“Let’s face it- We sell products. We sell a lot of products, we sell good products. But it’s hard to get people to engage with sales copy. We wanted to build a reason to engage and come back that wasn’t just: “Please buy more”.” - Sean Frank, CEO of Ridge
For every $1 spent on email marketing, there’s an expected average return of $42. And email marketing continues to be the main driver of customer retention and acquisition. 81% of businesses still rely on email as their primary customer acquisition channel, and 80% for retention.
It’s no longer a question of how much effort to put into email marketing. But rather, how do I make email marketing work even better for my brand and customers?
What is lifecycle email marketing?
When customers interact with your brand, they go through a journey. And that’s what is defined as the customer lifecycle. There’s no one fixed rule on how a customer engages with your brand but it generally follows a few stages.
Lifecycle emails consider the stage of the customer’s lifecycle—prospect, first-time buyer, repeat customer, lapsed, and so on—to send triggered and relevant messages at the right time. And it’s also about acquisition, retention, and appreciation from the brand’s point of view.
We’ll dive right into the various stages of the customer journey and best practices.
The awareness stage is where a prospect searches for your product or brand after becoming aware of an issue or problem they need to solve. Since this is the initial touchpoint that you have with your customers, being too aggressive by trying to hard-sell is a definite no-go.
There are several ways where you can reach your prospects in a more subtle manner through emails.
New subscriber welcome email
Welcome emails are the first step in building long-lasting relationships with your prospects. They’re meant to be an avenue for you to communicate your brand to prospects who have an interest in your products or services.
Antoine Lescun from Lake House Growth shared some insights with us when it comes to welcome emails. “Depending on your customer purchase lifecycle, you’d want to find a way to introduce people to your brand and products. Make sure they learn about your value proposition because they need to understand the difference to stay on the hook, then show them social proof and build the trust.”
Tips to make your new subscriber welcome emails work:
Send the first welcome email immediately after a prospect enters their email.
Establish rapport and build trust with subscribers by engaging with them.
Keep it short and simple, less salesy.
Introduce your brand—who you are, what you stand for.
Starts off with “Hi friend” which establishes the relationship with the prospect.
Includes a quick introduction to Gooey’s products.
CTA button “Get your first jar” and “Free shipping over $25” to direct people to their first purchase.
Has a quirky tone and friendly approach with visuals that matches their brand image.
Browse abandonment emails
Browse abandonment emails are essentially what you send to prospects who have previously viewed a product on your website. The point of the emails is to remind them of their initial interest in your product or brand.
The key with these emails is to learn why people are not adding to their cart and understand how well these emails work can differ from one brand to another.
Tips to make your browse abandonment emails work:
Send more than one browse abandonment email.
Send the first string of emails within the day itself.
Follow up with another email 3 to 4 days later.
Use dynamic content to make sure the products are relevant to your prospect.
Introduces their product with an attractive headline.
Encourages subscription with 20% off + free shipping.
Includes free samples with purchase.
CTA button that states one of their value propositions—unstress with their products.
Curated content newsletter
Curated content newsletters are useful in helping businesses to build thought leadership around their brands through sharing interesting findings and resources.
But they aren’t as commonly seen amongst ecommerce brands since they require quite a lot of effort to produce. And it’s not usually the first thing that comes to mind for many brands—cue paid ads, social media marketing, etc.
Curated content newsletters are a chance for ecommerce brands to offer something special and to differentiate themselves from the rest of their competition.
Will Watter, CEO of Western Rise shared with us that their curated content newsletter, The Diversion, is a 2-person effort and usually takes them 2-3 hours each week.
“We started it in March of 2020 because every email we were seeing from other brands was either delivering bad news about the pandemic or offering a sale. It just seemed like we should curate what we were already sharing in our company Slack anyways. The reactions we get from people about how much they love it have been great. It’s not a huge revenue driver, but it has been great for brand growth!”
Tips to make your curated content newsletter emails work:
Pick topics relevant to your audience.
Include user-generated content to make your emails stand out.
Make sure any images used, color scheme, and design are aligned with your brand.
Interesting approach with different content and fun facts to engage with prospects—quotes, knowledge articles, lifestyle articles, etc.
Using content to build awareness as well as to educate.
Does not appear too salesy but has a CTA at the bottom of the newsletter that leads to their store.
<span id="second">2. Consideration<span>
At the consideration stage, your potential customers are actively looking out for solutions to solve the specific problem they are facing. Some of their thought processes include evaluating the benefits of your product and also comparing your product or service with your competitors.
Bear in mind that these prospective customers already have some interest in your products or services. A little incentive or a little bit more information might suffice in tipping the scale in your favor.
Here are some emails to include in the consideration stage.
Cart abandonment email
According to research, cart abandonment emails have the highest average conversion rate (2.63%) and click-to-conversion rate (21.78%) of any triggered ecommerce email.
The main goal of these emails is to reach out to customers who have abandoned their carts and to redirect them back to your ecommerce store to complete the purchase cycle. Since the act of adding items to the cart is a huge indicator of buying intent, there’s a high chance that a simple reminder will help you convert prospects to customers.
Needless to say, cart abandonment emails are a must-have for ecommerce email marketing.
Tips to make your cart abandonment emails work:
Send multiple variations of emails.
Include limited-time offers and discounts.
Include dynamic insertions of products that the customer has added into their cart.
Play on the “fear of missing out” effect in the tone of the message and headlines.
The subject line is eye-catching. “Still available?”.
“Your viewed items are selling fast”. Make prospects feel as though they may not get the products if they do not purchase them immediately.
“Your recently viewed products”. Tapping into recency to make sure that prospect still has an interest in the products.
Entices customers to purchase with free shipping.
Price drop email
It’s in our nature to do a double-take when we see the price drop of a product we’re interested in. That’s why brick-and-mortar stores have huge sales banners hanging outside their storefronts. The same logic applies to price drop emails.
The price drop is a trigger for prospects that have seen the browse abandonment or cart abandonment emails. On top of reminding your prospects that they’re interested in the product, you’re giving them one more reason to buy it— the product is cheaper than before so why not?
Tips to make your price drop emails work:
Avoid sending too many general sales emails to this group of people.
Include details of the browsed item, including images to make the offer more compelling and to refresh your prospect’s memory.
Recommend additional products that have dropped in price to increase cross-selling and upselling.
Refrain from overdoing the discounts because having too many discounts could dilute your brand quality.
Shows the discounted collection in the newsletter itself.
Uses strikethroughs to show the price drops for individual products and also individual CTAs.
Includes additional items from their inventory that have a price drop.
Supply chain issues are common in the ecommerce scene. And that means products going out of stock. In cases like these, frustrated prospective buyers can turn to a competitor to make a purchase instead. According to a report, retailers miss out on up to $1 trillion in sales because their products are out of stock.
That said, ecommerce brands need to trigger back-in-stock emails to help mitigate the unpleasant process experienced by prospects and also drive engagement to recover their revenue losses.
Tips to make your back-in-stock emails work:
Trigger automated emails by using data on customer activity from your website to inform customers about the product being restocked.
Include an incentive as a small push— be it free shipping or a free gift.
Starts with tapping on the recency effect “Remember that thing you wanted?”.
Dynamic insertion to show prospects the product that they viewed on the ecommerce site.
Personalize messaging by making it seems as if they’re talking to the prospect directly.
<span id="third">3. Purchase and after-purchase</span>
This is the stage where your potential customers have already purchased a product from your store. It’s also a crucial step where ecommerce brands tend to forget or skip. After prospects have become your customers, it’s the best time for you to continue developing your relationship with them and maintain their interest in your products.
Tapping on the idea of inclusivity and community, it’s a way to nurture these new customers into purchasing a second and third time.
First purchase welcome email
The first purchase welcome email is most of the time triggered after a customer checks out from your brand for the first time. Instead of only focusing on cross-selling or upselling, what you should do in this email is to accentuate the community aspect to create a sense of belonging in these new customers.
Tips to make your first purchase welcome emails work:
Send it almost immediately after the customer makes the purchase.
Always start by welcoming your new customer.
Let your know what to expect from the buying experience and their new product.
Include customer support contact information—to show that your brand is always around to help.
Playing on inclusivity from the headline “5 things every new member should know”.
Showcases the community aspect of the brand to make new members feel welcomed.
Insertion of bestsellers to keep readers hooked.
Includes a welcome 10% off and also places an expiration date on it to push prospective customers to purchase again.
Feedback review request email
Every ecommerce brand wants to collect invaluable feedback from its customers. High-quality customer feedback can boost your business in many ways: As social proof to establish the trustworthiness of your brand. As a way to strengthen relationships with your customers. Asking for their feedback, and actively using that feedback, is a great way to show your customers that their opinions and experiences are important to your brand.
Tips to make your feedback review request emails work:
Use a clear call to action to direct customers to the feedback page.
Make it easy to leave a review— embed a review widget in the email.
Include an incentive to encourage customers to leave feedback.
Take the opportunity to showcase cross-sell recommendations.
Embeds star ratings in the email itself so there is less friction for customers to have to click elsewhere to review.
If someone purchases one of your products, and you know they would get value from a related or complementary item, then it’s the perfect time to send a cross-sell email to that customer.
Even though cross-sell emails may have a small audience, they’re valuable because any conversion is a repeat purchase. Hence ROI from these emails can be very high, in terms of profit margin. Additionally, it generates awareness about many more products that your brand has.
Tips to make your cross-sell emails work:
Send the email at the right time. Depending on the frequency of purchase of your products and also factors like your delivery time.
Make the content relevant to your customers— based on their navigation behavior or other customer data.
Cross-selling can be matched with other emails like cart abandonment emails or order confirmation emails for increased effectiveness.
Retention is ultimately about increasing and maintaining engagement with your existing customers. Sure there’s some form of “selling” involved in these emails but it’s also more about being personal with your customers and getting them to be more “into” your brand and products.
Product education emails
After a customer has purchased a product, you’ll send an order confirmation email and that’s a given. Between the time of the purchase and when the customer actually receives the product, there’s some waiting involved. What better way to get your customers hooked onto your brand and other products in your collection than by storytelling?
There are plenty of ways to execute product education emails. It could be embedding it in a product launch, it could be sharing about a past collection, it could be promoting a brand mission or vision.
Tips to make your product education emails work:
Focus on adding value to your customers. The bulk of your content should revolve around resources or takeaways about the product or your brand.
Insert personalized cross-sell recommendations. What are some products that can enhance the customer’s journey and create an even better experience with your brand?
Clearly states the brand’s mission while emphasizing quality.
Goes into details about the design and its unique value propositions.
Adds in a few lines of thanks and appreciation to their existing community.
Keeps existing customers in anticipation of the new product launch.
Clear CTAs to make sure there are enough touchpoints for readers to shop for the product.
<span id="fifth">5. Advocacy</span>
At this stage of the customer lifecycle, your customers are happy customers. And happy customers have a higher tendency to share their positive experiences with other potential customers. So, turning your current customers into repeat customers and brand ambassadors should be your top priority.
If you haven’t already? It’s high time to build on that referral and loyalty program here.
These emails serve as one of the best ways to promote your referral program to your customers. Referral programs are win-win (maybe make that win-win-win) situations for both you and your customers and their friends. You get to spread the word about your brand and products, while your referrers are compensated for introducing a friend or family to your brand.
Clean and uncluttered design with a straightforward headline.
Strong hero image highlighting their products.
The incentive is bolded and benefits are easy to understand.
Clear and direct CTA button.
Provides links for easy social sharing.
Step-by-step instructions to break down the referral program.
If you’re still sending the same emails to a new customer as you are to someone who has been a repeat customer, you might want to rethink that strategy. We’re pretty convinced that if you’re looking to increase the lifetime value of your loyal customers, putting a little more effort into this customer segmentation is the way to go.
With your VIP customers, you’re likely already aware of their favorite products, interests, and motivations based on collated customer data. This gives you ample opportunity to tailor your emails to them accordingly. Having this established relationship with your VIP customers also allows for room to expand on more creative designs and messaging.
Tips to make your VIP emails work:
Highlight exclusivity and special offers at regular intervals.
Thank your VIPs and encourage repeat purchases.
Personalize your message to make your customers feel valued.
Starts the email with “You’re the best”, fostering the relationship between the brand and VIP customer.
Highly personalized messaging with details on when and where the customer first purchased from the brand.
Shows appreciation by thanking the customer for being a part of the brand’s journey.
Taps onto a more creative execution of marketing emails— by comparing the amount of tea purchased with the weight of chipmunks.
<span id="sixth">6. Lapsed Customers</span>
It’s normal losing customers here and there. After all, it is part and parcel of running an online store. But given that it's common knowledge how valuable repeat customers are, if you’re not prepared with strategies to win back lapsed customers, you’re missing out on opportunities to eventually increase your revenue.
A win-back email can be used to re-engage inactive subscribers—someone who previously engaged with your brand but, they’ve stopped doing so for an abnormally long period of time.
Whatever the reason a subscriber turned inactive, a win-back email can help you speak directly to some of their concerns. These emails can also effectively convey messages to help convert these subscribers to repeat customers and increase customer lifetime value (LTV).
Tips to make your win-back emails work:
Personalize subject lines—phrases like “It’s been a while”, “While you were gone”, etc
Send 2-5 emails in your win-back campaign
Make sure to segment your subscribers into those that are considered inactive
Include content that entices inactive subscribers—add social proof, promote bestsellers, give a discount or offer they can’t refuse, etc
A personalized email—adds value and celebrates the customer rather than being about the brand.
Includes an extra birthday gift for the customer—a discount code.
Holiday emails are another date-based email to leverage especially if your brand is pushing out seasonal products that tie in with the holiday. For example, fantasy books on witches and wizards during Halloween.
Holidays could also just be an excuse for you to pamper your customers with gifts or discount codes. Or if you have old stock in your inventory, this could be a great opportunity to make use of holidays and holiday emails.
Email address the current holiday and the next holiday—National Bestfriend Day and Father’s Day.
Positioning as a brand that cares for more than just the customer, but also who the customer cares about.
Thank you email
A thank you message goes a long way. By showing gratitude to your customers, you’re letting them know that they’re being appreciated and at the same time strengthening the connection between them and your brand. It helps to establish the credibility of your brand and it’s also a perfect chance to invite customers to be a part of your social media community, referral programs, and even be an advocate.
Tips to make your thank you emails work:
A short and simple subject line and content.
Personalized message to make your customers feel special.
Make the customer understand how valuable they are to your brand and growth.
Includes a quick update of the product’s shipping progress in the email.
A personalized letter from the founder herself.
Thanking customers for being a part of the community.
No cookie-cutter template (unfortunately)
Yes, we know things would be a lot easier if they come in ready-made templates but unfortunately, they aren’t when it comes to lifecycle email marketing. What matters most is for your brand to identify when’s the best time to send the best message—based on your customer’s behavior and data.
And if you haven’t realized already, there are three big ideas that keep popping up throughout the article.
Personalization and customization in your emails based on customer data. Make it a “from us to you” message rather than a general message.
Not every email sent has to be a salesy one. Sometimes thought leadership content value-adds to your customers more than you can imagine.
Sending emails in a series is the way to go. It takes more effort to see that one email work wonders as compared to sending 2-3 emails as follow-ups in a series.
Perfect these concepts and you’ll see a difference in the way customers react to your email campaigns.
Cheryl is a full-time Content Marketer at ReferralCandy by day and a "Learnaholic" (aka always learning something new) by night.She loves storytelling and creating experiences that are functional and visually compelling.