Email Automation: Key Takeaways from Klaviyo:BOS

Drive Sales With Email Automation

Did you miss out on Klaviyo:BOS? Or were you there…but couldn’t clone yourself to attend every session? Don’t worry — we got your back. This post is part of the series covering your key takeaways from the conference talks.

Email automation is a great way for ecommerce businesses to make money while they sleep. As a Product Marketer, I’m always thinking about ways to talk about Klaviyo’s email automation features and demonstrate their value effectively.

At Klaviyo:BOS, we showcased presentations on email automation, from how-to tactics all the way to strategy and optimization. Specifically, these presentations included Getting Started with Klaviyo Flows, Next Level Email Automation, and Unlocking the Power of Email Automation. This post walks you through each of these presentations — aka How to Make Money While You Sleep I, II, and III!

Getting Started with Flows

If you’re new to flows in Klaviyo, the presentation by Mitch Gruber and Mary Rogers on the basics is where you want to start. The definition of a flow is “an automated workflow that is set in motion by a specific trigger and then includes one or more actions.”

Flows have the potential to provide immense value to your store through the fact that they run automatically — and the level of personalization to initiate, nurture, and maintain relationships with your customers and subscribers at scale over their entire lifecycle.


Anatomy of a Flow

In order to be successful with any email automation, you must first understand how it’s built and how it works. Mary and Mitch explained that there are 3 key building blocks of a flow:

[1] Triggers: These answer the question ‘how does someone enter a flow?’ Triggers determine the purpose of a flow and set it in motion. Trigger events can be when someone is added to a list, added to a segment, took a specified action (e.g. places an order), or satisfied a date property (e.g. it’s their birthday).

[2] Time delays: These determine when someone receives an action, like an email, within a flow. For example, it is a best practice to delay the first email in an Abandoned Cart series by a handful of hours.

[3] Actions: These are simply what happens when someone enters a flow. The main action performed in a flow is the sending an email, but you can also update an individual’s profile property.


Personalize the Journey

Once you build a flow with its necessary parts, you’re not done yet! it’s time to start personalizing. Personalizing and customizing a flow allows you to better target customers based on their specific actions and behaviors.

Mitch and Mary dove into the details of two key personalization features within a flow: Filters and splits. Understanding what filters and splits are will help you take your automation to a new level.

Filters are used to exclude people from receiving flow emails and actions. For example, you would use a filter to exclude suppressed profiles from entering the flow. There are three types of filters to use depending on what you want to accomplish: trigger filters, flow filters, and email filters.

Splits are used to create multiple messaging tracks for the people entering your flow. For example, you use a split to create two tracks of messaging – one for non-purchasers and one for purchasers. The two types of splits are conditional and trigger splits. To learn more about filters and splits in detail, I encourage you to take a look at the slides.


Let’s Build a Flow

With all pieces and parts explained, Mary and Mitch led the group in building a flow from scratch. After all, the best way to learn is by doing!

Take a look below to see the assignment and final result for a great example of flow building using all of the components discussed. See if you can spot triggers, a split, and a time delay.

Next-Level Email Automation

The logical next step after learning how to construct and personalize a flow is to learn how to level them up. Klaviyo:BOS had attendees covered with a presentation from Strategic Account Manager Julian Mondonedo and Senior Software Engineer Andrew Kannan. Their presentation built on the basics of email automation and demonstrated real-life examples of how to build next-level flows in Klaviyo.

Framework for Improving Flows

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for frameworks! So for me, the best part of this talk was the sharing of an easy-to-use framework. The framework encourages you to ask and answer 4 high-level questions to that will enable you to improve your flow emails.

You might be tempted to skip these. Don’t! These questions look simple, but they’re based on the approach that super-successful Klaviyo customers use to drive a lot of revenue.

Question #1: What’s your goal?

The first question in the framework might sound obvious, but it’s still important: what is your goal? Whether you want to increase revenue or improve open rates, the goal determines how to approach your improvements.

Question #2: Who is your audience?

Knowing your audience is key for adding personalization improvements by using splits and filters on relevant data.

Question #3: How will you measure success?

This question guides which flow elements you will test. For example, you could measure the improvement gained of an alternative subject line by conducting an A/B test.  

Question #4: What flow element should you focus on?

Lastly, tie it all together with the question, “What flow element is required?” Based on answers to the first three questions, you can decide which flow element (filter, split, etc.) you should add to accomplish your goals and reach the right audience.

The framework also has a key mantra to follow: “The simpler, the better.”

As Julian advised, “Flows should not turn into an ugly beast that you never want to touch.”

The point is to build flows you can continually build on and test for improvement, so it’s critical the flow stays simple enough to execute effectively.


Let’s Look at an Example

Andrew and Julian went through a handful of examples during the presentation to drive home the importance of automation improvement — and the effectiveness of following their simple framework and formula.

We are going to walk through a full example below. If you want to read up on all the example they shared, take a look at the slides.

This example focuses on a winback flow. That’s an email flow designed to communicate with purchasers who haven’t purchased again after X number of days, weeks, or months. The idea is to turn “one and done” or dormant customers into repeat purchasers.

A basic winback flow looks something like this:

Here’s how this example used the improvement framework:

Goal: Increasing conversion rates

Audience: Previous first-time purchasers

Key success metrics: Conversion rate and revenue

Flow Element: Trigger split

A trigger split is used here because it splits the paths based on the Placed Order trigger. The split will send different emails to the purchaser depending on whether they purchased from the T-shirt category or from a different (non-T-shirt) category.

Here’s what it would look like in Klaviyo:

This simple split allows you to increase the relevance of your winback series by tailoring the message based on the previous purchase.

People buying T-shirts could get a special email showing off other T-shirts they might be interested in. Purchasers of other products could receive a more general email showcasing bestsellers from the store across categories.

Even taking this single step to tailor your messaging to distinct audiences can help increase your conversion rates and revenue by being more targeted.

Unlocking the Power of Email Automation

On the main stage of Klaviyo:BOS, customers were treated to an all-encompassing email automation presentation by Klaviyo’s Senior Product Manager on the subject, Alexandra Edelstein.

To kick things off, Alex drove home the value of email automation by presenting some amazing statistics about how email automation emails outperform campaign emails in all the major categories: 165% higher open rates, 1558% higher conversion rates and 1361% higher $/recipient!

To truly unlock the power of email automation, Alex invited the audience at Klaviyo:BOS to both think bigger and get more goal-oriented. What does that mean, exactly? It means zooming out of just simple implementation of a few flows and thinking about the customer lifecycle as a whole.

Email automation gets great engagement numbers because, when done correctly, it creates a great two-way conversation with your customer at the most relevant points of their journey. Automation is the secret weapon that allows you to have those personal conversations and progress individual relationships at scale.


Step 1: Strategize

The key for creating these personal, more relevant conversations at scale is digging into the data. Use all the data you can to understand how your customers experience your business. Get answers to questions like:


  • What % of my visitors browse but never purchase?
  • What is my average time between purchases?
  • Does a certain demographic influence buying behavior?
  • What are the friction points in my buying process?


The answers will help you understand when and how to talk to your customers effectively, ensuring more timely, relevant communication. With answers in hand, go back to the customer lifecycle and apply your learnings. For example, you may see a high volume of new subscribers entering — but not converting to customers. There’s opportunity here to focus on the awareness phase. You can update your automated Welcome Series to drive more initial conversions with more information about your brand and products along with some discount offers.  

Once you’ve identified the areas to focus on, it’s important to set goals before moving to implementation. Alex suggests writing down your high-level goals to make them real and prioritizing which lifecycle stages to approach first. Then, clearly document how success will be measured so you can hold yourself accountable to the goals and, of course, track progress. To see an example of this, check out the slides.

Step 2: Implementation

Without implementation, what good is creating a strategy, right? Implementation is obviously an important step to getting the most out of your email automation, but don’t assume it’s as simple as creating or re-using some old email content. Alex was quick to point that implementing a strategy effectively requires the creation of both targeted journeys AND relevant content.

Targeted journey creation is about meeting customers where they are in the lifecycle. To demonstrate, first think about someone who visits your website for the first time and abandons their session or their cart. Next, think about one of your best customers who happens to hop onto your site one day, adds a few new products from your new collection to their cart, but doesn’t purchase.

These people are taking similar actions but, ultimately, you want to communicate with them very differently in order to get that purchase. Alex shared a great worksheet to help you map out your flows and targeted journeys (you can view completed examples of the sheet in her slide deck). 

Once that’s complete, the next step of implementation is to build the foundation of the flow. Start with creating all the elements of the flow, but don’t include building the content just yet. Alex suggests building the flow structure first to ensure the content remains targeted and relevant to the journey.

After you build each one, just ask yourself, “Is this segmented properly focused for the goal I established at the beginning?” If yes, you’re ready to build out the actual content. For content building tips for automated emails, check out the full presentation.

Step 3: Analyze and Optimize

Now it’s time to set it and forget it, right? Well, not quiiiiite. Just like anything else, automation can be improved over time. There are actually four key metrics you should keep your eye on from day one: Delivery rate, open rate, click rate, and conversion rate.

Delivery rate is useful to monitor to ensure people are qualifying for each flow correctly. If number is too low, then take a look at your filters and consider changing them. Open rate is obviously useful to determine if people are actually looking at your content. Generally, your emails should have above a 20% open rate.

If this number is too low, consider testing new subject lines to stand out in the inbox better. Click rate should be monitored in conjunction with open rate. If your open rate is high and click rate low then you need to update your content with clearer CTAs. Conversion rate tells you if emails are producing sales. High open and click rates with a low conversion suggests you need to look at the website and optimize the checkout experience. For a deeper dive into these metrics, you can check out Alex’s full presentation.

Now that you are monitoring the right metrics, it’s time to test, test, test. You’ll have plenty of ideas for subject lines, content, and offers, but to truly know what works best you have to test them out. Use A/B tests to optimize subject lines and timing of emails or try plain-text emails and see if they move the needle. You might be shocked at how small changes here and there can have an outsized impact on your revenue.  

The overarching takeaway from Alex’s presentation is to never stop leveling up your automation. Communicate at new points of the customer lifecycle, audit your journey across channels, and check your automation to ensure you’re providing a seamless experience. When you’re doing these things regularly, you can truly unlock the full power of email automation for your business.

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