage them to make another purchase.
  4. Clearing Inventory: Discounts can be useful for clearing out excess inventory or promoting seasonal sales. Sending targeted emails to customers who have shown interest in specific products or categories can help drive sales and reduce inventory levels.

the sill email

How online plant store The Sill uses discount codes as part of their automated welcome email

However, it's important to use discounts judiciously and avoid relying on them too heavily. Overuse of discounts can devalue your products and train customers to only purchase when there's a sale. Additionally, offering discounts to all customers can attract bargain hunters who may not be loyal to your brand in the long term.

Instead, it’s better to offer discounts selectively to specific customer segments or as part of targeted campaigns. Monitor the effectiveness of your discount offers and track metrics such as redemption rates, average order value, and customer lifetime value to assess their impact on your bottom line.

Final Thoughts on Ecommerce Marketing Automation

The benefits of ecommerce marketing automation go beyond just saving time. It also allows us to connect with our customers in a more personal way. By sending tailored messages to different customer segments, we can establish closer relationships and increase the likelihood of repeat purchases.

What’s more, marketing automation provides valuable insights into what's working and what's not. By tracking metrics like open rates and click-through rates, we can identify areas for improvement and refine our strategies for better results.

And the best part? It doesn’t have to break the bank. Many affordable email marketing platforms offer automation features at no extra cost, making it accessible to businesses of all sizes.

In conclusion, if you're looking to save time, boost sales, and build better relationships with your customers, ecommerce marketing automation is the way to go. So why wait? Take your first steps with ecommerce marketing automation by:

> Finding the best tool for your online store with our ecommerce marketing automation software guide

> Taking a look at some of the best automated email examples to inspire your campaigns

The authors

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Inka Wibowo

Senior Content Manager

Hi, I'm Inka! I spent the earlier part of my career in agency land, helping businesses of all sizes get their email marketing campaigns up and running. Now, at EmailTooltester, I'm using my experience to help businesses like yours find the best email marketing services for your needs.

Sarah Baxter

Hi there! I’m Sarah Baxter. I opened my first online shop way back in 2009, and have been developing my own ecommerce websites since then. I’ve had countless hours of first-hand experience using online tools to build my business. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and my goal is to share that knowledge with other small business owners here at EmailTooltester.

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13 May 2024 - General update

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This article has been written and researched following our EmailTooltester methodology.

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