How Do I Increase Sales and Loyalty with eCommerce Lifecycle Emails?
Here’s an eye-popping stat: in 2018, an estimated 281 billion emails will be sent. Yep, that’s billion, with a B. There are about three and a half billion people online worldwide, so that means every single one of us receives over 80 emails on average each day.
How can you possibly expect your store to break through all of that noise?
One of the best ways to get your customers’ attention is via lifecycle emails. These emails are automatically based on customer behavior on your website, and they have real customer value. They provide customers with timely and relevant information or assistance, and they allow you to solicit feedback so you can improve your site’s buying experience.
Data shows that customers engage with lifecycle emails more often than other kinds of emails. Compared to other communication channels like social media and search, email drives better conversion rates, and it beats all competitors for ROI. That means lifecycle emails are not only valuable for your customers; they also have a ton of value for your store.
Emails that provide value stand out among those 80 that flow into our inboxes every day — it’s a no-brainer for stores to be sending a complete set of lifecycle emails to their customers. Let’s dig into some of the most essential lifecycle emails that every store should send.
Cart Recovery Emails
Lifecycle emails engage customers throughout their purchasing journey on your store and abandoned cart recovery emails are often your first opportunity to connect with customers through email.
The unavoidable truth for eCommerce stores is that 7 out of 10 shopping carts are abandoned before purchase. That means most of your customers will leave your shop without converting, including the ones who have even put an item in their cart.
But not all is lost — you can recover a lot of that revenue via email. Our internal data at Jilt shows that recovery emails have a 15-20% conversion rate. As a result, cart recovery campaigns come with one of the highest ROI-to-effort ratios for lifecycle emails. It doesn’t take much to get a campaign up and running, and the potential payoff is enormous.
Based on the internal conversion rate we see at Jilt, if your store pulls in $10,000 in sales each month, your recovery campaigns should bring in between $1,000 and $3,000 in additional monthly revenue.
So how do these emails drive so many sales? Abandoned cart recovery emails are useful because they serve multiple functions for customers:
- Reminder: They ley customers who may have been distracted during purchase that their cart is still waiting.
- Support: You can direct your customers toward helpful support resources or policies (overcoming purchase objections) and solicit valuable feedback to uncover issues in your buying funnel.
- Incentive: They can provide customers with a reason to complete their purchase, like free shipping, time-limited offers, or discount codes.
- Value booster: By including upsells, cross-sells, or coupons for related items, cart recovery emails can make checkout more attractive to customers and more valuable for shop owners.
The best recovery emails don’t immediately send customers a coupon or deal. Instead, use your recovery emails to uncover or alleviate any potential checkout issues, and use the data you gather to perfect your sales funnel and reduce your abandonment rate.
There are numerous reasons people abandon shopping carts, from unexpected costs (like high shipping or taxes), complicated checkouts, confusing policies, or real-world distractions. Your abandoned cart recovery campaigns are a critical part of your sales toolkit and can help you uncover issues that, once fixed, will lead to more completed sales from your store and happier customers.
It’s easy for brick-and-mortar retailers to provide customers with a personal experience. Building a relationship with a shopper, when you have them face-to-face, is straightforward. Online, where you may not know much about customers or ever actually interact with them in real-time, it can be a lot trickier.
Welcome emails are an excellent way to create a personal experience for users. Whenever customers sign up for your email list, set up an account on your site, or complete their first purchase, send them a welcome email.
Most shop owners don’t treat these emails as a sales opportunity, but that might be a mistake. Welcome emails drive 320% more revenue per email than other promotional emails. They also make your future emails more useful, because people who receive welcome emails are more likely to read future emails from your store.
These emails are often one of the first opportunities you have to introduce customers to sales, discounts, or favorite products. But more importantly, welcome emails are an opportunity to start building a personal relationship with your customers.
The best welcome email series have a few key characteristics:
- Be personal and personalize as much as possible. Start by addressing the recipient by name, if you have it.
- Gather valuable segmentation data. Welcome emails are supposed to be personal, so asking for personal information like your customer’s favorite products, or where they found your site, is both expected and will help you big time later on. You can even start by asking for their birth month so you can share birthday rewards.
- Speaking of future emails, lay out how you plan to contact the customer over time. Are you welcoming them to an email list? Let them know how often you send and what sort of content is included. Setting expectations up front will help with retention and open rates later on.
- Stick to one goal—whether that’s talking about a sale, asking a question, offering a discount, etc., you should have a single goal and a single call to action (CTA) to lead readers to it.
Pick one CTA and stick with it. It may be tempting to tack on a product recommendation to a welcome email that’s designed to gather user information, but you’re likely to have better results by focusing on asking for a single thing in the email.
Caption: Magnolia image via Really Good Emails
Feedback Request Emails
Creating a feedback loop with your customers is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your store’s success. Regularly asking for feedback is the only way you’ll understand the needs — and more importantly, frustrations — of your customers. That information is vital to improve your customer experience.
The success of your feedback request emails is tied to your larger lifecycle email strategy. Remember when I said you should use your welcome emails to set expectations? If a customer orders something from your store, and then seven days later you send a feedback request, they’re liable to have forgotten about the order and ignore the request. If you had sent a welcome email that introduced your store and laid our expectations about your relationship, you might be more top of mind, and they might be more inclined to respond.
So what goes into an excellent feedback request email?
- Be personal: Remember, you’re asking your customers for help, so addressing them by name or referencing some key detail of their account or recent order history helps draw customers in.
- Be relevant: Use segmentation and order data to personalize the email further and make it hyper-relevant to the customer whenever possible. Asking for feedback on “your order” is not as compelling as asking for feedback on “the candy apple red wireless earbuds” the customer just ordered. At Jilt, we encourage merchants to use the title of a product in the order within the email subject (which we can dynamically insert).
- Be timely: Time your feedback requests to coincide with when the customer receives their order. Is a customer going to give you feedback on a pair of shoes they haven’t received yet? Nope — try to get feedback around the time the order should get there, and add a delay if the customer needs time to use your product.
- Be succinct: It’s usually best to stick with asking a single question. You can certainly ask customers to complete a more detailed customer survey, but you may not have a great response unless you incentivize participation (e.g., with a coupon code for completion).
- Be clear: As with the welcome emails, have one, clear CTA. Ask for feedback or advertise or deal or recommend new products — don’t try to do everything at once.
Feedback emails are also a great way to solicit social proof, like product reviews or testimonials, which help drive future sales. Research shows that product reviews are one of the most important influencers of purchasing decisions.
As mentioned above, you can use rewards (like coupon codes) to incentivize participation in feedback surveys. But be careful with regards to reviews — most platforms want you to ask for reviews, but many don’t allow you to encourage them with anything that has material value, like a coupon code or free shipping.
Once you have all that feedback, you need to put it to work. Develop a plan to organize, analyze, and put your customer feedback into action to improve your customer experience.
After purchase, you’ll probably send an order confirmation or receipt, but you can (and should!) send additional follow up emails. These emails are a fantastic opportunity to gather more valuable segmentation data about your customers and provide useful information for customers that improve their experience with your store.
Post-purchase follow up emails can provide both direct and indirect revenue opportunities for your store, too. You can use them to include valuable product upsells, cross-sells, or recommendations, and you can use the information you gather to improve your store and lead to higher conversion rates and bigger average order values.
Here are some of the post-purchase emails you can send:
- Get feedback: Ask your customers about their checkout experience and use that information to improve your sales funnel and increase conversion rates.
- Reward loyalty: Give your top customers special deals like free shipping or coupon codes on future orders. Or start a loyalty program.
- Cross-sell: Let customers know that you sell other items related to the one they just bought. For example, if a customer just bought new bed sheets, point them toward you selection of pillowcases or duvet covers.
- Announcements: Let your customers know about new products or upcoming seasonal sales.
- Reminders: Tell customers when it’s time to replenish their stock of items that are frequently ordered more than once.
- Re-engage: For lapsed customers, those who haven’t ordered in 45-60 days (this will vary based on your store and what you sell), try to win them back with special deals.
Or you can get more creative: here’s a follow-up email sent by liquor delivery service Drizly that they send to people who purchase a gift order that’s designed to incentivize more giving (or just ordering for yourself):
Just like welcome emails, your post-purchase follow up emails should have one goal. If you try to stack multiple asks in one email, it won’t be nearly as effective as focusing on a single CTA.
Using Lifecycle Emails to Drive Revenue
According to Monetate, email conversion rates are 4.25%. That’s significantly higher than other communication channels (0.59% for social and 2.49% for search), which makes email one of your most essential and useful sales channels.
Sending automated lifecycle emails is a no-brainer for every store, and there are many more you can send than just the four types of emails mentioned above. Jilt supports each of these lifecycle email types, works with WooCommerce and EDD, and has pre-written campaign templates ready to go, and is built with best practices in mind.
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