Effectiveness of emails for e-Commerce

Richard Jess

April 10, 2018

Despite the increasing popularity of social media in e-Commerce, email marketing is just as effective as ever and remains one of the most powerful marketing tools for engaging with existing and potential customers. The concept of email has only existed for over 20 years and a staggering 205 billion emails are estimated (by the Radicati Group in 2015) to be sent and received every day. This figure is set to rise to around 246 billion by the end of 2019.

Throughout this blog we will decipher the effectiveness of email marketing and the key reasons why.

1. Email vs Social Media

The appeal of email in comparison to posting via social media is it allows companies to directly communicate with people who have either been making purchases on your store or have shown enough interest in your products to request email updates. These are the customers which require your attention. Many successful e-Commerce stores associate over a third of their web traffic with returning customers. Email is one of the most effective method for continuing this ongoing connection with customers. A US study by McKinsey & Company over two years ago highlighted that email marketing generates forty times more customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.

Social media is constantly growing and has been hugely successful for businesses around the world. It provides a different route to market and attracts the attention of users who wouldn’t normally come across specific businesses or products. Emails will always remain in an inbox, waiting for a customer to take action, from what is, their most personal online space! Social media users could be oblivious to posts on their news feed if not regularly online. The dialogue about your products and your business must reach the intended recipient and grab their attention.

2. Content Marketing

Email and content marketing go hand in hand. The crux of content marketing is the ability to create and distribute relevant content which a user would find valuable. The reality of your web traffic is that the majority of your visitors will not return, unless they have something to bring them back. The challenge, for all e-Commerce stores, is how to retain these visitors, and there are a number of examples of how you can re-engage their interest in your business or products using email. Examples include:


Newsletters are a useful way of keeping customers involved with the day-to-day activity and promotions within your store. They provide your target audience with the latest information on how the business is growing and announcements around new products or content.

Drip campaigns

Drip campaigns are a series of emails distributed at strategic times in order to inform and connect with customers over time, until they succumb to the engagement and purchase products from your store

Special occasions

Normally the most popular time for e-Commerce businesses is over annual events such as Christmas, Easter, Valentines, Halloween etc. Special occasion emails will cover all relevant calendar events trying to entice users to take notice of their products and business rather than a competitor. On a personal level, e-Commerce stores should look to engage customers on their birthdays if this information is provided and permitted.

Abandoned cart reminders

We couldn’t recommend abandoned cart emails highly enough, and have written about this previously in our blog about Motivation for improving your Shopify e-Commerce store. There are a number of reasons customers may abandon their cart during checkout and these emails encourage and remind customers to complete their checkout process. Within this email you should include other similar products or offer further discounts if they proceed to purchase the product. Most customers want you to engage with them, and make them feel important to your business.

Discounts for loyal customers

Customers who keep returning are your pride and joy, and for their loyalty you should consider offering discounts and incentives for continuing to purchase from your store.

Re-engage with previous customers

Customers who have previously bought or taken an interest in the products on your website should be reminded about the new stock you have available. Re-engaging with customers who haven’t purchased in a while could be a useful trigger to begin their shopping spree again.

Generate testimonials

Although customers want to receive latest news, promotions and discounts, what is also important is reviews from former customers. Effective email marketing will help generate more feedback from customers to help your business improve and grow.

Trigger campaigns

Trigger campaigns are emails sent based on the behaviour of the customer. For example, when a customer selects ‘Woman’s wear’, a relevant email is delivered a few days later with relevant products in that collection.

3. Choosing the right email marketing platform

When you approach the decision about which email marketing platform to choose, you must first appreciate there are a wide range of options, so we won’t go through these in detail. However, we would highly recommend MailChimp, as we integrate this with a number of our client websites and have only had positive experiences from it.

All email marketing platforms will offer similar features with varying levels of functionality and customisation. The key features will include:

Email templates

Pre-designed and content filled templates are provided by most email marketing platforms to help businesses get started and offer examples of what would be useful to send to potential and existing customers.

Audience segmentation

Separating your target market and existing customers into distinguishable groups based on their customer profiles and their purchasing behaviour.

Opt-in forms

With new GDPR laws, this will become much more important than it already is. These forms can be embedded onto your Shopify website to seek permissions for marketing and email content from your customers.

Detailed analytics

Every business owner wants to see results based on the customer interaction and sales. Email marketing platforms, such as MailChimp, will provide detailed analytics which will help owners measure the effectiveness of their email campaigns. This is important to ensure you are hitting the right notes in your email to customers.

This leads us perfectly into,

4. The secret to the perfect email

It’s one thing making sure you send emails to the appropriate people, it’s a totally different thing making sure the content and structure of your email will stand out and engage with your intended audience.

There are five key elements to the perfectly structured email:


The format of your email is vitally important. With more people viewing emails on mobile and tablet devices than ever before, you much ensure your email is responsive across all devices and all major browsers. Email marketing platforms (such as MailChimp) will provide preview and testing templates of your email so you can check for any issues before distributing.

Subject line

The subject of your email will be the first point of customer contact, so the impression you give here is crucial to whether it ends up in their trash or not. Remember, the aim is not about getting the recipient to read your blog or buy your product, it should be aimed at enticing them to open the email, no more, no less. If you can achieve that, you have them interested. The key elements of your subject line should:

  • Include a maximum of 50 characters
  • Be useful and specific to the recipient
  • Use local references (where applicable)
  • Avoid using the word ‘FREE’ as it is likely to end up in a junk folder
  • Use the recipient’s name (where applicable), rather than the company they work for

Body content

The most effective emails are visually appealing and those which get quickly to the point. The content must:

  • Cover how they can benefit
  • Include graphics if it adds value
  • Use bullet points (where necessary) to make content easier to read

Call to action

Links from your email to your store are crucial, and the most effective way is by using call to action items. However the email should not be overloaded with links. The key considerations for using call to actions in your emails include:

  • Ideally use a button graphic instead of text link
  • Use action words (e.g. Download Now) to emphasise urgency
  • Make the call to action items visible early in the email

Day and time

Pitching the email at the best time of the day is crucial in order to gain traction. Email marketing platforms and analytics indicate mid-morning on Monday to Friday as the optimum time. Your target audience may differ to this general rule, so it is important to gauge the best time for your market.

Sending promotional emails

The aim of email marketing is to increase sales and repeat purchases. Shopify enables you to embed Email Buy Buttons into your promotional emails directing customers immediately from email to checkout. The less clicks required between email and checkout the higher chance of retaining that customer and facilitating a sale.


Email is the best way to maintain and strengthen the customer relationship over time, and if your e-Commerce business is not effectively taking advantage of email marketing, then this blog should raise a warning as why and where you might be missing out.

When you are distributing emails to your customers as an e-Commerce business, this is the closest you will likely get to a real life conversation with them, meaning it is so important to set a good impression and help them find what they are looking for. You need to make every email count. Being creative and personal with transactional emails can be an effective way to be transparent with your customers about their purchases, whilst trying to entice them in for more. Go and get started and implement some of the techniques and emails we have suggested.

Speak to us about email marketing!