Building Your Ecommerce Email Marketing Strategy

Why is having an email marketing strategy important?

Email marketing is one of the few owned channels that you have as an e-commerce brand. This means that it is a channel where you can directly communicate with your audience, unlike paid ad platforms such as Facebook, Google or Instagram where you need to pay to reach an audience.

More importantly, no platform changes can affect your ability to contact your customers! You own your email list. With increasing ad costs and algorithms changes, it is becoming increasingly more important for every e-commerce brand to invest in building a great email marketing strategy.

Having an email marketing strategy is a critical part of growing your e-commerce brand because it can help you generate at least 20-30% of your business revenue from email. It will also help you nurture, convert, and retain more customers. Other business goals it can help you achieve are:

•  Increasing your average order value (AOV)

•  Converting more leads into customers

•  Getting more repeat customers

•  Increasing customer lifetime value (LTV)

•  Generating more sales for a specific product or collection

•  Generating more revenue for a new product launch

•  Generating more revenue from promotions

What makes a good email marketing strategy?

A good email marketing strategy will help you generate more sustainable & predictable revenue from email.

Every email strategy will (and should) be different depending on your brand, your customers, the types of products you sell, and your business goals. We'll dive into that below in how to build an email marketing strategy for your business.

However, every effective email strategy always meets these fundamental elements:

1.  It is aligned with your marketing and business goals.

Do you want to generate more predictable revenue? Or educate your customers? Or retain more loyal fans? Or convert more leads? Or sell more of a specific product? Your email marketing strategy should be built to help your business achieve those goals.

2. It involves all of the key parts of email marketing: email automation, campaigns, promotions, A/B testing, and customer segmentation.

A great email strategy should be multi-faceted, not a one-trick pony. It should involve sending automated emails to customers, have a monthly email campaign calendar and use promotions strategically to generate sales. It should also leverage A/B testing to optimize the performance of your emails and segment your customers to target them with specific emails.

3. It sends the right message to the right customer, at the right time.

At the core of an effective email marketing strategy is to send the right message to the right customer at the right time.

After all, every customer is not the same.
Some of them may be discovering your brand for the first time and so, should receive emails educating them on your brand and products through a Welcome Flow.

However, a customer who has just made a purchase should receive a thank you email and possibly some education on how to use their product through a Post-Purchase Nurture Flow.

Another, more complex example is that when you send an email campaign promoting a product, customers who have already bought the product shouldn't hear about it again.

Here is the 7-Step Guide to building your email marketing strategy:

•  Setting Email Marketing Goals

•  Build Your Email List

•  Plan Your Email Marketing Calendar

•  Brainstorm Email Marketing Campaigns

•  Automate Your Email Marketing With Autoresponders

•  Create Your First Email

•  Build Your Reporting Dashboard

1. Setting Email Marketing Goals

The first step of building an effective email marketing strategy is knowing your goals. After all, if you don't know where you're going then how can you know where to start?

When setting your email marketing goals, decide on what you want email marketing to achieve for your business, or how it will contribute in helping hit your business goals.

Here is a list of potential goals to set for your email marketing:

1.  Converting more leads into customers

Do you have a lot of website traffic, but they're not converting into customers?
An average e-commerce brand only converts 2-3.5% of their total website visitors into customers. Email marketing is an effective method to capture more of those leads by collecting their email address, and converting them into customers through email campaigns.

2. Cross-selling & upselling more products

Do you have other products that you want more customers to buy? Or do you have a better version of a product you prefer for customers to upgrade to?

Upselling and cross-selling can increase customer retention, average order value and profits. According to McKinsey, cross-selling can increase sales by 20% and marketing ROI by 30%.

Cross-selling is a marketing strategy of introducing Product B to customers who have bought Product A. For example, customers who have purchased a t-shirt may also be interested in purchasing shorts or a sweater.

Upselling is getting customers who have purchased Product 1.0 to upgrade to Product 2.0, or purchase add-ons. For example, customers who have purchased a beginner's workout program, may want to upgrade to the intermediate workout program or purchase at-home equipment.

3. Retaining more customers

Are you great at acquiring new customers but could do better at keeping them?

The statistics on the benefits of retaining a customer are astounding, yet most e-commerce businesses don't spend nearly as much time on retaining a customer as they do on acquiring a new one.

Often, acquiring a new customer can cost 5x more than retaining an existing one and it is 3x - 14x easier to sell to an existing customer than to a new one.

4. Winning back lapsed customers

Do you have a lot of customers who haven't purchased from you in a while?

If so, it's worthwhile to spend your time on winning back these lapsed customers. In fact, increasing your customer retention by just 5% can increase profits from 25-95%.

5. Increasing average order value (AOV)

Your average order value (AOV) is the average amount of money each customer is spending in your store every time they purchase.

Email marketing can increase your AOV, which means you can generate more revenue even without acquiring new customers! Often this is done by recommending additional products or more expensive products to add to their cart.

6. Increasing customer lifetime value (LTV)

Your customer lifetime value (LTV) is the total amount of money a customer spends with you over their lifetime with your business.

Email marketing can increase your customer LTV through getting them to stay for longer, spend more each time, discover more products, or convert faster.

7. Introducing more customers to new products

Do you have new products that you've launched? Or even ones that have been there for a while that customers just aren't buying?

Email marketing can increase your customers' product awareness to introduce them to new products they might like.

8. Driving more sales

Email marketing should make up 20-30% of your entire e-commerce business revenue by driving more sales through targeted email marketing campaigns, automated emails and promotions. Some e-commerce brands can even generate over 50% of their revenue through email!

9. Getting more customers to upgrade to a subscription

Have a subscription product?

Email marketing can help you get more potential customers on a subscription or get existing customers who already use the product to get them to upgrade to a subscription.

10. Nurturing and educating your customers

Beyond driving revenue, an important part of increasing customer retention, loyalty, and satisfaction is nurturing your customers. This is often done by sending emails sharing content, educating your customers on your brand and products to build a relationship with them.

11. Driving more engagement & brand awareness

An important part of email marketing is keeping your leads and customers engaged with your brand even if they're not ready to buy. Strategies such as email newsletters and content emails can keep potential customers opening and clicking your emails so they don't forget about you once they're ready to buy.

PRO TIP: While you'll be tempted to select all of them, an effective email marketing strategy will focus on 1-3 goals at a time. So remember to choose the goals that are most relevant for your business.

1.2 Build Your Email List

Once you've decided on the goals and objectives you want to achieve with email marketing for your business, the next step is to actually have people to email!
This is where your email marketing list comes in.

Your email list is your database of email subscribers who have opted-in to receive emails from you. There are a few different ways to build your email list:

1. Website Pop-Up

A website pop-up is a window that appears on a visitor's screen when they land on your website, typically appearing without the user having to click on anything.


An average website pop-up for an e-commerce company can have a 9-12% conversion rate, which means you can capture the email addresses of 9-12% of your website visitors in order to retarget them later.

A great website pop-up that converts includes four basic elements:

•  An email capture form: This is a text box where the visitor can enter in their email address.

•  An offer: This is their incentive to enter in their email address in order to receive something. Typically this is 10-15% off their first purchase or a free gift.

•  A call-to-action button: This is the button for users to click once they have entered in their email address.

•  Thank you page: This is the screen visitors land on after they have entered their email address which typically includes next steps and/or a discount code to claim their offer

2. Footer/Blog Email Capture

A website pop-up isn't the only place to capture emails. Don't forget to add opt-in forms in the footer of your website and your blog. Similar to a website pop-up, make sure you include the four key components to ensure your opt-in form converts: an email capture form, an offer, a call-to-action button, and a thank you page.

3. Quiz

A quiz on your website is another creative way to encourage customers to share their email address with you and even make a purchase. It is typically best used for brands where there are a lot of different products to choose from (example: a business selling skin care products where a customer has to decide the best products for their skin), or a lot of similar products where customers may have difficulty choosing the best one for them (example: a clothing store with a variety of t-shirts, pants, and jackets).

An on-site quiz helps customers navigate which products to shop by having them answer a few questions and enter their email address, before providing them with a personalized product recommendation. Often quizzes that also offer a discount on a customer's first purchase have a higher purchaser conversion rate.


Quiz Examples:

  Peepers' Perfect Pair Finder helps customers find the best pair of glasses for them, personalized for their face shape, style and type.

•  Dr. Squatch's Quiz has just 8 questions and builds a personalized bundle for customers with the products and scents they'll love, and gives 25% off if they purchase the recommended bundle.

•  Function Of Beauty has three different quizzes: hair, skin, and body -- one for each of the types of products they sell on their online store, to produce a customized product for the customer.

•  Kettle & Fire's Wellness Quiz help customers select the best bone broth or soup for their wellness goals

Tip: Keep your quiz to 6-10 questions. You want customers to be able to complete it in just a few minutes, while still keeping the recommendations personalized.

4. Lead Magnet

Lead magnets are digital files, such as checklists, guides, or videos, that provide valuable information to your customer in exchange for their email address. It can be an effective method of growing your mailing lists and attracting your target audience if you provide a useful or actionable tool.

A great lead magnet not only provides valuable information to the reader, but also indirectly promotes your product as well.


  Tortuga sells travel backpacks and uses a Carry On Packing List as a lead magnet to incentivize their target audience of travellers to enter their email address.

•  Annmarie Skin Care uses a free 30-minute skincare consultation to engage shoppers who are interested in their skin care products but may not know where to start

•  Barista Lab sells coffee products & equipment and uses the creative approach of a 5-part mini course delivered through email to educate coffee lovers on how to make their coffee

1.3 Plan Your Email Marketing Calendar

An email marketing calendar is a high-level overview of all the emails you'll be creating and sending each month. It is a great tool to align your team, and plan ahead each month. Ideally, you'll want to plan at least 2-3 months in advance to give your team time to create emails and prepare any deliverables.

An effective email marketing strategy should have an email marketing calendar that is made up both email flows and email campaigns.

See Part 5: Planning Your Email Marketing Calendar for an in-depth guide on building an effective email marketing calendar. We'll also get to email flows later on in this guide in Part 3: Building Acquisition Flows and Part 4: Building Retention Flows.

For now, we're going to focus on email campaigns!

What is an email marketing campaign?

An email campaign is a one-time email that is sent out to a target audience at a specific day or time.

Unlike email marketing automation (aka. email autoresponders, email flows), email campaigns are typically connected to your marketing calendar such as the types of products you want to promote during a certain season, promotions you're running for your business, or new products that are launching.

Examples of an email campaign include newsletters, sale announcements or product launch announcements.

At Longplay, we follow our "Rocks, Pebbles, Sand" methodology to building an email calendar.


First, decide on the number of emails you want to send this month. This is called your monthly email quota.

This should be determined by the size of your business & email list to drive revenue -- the bigger your business and email list, the more emails you should be sending.

However, don't forget to consider how many emails you and your team can reasonably create each month! After all, a successful email marketing strategy depends on great execution.


Your Rock email campaigns are the important events on your marketing calendar that must be included in your email marketing strategy for the month which typically include promotions and product launches.

A few examples of rocks are:

•  A 4th of July sale for 20% off your entire store

•  The new launch of your Summer Collection

•  A Black Friday sale for up to 50% off

•  The feature of your product on Oprah's Favorite Things

Once you have these dates on your email marketing calendar, you'll need to plan out the email marketing campaigns you'll have to promote them. A few general rules of thumb are:

For Promotions

•  Have at least one email campaign on the first and last day of your promotion

•  Have at least 1-2 additional email campaigns during your promotion if it is longer than 4-5 days.

For Product Launches

• Have at least 2 email campaigns to promote a new product within the first 3 weeks of launch

•  Have 1-2 additional email campaigns to promote the product over the next 4-8 weeks of launch. These campaigns can also feature other related products or content.


Your Pebble email campaigns are important initiatives, goals or dates that you want to include this month in your email marketing strategy, such as:

1. Product/Collection Highlight and Product Roundup emails are a great strategy to promote products and collections that are popular during this time of the year.

Pull up your Shopify analytics, or use a data analytics tool such as Triple Whale, to identify your top selling products by month.

Use this data to make your email marketing strategies more relevant to your customers each month by promoting more of the products that they would likely want to buy at this time of the year.

For example, a clothing company may find that their thicker hoodies and long sleeve tees are most popular in late spring and early fall months, but less popular in the winter months when it's often too cold to wear just a hoodie and long sleeve outside.

2. Resend email campaigns that performed well this time of the year

Sometimes an effective email marketing strategy can be simple! Take a look at your best performing email campaigns from the same month last year and simply resend them again this year if they're still relevant, or give them a refresh.

3. Is there a blog post or content that is relevant to your brand or audience that you want to use to educate your customers or as a re-engagement campaign?

Look through your blogs and identify topics that would be relevant to your audience

For example, a hot sauce company could send an email marketing campaign in July sharing different summer barbecue recipes featuring their hot sauces, such as hot wings, spicy margaritas, and guacamole. A women's clothing company could share a few winter styling tips from a stylist, showcasing winter outfits with some of the items from their winter best sellers.

4. Are there any business goals or initiatives that are important this month?

Examples of this include promoting your loyalty program, promoting your subscription offers, or pushing non-purchasers towards a quiz.


Lastly, your Sand email campaigns are new ideas and initiatives that you want try that you think your email list would love. This is the time to swing for the fences and test the creative ideas you've always wanted! Examples of this can include:

•  Testing a new angle to promote a new product

•  Trying out a campaign email with a letter from your CEO

•  Testing our a series of campaigns with profiles on influencers who love your product

Backbone's Email Calendar Builder tool automatically runs through this process for you. You just need to enter in your Rocks, the promotions and product launches you have planned for the month. Then the Campaign Recommendation tool can generate thousands of email marketing campaign ideas for you, customized for your business and your products. It will also generate an email marketing calendar customized to your business, with a recommended monthly email quota based on your audience, and campaign ideas to promote your popular products.

1.4 Automate your email marketing with flows

Email flows is the third type of email in your email marketing strategy. (They're also known as automated emails, lifecycle emails, triggered, emails, evergreen emails, email autoresponders & drip campaigns... we know, there are a lot of different names!)

These are a series of automated emails that are sent out to customers when they take a specific action such as joining your email list, abandoning their cart, or making a purchase.


A few common email flows include a Welcome Flow, to introduce new subscribers to your brand and the products you sell, and an Abandoned Cart Flow, to remind customers who don't finish checkout to complete their purchase.
Email flows allow you to send a personalized, targeted emails based on pre-defined rules based on:

•  Specific actions taken such as: "customer has viewed a product", "customer has made a purchase"

•  A lack of an action taken such as: "customer has not made a purchase in 60 days", "customer has not opened an email"

The benefits of email automation through flows

1. It allows you to create personalized customer experiences which elevates your brand but increases sales.

In fact, over 70% of shoppers only respond to marketing that is customized to their interests and 75% of customers are more likely to buy if they receive personalized recommendations

2. It creates more brand and customer loyalty.

By making your customers feel special and catered to, you can increase your repeat purchase rate, increase customer engagement, and reduce unsubscribe rates.

In fact, over 40% of consumers say they're more likely to return to purchase from brands that provide a personalized shopping experience.

3. It creates a higher return on investment (ROI) on your marketing emails.

Unlike campaigns, email flows are automated emails that you can create once and they'll continue sending for months or even years. This means they're generating revenue for your business on autopilot!

Why you need flows in your email marketing strategy?

Your email marketing strategy is not complete without having a plan for email flows because email flows help you generate automated, sustainable revenue.

Unlike email campaigns, email flows are sent out automatically... forever! So when you build a Welcome Flow, it will continue generating revenue for you every time someone joins your email list.

Another key difference between flows and campaigns is that campaigns are aligned with your marketing calendar while flows are aligned with your customer's journey. This makes email flows an important tool to nurture your customers, keep email subscribers engaged, and retain purchasers.

Where should I start with building email flows?

Start with your key goals & the areas of your customer's journey that you want to improve. Here are a few questions to start answering when building your email marketing strategy for flows:

1. What actions do you want more customers to take?

For example, you could want more customers who are viewing products on site to add a product to cart, in which case you would want to build an Add To Cart Flow.

Or maybe you have lots of customers making a purchase, but you want them to upgrade to a subscription box instead.

2. Where in the customer journey are potential customers deciding not to continue in making a purchase?

For example, if you are collecting a lot of leads through your website pop-up but many of them are not converting into customers, you should build and optimize your Welcome Flow.

If you are getting a lot of potential buyers viewing your products on site, adding products to cart and starting checkout but not making a purchase, you should build and optimize your Buyer Intent Flows.

3. What business goals do you have ?

For example, if you have the business goal of increasing your average order value (AOV), focus on flows that target customers along the buyer intent journey. You can increase your AOV through a Browse Abandonment Flow or Add To Cart Flow by recommending higher priced products or giving discounts when their order is above a certain value.

Backbone's Flow Recommendation tool will evaluate your business and generate a prioritized list of email flows for you to create each month.

See Part 3: Building Acquisition Flows and Part 4: Building Retention Flows for a more in-depth guide to building your first key flows for your e-commerce business.

1.5 Create Your First Email

If you're using email marketing tools such as Klaviyo, there are pre-made templates that can help you create campaigns. Backbone's Email Layout tool also helps you build an optimized email custom for your brand.

An effective email marketing campaign gets a customer to open, click, and purchase. We cover the details of planning, creating, and launching an email in our

Part 6: Anatomy Of A Great Email,

but for now let's get your first email sent out!


There are three basic parts to every email: subject line, preview text, and email content.

Subject line

The subject line is the first thing people see in their inbox. The role of the subject line is to get an email subscriber to open the email which means it needs to inform, intrigue, and/or create urgency. The percentage of people who open your email after reading the subject line is your open rate

Here are a few tips to writing effective subject lines:

•  Shorter is better. Stick to 50 characters or less since most email service providers such as Gmail and Outlook cut subject lines off once they get too long. Furthermore, most people skim their inboxes

Create intrigue through strategies such as personalization using their first name or their city, or asking a question.

•  Test. Test. Test. Every business, brand, and audience is different. What works best for one brand may fail for another so always split test.

•  More is not always better! Using too many emojis, capital letters, and exclamation marks may become spammy rather than eye-catching.

Preview text

The preview text is the second thing people see in their inbox after the subject line. The preview texts support the subject line by providing more information that may further inform or intrigue the reader. Think of the preview text as a supporting act: the subject line gets their attention, and the preview text hooks them in.


Here are a few tips to writing effective preview text:

•  Create curiosity.
Use your preview text to start giving them useful information or telling a story, so they'll need to open the email to learn more.

•  Inform. Build on your subject line by using the preview text to share additional information they may need to know, such as the details of a sale.

•  Bonus Info. Add to your subject line by sharing additional info on top of your subject line. Kind of like a 2-for-1!

Email content

Your email content is the body of the email that people read after they've clicked to open the email. The percentage of people who click through to visit your website after reading your email content is your click through rate.

The goal of your email content can depend on the purpose of your email campaign. For content emails, your email content may want to inform and educate. For sale emails, your email content will want to convert customers to purchase.

At Longplay, we take an 80/20 approach to designing email content. For content emails, 80% of the email should be built to educate and engage with people, while 20% of the email drives customers to a sale. For sale emails, 80% of the email should be built to convert customers, while 20% of the email educates and nurtures them. That way, every email simultaneously drives sales and nurtures customers.


See the Anatomy Of An Email to learn more about the key elements of an email.Use an email template tool like Backbone's Email Layouts to easily create optimized email creative.

1.6 Build A Reporting Dashboard

Once you have an email campaign and flow calendar, and have your first emails sent out, you'll want to be able to measure the performance of your emails. After all, the purpose of email marketing is to support in driving sales and success for your business.

What makes an effective email marketing reporting dashboard?

An effective email marketing reporting dashboard features all of your essential KPIs of your email marketing channel to allow you to evaluate the success of your email marketing efforts.

It should also support the initiative of actionable reporting, which is the process of turning your email performance data into insights and actionable next steps.

A great dashboard doesn't just show you numbers. It provides you with information, which you can then turn into action. Here are some traits of an effective dashboard:

•  It allows you to quickly evaluate how email is impacting your business

•  It allows you to quickly see what parts of your email marketing strategy is working well and what parts need improvement, according to the benchmarks and goals you set.

•  It provides data for you in a way that informs the next actionable steps you should take

What KPIs should be included in your Email Marketing Dashboard?

Common KPIs to include in your Email Marketing Dashboard are:

•  Email Revenue
•  Email revenue %
•  Recipients
•  Open rate
•  Click rate
•  Conversion rate
•  Average Order Value (AOV)
•  $/recipient


A common mistake e-commerce companies make in building their email marketing reporting is combining their data for both flow and campaign emails. (ie. our open rate is 25%). It's important to keep the reporting for your flows and campaigns separate for a few reasons:

•  Often engagement metrics are significantly higher for flows which could cover up the fact that your campaign emails may be underperforming

•  The more broad your data, the more difficult it is to identify actionable next steps to improve your performance. For example, if your click rate is declining, you won't be able to identify whether you should focus your efforts on improving the performance of flow emails or the performance of campaign emails, since you don't have the click rates for each of them separately.

So be sure to separate the reporting for your flows and campaigns!

How often should I update and review my reporting dashboard?

You should ideally update and review your reporting dashboard once a week, but at a minimum once a month. This will help you identify issues quickly, and adjust your email marketing strategy based on your previous week's performance. Common changes you should be making based on your reporting dashboard are:

•  Identifying new email automation flows to build or prioritize

•  Adjusting subject lines and email copy

•  Changing the time you send emails

•  Identifying split tests to improve open rates or click through rates

BONUS: Advanced Email Marketing Strategies

Once you have an email campaign and flow calendar, and have your first emails sent out, you'll want to be able to measure the performance of your emails. After all, the purpose of email marketing is to support in driving sales and success for your business.

1. Send mobile friendly emails

73% of companies prioritize optimizing marketing emails for mobile devices so if you're not doing so, you'll fall behind. Most people are viewing the emails you send them on phones and tablets, instead of laptops (and they're typically doing this on the go), so creating emails optimized to be viewed on a smaller screen is critical to effective email marketing campaigns.

2. Personalize emails to your audience

Studies have shown that personalized emails are 26% more likely to be opened and have 6x higher conversion rates, yet only 39% of companies send personalized product recommendations in email. After all, a personalized message is a sophisticated way to relevant content to the right customer, at the right time. All major email service providers (ESPs), such as Klaviyo and Mailchimp have personalization functionality to increase your email marketing performance.

3. Segment your subscribers

Segmentation can be one of the most powerful email marketing strategies you use in the ongoing success of your email marketing efforts. Segmentation involves sending targeted emails to different audiences within your list, such as sending re-engagement campaigns to inactive subscribers or a welcome email to new subscribers. Using segmentation makes it more likely that it will be a successful email marketing campaign and often reduces your unsubscribe rate, because it makes the message more relevant to people receiving it.

4. Segment your subscribers

A/B testing (also called split testing), is a method of creating two versions of a single email with small changes to your email subject lines, email copy, or email design. These two versions are then sent out do your audience where you can measure which version had higher open rates, click through rates, or purchase rates in order to gather data on which email marketing strategy is more effective. All major email marketing software contains the ability to A/B test, so make sure you leverage it!


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