The top ten automation (or flow) ideas of 2021

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 30, 2020. It has been updated to reflect current data and insights. 

Automations, otherwise known as flows, enable brands to tailor communications with their subscriber base. Automated emails or texts are triggered by a customer’s action, like placing an order or looking at products on a website.

But what automations are the most effective—and which ones should you consider for your brand? Here are ten automated email flows that align with a potential customer’s buyer journey. You can A/B test emails or texts within each flow type to see what kind of message resonates best with your audience.  

1 |  Welcome series email

parade's welcome email

Your website traffic may have increased during 2021, and this growth presents an opportunity to grow your subscriber base. The welcome series is the perfect automation to welcome new subscribers to your brand. It’s an opportunity to highlight all the aspects that make your brand unique. You can also promote your social media channels and find out how your customers would like to hear from you in future communications. 

Pro tip: Create a signup form that routes subscribers to a holiday shoppers list. You can then trigger a holiday-specific welcome series from that list to give those subscribers a unique experience based on how they first interacted with your brand. Once you’ve made your introduction to customers, consider how you want to continue to build the relationship.

2 | Browse abandonment automation

merjui's browse abandonment email

Part of the fun of the holiday season is window shopping and walking past storefronts that are decorated with festive colors and themes. Why not create a similar experience through an email or a text? 

You can do this with the browse abandonment automation. Your subscribers will receive messages based on the items they’re looking at on your website, and you can control how often this message is triggered and what audiences you want to receive it.

Pro tip: Keep your messaging for this automation simple. The customer has already shown an interest in the item by looking at it on your website, so don’t distract them with cross-selling or multiple calls-to-action (CTAs). Capture the passerby’s attention with a gentle reminder of the items they were interested in.

3 | Abandoned cart automation

email marketing abandoned cart

Let’s say that your customer gets as far as adding an item to their shopping cart—but then they get called away because the baby’s crying or dinner is ready. Fear not! The abandoned cart automation can help.

It can become difficult for customers who are intending to purchase to remember every item they’ve added to their cart before they’re distracted by something. The abandoned cart email reminds your customers of the items they’ve left sitting in their shopping cart. 

Additionally, the abandoned cart automation populates with dynamic content, like an image of the specific product they added, so each shopper’s card is unique to them and their items. 

Pro tip: A/B test time delays for sending the first abandoned cart email. For instance, brands that sell higher ticket items may benefit from a longer delay. This is because the buyer has more time to research and think over the potential purchase—especially compared with brands that sell impulse purchase items. Those less expensive items may benefit from a shorter time delay.

4 | Thank you email

supergoop's thank you email

Who doesn’t love a nice thank you? The thank you flow, which goes out after a shopper completes their purchase, allows you to foster brand loyalty by expressing gratitude to your customers for their business. 

A small thank you can go a long way, especially during a year when the deals are endless and online competition is heightened. Someone chose your products and services—make them feel special with a personalized thank you. 

Pro tip: A/B test text-only emails versus text and image-based emails for this type of automation. It may surprise you that some audiences respond better to a plain text email that looks more like a letter from an individual rather than a flashy message with tons of imagery.

5 | Instructional email

printfresh's how to take care of your pjs email

 

By this point, you’ve already told your customer how much you appreciate their business, but how do you keep them coming back? You’re going to wow them with your amazing products, of course!

The instructional email automation educates your customer on how to use, clean, or assemble the product they’ve purchased. This helps cut down on customer service inquiries and reduce poor product adoption. An instructional email streamlines the process and creates a pleasant experience for the shopper. And a happy customer is more likely to turn into a repeat customer.

Pro tip: As long as there isn’t any sales or marketing content in this email series, you can get this email tagged as transactional. This way, all customers are eligible to receive this important messaging.

6 | Product review automation

buffy's review request email

You’ve told your customers how important they are to you—now let’s see if you can get a little love from them. This next automation will help you identify your brand ambassadors. 

The product review automation is your chance to hear from your customers about their experience with your product. By using a time delay, you can let time pass after a customer places an order and then trigger the product review series to request product reviews from your customers.

When buying online, customers don’t have the luxury to feel and test the products in person, so reviews are more important than ever. It’s one thing for a brand to highlight how their products or services are exceptional, it’s another to have others echoing a similar style sentiment. 

Pro tip: Not every product review’s going to be a positive one, and that’s okay. Critical feedback will help you grow and improve your product or service offerings. If someone leaves a negative review, this is your chance to listen to the customer, understand their pain points, address the issue, and flip them from being an unhappy customer into an ambassador for your brand.

7 | Cross-sell and up-sell automations

email cross sell upsell newsletter

Sometimes the number of options you offer on your online store can be overwhelming. Other times, shoppers just don’t have enough time to do a thorough search. The cross-sell or up-sell automation will help inspire struggling shoppers to find exactly what they’re looking for. 

Use this automation to showcase some of your other products or services. You can do this by handpicking some of your flagship or best-selling items, or by leveraging product recommendations. This way, you can make suggestions based on a user’s purchasing history and that of similar customers. 

Pro tip: Implement time delays so that after someone buys an item, you can send a message to them to buy a complementary item, or the next progression of that item in an up-sell.

8 | Replenishment automation

email flow replenishment

For brands that sell products that customers purchase repeatedly within certain timeframes—most often consumer packaged goods (CPGs)—a replenishment automation can be a welcome reminder. It informs customers that their supplies may be running low, and that it’s time to get a refill. 

Show your customers that you’re looking out for them by sending a reminder email just before your product is scheduled to run out. For example, if you sell daily vitamins that typically last a customer six weeks, automate a replenishment campaign at the five-week mark. If your customers use the product regularly, they will appreciate the email. 

Pro tip: Set up separate replenishment automations if you have products that have their own unique average lifetime.

9 | Back in stock automation

outdoor voices's back in stock email

 

Regardless of your industry, one goal that all ecommerce businesses owners have in common is the desire to generate revenue. 

That’s why it’s so important to have back-in-stock automations so you don’t miss out on a sale—even if you’re running into inventory shortages. Implementing a back-in-stock journey will prompt your customers to sign up for an alert when a specific item is back in stock. You can then make these customers feel special by contacting them first when the item becomes available. 

Pro tip: Set minimum inventory rules to control the threshold for notifying a customer after you restock the item. You don’t want to tell a hundred customers a popular item is back in stock if only ten are available. You can also set up an advanced back-in-stock automation to give your VIP customers a little extra love by giving them early access to restocked items.

10 | Birthday or anniversary automation

email automation birthday anniversary date

Use signup forms to gather information about your audience. Who are they shopping for? What collections are they most interested in? What’s their first and last name?

All of this information can put you on a path of personalizing your communications for each customer. This final email automation leverages information you can gather up front and help make that personal connection with your customers. 

Connecting on a more personal level with your customers is unique to ecommerce—how many of your brick-and-mortar sales people remember your customers’ birthdays? That number is probably pretty low. 

With a birthday automation, you can celebrate along with your customers on their special day by offering a discount, free shipping, free birthday gift, or simply just acknowledging the day. 

Pro tip: Birthdays aren’t the only occasion you can collect date property information. Tag users on their date of first purchase to send an anniversary email. If you’re in the business of selling baby or maternity products, you can set up an automation to trigger on important dates, like due dates. Feel free to mix and match these ideas in any way that seems most appropriate for your brand.

Build relationships with your automations 

While these ten email automations are a great place to start, there are endless possibilities when it comes to curating relevant and timely experiences for your customers. 

Once you have a solid understanding of your audience and what makes them tick—or click—you can really start to get creative and create messaging that resonates.

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