Ecommerce has become an integral part of daily life for many people. Customers from all backgrounds visit online retailers and buy goods with the click of a button or a tap on a screen. Ecommerce businesses offer virtually any product, from everyday appliances to ultra-rare collectible items. This variety means clients can get exactly what they need without ever leaving home. 

The accessibility and convenience of ecommerce have fueled the industry’s rapid growth. In 2024, ecommerce retailers are projected to sell over $6.3 trillion of products globally. That’s great news for small and medium businesses, but you still need the right marketing strategies to attract customers. Ecommerce email marketing can help you claim a bigger slice of this thriving market. 

This simple yet powerful strategy can help you build relationships and promote your business. It can also drive sales and increase conversion rates. This guide covers everything you need to get started with ecommerce marketing emails. We explore types of marketing emails, best practices, and more. 

Introduction to ecommerce email marketing

Ecommerce email marketing involves sending commercial messages to target audiences through email. Online retailers use this strategy to advertise products, increase sales, and strengthen customer relationships.

Email marketing has a long history in the ecommerce industry. In 1978, Gary Thuerk sent the first marketing email blast to 400 recipients. This message generated $13 million in sales for Thuerk’s employer, Digital Equipment Corporation. 

Ecommerce businesses continued to use email marketing in the 1980s and 1990s. But customers soon grew frustrated by the amount of unsolicited messages flooding their inboxes. In 1993, Richard Depew was the first person to refer to these unwanted emails as “spam.” Ten years later, the federal government created the CAN-SPAM Act to limit spam and regulate commercial emails. 

Modern online retailers avoid spam complaints by only sending marketing emails to people who have opted in. They also use innovative technology, such as artificial intelligence and automation software, to create persuasive messages. 

Benefits of email marketing for ecommerce

Email marketing is essential for success in the ecommerce industry. It offers many advantages for online retailers of all sizes. 

For starters, email marketing helps you build stronger client relationships. For example, you can send e-newsletters with product recommendations and exclusive offers for subscribers. These messages build familiarity and keep your brand at the top of your audience’s mind. 

Marketing emails can also accelerate business growth and drive sales. Companies earn an average return on investment of $36 for every $1 invested in email marketing. 

Finally, ecommerce email marketing lets you side-step third-party gatekeepers. Search engines and social media platforms use complex algorithms that control the content seen by users. These formulas can bury even the best marketing efforts. Email marketing lets you bypass these issues and send content directly to your audience’s inboxes. 

Types of ecommerce email marketing campaigns

Ecommerce businesses use many types of marketing emails to promote their brands and products. The best ecommerce email marketing strategies often combine methods so their content stays interesting and meaningful. 

Welcome email

Starbuck welcome email for their rewards program
This welcome email introduces new members to Starbucks Rewards benefits. Source: Starbucks

Automatically send new subscribers a welcome email to introduce your company and make them feel valued. This message could include an exclusive coupon, a guide to your products, or other useful content. 

Curation email

A curation email rounds up the top news and trends from your industry. Compile relevant articles, infographics, white papers, and other content to share with your customers. 

Engagement email

An engagement email encourages interaction with your brand. For example, you could invite subscribers to vote for their favorite product design or submit user-generated content. 

Referral email

A referral email incentivizes customers to recommend your ecommerce business to friends and family. Consider offering a gift, hefty discount, or cash reward for every referral. 

Discount email

Email your customers a discount or coupon to help them save. This strategy is a great way to boost sales for new or underperforming products. It also builds customer loyalty and improves their perception of your brand. 

Cart abandonment email 

Abandoned cart email from Kroger
This email shows the items abandoned in the customer’s cart and encourages them to keep shopping. Source: Kroger

Customers often add items to their virtual shopping cart but don’t check out. Send them a friendly nudge to complete their order with a cart abandonment email. 

Order confirmation email

Give clients peace of mind by sending confirmation emails when you receive their orders. Keep them in the loop by including estimated shipping and delivery dates. You can also include an option to modify the order for last-minute changes. 

Transaction email and receipt

A transaction email is a written record of each sale. Include a list of purchased items, the total charge, payment details, and other essential information. This type of message increases trust and reassures customers they’ll receive their orders. 

Upsell email 

Inspire customers to make additional purchases with an upsell email. You can recommend related products, accessories, or premium upgrades. For instance, if a client buys a kayak, you can send them an upsell email promoting paddles and waterproof phone cases. 

Winback email 

A winback email re-engages inactive clients who have stopped interacting with your content. These messages typically offer incentives to entice disengaged customers to return. For example, you could offer a 50% coupon or a free gift with their next order. 

Survey email

Ask customers to share their opinions and preferences with a survey email. This message helps you gain valuable insights into your target audience’s behavior and interests. 

Thank-you email

Craft a thank-you email to show your appreciation for your customers. Send this type of message after your company reaches major milestones, such as winning an industry award. 

Promotional email

Motivate your audience to buy your products with a promotional email. This message can spotlight new products, special sales, and other exciting offers. Promotional emails aim to build hype and improve sales. 

Newsletter and content update email 

Keep your customers informed and engaged with a newsletter and content update email. Feature recent blog posts, infographics, video tutorials, and other content. This type of email establishes your authority and educates clients. 

Restock and new product launch emails

Most clients don’t spend all day refreshing your online store for updates. Make sure they don’t miss out by sending restock and product launch emails. These notifications let customers buy their favorite items or exciting new products as soon as they’re available. 

Special occasion emails 

Celebrate events and milestones with special occasion emails. These messages commemorate anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and other special days. You can also include themed sales or discounts to drum up sales. 

Customer feedback and review request emails 

Send customers an invitation to share their feedback or review recently purchased products. Use the data you collect to improve the customer experience and your products. 

Developing an effective ecommerce marketing strategy

You don’t need to spend hours developing an ecommerce email marketing strategy. These simple steps will help you get your campaign running in no time. 

Choose your email service provider

Pick a quality email service provider for your ecommerce business. Look for a platform that lets you create visually pleasing and professional messages. These emails will appeal to customers more than plain emails sent through Gmail or Microsoft Outlook. 

For example, Constant Contact has a drag-and-drop builder and hundreds of customizable email templates. These tools speed up the design process and let you focus on crafting the perfect message.  

Build and grow your email list

Add an opt-in form to your website so customers can sign up for your mailing list. You can also invite them to subscribe when they buy products or download content. Consider offering incentives for new subscribers to grow your list more quickly. 

Read now: Email Capture Landing Page: Your Conversion Blueprint

Map the buyer journey and identify key touchpoints

Customers typically go through several phases before they buy products. Map out the buyer’s experience from when they discover your brand to when they make purchase decisions. 

As you map this journey, look for opportunities to engage potential customers with email marketing. For example, you can send personalized product recommendations to visitors who browse your website. Well-timed emails can boost conversions and sales. 

Read now: Using The Customer Journey Map to Personalize Email Marketing

Set clear goals and objectives

Define realistic and specific goals (tip: use the SMART goal framework) for your ecommerce email marketing campaign and set deadlines. These objectives will guide your decision-making and help you measure your success. 

Here are a few examples of strong goals: 

  • Add 20 new email subscribers per week. 
  • Increase website traffic by 20% in three months. 
  • Reduce cart abandonment rate by 10% in one month. 

Research relevant laws and follow them to a T to avoid penalties. For example, the CAN-SPAM Act requires businesses to use accurate subject lines and header information. If you advertise in the European Union, you must also comply with the General Data Protection Regulation

Develop your marketing strategy 

Create a structured plan that aligns with your business goals. You can use many strategies, such as: 

  • Personalizing email content 
  • Promoting holiday sales and special offers
  • Sending a series of emails throughout the customer lifecycle 
  • Sharing educational articles, how-to guides, and other content 

Segment your email list

Divide your subscribers into groups based on their behavior, interests, or pain points. Develop tailored marketing emails for each segment to increase engagement and deliver the most value.  

Choose the right tools for email automation

Save time with ecommerce email marketing automation software. Constant Contact lets you pre-schedule messages for specific events and times, like when a customer opts into your subscription list. 

Craft mobile-friendly emails

Choose a mobile-friendly email template that adapts to different screen sizes and orientations. A responsive design allows all customers to view your messages clearly. 

Do a final check before you push ‘send’

Always send yourself a test email to check that the content displays properly. You should also proofread your message thoroughly to catch any final errors before you hit “send.” 

Ecommerce email marketing best practices

Set yourself up for success by following these email marketing best practices.

Maintain a healthy email list 

Build your subscriber list organically instead of buying one from a questionable third party. Use a double opt-in process to confirm that subscribers want to receive your emails. You should also purge your list of inactive users regularly. These steps allow you to gain a loyal following that genuinely cares about your content. 

Craft high-quality emails 

These strategies will help you create the best ecommerce email marketing campaigns: 

  • Focus on quality over quantity. 
  • Improve readability with responsive email templates.
  • Define your brand voice and use it consistently across emails.
  • Write concise, action-oriented subject lines
  • Include clear and persuasive calls to action
  • Use AI and trending topics to brainstorm content ideas. 
  • Add high-quality visuals that fit your brand personality. 
  • Use dynamic content blocks to personalize emails. 
  • Study successful ecommerce email marketing examples and mimic their strategies. 
  • Follow all relevant regulations, including CAN-SPAM rules and applicable state laws. 

Email marketing tools and analytics

Many vendors offer ecommerce email marketing software, including Constant Contact, Mailchimp, and Shopify. But not all brands are created equal. Consider these factors when comparing marketing tools: 

  • Features: Top platforms offer customer list management, email tracking, automation, and other advanced features. 
  • Integrations: Save time by choosing a platform that integrates with your existing tools, such as WooCommerce and PayPal.
  • Pricing: Look for companies that offer multiple pricing tiers based on your business size and marketing needs.  
  • Reviews: Read third-party reviews to gain insights into the software’s performance. 

Choose a platform with built-in data analytics tools to refine your ecommerce email marketing campaigns. The software should track open rates, conversion rates, and other key performance indicators. 

Use these metrics as green-light benchmarks to monitor the success of your marketing emails. Look for trends in the data to identify areas of improvement. You can also use A/B testing to experiment with different subject lines, visuals, and other variables. 

Drive growth with ecommerce email marketing

Ecommerce business owners don’t often interact with their customers in person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build lasting relationships. Email marketing lets you stay connected with clients and deliver value beyond quick transactions. This strategy can also improve conversions and grow your revenue. Learn more about ecommerce email marketing by taking online courses on Coursera and Udemy. You can also follow marketing experts on social media for more tips and strategies.

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