You Thought Ecommerce Email Marketing Was All About Cart Retrieval. Here Are 13 More Tactics to Grow Your Shop Today.

Ecommerce Email Marketing

Here’s the fact: there’s a lot more to ecommerce email marketing than cart retrieval emails and winback campaigns.

Sure, winback and cart retrieval are great tactics. Studies have shown that half of those who abandon their carts will return to buy within the first 24 hours of leaving your site. A triggered email sent within, say, an hour of a user abandoning their cart is a great and rather simple way to increase your conversion rate.

But what else can you do as an ecommerce store to squeeze more out of email marketing?

Given the small real estate (screen sizes) of mobile devices, is email marketing even relevant to today’s shoppers?

The Harvard Business Review thinks email marketing is still king. Not convinced email rocks? Check out these numbers:

It’s time to up your email game. So here are 13 ways to optimize your email marketing so you can boost your revenue per customer and your store’s conversion rate.

1. Yes, People Are Mobile. So Move Mobile Conversions To The Front of Line.

About 65% of all emails are opened via mobile. If you look at your email app you’ll see that there isn’t much space to get your point across.

As you can see, on mobile, your From name has stronger prominence than your subject line. For ecommerce marketers who often send “from” their brand name – like J. Crew or – testing the names of actual human beings in the From line could yield cool results. Try “Jess at J. Crew” or “Eric at Amazon”.

This means you have less than 40 characters to work with. So make them all count – or your mobile game will be dead on arrival.

  • When your email shows up in a subscriber’s inbox, make sure it’s coming from you and not an impersonal email address like “”
  • Include the promise of your email in the subject line.
  • Where you have a time-limited offer, be sure to include a sense of urgency in your subject line.
  • GetResponse found that subject lines with the highest open rates were either <15 characters or >60 characters. Don’t aim for 40 characters – or you’ll get lost among the masses.

When it comes to writing the email itself:

  • Avoid long paragraphs. You know when your eyes start to cross when you read a big block of text on your phone? Your customers don’t like it either. Copy Hackers copywriter Joanna Wiebe recommends that you treat every sentence as its own paragraph.
  • Use buttons instead of links. They’re much easier on the thumbs.
  • If you use columns for different products, reduce your mobile emails to a single column layout. Multiple columns are difficult to navigate on mobile phones and your content will appear smaller. Compare these two:

2. Email Optimization for Mobile Doesn’t Stop with One Tactic. Leapfrog Your Competition with Smart Mobile Design.

Ever open an email on your iPad that was so terribly formatted you deleted it out of frustration? You’re not alone.

Responsive email designers at GetResponse found in a survey that 42% of email subscribers delete emails that don’t display correctly on their phones. When your emails don’t look good on tablets and mobile, you’re not even giving them a chance!

Equinux collected a sample of over 10,000 emails and found that only 11% of email marketing campaigns used responsive design. That means converting to responsive email design is a great opportunity to get an edge on your competitors and optimize your ecommerce conversions.  Two birds, one stone.

You may even want to invest in designing emails just for delivery to mobile devices. Here’s why: as the folks at SendWithUs wrote in an upcoming GetResponse ebook: Designing emails for mobile is about the context of the use – not screen size.

  • What is a person doing when they’re reading your email on a mobile device?
  • Where are they?
  • Are they sitting, standing, laying down?
  • How distracted are they likely to be? Who’s around them?

Everything about the recipient’s context or environment impacts whether they’ll engage with – or ignore – your email. So when designing for mobile, responsive design can only go so far.

TO DO: Segment your ecommerce emails by the device on which your subscribers open. Those who open on mobile devices should receive emails designed for the mobile experience. If you’re not in a position to segment this way yet, at least use responsively designed email templates (from services like Mailchimp or Aweber). And always test your emails on tablets and mobile phones to make sure there are no bugs.

3. Use Your Transactional Emails As The Upsell Opportunities They Are

Transactional email open rates can be 3x that of promo emails.

And, when optimized, they can bring in 1-3% increases in revenue.

Yet ecommerce companies rarely optimize their transactional emails. Instead, you may be using two different email services for your transactional and promotional emails… and missing huge opportunities to upsell in your transactional emails. (And, yes, you are allowed to upsell to a point in receipts, confirmations, etc.)

Your ecommerce business may be degrading the customer experience if your promotional emails are trying to do all the selling while your transactional emails – with their incredible open rates – are doing no legwork whatsoever.

Take a look at just how different promo and transactional emails can look, courtesy of Athleta’s emails shown on the Marketingland blog:



See how one email is nicely designed… and the other is in plain text with very dry copy? Probably not going to get a lot of customers gushing about their purchase or even win back those customers who are returning their purchases.

Time and again, data shows that transactional emails are a huge opportunity. Check this infographic out if you’re not sure that transactional emails are worth the effort.

TO DO: Set aside time right now (after you’re done reading and commenting) to tweak the look and feel of your transactional emails. Add a link to buy a popular product; the more intelligent you can get with the product you recommend, the better.

4. Most Receipts Are Boring.
Yours Don’t Have To Be.

Are your receipt emails more like the receipts you get in the grocery store? If so, take a look at what Vero’s blog discovered about Uber’s optimized receipt emails.


Uber claims to spend zero dollars on marketing and it’s clear why. First, they have an amazing service, but they also bake-in growth hacks for optimization every step of the way. Here, they show how they round down their fares and their $20 for $20 referral program is one of the best performing referral programs ever. For every seven rides they give, a new customer is acquired.

For another example, GoDaddy’s TV commercials may be trashy, but their receipts are on point. Shopify’s blog saw that GoDaddy offers their customers a discount before they even get to their order, providing value immediately after a purchase.



After a customer reviews their order, their eyes go straight to related products to supplement their purchase, along with a call to action to download their app.

This is a good example of using every inch of real estate to push more conversions across the goal line.

TO DO: Receipts aren’t just for tax day. Use this real estate to be more transparent with your customers or to offer discounts or related products to increase conversions. Solutions like Receiptful make it easy to do this in a beautifully designed receipt.

5. Prompt Your Customers to Help You Grow Your Biz by Offering Great Referral Bonuses in Your Order Confirmation Emails

You’d love and adore it if people would share your stuff. But why should they? Simply because you put a link in your confirmation email?

Make sure sharing is worth it for your paying customers.

If what they’re getting in return for referring you business isn’t a no brainer, you can’t expect to convert very often. After all, would you rave about a brand on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if they 1) made it hard to do and 2) gave you no clear reason to?

Skillshare does a good job in this department. They credit the customer’s account with $10 and give their friend or family member a $10 discount for enrolling in a course.


We are big fans of referral banners for order confirmation emails, which capitalize on the excitement customers feel after making a purchase.

Check out the banner below from Darby Smart, which creates a high frequency opportunity for conversions and doubles a customer’s opportunity to share if they didn’t at checkout.


TO DO: Use referral banners in your order confirmation emails to capitalize on customer excitement and create more opportunities for referrals.

6. …And Don’t Forget About Shipping Confirmation Emails

Know the giddiness you feel when you get the shipping date for something you just purchased? Your customer’s giddiness is your opportunity. It’s a seducible moment.

Help your customers spread that feeling by suggesting they gift that item to a friend or a family member.

Barkbox does a great job of this with their shipping confirmation emails.



7. Send an Email Today to Get a Sale Tomorrow: Add One-Click Reviews to Build Social Proof for Your Products

Amazon does an amazing job of getting their customers to give reviews, requiring only one click to give a rating of 1-5 stars that generates a popup to comment on their rating.

When asking your customers for reviews after they make a purchase, reduce the steps required to complete a review.

Vero‘s Chris Hexton shared this example:

Reviews are like compound interest. By accumulating them, your site will become a resource for people researching products. And every one is a testimonial, creating social proof that what you’re selling is worth buying.

TO DO: Use a one-click review system to make it as easy as possible for your customers to complete a review of what they just purchased. Customer Sure has great options.

8. Take Your Referrals To The Next Level with… a Referral Timeline

This is a really cool idea.

Check it out.

This is the referral timeline that Harry’s created for their pre-launch campaign, which helped them get over 100,000 emails in a week:


Here’s the story behind that: The founders of Harry’s knew they had a great product (because razors are stupid expensive)… but they were trying to figure out how to launch their product to the public.

After talking it through as a team, they were convinced the best way launch their product was an epic referral campaign. Co-founder Jeff Raider says they then built their launch “around our belief that the most powerful and effective way to be introduced to our new company was through a credible referral.  Thus, we focused on building a campaign that helped people to spread the word to their friends.”

They ended up rewarding their “power referrers” by doing this: they offered escalating rewards. As you can see in the email above, they went as far as giving one year of free blades for 50 referrals.


Not when you think of customer lifetime value. Harry’s would have to “spend” just $90 (for a year of blades) in order to acquire 50 new customers. What’s your cost to acquire? Can you do something equally creative with your referral marketing campaign?

Let us help you brainstorm creative campaigns – book a free consultation.

TO DO: Calculate your customer lifetime value and use that to budget for a referral marketing campaign. Then, do your best to go epic – go all the way. By giving your customers a tremendous amount of value at the outset, they’ll become your product evangelists.

9. Hit ‘em Twice! Coordinate Your Emails with Facebook Ads (It’s Like Retargeting But Better)

Salesforce partnered with Facebook to run a study with 565,000 of their email subscribers. The goal was to see if targeted Facebook ads would spur engagement.

Their subscribers were targeted with their usual email marketing communications and coordinated Facebook News Feed ads.

Of the 565,000 email subscribers targeted in the study, 16% opened the marketing emails and saw the Salesforce ads on Facebook. Others participants in the study missed the Facebook ads, didn’t open a Salesforce email, or didn’t see either.

The segment that was exposed to Salesforce ads and opened the marketing emails were found to be 22% more likely to purchase than those only exposed to email. (Yes, brand impressions are measurably powerful!) Additionally, by coordinating their emails with Facebook ads, Salesforce was able to expand their reach in by 77%. For a list of over half a million people, you can imagine the impact that a coordinated email campaign can have on a business giant like Salesforce.

When your subscribers see your ads all on the web, it further legitimizes your email marketing and – as this study showed – can make them more likely to open and buy.

TO DO: Experiment with combining paid and owned media to generate lift for your ecommerce campaigns. And if you’re not already using retargeting ads on Facebook, consider a solution like Perfect Audience.

 10. Make Every Email Totally Relevant – for Better Open Rates, CTRs and Conversions – with Smart and Simple Segmentation

What if you could find out who your top ten customers are?

According to eMarketer, 39% of email marketers who segment their lists see better open rates and 28% have better delivery rates. MailChimp shows you exactly how to segment your lists and how you can better reward your top customers for supporting your company. 

Check out how to do this right – with measured results…

When a subscriber at Motorcycle Superstore searches for a product, Motorcycle Superstore automatically adds a widget to the next email they send. That widget includes the product that the customer was previously searching for!

Then, they take it one step further. They add a subscriber’s motorcycle model as a data point when they sign up. So when a subscriber gets their ecommerce email, they refer to the subscriber’s actual bike and include links to parts specific to that model.

By segmenting their list, Motorcycle Superstore has been able to increase their revenue from email marketing by 10%.

There are so many ways to segment your subscribers. Steal any of these ideas today, and get your marketing juices flowing:

  • A top priority for ecommerce marketers should be winning back the customers that cancelled their subscription or no longer make purchases on the site. Segment this cohort out and ask why they no longer use your site with a survey or get them to return by making an offer they can’t refuse.
  • Separate those who have made a purchase and those who haven’t. From there the idea is to get those who have already bought to do it again and nudge those that haven’t into making their first buy.
  • If you offer a free trial for your product or service, create a segment for those that signed up for a free trial but didn’t convert to the paid product. Educate them more about the product and consider offering a discount to entice them.
  • Ecommerce retailers can segment based on geography to make targeted offers related to weather changes or events in the area.
  • What about a segment for your customers that refer you the most business? Treat them like the kings they are with loyalty discounts, special offers, and even better incentives to continue bringing in business for you.

TO DO: Write out a list of 10 different ways you can segment your email subscribers. Then cut down your list to a few your team thinks will be the most effective and implement them, testing for growth and engagement along the way. 

11. Be a Mind Reader. Really.

There are multiple opportunities along the customer lifecycle to pick up conversions along the way. Triggered emails are great for this. Sent when a subscriber does X, Y or Z on your ecommerce site, triggered emails have the effect for the end user of having had their needs anticipated – or their minds read.

Harris Interactive found that 81% of US online shoppers were somewhat likely (or more) to make additional purchases as a result of behavior-triggered emails.

Bonus: Triggered emails are also a great way to reduce customer churn.

  • Start with abandoned cart emails. If a visitor is signed in when they abandon their cart or if they’ve arrived via email and abandoned their cart, seize the opportunity to email them with reminders to come back.
  • Another triggered email, which was been largely perfected, is the related product email. For ecommerce retailers a simple place to start is by sending related products based of on your customers that have purchased your most popular product.
  • One of the main reasons to start triggered emails is to increase customer loyalty. You can do this by triggering emails when a customer buys  a certain amount of product or reaches a spending threshold with your store. You can even create a special referral campaign, upping the reward for those loyal customers that refer your brand to their friends and family.

TO DO: Set up a triggered emails to prevent churn and keep customers in your sales funnel. By sending triggered emails to your most loyal customers you can increase referral sharing rates and help your biggest fans spread the word about your business.

12. Use PR Campaigns as Lighter Fluid for Product Launches

If your company is releasing a new product or service, a solid PR campaign can drive traffic to your site and fuel pre-launch email subscriber growth.

Who would have thought that a water filter company would have raised $100,000 in 10 days on Kickstarter? Well, SOMA did just that, and they place the credit with their epic PR campaign.

They were able to get coverage on basically every major blog from Fast Company and Mashable to Business Insider and The Huffington Post. To find their targets, they did a reverse Google image search with similar Kickstarter campaigns, which would most likely be features in blog posts about the product. From there, they put in a lot of time to create the right amazing, personalized pitches to bloggers that had covered products similar to theirs. Here’s one example you can riff off of:

Screenshot 2015-02-26 at 10.00.37 AM

TO DO: When preparing for your next product launch put the time in to do a PR blitz so that your product is EVERYWHERE on the web on launch day.

13. Do Things That Don’t Scale

This trick is inspired by Y Combinator founder Paul Graham’s essay Do Things That Don’t Scale. Here’s a snippet of that game-changing essay:

You should take extraordinary measures not just to acquire users, but also to make them happy. For as long as they could (which turned out to be surprisingly long), Wufoo sent each new user a hand-written thank you note. Your first users should feel that signing up with you was one of the best choices they ever made. And you in turn should be racking your brains to think of new ways to delight them.

Email marketing is more ubiquitous than ever, making it harder to stand out from your competitors. One easy, low-tech way to wow your customers and get them talking is by answering (or at least reading) every email you get from your marketing emails.

TO DO: Share the best example of email customer service you’ve ever seen in the comments. When did a great email win you over? Or, on the flipside, when did a crummy email turn you off a brand?



Tony Mariotti

Tony Mariotti is COO at Friendbuy, the marketing platform that makes it really easy to launch a customer referral program. A/B test and optimize your refer-a-friend campaigns without developer headaches. You can follow him on Twitter.

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