Here at Good & Gold, our mantra when it comes to content strategy is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. Sounds pretty simple...but it’s not. Content can be “delivered” in many ways (via organic search, paid search, social media, email, etc), and each of those marketing channels requires its own set of overlapping tactics.
We believe that email is one of the most effective content delivery systems—direct, action-oriented, customizable, and immensely measurable. And by taking full advantage of the data and technology available on most email platforms, you can be absolutely sure that you’re delivering the right content at the right time, every time.
We have no shortage of thoughts about how to optimize your approach to an ongoing email newsletter using a data driven approach to template design, A/B testing, audience segmentation, and more. We can ensure that your audience is receiving your content and engaging with it. But how do you develop a strategy that drives engagement and revenue on an ongoing basis? In one word: automation.
First, it’s important to note that the true beauty of email automation is that it’s automated—once your system is set up and optimized, you don’t have to touch it. Your email platform is working 24/7 in the background, engaging your customers with tailored communication and driving revenue while you focus on other parts of the business. In other words, it’s well worth the up-front investment of time and energy to develop and implement a powerful email automation system.
Now, on to the overview: Unlike standard, one-off email campaigns, automations are targeted emails that are triggered when specific people meet the pre-defined criteria you set. For example, you could send an automated follow-up message to a customer when they buy something from your store for the first time. Or you could send a friendly reminder to a customer if they add an item to their shopping cart but don’t complete their purchase. Or, you might send a coupon to all of your customers on their birthday. Most email platforms offer a standard set of automation types with built-in triggers, but you can also create custom automations tailored to your business needs and customer behavior.
Once you’ve chosen your automation, developed your content, and set your sending criteria, your email platform will automatically manage your subscriber queue and email sends.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll summarize the four automations that we consider essential to any e-commerce business. But keep in mind that automations don’t apply exclusively to e-commerce—whether you’re marketing content, services, or products, there are automations that will help you engage with your audience. It’s also important that though automations are data-driven and not manually dispatched, they can feel very personal because they respond to individual actions and behaviors. So, take care to craft well-designed emails with clean, crisp copy and a friendly, unintrusive voice.
The simplest form of automation is also the most important: Welcome people to your world! Greet new subscribers with an introduction to your brand, your values, and a sense of what they can expect from your emails to come. This is also a great opportunity to encourage followers to become customers by sharing a promo code for their first purchase. Your welcome message should be friendly, concise, and authentic to your brand. If you have lots of content to share with new subscribers, your welcome message can also be expanded into an “onboarding series” that includes a sequence of tips and resources sent over a span of time.
With an average 40% open rate, the abandoned cart email is one of the most effective automations, and a must for any e-commerce business. After all, you’re reaching out to a person who was on the verge of making a purchase to nudge them over the finished line...it’s hard to find a higher-intent customer than that.
Here’s how it works: six hours after a customer abandons their online shopping cart without completing their purchase, send an email to encourage them to return to your store. Throw in a little extra incentive by including personalized product recommendations, or a coupon if they complete their purchase. (According to MailChimp, campaigns that include product recommendations generate an average of 31% more revenue than campaigns without them.) This email can also become a series of reminders over the course of a few days.
Once a customer has made their first purchase, it’s time to focus on retention: active, loyal customers are vital to your growth, and retaining existing customers is much more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. Enter the first purchase automation, designed to keep new customers solidly within your orbit. Quite simply, you’re thanking customers for their purchase—but it’s also important to invite their feedback and encourage them to consider additional purchases, often with a discount. Generally, the first email in this series would send an hour after purchase—if they don’t make a second purchase, another email would send 10 days later, and then another 20 days after purchase.
As we mentioned above, customer retention is vital to your growth. But inevitably, certain members of your audience will disengage over time for all sorts of reasons, many of them beyond your control. Those customers aren’t a lost cause, and they shouldn’t be neglected...they should be won back. Your re-engagement automation should be designed to win back customers who haven’t purchased anything from your store within a specific timeframe.
A standard re-engagement series might include three emails, one sent 120 days after last purchase, the next sent 120 days later, and the next sent another 120 days later. We recommend openly acknowledging why you're contacting them, and taking care to showcase new products and offer an incentive for making a purchase. Let customers know that you miss them, and that you value their feedback and engagement. As always, be clever, be authentic, and be clear about the purpose of your communication.
Now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to build and implement those automations! And as always with email marketing, look at your reports frequently, address your weak spots, and build on what’s working. If one automation is working but another is falling flat, take a close look at the successful campaign (or series) to document and build on your recipe for success. And remember: No two audiences are the same, so your email strategy is unique to your business. Keep building, keep measuring, keep learning...and repeat.