Email Marketing Automation: Best Practices for Ecommerce & SaaS

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What is Email Automation?

Email automation is an important part of any effective marketing campaign. It allows you to send emails to your subscribers at key points of their customer journey, at scheduled times, or in response to a customer actions, behaviours or purchases. With automated emails you can build lasting, personal and profitable relationships with your customers.

Email Marketing Automation

We’ve said it before:

Owning a highly-engaged (and ever-growing) mailing list adds a ton of value to your website when selling your business.

But it’s not just the list that your potential buyers will be looking for.

They’ll also be looking at what you’ve been doing to engage with the people on this list. 

Basically, your buyers will want to know they can hit the ground running and easily keep their email initiatives moving in the right direction once they take over. The higher their potential ROI, the more valuable your site will be in their eyes.

Your job, then, is to put in place the structures, processes, and strategies that will enable them to carry the torch, and to build on the successful foundation you’ve created for your website.

Perhaps the key to making all this happen:

Email marketing automation.

In this article, we’ll explain exactly what you’ll need to do to set up a powerful email marketing automation strategy as a way to increase the value of your website.

Let’s get started.

Best Practices for Ecommerce & SaaS

Whether you own an e-commerce or SaaS website, your approach to using email marketing automation to build your brand should follow the same overarching best practices.

Focus on High-Value Moments in the Customer Journey

One of the main goals of marketing emails is to deliver valuable content and offers to just the right person, at just the right moment.

In many cases, email automation is used to engage with those who have recently taken a specific action (e.g., signed up for your mailing list, made a purchase, or abandoned their cart). 

Email Automation ibotta Flippa.com

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Email automation can also be used to deliver timely messages, such as a birthday email and anniversary offers.

Birthday email automation Flippa.com

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It’s crucial, then, that you know what these high-value moments are in the first place. Once you’ve identified these critical moments throughout your customer’s journey, you need to determine what your customers’ needs are at each moment — and how you can use email to cater to them.

A bit later on, we’ll discuss how to best use email automation throughout the main stages of the customer lifecycle, providing tips and examples from some of today’s most successful brands.

Still, it’s important that you understand what these moments look like for your audience:

  • What specific actions or events signal a critical moment in their relationship with your brand?
  • What do they need at these moments to continue making progress in their journey with your brand?
  • How can you use email — automated email — to keep them moving in the right direction?

Some events, such as the ones we mentioned above, are a bit more universal. Cart abandonment, for example, happens once a customer leaves a site without buying the items in their shopping cart.

Other customer behaviors and events may be a bit more specific to your product or service. As we’ll discuss, the SaaS and e-commerce customer journeys involve a number of high-value moments that you’ll need to take advantage of.

In either case, though, you’ll want to map out your customer journey to identify the moments where use of email automation is vital to a positive outcome — and to further engagement with the customer.

Get Granular With Audience Segmentation

With the above in mind, you also need to remember that your audience isn’t homogeneous.

Though they may take similar actions and encounter similar events throughout their buyer’s journey, their needs and expectations at these moments will vary depending on a number of factors.

Failure to understand and cater to these needs can derail your email marketing initiatives altogether via:

  • Poor-fitting messaging
  • Irrelevant content
  • Mismatched offers

Two key areas to focus on when segmenting your audience for email automation purposes:

Engagement and purchase histories.

E-commerce companies, for example, may want to segment their audience by Average Order Value, Repeat Purchase Frequency, or overall Lifetime Value. Similarly, SaaS companies should consider a customer’s usage metrics and the tier of service they purchased, along with LTV, to segment them appropriately.

The benefit of segmenting by customer value and engagement is two-fold:

For one thing, this will allow you to deliver more laser-focused content and offers to your high-, mid-, and low-value customers — presenting each with offers that match their typical spending habits.

(In contrast, sending a high-priced offer to your low-value customers probably won’t be too effective. And your high-value customers will almost certainly ignore any low-priced offers that come their way.)

Digging a bit deeper, you’ll be able to tailor your overall approach to each segment at certain moments. For example, you might offer a low-value cart abandoner a small freebie with their purchase, while offering a high-value customer a substantial discount to return to their shopping cart.

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Again, it’s all about knowing exactly what to offer a given customer at a given moment in their journey. In segmenting your customers by value, you’ll be able to deliver that which meets their expectations, and gets them to engage further with your brand.

Trigger Additional Emails Based on Engagement

Whether or not a recipient opens a given email, you’re going to want to follow up with them.

Of course, the content of this next email will depend on what they did with the last one.

If they failed to open the email entirely, you may simply need to send a quick reminder to the top of their inbox a day or so later. You can also use strategic words to add a bit of urgency to the mix, here:

Engagement email automation Flippa.com

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If they opened the email, but didn’t click on your CTA, you might need to send a more relevant offer — or may need to collect more info from them to refine your approach in the future.

(Don’t worry for now about what to do if they click-through in full. We’ll be diving deep into that in just a bit.)

The point is:

Don’t think of email automation in isolation.

Rather, always consider what the customer’s potential next steps will be after you’ve put an automated process in place — and create additional workflows to continue engaging with your audience regardless of the action they take.

(Note: To make this process easier, make sure you’re integrating your email marketing platform with where the customer behaviour data is collected to help with sending the right trigger emails.)

Leverage Dynamic Content

More than just automating the delivery of your emails, you can also automate the creation of your email content as much as possible.

Dynamic content technology does just that, fitting relevant content into templated emails based on the customer’s:

  • Needs and expectations
  • Persona
  • Recent behaviors

Nordstrom, for example, uses their audience’s location to send similar emails promoting seasonally-appropriate clothing.

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Strava takes a fully personalized approach to dynamic email content, delivering usage stats to its engaged customers:

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And Chemist Warehouse combines dynamic content with engagement- and value-based segmentation to deliver highly-relevant offers to their customers:

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Now, when actually creating the content to be injected dynamically into your emails, you need to be as uniform as possible in terms of format, length, and similar specifications. 

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The goal is for multiple pieces of content to fit into a single templated slot, allowing you to provide a tailored, yet consistent, experience to your entire audience.

Ensure Mobile-Friendliness

Speaking of ensuring your email content is displayed properly…

By today’s standards, delivering mobile-friendly emails is non-negotiable. 

For one thing, 85% of consumers now use mobile as the primary way to check their email. What’s more, over 70% of consumers will delete a poorly-formatted email within seconds — and only 10% of recipients will actually read it.

To be sure, most popular email tools today offer features and functions to enable mobile responsiveness with relative ease.

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mobile optimized email campaigns Flippa.com

Desktop vs. Mobile; Source 1, 2

But, there are still a few things you can do to further optimize your emails for mobile consumption.

First, be brief and to the point. Your main message and offer should be immediately visible — and your recipients shouldn’t have to scroll much (or at all) when viewing your email on their phones.

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Also, be wary of your use of images and multimedia content. If an image or other piece of content distracts from the overall message when viewed on mobile, you might want to remove it when delivering to handheld devices altogether.

Finally, be sure your calls-to-action are clear, concise, and easy to interact with on mobile devices. The last thing you want is for your mobile audience to want to engage further with your brand — but literally be unable to do so.

Again, most email service providers offer mobile optimization as a feature. But, a proven, documented workflow for creating mobile-friendly email content will add even more value to your website as you put it up for sale.

Reinforce Your Messaging on Other Channels

A huge part of email automation is automating what happens after an email has been sent, as well.

How this happens depends on the situation, and on your customers’ actions (or inactions) leading up to this point.

For example, if a new customer has recently signed up for your mailing list and provided their contact info, you might use SMS/text messaging to confirm their registration and to point them toward their inbox for further instruction.

SMS automation Flippa.com

Source / An automated email to match would ensure the customer is able to view their invoice.

Or, you might use push notifications to remind customers to engage with your product, or to purchase replenishments.

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If your cart abandonment or reminder emails don’t work to re-engage a customer, you might then deliver retargeting ads to them on Google and social media.

In any case, your efforts will serve as a foundation on which to build an omnichannel marketing strategy — with automation playing a critical role throughout. In turn, you’ll easily be able to attract high-paying, serious buyers once you decide to sell your site.

Practice Email Verification

From time-to-time, you’ll want to verify your email list to ensure that the contact information you have is accurate. Doing so will ensure that your domain’s sender score doesn’t get reduced, which in turn, will prevent your domain from getting blacklisted or having emails end up in a user’s spam box. 

Track and Improve the Performance of Your Automated Email Campaigns

As with any area of a business, continual improvement should always be the goal of your overall email automation initiative.

Obviously, improving your automated email campaigns will mean more audience engagement and conversions. This, in itself, makes your site more valuable to potential buyers.

More than that, though, your track record of consistent improvement will add another layer of attractiveness to your offer — for two reasons.

For one, you’ll be able to prove that your messaging works, and continues to work more effectively in terms of engaging your target audience. Your performance data and current email content are valuable assets that your buyer can use to guide their future efforts.

Documenting the overarching, iterative processes you’ve put in place to analyze and improve your email performance will provide similar value to your potential buyers. With a clear, effective workflow already in place, they’ll simply need to take the reins and continue making improvements as planned.

How to Use Email Marketing Automation at Each Stage of the Customer Lifecycle

As we’ve shown, there are a number of key moments throughout the customer lifecycle in which email automation is most effective.

Here, we’ll walk you through the stages of the customer lifecycle for both SaaS and e-commerce consumers to help you form a more cohesive, strategic approach to email marketing automation.

Getting New Customers Interested, Engaged, and Ready to Convert

Email automation comes into play from the very first moment a new prospect gives you their contact information and officially becomes a new lead.

At this point, you’ll have two main goals to accomplish — each of which can be done via automated email.

First, you’ll want to welcome them to your brand and your brand’s community with an automated welcome email. This will involve sending a series of emails over the course of the next few days, starting almost immediately once an individual signs up for your mailing list.

This “Welcome” email drip campaign will serve to:

  • Thank incoming customers for their time and potential business
  • Request additional information to better serve them
  • Set their expectations for the branded experience to follow
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Depending on engagement, you might also need to send follow-ups to ensure your new leads have received all of this introductory info as planned — and that you’ve collected the info that you need from them.

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In some cases — typically in the SaaS realm — you’ll want to deliver some quick need-to-know info to help them navigate their account.

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Your Welcome drip campaign will then lead to a laser-focused offer based on what you’ve learned about the individual and how they’ve engaged with your emails thus far. Through automation, dynamic content, and some hands-on effort, you’ll be able to deliver the exact offer needed to convert a new prospect into a paying customer.

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Note that all of these emails stem from the individual signing up for your mailing list. With effective automation workflows in place, it becomes easier than ever to put your new leads on the path to conversion.

Preparing New Customers for Success

Once an individual converts, you have a number of things to take care of.

First, you’ll want to send a transactional email to confirm their purchase, and thank them for their business.

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You should also provide updates regarding delivery, stock issues, project completion, or any other need-to-know transactional info. With proper automation workflows, you can trigger these emails to be sent directly after a purchase or made or the instant an update is available.

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Once the new customer has access to your product or service, you want to ensure they can use it to its highest potential.

For eCommerce brands, this means using email to deliver product guides, demo videos, and other instructional content.

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You might also create follow-up emails including additional information and “extras” to supercharge their overall experience. Again, the content of these emails should, in some way, be tailored to the customers’ needs and engagement history.

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For SaaS companies, you’ll take a similar — yet often more sequential — approach here, delivering an Onboarding drip campaign to your new users.

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Throughout this automated email campaign, you’ll:

  • Roll out instructions for proper use of your service
  • Track and celebrate user progress over time
  • Point them toward advanced features and tips to get even more value out of your service

You might decide to send your automated onboarding emails at a specific time over the following days, or trigger them to be sent once a new user accomplishes a certain task. Either way, the idea is to reach them right when they need some help taking their next few steps.

Both eCommerce and SaaS teams will want to reach out to their new customers in due time to ensure they’ve begun to realize the value of their purchase. Email, of course, is an effective way to deliver customer surveys and solicit feedback.

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SaaS providers will typically want to set up these email workflows to be triggered once a new customer reaches their first major milestone, or accomplishes a specific task.

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Since eCommerce is usually a bit more hands-off once a purchase is made, these feedback emails should be sent out a predetermined amount of time after the customer has received their order. This will give them ample time to begin using your product and to start seeing results as expected.

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Email automation allows you to keep your new customers engaged, minimizes friction throughout their initial experiences with your brand, and keeps them on the fast track toward their goals. In the interest of being ultra-responsive to your newest customers, it’s a must by today’s standards.

Ramping Things Up With Your Current Customers

Once a new customer has been fully onboarded (or is otherwise no longer considered “new”), you can then use email automation to accomplish two goals:

  • Maintain their current levels of engagement over time
  • Get them to engage even further with your brand’s higher-value offerings

For starters, you’ll want to set up reminder emails to be sent when conditions for re-engaging the customer are optimal.

For eCommerce companies, sending automated replenishment reminders x days after a purchase can minimize any hiccups in your customers’ purchasing routines — and ideally get them to increase their purchase frequency.

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SaaS providers may want to check in a bit more frequently with their customers, depending on their average engagement rates.

In some cases, daily reminders to use your app may be appropriate:

SaaS engagement email automation Flippa.com

In others, you might only need to check in on a weekly basis to avoid being too heavy-handed with your reminders.

As we touched on earlier, SaaS companies have the advantage of being able to monitor user progress a bit more closely. That said, it’s important to continue delivering targeted emails based on your users’ in-app behaviors.

SaaS targetted email automation flippa.com

Think of it as an extension to your Onboarding email drips: 

As before, you’ll be delivering tips and advice as for how to get more value from your service — and pointing them to other features and functions they may get use out of, as well. This will eventually involve upselling them to a new tier of service, or cross-selling them any add-ons you might offer.

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Upselling and cross-selling is, of course, just as important for eCommerce companies. You’ll again want to use a delayed trigger here, making the up- or cross-sell offer after the customer has had sufficient time to use the product they’d originally purchased.

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You may also potentially use your customers’ on-site behaviors as a trigger for these up/cross-sell emails, too. 

For example, you might send an upsell offer to a customer that has previously purchased a given item, and has more recently visited the product page for a similar, yet higher-value product.

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(This will work similar to abandoned cart email workflows, which we’ll discuss momentarily.)

Again, it’s all about delivering the right message and offer, to the right customer, at the right time — and doing so with minimal hands-on effort. In turn, you’ll keep your customers engaged and growing more valuable to your company by the day.

Leveraging Your Loyal Customers for More Value

As we just discussed, email marketing automation is huge for developing loyalty amongst your customers.

Once they become loyal to your brand, you can then use email automation to squeeze even more value out of them — in two key ways.

First, you can send more in-depth and focused surveys to your loyal customers. 

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In sending relevant feedback prompts at relevant moments in their journey, you can gain a better understanding of where and how to improve your website, product, and/or service in the future.

You can also use email automation to generate referrals from your long-time customers. With automation, you can trigger referral requests to be sent out once an individual customer reaches a certain milestone or value threshold.

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As we’ve discussed, email automation is used for more than just delivering these emails at the right moment. 

For one, it can help you identify the most opportune moments along the customer journey to request feedback or solicit referrals. Moreover, dynamic content can also make for a more individualized approach on your end — and a more personalized experience for the customer.

Whether you’re running an e-commerce or SaaS website, putting email automation processes in place to generate feedback and referrals will make it much more valuable to buyers. While referrals will continue to bring in a stream of new customers, the constant stream of feedback you’ll be collecting will enable continuous improvements across the board.

Re-Engaging Your At-Risk Customers

Eventually, even your most loyal customers will begin to fade away from your company.

But that doesn’t mean you should just let it happen.

On the contrary, you should always be on the lookout for signs that you may be losing your grip on your customers. Once you’ve identified these signs, you can then work on creating automated email workflows to get them back on track.

A few examples:

  • They take basic steps to engage further, but end up not making an additional purchase
  • The customer fails to make a routine purchase, or to engage with your service as they usually do
  • They stop opening your emails, and no longer visit your website at all

The first instance is your everyday cart or browser abandonment event. 

For customers that add an item to their cart, but fail to go through with checkout, a well-timed email drip can be just what they need to get them back on-site and ready to buy.

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Brands will often send as many as three or four cart abandonment emails in the days following the actual event. Typically, the offer gets sweeter for the customer as time goes on, with a high-value offer being provided as a last-ditch effort before giving up on the potential sale.

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(Another thing worth mentioning about cart abandonment campaigns: Make sure they’re a one-time only deal for the customer. That way, your audience won’t be able to game the system and receive endless offers from your company.)

If a regular customer or user of your service fails to return as anticipated, a quick reminder email may be needed. In contrast to the reminder emails discussed above, here you’ll be looking back on a missed engagement — and looking ahead to what’s next.

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In most cases, these reminder emails should be sent after a specific period of inactivity has passed. In others, a missed payment or renewal might be the trigger.

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In either case, the goal is to know when the customer should have engaged — and to deliver exactly what’s needed to convince them to do so.

With automated safeguards in place to keep your long-time customers from churning, you’ll all but guarantee success for your business — and make your website that much more attractive to potential buyers.

Finally, in the event that a customer actively tells you they no longer wish to engage with your brand, you can deliver one last email in order to:

  • Thank them for their business
  • Request feedback as to what you could improve
  • Keep the door open for potential re-engagement should things change in the future

In some cases, you may offer a downsell or more relevant service to your potentially-lost customer:

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This email, of course, should be sent soon after the customer unsubscribes from your mailing list, cancels their membership, or otherwise actively decides to churn.

(As a quick note, you might also want to let the former customer know that you’ve sent them one last email immediately after they take this action. Otherwise, your follow-up email may come off as bothersome — which may reflect poorly on your brand.)

Though not ideal, sending this final email can allow you to learn more about your customers’ evolving needs, and what you can do to make improvements moving forward. On an individual level, it allows you to leave the relationship on a high note (and to also plant seeds for the future).

Automating Your Email Marketing Efforts to Improve the Value of Your Website

As we said at the beginning, your potential buyers are looking for an opportunity to hit the ground running with your website.

(It is, after all, a key reason they’re buying an existing website instead of building their own.)

At any rate, a cohesive and comprehensive website automation strategy that includes email marketing is vital to this end. The less your buyer has to do to stay in touch with (and receive value from) their future customers, the more attractive your website will be to them.

Once you have these email automation processes in place, contact Flippa for a free business valuation. From there, you can list your website on our directly — and sell your business for what it’s really worth.

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