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Grow your online store with email marketing

A guide to getting started with email marketing.

Email marketing done right can help your business grow connections and community. Regular email campaigns help your brand stay relevant. Many of your followers don’t see your social media posts because of the algorithm, but with email, your campaigns get seen in your subscribers’ inboxes. Email is still one of the most powerful marketing tools and one I recommend all eCommerce websites explore.

In this guide I’ll cover the following:

  • 5 compelling reasons to get started with email marketing
  • How it works
  • 15 ideas to incentivize sign-ups
  • The 3 automations every online store needs
  • The 3 email marketing services I recommend

Wondering why your business needs email marketing? Here are 5 compelling reasons:

#1 Email marketing is profitable. For every dollar invested, expect $40 in return. In fact – email marketing done right offers the highest return on investment of any other marketing channel. Email is not dead.

#2 You 100% own your contact list. If something happens to your social media account or if the social channel suddenly changes everything, or worse case scenario, shuts down completely, you lose your entire audience just like that. But you don’t lose your subscriber list.

#3 Email marketing lets you talk to your customers like real people. You can tailor your messages to their specific needs and buyer habits, making them feel like you’re actually listening to them.

#4 Email marketing is a great way to build relationships with your customers. By providing them with valuable content and offers, you can stay top of mind and encourage them to come back for more.

#5 Email marketing can help you drive traffic to your website and boost sales. By including links to your website in your emails, you can make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for.

How email marketing works

If you’re new to eCommerce, you are probably wondering how it all works. Questions like ‘What do you use to send emails?‘ and ‘How does it connect or work with your website?’ might be on your mind.

Firstly, you need to decide on and sign up to an email marketing service. Some of the popular services are: MailChimp, Klaviyo, Flodesk and Omnisend.

These services offer various plans with different features. Most of them enable you to do the following:

  • Store your mailing list contacts on a secure database.
  • Design and send out email marketing newsletters (also called campaigns).
  • Analyze the data from each newsletter, including how many subscribers opened the email and how many clicks it received.
  • Analyze how many sales you got from the email.
  • A/B and split testing so you can test out different creative, formats and copy.
  • Create automation flows, which are automated emails that get sent out when an event is triggered. For example – when someone first subscribes you can set up a welcome email that gets sent to the new subscriber automatically.
  • Connect your website. With Shopify, you can easily connect any website sign-up forms to your email marketing service.
  • Target and segment your subscribers based on their activities: for example, repeat buyers, buyers whose average order value is bigger than average and first-time buyers who haven’t purchased again. This provides powerful opportunities to create highly targeted campaigns based on customer activity.

Once you have decided on an email marketing service for your store, you need to register and follow the sign-up process. After this, you can connect the email marketing service to your website. With Shopify and WordPress there are apps and plugins that help you do this.

Once your website and email marketing service are connected, your next task is to brainstorm ways to get people to subscribe.

15 ideas to incentivize sign ups:

1. Exclusive Discounts: Offer a special discount code for subscribers’ first purchase.

2. Free Shipping: Provide free shipping on the first order for email subscribers.

3. Limited-Time Offers: Access to flash sales and limited-time promotions exclusive to subscribers.

4. Sneak Peeks: Get a preview of upcoming collections or products before they are released to the public.

5. Gift with Purchase: Receive a free gift or sample with the first purchase.

6. Membership Points: Earn bonus loyalty points for signing up, which can be redeemed for discounts.

7. Educational Content: Access to an exclusive how-to guide, tutorial, or industry insight related to the product sold.

8. Birthday Discounts: Special discounts or freebies during the subscriber’s birthday month.

9. DIY Ideas: Regular DIY project ideas using your products, exclusively for subscribers.

10. Member-Only Events: Invitation to virtual events, webinars, or workshops related to products or industry trends.

11. Recipe Guides: Exclusive recipes or meal plans tailored around food or kitchen products sold on the website.

12. Product recommendation quiz – Create a fun and interactive quiz that helps your website visitors find the right products.

13. Charity Donations: A promise to donate a portion of the first purchase to a specific charity or cause.

14. Product Trials: Opportunity to be beta testers for upcoming products or services, offering feedback before the official launch.

15. Free Workshops: Access to free online workshops or classes related to the products sold on the eCommerce site.

The most important thing to remember is to offer something that will help your potential customer – and as you’ll see from the ideas above you don’t have to simply offer a discount code. There are other ways to incentivize subscriber sign ups.

The 3 email marketing services I recommend

Shopify Email – A simple solution for small businesses starting to explore email marketing. With Shopify Email you can create automation flows and email campaigns to send to subscribers right from inside your Shopify dashboard.

MailerLite – One of the most affordable and feature-rich email marketing services. On the free plan, you can create more than one automation flow and have up to 1000 subscribers.

Klaviyo – This service is designed for eCommerce and integrates so well with Shopify. Klaviyo is a great option for businesses big and small that offers advanced buyer targeting, automation and analytics features. 

The 3 automations every online store needs

What are automations? They are automated emails that get sent after some sort of event has been triggered. For example, a welcome email automation is triggered when someone joins your newsletter (the event).

These are the 3 automations every online store, small or big, should have:

1. Welcome series

Sent to new subscribers. These welcome people to your brand and product range. They are the start of relationship building and a great way to grow connections and community.

2. Abandoned cart reminders 

This email gets sent to someone who added a product to cart on your website, started the checkout process but didn’t complete their purchase. They are a great way to get more sales from people already intending to buy from you.

3. Review requests

This is an email that gets sent to a customer after recently buying from you. It asks them to review their purchase. The best review request emails offer the customer a discount on their next purchase (or some sort of incentive) for a photo or video review.

Is email marketing just adding more noise to an already noisy and overwhelming world

On one of my Instagram posts, someone commented that she trashes most of the emails she gets in her inbox. So why put the work into email marketing when so many emails land up in the subscribers’ trash?

Fair point. My answer to this: any business that is seeing success with email marketing will tell you that it’s all about consistency and strategy. You need to align your goals for email marketing with the content your customers want to see. You need to be consistent. You need to monitor your data so you can learn, improve and grow. As with anything worth doing, it takes time to see success with email marketing.

On social media, so many posts go unseen because of the algorithm. Only a small percentage of your followers actually see your posts. On the other hand, emails are highly visible – the subscriber will see there’s an email from you in their inbox. Even if they don’t open, they still see your brand’s name in their inbox. I subscribe to all my favorite brands’ newsletters because I love their products and want to be reminded of them. I regularly open, read, click and act on the emails that really appeal to me. I’m sure you do too!

Get started with email marketing

My signature Shopify Website Creation package includes help with setting up your email marketing service and creating two automations: a welcome series and an abandoned cart automation. Learn more about my Shopify service here.

Hi - I'm Megan Hodson

I’m a Shopify + WordPress web designer with 16+ years communications, marketing and digital design experience, including working in eCommerce since 2010.

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