Email Automation Basics: How to Master the Fundamentals

Email Automation Basics for Ecommerce

Searching for the craziest email marketing tips you can find? You might be missing an obvious one — and leaving money on the table. Mastering email automation basics is the place to start.

Chad Vanags is an ecommerce expert and head of agency training here at Klaviyo. In his work with agencies and online stores, he’s found there’s one step even experienced marketers frequently skip: setting up behavior-based email sequences.

Fortunately, once you finally get these email flows set up, they go to work for you right away.

Chad recently sat down with Kurt Elster of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast. They talked about how you can use these simple but powerful tools to drive sales for your online store.

Read on to find out which email flows to build out, how to turn abandoned carts into purchases, and how to reach your email list on Facebook.

3 essential ecommerce email series

When it comes to behavior-based emails, Chad believes it makes sense to start with the basics.

“I really like to home in on the fundamentals,” Chad said to Kurt on the podcast, “because a lot of times people miss the fundamentals.”

There are three behavior-based series that he views as essential for every online store:

  1. A welcome series, to greet customers after they first provide their email
  2. Abandoned cart emails, to invite customers to complete an interrupted purchase
  3. Winback emails, to re-engage people who made a purchase a long time ago

“If you’re not doing these three email flows,” Chad said, “then you’re missing the boat.”

Choose which one to start with

So if you’ve been meaning to launch all three of these automated flows for a while, which one should be at the top of your list?

According to Chad, the answer depends on how much traffic your online store is getting today.

If you’re still finding your footing as a site, Chad explained that you should focus on your welcome sequence.

“Get that welcome series set up,” he said, “because you’re still pretty new and you need to get those first customers in the door.”

However, if you’ve already got a ton of traffic, starting out with an abandoned cart sequence may be the way to go. For customers with more than 100K unique users a month, he’s seen adding an abandoned cart series become “a really easy win.”

“If you have enough traffic going to your site, that means there are a lot of people abandoning their carts,” he said.

Abandoned-cart emails can help you recapture some of that revenue.

And if you’ve got plenty of traffic, you can use Chad’s recommended structure to set up your abandoned cart flow.

Set up your abandoned cart flow

This three-email series starts with a simple message. Chad recommends sending out the first of the three emails two hours after the cart is abandoned. But you don’t have to create a complicated design.

“Just a plain-text customer-service email” is plenty at this stage, he said. This is especially true where a simple message is consistent with the brand.

If the customer returns to the cart and completes the purchase, the series stops there. But if they don’t, the next email should automatically go out 24 to 48 hours later.

“The first one didn’t work? Let’s now send an offer,” Chad said. If you’re trying to decide what kind of offer to provide, Chad suggests a 10% discount or free shipping.

But a discount of 10% isn’t enough on its own. No, you don’t need to up the value —you just need to make sure your email gets opened.

So don’t think that a throwaway subject heading (Chad commonly sees “Hey, you forgot something”) will get you great results.

If you want to drive a purchase, you need to mention the discount up front in the subject heading.

“The more clever I become with the subject lines,” Kurt agreed on the podcast, “the poorer they perform. You want to be really direct.”

Within the email itself, Chad explained, you want to encourage the recipient to act fast.

“You need to include a sense of urgency,” he said. “So that second email has an offer plus a deadline.”

One to two days later, your third email should go out, reminding the customer about the fast-expiring discount.

Think outside the inbox

Your email list isn’t limited to email. Once you’ve segmented your customers based on their behavior, you can reach them on Facebook too.

Chad ran tests with ecommerce shops to try this out. They synced their segmented lists with Facebook and created ads to target those specific segments.

(Using Klaviyo allows you to automate this process, but you can also manage the steps manually with other tools.)

The results were excellent.

“I had one guy get back to me and say that he lowered his cost per acquisition from $20 to $4 in a very competitive market,” Chad said. “I had another guy email me and say he’s getting a 1500% return on ad spend…because of the specificity behind that targeting.”

Putting it into practice, you can email a particular segment of your mailing list with a discount code. Then you can place Facebook ads with reminders about the discount code in front of those customers, encouraging them to use the code before it expires.

(If you’re using Klaviyo, it’s simple to ensure that once they make a purchase, your customers automatically stop seeing the ads, maximizing ad spend.)

“Not everyone will open [your] emails,” Chad said. “But you can reach them on Facebook.”

It’s not about whether you reach your customers on Facebook or via email. It’s about reaching them with precisely targeted, relevant communication — in the setting they prefer.

Get started today

If you’ve been putting off working on your automated email flows, make this post your wake-up call. Once you’ve got everything set up, then you get to optimize them — and measure your results.

Before the holiday season hit, Chad worked with an ecommerce store to build out all three email flows: a welcome series, abandoned cart emails, and a customer winback series.

“We spent the entire month of November setting up fundamentals,” he said. “And we made them an extra hundred grand [in December] because of it.”

Check out the entire podcast episode, including:

  • Tips on using emojis in subject headings to increase open rates
  • Why authenticity matters for upsell and cross-sell email opportunities
  • How Kurt changed the tone of his emails (and made his life “incredibly easy”)

You can listen to the full podcast here.


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