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Crafting a Winning Email Marketing Plan for Your Online Store

Despite its slower growth over the last few years, ecommerce traffic is up immensely over the last few years, resulting in billions of dollars in sales each year. This transition to online shopping has been consistent over the previous two decades.

This growth is great for ecommerce sites already up and running, assuming you can draw some of that traffic to your website. Using solid types of email marketing is one of the most effective ways for a business to draw sales thanks to its personalized and data-driven approach to attracting customers.

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Executive Summary

Successful email marketing services are a necessary component of marketing outreach for an ecommerce website’s business plans. This marketing practice has higher conversion rates than other marketing types and has a better cost-per-sale generation rate because of this.

However, successful email marketing services don’t have to be complex. Between creating an email list, and understanding the different types of emails and email copy strategies, what you need to know about email marketing can be learned in a few hours of tutelage.

With a solid email marketing plan in place, an ecommerce business can attract new sales and generate returning customers that would otherwise be lost sales.

Table of Contents


How Do I Build and Manage an Email List for My Ecommerce Business?

The first step to creating a solid email marketing plan is to have a list of email addresses to work with in the first place and initial email marketing campaigns to try. Whether you are an online business owner first starting with building an email list for your ecommerce or want to grow an existing one, these tips will help you build up that list:

Use Pop-Up Offers on Your Website

One of the most common tactics e-commerce email marketing experts use to build users is the pop-up notification. These alerts give info to a customer about your promotions and email lists.

On average, a pop-up offers a roughly 3% conversion on its call to action, meaning this method won’t be a big email address list builder on its own. However, a pop-up allows you to capture email addresses you might otherwise miss. Thus, using an exit intent pop-up, or a pop-up that shows up when a customer leaves the website, can help retain customers and build your email address list.

You can also refine your pop-ups to display only new customers or accounts that are not yet signed up to your email address list. Engaging in this practice ensures you don’t annoy returning customers with a pop-up that doesn’t apply to them.

Use Opt-In Forms on Your Webpage

When customers navigate your website to look up brand or contact information, they will be looking to places that could lead them to these tidbits, such as the navigation bar or the footer of the page. These places make for great spots to put a sign-up for your email list and capture their email address.

Because these areas of the webpage receive fewer viewers than the main content of the page, they won’t have huge conversion rates, much like pop-up notifications. However, much like pop-ups, this practice gives you a way to capture an email address you might not otherwise get.

As an added benefit, this practice doesn’t feel as intrusive as a pop-up, making the customer feel better about providing their email since it is unprompted by the website.

Collect Emails at In-Person Events

To this day, one of the most effective ways to build your email address list is through in-person events. Customers prefer to see the faces of the people they spend their money with, giving businesses a way to build trust and provide stronger calls to action.

Often, you will need to pair these in-person requests with a value add of some kind for the signer. First-time discounts and similar tactics help customers feel better about providing their email, so using these tactics can help drive email address list growth.

Add Signup Buttons to Social Media

People follow businesses on social media for different reasons than they do friends, family, or celebrities. Business social media pages work best as a place to update interested visitors and returning customers about any upcoming product or service offered later by online retailers.

Because visitors to your social media want to stay updated, creating a link to your email list on your social media can work well to build that list.

Some social media sites, like Facebook, have built-in tools to create email list signups right from the page. Other sites, like Instagram or Twitter, require you to get creative with tools like Linktree to create one link that offers customers several of your links to choose from, including an email list signup form.

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Build Personalized Landing Pages

Not every lead you generate for your ecommerce business will have the same motivation for coming to your website. Whether you generate a lead from a Facebook ad or a trade show contact, you should consider creating custom landing pages for each audience you pull from.

This practice allows you to tailor the landing page to your customer’s needs. This level of personalization makes the call-to-action more personable and encourages the visitor to sign up for your email list more effectively than a generic landing page would. It also keeps your messaging and branding clear and consistent from one platform to the next.

Include Newsletter Signups at Checkout

Not all businesses will use their checkout page as a way to generate leads, but this page can be a great place to try and secure otherwise lost sales.

Since many customers will purchase items from ecommerce sites without creating an account, you can include a newsletter or email list sign-up as part of your checkout process. Much like a pop-up notification, the branding and value add need to be clear and valuable to the customer to give your business a better chance at capturing that email.

Use Content to Attract Visitors

In addition to products or services, ecommerce businesses can offer insights or solutions to problems going on in their niche by way of dynamic content blog posts on their websites. In addition to building up your business as an expert in the field, these blog posts offer businesses a way to grow their email list.

Dynamic content marketing like this comes with the added burden of creating additional value for your customers, though. Free ebooks, how-to guides, and similar materials are the norm now for customers signing up for content newsletters and email lists, meaning a business will need to design and refine these documents on top of launching dynamic content space on their website.

For your website, an original post or content from friends of the business can attract customers over time and improve search rankings.

Run Contests and Giveaways

Contests and giveaways remain one of the most effective growth strategies thanks to their ability to transform email list signups into a winnable event. They are especially potent for ecommerce sites just starting since you won’t have previous traffic to leverage for the event.

Partnering with similar sites or services can help improve the turnout and conversion rate for an email list for these events. Creating an event that combines one of your products with another site’s related product can drive traffic from both customer bases, vastly increasing the turnout and signup rate for the giveaway.

Use Chatbots to Engage with New Visitors

While the technology is still new, automated chatbots offer ecommerce sites a way to interact with their new customers in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive like marketing through email can be when done poorly. These bots already see significant use in automating customer service but can offer messages to new visitors about your discounts, promotions, and your email list signup perks.

Messaging is becoming a preferred choice for customers over traditional means, making chatbot conversion rates rather high. While a chatbot will use many of the same basic tactics as a landing page, the lead generation can be higher thanks to the more personalized approach you can take with a chatbot.

Use Email List Growth Tools

Several tools out there allow you to gamify or expand the email signup experience, allowing you to attract customers that prefer these practices over the standard landing page and pop-ups.

For example, some tools allow you to create a wheel spin with several different promotions for people. New visitors can, after providing their email, spin the wheel and receive one of the rewards to their email to use within your shop.

Other tools allow you to create messages that can reach users across more than just your email. These plugins let you reach out to previous customers who reached out via Facebook Messenger and similar direct message platforms.

Survey Your Target Audience

Obtaining customer metrics data is one of the ways that ecommerce businesses can stay ahead of their customers’ needs. However, gathering this data can be tough without reaching out to customers themselves. Smart ecommerce sites will use this as a way to build up their email list by adding value to their surveys.

For example, an ecommerce site could survey its audience about a single product or service need. New customers that provide their email will receive a discount or promo code of some kind for offering their feedback on the survey.

All combined, survey emails can be a powerful tool to both grow your customer base and get some great feedback on new products and services.

What Are the Best Practices for Crafting Effective Email Marketing Campaigns?

Once you have an email list to work with, the next step in crafting successful email marketing campaigns is to learn the best practices for creating them. These practices work because they improve either the accessibility or the approachability of email marketing materials:

Follow Good Email Design Practices

The first step to a good email campaign is to craft ecommerce emails that follow good design philosophy, rather than target an advanced strategy. Some of those tips include:

  • Visually appealing: Images and good formatting help capture the customer’s eye
  • Looks good on all platforms: The email template that you use needs to render well across all email platforms and different displays, including mobile devices
  • Easy to read and understand: Good formatting will help keep the reader focused, especially when you focus the email around a single call-to-action
  • Capture interest: Using a catchy hook to draw the reader into the text and write the copy such that it encourages readers to keep reading and follow through any included links is a foundational aspect of email marketing

Welcome New Customers

Customers that sign up for your email campaign expect to hear back from you if only to receive the promotional benefits you offered for them signing up in the first place. While following up with the promotion offered is necessary, you should also take this chance to send a sequence of welcome emails to new customers.

This sequence of emails gives customers a chance to learn about your company and why you exist. You can explain how the website came to be and why the customer matters in whatever goal the company wants to achieve.

The hidden perk of creating and sending these introduction emails is that these emails have high open rates. You can include links and other promotions for people in these emails and have an increased chance that a viewer will visit those links thanks to the high open rate of these emails.

Personalize Email Campaigns to Their Audience

Ecommerce businesses with large enough email lists will know that their list contains more than just one type of customer. This diversity of returning visitors offers an opportunity to leverage an effective email campaign by targeting a specific collection of people on your email list.

Since products and services can satisfy different groups, you can craft promotions for people or new items for a specific group and send out an email focusing on the solution the product or service provides.

Some of the best places to start with segmenting your email list are based on age, income, and education level using Google Analytics as a guide. More advanced categories can include personality types or specific solutions customers use the product or service for.

Target Discounts to Different Customers

Once you have your customer segments determined, you can craft discounts or promotions for people based on those categories using an advanced strategy. This practice allows a business to craft marketing material that better targets its audience in an effective and personalized way.

One example of this is creating email campaigns for repeat and lapsed customers. Repeat customers might be interested in loyalty programs or some other promotion for people that offers discounts in exchange for frequent purchases. A lapsed customer might respond better to a singular, large discount in exchange for returning to the site.

Regardless of the categories you create, you can craft discounts for these categories and send out emails to users within those customer buckets to draw better conversions.

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Don’t Forget to Collect Reviews

Social proof through customer stories is one of the best ways to solidify your brand’s reputation for new customers. A high positive review count also helps businesses with a physical location through positive Google My Business reviews, which are a known factor in how likely a business shows up in the customer sequence of online searches.

The easiest way to collect customer reviews is through an automated email or prompt after the customer makes their purchase. For services, this should be after the customer experiences the services for a good portion of time to ensure they can give a good customer story and not increase your complaint rate.

You can also do these customer reviews via a survey, asking for reviews and feedback about your ongoing product and service quality through emails from customers, perhaps offering a small promotion to those that provide feedback for your customer relationship management.

Create A Referral System

Another form of social proof you can offer to new customers is through a referral program. Word-of-mouth marketing remains effective today thanks to the trust people place in friends and family about all the new brands and services out there. Having a loved one recommend something tells the customer that this place is worth checking out over others.

Referral systems tend to offer a discount to customers that recommend a new user and have that new user make a purchase. This could be a flat discount on the new and returning customer’s next purchase or a reduced rate for a subscription service for some time.

Update Customers About Restocked Items

If you run out of a product, creating a wishlist function and notifying customers about when the product comes back can be an effective way to build up your email list and prevent lost sales or cart abandonment.

Customers that sign up for a wishlist are customers stating that they want to purchase this item. This fact means that you can generate emails that let the customer know the item is back and expect a reasonable conversion rate thanks to the customer’s behavior.

To capture their email, you could require that the customer provide their email to allow the wishlist to operate.

Use Good Automation Tools

If you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of information and tactics to keep track of to craft effective email campaigns. Using automation tools like a scheduled email server with high deliverability rates allows you to send out emails to specific customers at set times that improve the workflow of anyone working on the email campaigns.

Most email marketing software tools allow you to set specific emails for conditions and segments of the customer base depending on their needs and their circumstances. For example, you could set your email software to send an email to a customer after 30 days of their last purchase to ask for a survey or to encourage them to check out new products you have on your website.

Just don’t go overboard on automated emails so you don’t come across as a sender of spam and increase your unsubscribe rates. Centralized platforms or an email marketing provider have dozens of tools, but careful use of them matters more than the volume of emails you send.

Test New Email Campaigns

While creating one email campaign can seem like a big ask, solid email marketers know that creating multiple campaigns and testing them against each other is the best way to improve the quality of their successful email marketing practices.

The most common way to do this testing is via split testing or A/B testing. This process involves creating two campaigns that are the same except for one element. This element could be different calls-to-action, email subject lines, or some design element of the copy.

Once created, you send these campaigns out to the relevant customers and see what the click-through rates and sales conversion rates are for both campaigns. The campaign with the higher rates becomes the new default, allowing further tests to refine other aspects of the email campaign better.

Track Email Campaign Results

As mentioned above, tracking the results of your email campaigns is necessary to determine how well or poorly the campaigns perform. However, there is another benefit to tracking this information: your business’s cost basis.

Ideally, an email campaign generates enough traffic, converts enough customers, and has high customer retention to make the costs of your email service provider you use worth it. By going into the analytics of your email service provider, you can see how often people click on your emails to read them. The email service provider tools can show how often people go to your website and purchase the item from that email.

Optimize for Mobile Users

Finally, there is a growing trend of users accessing websites through their mobile devices. On average, nearly two-thirds of a website’s traffic comes from mobile users. Thus, everything for your ecommerce site, including the emails you send out, needs to be optimized for mobile users.

This tip includes the formatting and templates you use for your emails. Mobile devices render email elements like email subject lines, the product image, or the product title in different ways sometimes, including the omission of images or formatting commands.

You may need to craft mobile-specific emails for your campaigns with your email service provider, depending on the templates or formatting you use for your branding and subject lines. Still, going through this extra step can help improve your retention and conversion rates for mobile customers.

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How Can I Segment My Email List and Tailor My Messaging to Different Audience Groups?

With the tactics and tips learned about successful email marketing, last comes the segmentation of your audience to create copy that appeals to that group. A great starting point for crafting your ecommerce emails is understanding the type of email you send out to your customers.

These email types can be broken down into three types: transactional emails, promotional emails, and customer lifecycle emails.

Transactional Emails

Transactional emails are emails sent out when someone buys a product or service an ecommerce site provides. Customers open these emails eight times more on average than other emails, making them great choices to include a small number of marketing materials.

Confirmation Emails

Confirmation emails are the emails that go out when you confirm an order for a customer. Customers open these emails often to ensure that their order is correct and will come in on time. Including the order details are your priority in these ecommerce emails, but some marketing copy can easily go into these emails as well.

For example, you could suggest related or similar products as part of the confirmation email to entice readers into becoming repeat customers. Some sites allow a window for customers to add more items to their order before the order ships, cutting back the time customers have to wait to receive more items.

Check-In Emails

Part of receiving customer feedback involves asking the customer questions about their experience to improve your services or ecommerce platform. Whether you ask the customer for a typed response or send them through third-party survey emails, getting feedback is a critical part of improving your business.

These transactional emails should focus on customer satisfaction rather than sales, meaning you shouldn’t include much in the way of email marketing. Links to social media can be fine, especially if the customer had a good experience and wants to stay up-to-date on your business’s stock.

Thank You Emails

Thank you emails go out as a way to show your appreciation for customers and their customer journey for buying your products or services. Few businesses go out of their way to thank their customers, making these emails a nice surprise for your customers.

Because of the good feelings they offer, thank-you emails have high open rates, sometimes as much as double that of standard email marketing copy. Thus, these transactional emails are excellent opportunities for including promotions for people or links to social media to customers since they are more likely to be seen than when those links are in general marketing emails.

Promotional Emails

Promotional emails are a category of emails dedicated to offering promos and deals to your customers. These emails can also include updates about new products or services offered by your ecommerce business to entice customers over to your platform.

These emails need to have plenty of care put into them since the entire point of these messages is to attract customers to your website.

New Product Releases

Announcements about new products and services start well before the item is out for purchase. Many businesses rely on customer feedback obtained from transactional emails to craft better services for their customers, especially returning and loyal customers.

New product releases need to have engaging copy and should appeal to the segment of your customer base that you believe will best respond to the new item. Whether you learn this information through customer feedback or back-end metrics can depend on the sector, but crafting your copy to these subsections of your customer base is key to making these announcements work for early-bird customers.

Time-Sensitive and Seasonal Deals

Somewhat related to each other, both time-sensitive and seasonal deal emails to people are a great way to drive traffic, though for different reasons. Most seasonal deals will relate to a holiday of some kind, whereas a time-sensitive deal will be a promotion a business runs regardless of the time of year.

In most cases, the copy doesn’t need to be over-the-top or creative with these emails. The deals offered during these limited-time events will usually do enough to attract customer attention and maintain a lower bounce rate, meaning you can focus on crafting simple copy.

Subscriber-Only Deals

Emails sent out to monthly-basis subscribers or account holders on your platform are a great source of repeat purchases, especially when you introduce value adds like newsletters and promo codes for those that receive these emails. Incorporating these practices allows you to create exclusivity for your subscribers.

If you go the email newsletter route for your subscribers, ensure that the focus is on the updates and news first. Adding marketing materials to a mediocre newsletter will make it clear that your business views your subscribers as a revenue source first rather than as valued customers. The marketing should be light-handed and towards the bottom of the newsletter as an enticement to bring folks to your website.

Newsletters and Update Emails

Also called broadcast emails, these emails can be a separate part of your solid email marketing campaign. Both of these broadcast emails give your business a chance to further build the social proof of your products and services by including things like customer case studies and testimonials.

These emails also offer a way for businesses to share the good things they do for their community. Whether the business participates in charity events, socioeconomic awareness campaigns, or something similar, customer update emails give you a chance to show how your business impacts the world in ways outside of commerce.

Upsell and Cross-Sell Emails

Two effective strategies for encouraging ecommerce sales are the upsell and the cross-sell. An upsell is when a seller entices a customer with a higher-end version of a product or service they have an interest in, while cross-sells offer customers related products or services to the ones they have already purchased.

For ecommerce sites, an upsell email should encourage a potential customer to upgrade to a different product they included in their cart. These emails also tend to offer promos or discounts to the customer to encourage that sale.

As for cross-sell emails, these tend to go out to the customer a few days after their purchase. Offering related product lines or additional services for a small discount can encourage the customer to spend more to have a complete experience or solution to their problem.

Lifecycle Emails

Customer lifecycle emails go out to customers based on where they are in their customer lifecycle. These emails might help new customers feel like they are part of the community, or help lapsed customers come back to your service to maintain customer loyalty, depending on where they are in their customer lifetime.

Lifecycle email campaigns are effective due to their personalization factor. Unlike emails from sales, customer lifecycle emails recognize the sort of person a customer is and make the customer feel involved or connected to the business through successful email marketing copy.

These email campaigns are also called behavioral email campaigns due to their encouragement of certain behaviors. Ideally, behavioral emails are a solid email series you use in your ecommerce email marketing campaigns to offer product suggestions without increasing your complaint rate.

Welcome Email Series

As mentioned earlier, a welcome email series can help a customer feel like they are part of a community through multiple emails detailing what the ecommerce business does and why it matters. These emails also have high open rates, making them an excellent target for solid email marketing.

The most common tactic is a first-time subscriber promo code that offers a discount on the next order or a specific type of product on the website. Tactics like this reinforce the community exclusivity aspect of joining the mailing list while also offering extra value to the new customer.

Shopping Cart Abandonment Emails

Most potential customers abandon their online shopping cart when shopping. While it depends on the platform and products, people abandon the online shopping cart about 70% of the time. Thus, sending out shopping cart abandonment emails to cart abandoners can return lost sales.

However, most first-time email subscribers need something extra to be convinced. Most successful online shopping cart abandonment emails provide discount codes or promotions to cart abandoners on the website to finish the sale.

While the discount may hurt revenue, a cart abandonment email campaign creates a sale and can convert potential customers.

Second Order Emails and Campaigns

Using analytics to create second-order emails matters because they can help you find patterns in customer behavior. Certain types of customers might return to your ecommerce site after a certain amount of time to purchase a related type of product, which makes for a worthwhile target for second-order emails.

Second-order emails go out when a customer buys a specific product. After a while, second-order emails go out to the customer asking if they need one of several related product lines to improve their experience or make product recommendations based on the customer’s profile.

Preempting a customer’s needs with second-order emails gives your ecommerce site a step ahead of the competition by offering product suggestions before the customer goes elsewhere to buy the item, increasing the purchases per customer.

Win-Back Emails

Another way you can use analytics is in the creation of win-back emails. These win-back emails go out to customers with accounts that show no activity after some time. Customers that don’t return to the platform after a certain amount of time might never come again, hence why win-back emails are important.

Most often, win-back emails offer a promo to entice potential customers back such as a birthday email. A birthday email is a win-back email that can offer a promo that relates to the customer’s previous purchases or give a discount for their next visit. Automated versions of win-back emails can be hard for ecommerce sites selling a wide variety of goods, though.

Referral Emails

Most systems with referral emails follow a similar formula: when a frequent or loyal customer refers a new customer to a website, and the new customer buys something, both the new and existing customer receive a benefit. However, the referral program webpage might not be a place most customers go.

Thus, ecommerce platforms can send out regular referral emails to their users about referral perks to drive referrals to the platform. The referral link emails that existing customers send to new customers can also be a great place to showcase other promos on the platform in order to entice these new potential customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the other common questions out there about crafting excellent ecommerce email marketing strategy and their relevance to ecommerce:

Is email marketing good for ecommerce?

Deliberate ecommerce email marketing campaigns are an effective tool for marketing in the world of ecommerce. Successful email marketing allows an ecommerce business to craft marketing materials specific to their customers, including certain demographics of customers like young buyers or lapsed customers. This fact, combined with the low-cost nature of an ecommerce email marketing strategy, makes the practice invaluable.

How much does email marketing cost per month?

The cost of email marketing depends on if you self-host the effective email marketing tools and email marketing creation yourself or if you rely on a marketing agency. Self-hosted marketing can cost as low as a few dozen dollars per month for a mid-sized business, while agency marketing can cost hundreds of dollars per month.

How long will it take to learn email marketing?

You can learn the basics of successful email marketing in a few hours through online courses and written resources. However, mastering the craft of email marketing can take weeks between the different effective email types you might need to learn about, such as cart email reminders. The process of split-testing email campaigns takes weeks as well.

What is the success rate of email marketing?

Across all industries and sectors, the standard click-through rate for decent email marketing material is about 21%. This number does not include the conversion rate of having a reader click through a link or make a purchase, but it does include both high-performing emails and bad email copy.

What is the biggest challenge in email marketing?

The biggest challenge in making an ecommerce email marketing strategy is converting customers. The point of marketing materials is to convince a reader that the product or service you offer is worth the buyer’s time and money, such as with promotions for people. All of the techniques and tips out there around email marketing exist to increase the chances you turn readers into buyers, thereby decreasing the bounce rate.


Ecommerce marketing involves understanding your customer base and how to offer them high-value products and services they want to buy. Successful email marketing helps bridge the gap between customers and ecommerce platforms in a personalized and cost-effective way.

Although email marketing can require both rigorous trial and error and A/B testing, the ROI of a streamlined email marketing campaign can be very high. Implementing a successful email marketing program is a vital part of every ecommerce company’s marketing plans.

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