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The Big Book of Ecommerce Email: How to Make Marketing Emails with Impact for Any Online Store

Email Marketing, Ecommerce Stores, and You

It seems that every week, there’s a hot-take headline reading something like, “Email Marketing Is Dead” or “How Did Email Marketing Die?” or “The Email Marketing Death Spiral Begins.”

Drip Ecommerce CRM is here to say that email marketing is alive. It never died. It’s doing very well. And if you’ve given up on email for your ecommerce store and have turned your focus to selling through ads and social media, well, it’s time to start some life-saving procedures and resuscitate your email strategies pronto. 

Strategic ecommerce email marketing is one of the most engaging and cost-effective ways to build personal, profitable relationships with your customers. With an ECRM, ecommerce stores are empowered to reach customers with timely, relevant, and meaningful emails that are in sync with the rest of their marketing channels for a one-of-a-kind customer experience.

Shoppers today aren’t impressed with the commoditization of products—the race to the lowest price isn’t novel anymore. Instead, they’re hungry for one-on-one relationships with brands that care about them, their habits, and their interests. And when ecommerce brands can give shoppers what they want through caring conversations, they win. 

To help you get started in your personal email revival, we’re going to prove that email marketing is still worth its weight in gold for today’s ecommerce stores. It’s the ticket to tugging on the heartstrings of all your customers. Plus, we’ll show you how to perfect the ecommerce email from effective copy, tempting design, and personalized strategies that help your store leverage email as a part of your CRM strategy, as well as build better customer experiences and stand out from the competition. 

Ready to use email to show your customers that you care?  

The True ROI of an Email: Why an Email Marketing Strategy Is Important

Effective email marketing has a very tangible return on investment. With even basic metrics, it’s simple enough to find out how much money was spent on an email and how much was earned as a result of that email. However, the intangible (and more priceless) measure of a good email is how it made customers feel. 

First, let’s start with the plain-and-simple power of the typical email sent in a marketing campaign. 

By 2022, it’s predicted that more than 4.2 billion people will be using email worldwide

How many people is that exactly? In context, the graph folks are saying that the entire global population will be just over 7.9 billion, so more than half of the world population. It’s 516 times more than the population of London. Or it’s how many people you could stand up, shoulder to shoulder, on 77,778 American football fields. However you want to think about it, it’s clear that email is ubiquitous and reaches an incomparably diverse crowd. 

Email is an accessible way to communicate on the web, and nearly everyone uses email, regardless of age, gender, or any other demographic. Over 90% of internet users 15-years-old and up use email, which makes this channel a prime opportunity to interact with your customers, no matter who they are.

As expansive as email is, though, the truly impressive stat is how effective email marketing can be. For every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $32. (And that’s for the typical email. Imagine your ROI for a truly remarkable, personalized, and engaging message!)

Email marketing is a verified powerhouse when it comes to any stage of the customer journey from acquisition to nurture to retention. Not many marketing tools are as versatile as the email, which makes it a crucial component to your ecommerce marketing strategy. 

In fact, the average order conversion rate for email is 2.4 times greater than that of social media according to Shopify. Aside from crushing order conversion rates, email wins when it comes to sheer engagement with people, too, coming in with more than 20% open rates compared with social media’s .58% engagement rate. Talk about winning the race to the eyeballs, eh?

Next, let’s dive into how emails can be effective by tugging on the emotional bits of people’s brain. Not only can a friendly email message leave a good lasting impression with a customer, but it will increase the odds that they spread the good word about your products and ecommerce store.

And when an email is personalized to the individual shopper, the ripple effect is resounding. When your ecommerce emails add even small personalized touches such as first names or product recommendations, 91% of people are more likely to shop with you.

Using ecommerce email marketing to establish trust and prove to your customers that you care about their unique identities, interests, and habits is priceless. Not only will emails like these help you drive sales in the short-term, they’ll also help your brand build a long-term relationship and customer loyalty.

Ecommerce Marketing Emails 

You just finished reading a run-through of how effective email can be. It’s everywhere. It’s engaging. It’s effective. How could any strategy possibly go wrong when it includes email?

Simple: Bad email exists. 

Bad emails plummet open rates. Bad emails destroy conversion rates. Bad emails leave an equally bad taste in the mouth of everyone who receives them. But what exactly makes an email bad?

To answer that question, let’s explore what would make an email qualify as good.

  • Engaging and accurate subject line and preheader
  • Personalized content or product recommendations in the body
  • Relevant timing and frequency
  • Neat and clear design, pleasant on the eyes
  • Enticing imagery or copy
  • Accessibility for the visually impaired
  • Mobile-friendly formatting
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance
  • Clear call to action or next step for the reader

When an email misses any of these marks, they fall short of being good and quickly qualify as, well, bad. When emails are missing these components, they tend to be confusing, misleading, frustrating, and just plain not useful to the people who get them. 

Bad emails can cause a riptide of negative side effects:

  • More than 70% of people will delete a poorly formatted mobile email within three seconds of opening it. 
  • 23% of people will unsubscribe from a brand’s email if their information is incorrectly personalized in the email.
  • A poorly written or offensive email can lead to a negative brand perception that’s hard to shake.
  • 47% of people will open an email based on the subject line alone, so make sure yours is a good one. 
  • 67% of people who’ve unsubscribed from an email did so because they were getting too many emails that were too irrelevant to them.
  • And if your online brand doesn’t stay interesting to people in the inbox, 65% will hit “unsubscribe” in no time.

Remember how effective email can be when it comes to building loyalty and driving conversions? If a series of ill-timed, impersonal, or irrelevant emails sends engagement into a nosedive, more people will unsubscribe and fewer eyeballs will see your message—which will ultimately damage your ecommerce marketing efforts altogether. 

Read on to learn how email doom and gloom can be avoided while success and engagement skyrockets thanks to showing some more customer love.


How to Write Email Subject Lines People Will Actually Click

You’re no stranger to subject lines. You’ve probably seen plenty that you’ve liked and clicked, but you’ve probably seen even more that have made you roll your eyes. A subject line is the headline to your email—and it could be what makes or breaks someone becoming a fan or customer. 

The average open rate for ecommerce emails is 15.66%, with a click-through rate of roughly 2%. In short, you have roughly 1 second to create enough intrigue that’ll cause an open or deletion, and we want to help you boost that email open rate to meet and exceed the average. 

Here are some essentials to follow when crafting your next enticing subject line:

  1. Write a subject line and preheader that fit. If your subject line is too long, it’ll be cut off and truncated. Email subject lines that are around 40 characters / seven words long tend to have the most engagement. 

Heads up! Webmail clients will vary the preheader text length depending on the subject line length, the width of the browser window, and if it is viewed on a desktop or mobile device. Most webmail clients will display 40–100 characters. Many mobile devices average 35–50 characters.

  1. Put the important details first. After reading #1, you’ll probably be more conscious of how long your subject lines are. But just in case a subject line creeps beyond the limit, make sure to put the important information at the beginning so that it doesn’t risk being cut off.

  2. Stir up emotions with readers. Whether that emotion is FOMO (good ol’ fear of missing out), urgency, excitement, curiosity, seduction, or what have you, subject lines will be more enticing if the reader feels something. For example, a subject line that simply reads “20% off!” is a lot less click-inducing than “[Today only!] 20% off just for Fred!” (Or whoever you’re talking to.)

  3. Stay true to your brand. Even more important than subject line character count or emotional pull, though, is making sure to stay true to your brand. Align the voice and style with your store, you social media, and your email body copy. In your subject line-writing journey, it might be tempting to write something outlandish or click-baity. While some brand scan get away with it, it’s best to avoid any chance of deception or misaligned branding.

Come up with Loyalty-driving Email Copy

Once people have opened your email, you need to write body copy that lets them feel it was worth it. Keep them just as enticed throughout the email in order to drive click-throughs and, fingers crossed, trips through your store’s checkout!

Sure-fire tactics to increasing opens and clicks include personalization, relevancy, and more. The goal of email body copy is to inform your customers and drive clicks toward next steps, whether that’s to a product page, the checkout page, your blog, or elsewhere. The copy should provide context around what you want the reader to do, and it should be persuasive and meaningful enough to drive that click-through. 

When it comes to killer email body copy, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Personalize every email. Enhance your ecommerce email experience by adding personal touches to your email. Whether that’s greeting someone by their name or pulling in information specific to each person—think shopping history, rave reviews they gave, products they’ve browsed, tickets they bought, other bits of dynamic content—a personalized email will resonate with customers and drive loyalty for the long-haul.

    Personalized emails help differentiate your store in and out of the inbox, and good personalization becomes even more critical when you consider these stats:

    1. 40% of U.S. consumers say they’ve purchased something more expensive than they originally planned because their experience was personalized.

    2. 20% of people tell friends and family about their negative experience with a  brand that gets their information wrong in their marketing.

    3. 76% of customers feel frustrated when online brands get their name wrong.

    4. 44% of consumers will likely become a repeat buyer when their experience is personalized.

  2. Deliver relevant and meaningful content. This tip goes hand-in-hand with tip No. 1. When an ecommerce store delivers the most relevant content and recommendations to a customer, the result can be huge. A whopping 49% of U.S. shoppers said that in the past three months, they bought a product they did not initially intend to buy after a brand made a personalized recommendation.

    Imagine your bump in sales if you added more personalized and relevant product recommendations to your ecommerce emails.

  3. Create a clear call to action (CTA). As mentioned, your CTA should be evident and relevant. After all, you’re sending these emails to drive some sort of conversion, but if that isn’t clear, you may have just wasted an email send. Make your contextual language clear and check that your links or buttons don’t get lost in your body copy.

  4. Keep copy to-the-point. While some emails might seem to drag on, scroll after scroll, the best practice is to keep email body copy on the shorter side. If you need hundreds of words to get to the CTA, you risk losing readers and landing in the trash. Emails with the highest CTRs have around 200 words or less of copy. If you find yourself going beyond 200 words frequently, look for areas to cut excess language.

  5. Formatting is important. Whether you hit that 200-word mark or not, consider breaking up your email copy into bite-size pieces instead of one long paragraph. Each paragraph should be about one topic, and if necessary, add a header or two within the email for easy scannability.

  6. Be on-brand. Similar to your subject line, keep your email copy aligned with your brand voice. You have someone’s attention, so now is the time to drive your brand message even further. Remember, today’s shoppers want a connection with your store that goes far beyond the commodity level. Give them what they want and start building that genuine relationship.

Email Deliverability and How to Nail It Every Time

There’s a big difference between sending an email and delivering an email. You may write a 40-character subject line and a 200-word email with a clear, concise CTA—but it’s all for nothing if it doesn’t land in someone’s inbox.

Your email deliverability is how many of your emails end up in the inbox instead of being sequestered to the spam folder where 21% of emails end up. To ensure your ecommerce emails are delivered front and center in the inbox, take these tips:

  • Email the right people. Use our segmentation feature to ensure you are sending to folks who want to hear from you. Every email you send that is not opened makes it more likely your next will end up in the spam folder. Don’t bother sending to people who are unlikely to be interested in what you are sending.
  • Build your list. Whatever you do, don’t buy your email list. Build your list through your website through lead magnets, newsletters, and opt-in forms. You’ll have much greater deliverability if people choose to hear from you. 
  • Text-to-image ratio. Spam filters are suspicious of emails made up of mostly images.
  • Thoughtfully add links. You don't want to add links more than 3 times in one email. Also, always verify that your links are working and send yourself a test email.
  • Spam trigger words. Avoid using words flagged as spammy to stay out of the spam folder. This can be avoided by using genuine, relevant language.
  • Personalization. Use Content Snippets, and Liquid code to insert personalization into your emails and raise your chances of landing in the primary inbox.

Keep your list clean. As your list grows, it’s important to regularly scrub it of addresses that are no longer in use, haven’t engaged in a long time, and more.

Make Ecommerce Emails into Tiny Works of Art

While that headline might sound a bit hyperbolic, it truly isn’t. People shop with their eyes and their imaginations, and if your ecommerce emails evoke images of your product in your customer’s life, they’ll perform better (and sell more) than if they didn’t. 

When using Drip ECRM, there are three ways to fashion your next ecommerce email; crafted in the Visual Email Builder (VEB) or built using the plain text and HTML editors. 

Visual Email Builder Is the Best of Simplicity and Design

visual email builder with boot images and CTA buttons

Drip’s Visual Email Builder (VEB) blends speed, ease of use, and visual design into one handy email editor. When your next ecommerce email needs a bit more visual heft than a plain text email, but you don’t have HTML mastered quite yet, the VEB is the way to go. 

Drip has worked hard to create a user-friendly experience with a simplified navigation that helps you click and add any element you could want in an ecommerce email. From images to text to CTA buttons and even personalized products, creating a beautifully designed email is just minutes away.

Creating your next ecommerce email with Drip’s VEB follows the same steps as creating a plain text or HTML email. When you want to make a new Campaign, Broadcast, or Automated email, click “Visual Builder” when prompted.

four column visual email builder template

Once inside the VEB, you’ll have the option to create your new email from scratch—a totally blank slate ready for you to click, design, and deploy—or choose from a variety of formats and premade templates. There’s a lot of inspiration to go around in the VEB template gallery, so it never hurts to check out your options.

The VEB also makes it easy to add personalized dynamic content, such as showing someone product recommendations specific to their purchases and interests. While the VEB has some incredible advantages and will showcase your products in all their glory, it does limit what fonts are available to you. If having your unique brand font in an email is imperative to your message, the HTML builder will be able to meet your needs. 

HTML Gives You Total Control

Drip's HTML email editor

HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language, a computer language that dictates how things look—the layout, images, links, fonts, and more. Unlike plain text, an email crafted using HTML is designed. The freedom of HTML lets ecommerce brands to have total control over the look of their emails.

Drip’s custom HTML editor allows you to code up your own emails on the fly or paste in a template that’s been created outside of Drip. With HTML, you have more flexibility when it comes to email design.

HTML emails are excellent for:

  • Adding vibrant product imagery in a handsome layout

  • Using your brand’s custom font

  • Owning the entire look and feel of an email and aligning it with your brand

To create an HTML email, choose the HTML builder in Drip when you make a new Broadcast, Campaign, or Automation email. 

If you opt to continue with this route and design your email in this editor, keep in mind that you'll be responsible for handling the following aspects about the email design:

  • Formatting and CSS styling

  • Media queries

  • Compatibility with different email clients, web browsers, and devices.


Just note that whatever you type or copy and paste into the HTML editor will be what Drip sends to subscribers of that email. Making an HTML ecommerce email is more time-consuming than writing a plain text email, but the return is a highly visual, enticing email.

If you aren’t familiar with HTML or you’re just getting started, designing and deploying an email this way could take hours. From writing copy to drafting wireframes to transforming the design into HTML, and, finally, pasting the code into the Drip HTML builder, one thing to consider is how you’re going to create an HTML email.

Many ecommerce marketers enlist the help of a marketing or digital agency for HTML email creation. If that’s something that’s within your budget, leaving it to the pros could be a huge weight off your shoulders so you can focus on other parts of your campaign.

This type of email has a lot of benefits when it comes to having complete control over an email’s look and layout, but they do take some extra work up front.

When Plain Text Email Is Best

Drip's plain text email editor

You might see plain text as the Plain Jane of email—especially today since the evolution of email has opened up a lot of opportunities beyond text. The truth is, though, that 62% of marketers incorporate plain text emails into their strategies alongside designed emails.

At Drip, we believe the impact you’ll have with a visually enticing VEB or HTML email will be greater than that of a plain text email, but this style might still have a time and place in your strategy. 

Plain text emails have some definite advantages over other email types:

  • Easy editing capabilities. With a straightforward WYSIWYG editor, writing a plain text email is as user-friendly as typing on a typewriter.

  • Minimalist text emails feel like letters from a friend. They’re personable and uncluttered, which makes them ideal for important updates and news that may need to stand alone.

  • The no-nonsense layout of a plain text builder makes it a time-saving option when compared with emails that require more design.

To create a plain text email in Drip, select “Text/HTML Builder” the next time you create a new email. 

Once inside the editor, the next step is to just start typing. Fill in the subject line, preheader text, and body copy. Formatting options are limited in the plain text editor, but that’s the exact glory of this email type. 

Once your plain text email says exactly what you want it to say, click “Save.” To see what someone subscribed to this email would see, click “Preview” and see the email through the recipient’s view.

Ecommerce Email Marketing Strategies to Steal Right Now

Writing and designing an ecommerce email is the first step to many a marketing campaign, but now it’s time to discover how to take the emails you’ve built and use them in the most impactful ways possible. 

Emails built using plain text, HTML, or the VEB can be used in any of these automated strategies. It’s up to you, the ecommerce marketer, to decide which type of email will resonate with your specific audience most at specific instances in their journey.

Additionally, these strategies incorporate several channels that add to a totally personalized customer experience. The emails you send will have additional impact with your customers when they coincide with messages you send via direct mail, social media ads, SMS text messages, and beyond. Let’s see what strategies every ecommerce store should have on their marketing roster.

Welcome Series

A Welcome Series campaign for your ecommerce store has some big benefits. Aside from making your new customers feel welcomed and appreciated, a Welcome Series is also a great place to tell people more about your brand and what you offer. Start the conversation by telling people more about your brand, your story, and your products. Are you better than the competition? This is a great place to prove how. 

Plus, people expect a friendly “Hello!” these days. Emails in a Welcome Series typically see +50% open rates, and 54% of consumers today are expecting a personalized discount within 24 hours of handing over their email address to a brand. With data like that, it’s clear that a well-executed Welcome Series is no longer a “nice-to-have” strategy—it’s a must-do. 

Abandoned Cart

Nearly 70% of people who stuff their virtual shopping carts never carry through with the purchase. However, sometimes all a shopper needs is a reminder that they left a cart behind, a modest discount or free shipping, or even a tempting image of what they were yearning for to drive them back to the checkout. In essence, they need a little push to overcome the psychological blockers that stopped them from buying in the first place.

The most cited reason for cart abandonment is the price of extra costs—shipping, taxes, and other tacked-on fees discourage people from pulling the trigger. The best way to avoid surprising your shoppers is by being transparent about price before they check out. Being honest about pricing, customer reviews, and checkout process amps up your customer’s trust in your brand. It’s always a good strategy to reiterate your trust factors in cart abandonment emails so that customers feel encouraged to come back and keep shopping.

Much like a Welcome Series email, Abandoned Cart emails have unusually high open rates, averaging +40%. With Drip, you can drop personalized product imagery into each email that dynamically changes for each shopper. Personalized emails are 760% better at generating revenue, which means recapturing carts with a tailored abandoned cart email could be the key to massive gains for your ecommerce store.

To get started with an Abandoned Cart campaign, try one of these pre-built workflows. Whether you’re using Shopify, Magento, or the Shopper Activity API, these workflows will automatically guide your customers back to their shopping carts.

Product Upsell / Cross-sell Strategy

Upsell and cross-sell campaigns are some of the most impactful and cost-effective strategies you can build. Since these emails head straight to your existing customers, you have to do less acquisition legwork. These are people who are already familiar with your brand and your products, and the likelihood of selling to them is 60–70% (compared with a 5–20% likelihood for new shoppers). 

This email strategy is the time and place to talk to first-time customers and turn them into loyal repeat customers. Engaging with them again and showing them personalized product recommendations helps nurture customers to their next purchase and shows that you care about the relationship. Customers who make a second purchase are 95% more likely to purchase again than one-time buyers, and with 60% of second purchases happening within 100 days of the first, getting this campaign rolling sooner rather than later is critical to building loyal customers. 

Couple the benefits of a personalized email in a unique journey with the odds of selling to an existing customer, and this strategy could be your hottest one, yet. Drip enables you to collect and use customer details to place tempting product imagery specific to each customer right in the email. Since personalized content changes dynamically automatically, you don’t have to sweat manually placing the right product in the right email since it’s all done for you. 

Post-Purchase Follow-up

Post-purchase email campaigns are perfect for asking for feedback or a review, as well as saying “Thanks!” and showing your true appreciation for a customer. Whether that appreciation comes in the form of a coupon code, free shipping toward their next purchase, or a gift of their choosing, this ecommerce email strategy helps keep the relationship going between your store and the customers for long-term brand loyalty.

When your ecommerce store can leverage email to keep unique conversations with your customers going, it’s going to stand apart from other stores that are still relying on impersonal or generic blast emails. Show customers you care, let them know about what else they might enjoy, and ride into the sunset of customer love. Post-purchase emails also help keep your store top-of-mind for your customers so that they know right where to head for a second purchase. 

Check out the following pre-built workflows that will automatically connect with your customers through a variety of follow-up emails, engaging questions, and cross-channel marketing. 

Your Next Ecommerce Email Is About to Make a Lot of People Happy

It all comes down to this: Shoppers want personalized experiences with brands that care about them. Drip ECRM is here to help leverage email to give each unique shopper the attentive and engaging relationship they’re after.

From jotting down your first subject line, to creating a beautiful visual email, to slipping your next email into an automated ecommerce marketing strategy, the process of making effective ecommerce emails doesn’t have to be tough.  

While it may seem daunting from afar, Drip Ecommerce CRM can streamline your entire process. By combining all your customer information with your marketing channels in one place, the opportunities to engage with customers and enhance their experiences are endless. Once your strategies are ready to go, just hit “start” and let automation work its magic. You’ll be able to rest-assured that every customer to come across your ecommerce store is getting the right email at the right time for the most impact possible.

Ecommerce is a thriving industry, and it’s pretty exciting that you’re a part of it. Your little corner of the internet is building something big today for something even bigger tomorrow. With better emails and the power personalize them at any stage in the customer journey, you’re helping make online shopping better for everyone. So, go ahead. Spread some customer love.

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