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We Spent a Year Building an Ecommerce Email Automation Platform: Here’s What We Learned About What Works, What Doesn’t and Why

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It’s fascinating how much we can learn in a year. Just one year ago, my company, Rare.io, launched our predictive email software for ecommerce. The hypothesis on launch date was that leveraging the power of predictive analytics enables online stores to send highly relevant individual emails and get better a return on their investment. Fast forward 12 months, our hypothesis turned out to be true and we learned a lot more about ecommerce email marketing than we had known before.

When it comes to selling online, the only channel that has the potential to give you a one-on-one relationship with your customers is email. In ecommerce, email marketing is key to success. Interesting enough, many people predicted the death of email marketing by 2015. They were somewhat right and wrong. Despite the introduction of advanced segmentation tools throughout the last decades, email marketing was still not personalized to the individual users. Consumers reacted by simply not engaging with irrelevant emails which, in the ecommerce industry, brought the average click-through rate to just over 3%.

Having said that, email remained the best digital channel for return on investment, outperforming SEO, content marketing and social media. We know this to be true because of what we’ve discovered on the last year. Here, we’ve distilled what we learned about what works and why when it comes to your ecommerce email campaigns.

1.Predictive email is king

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After spending a year sending predictive email, we learned a simple yet powerful insight about email: people want relevant emails. In other words, send relevant emails to customers and you will reap great rewards. At Rare.io, we define ‘email relevance’ as a highly targeted email that takes into consideration the customer’s taste and past behavior before showing up in the inbox.

Called predictive emails, those emails engage customers in an unprecedented fashion and yield click through rates of 3-5x higher than traditional emails. As you can see in the image above, product recommendations remain empty in the preview, as the predictive engine takes care of adding them as emails are sent. This is a gold mine for online stores as automated emails generate revenue without requiring extra effort from the store owner.

In short, predictive emails enable online stores to send personalized product recommendations to individual users at the right time. It does this by looking for trends in data and customer purchase habits from the online store. By using the store’s customer transaction data, the predictive engine can detect trends and data patterns that we use to enable the store owner to email the customer with more relevant information.

2. Segmentation tools are still relevant

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Behind every online store with successful email campaigns, there’s a digital marketer segmenting the email list. While the predictive engine is busy fitting customers with products, segmentation tools fits customers with campaigns. These enable you to create groups within your customer list and add more relevance to your emails by running highly focused campaigns.

In the world of email marketing, marketers who take advantage of segmentation, and do it well, are reaping higher click-through rates, better deliverability and generate more revenue from their email sends compared to their non-segmenting peers. As you know, before the customers can see benefits from your offer, they must open the email. A focused campaign gives you the ability to create an amazing subject line, a great email preview, create aesthetic design elements and get people to open the email.

Remember, you want to win the inbox battle and segmentation is here to help you do just that.

3. Churned customers can be resuscitated

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Many Rare customers proved that with the right message, combined with personalized product recommendations and great images, you can win back customers that haven’t purchased in one, or even two years. In order to keep customers alive, you must keep them in the buying cycle. An effective way to do it is by setting up evented emails that goes out automatically as soon as specific requirements are meant.

For instance, you can send an email on the year anniversary of a customer’s last purchase –– letting them know you miss them and if they still are enjoying their product.

For more regular emails, a 30 days interval between each enables you to adjust the campaign accordingly and maintain the same relevance your customers have been accustomed to.

4. It’s never too early to follow up

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Rare customers have huge success sending a welcome email to new customers 7-14 days after purchase. Connecting with these customers, and including product suggestions for next time, can shorten the time between the first and second order. Setting up a follow up at day 14 or 21 will catch them on the same day of the week as their initial purchase. Furthermore, at day 14 or 21 they are still in a buying cycle with you.

5.  Segmentation data can be used for social channels

One of the most surprising uses of Rare’s segmenting ability is to better target customers on social media. Beyond understanding customer behaviors, many customers use geographic segmentation in Rare, combined with brands purchased in those regions, to better target customers through their Facebook ads. The data helps optimize the ads and increase conversion rate.

6. Mobile and desktop matter in email marketing

Many of our customers are surprised by the percentage of their customers who open their email on a mobile device. The average is just over 50%, but we’ve had some customers report their numbers to be over 70%. The following surprise occurs when they see the amount of customers that make the purchase on a desktop, despite opening the email on a mobile device. We always recommend our customers optimize their design for both platforms in order to remain consistent in the eyes of customers.

7. Most email marketers are not coders

Whenever customers comment about the ease of use of Rare, they usually mention their ability to easily design emails with our simple drag-and-drop email builder. Knowing that email marketing is key in ecommerce, online store owners tend to install email marketing apps from day 1. As you can imagine, most of those stores are just getting started and they are usually run by teams of less than 5 people. The ability to design beautiful emails without having to become a HTML master is a big plus for most business owners.

8. Best timing feature does wonders

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We briefly mentioned the best timing feature in the “predictive email is king” section. The best timing feature uses previous purchases data to predict the optimum delivery time for each and every email. The email basically appears in the inbox when the customer is most likely surfing the web for new items. Our most successful customers leverage this feature to generate amazing ROI off their email marketing efforts.

9. Subject lines alone can improve your open rates

We did not invent this technique, but we’ve used it over and over again with our customers and the results were conclusive. Here’s how you can increase your open rates by 30% in four simple steps:

  • Create your first email and send it to your contact list.
  • Do nothing for 7 days.
  • Create a second email exactly the same as the first one but change the subject line. Nothing else, just the subject line. Send the second email to contacts that did not open the first email.
  • Check the results.

10. The future of email marketing is now

The common consensus among email marketing experts is that email marketing will only get smarter as we move toward highly targeted email solutions. In other words, the future of email marketing is a smart email.

We define smart emails as emails that leverage a vast set of data to understand a user to the point where brands can craft highly relevant messages at the right time, that delight and engage the end-user. Today, predictive emails are able to gives brands this ability in specific domains –– and conversion increase is already proving the technology to be worth the investment.

For us at Rare.io, we have come a long way since we launched. Our journey has just begun. We’d love your feedback. Please leave it in the comments below.

Leave a Comment
  • Great to hear! Thanks for reading and welcome to marketing :)

  • hi, i am am a new marketer its very help for me

  • The buying cycle part is very interesting indeed and I recall it from Tom Hopkins (Grant Cardone’s mentor ). I was reading this article and wondering how much more effective it would be with Copywritting applied to it, but since you covered that point a bit I now have just one final question:

    Is there are any great books on Predictive Analysis you guys recommend?

  • Hello Ned Nadima,
    Welcome and you also well said. Thanks too .

  • Ned Nadima

    Thank you Rosa. Ecommerce is an exciting place, enjoy the journey :)

  • Hello,
    I’m very glad to see this post reason i’m also new eCommerce marketing learner .

  • Julia Correa

    Each direct mail campaign has a tracking code, which is then broken down by the different test panels as well as control panel. In very simple words, once a reply is received (YES or NO), the results of control and test are compared. It not only helps in the future campaigns but also provided information on how consumer reacted to that specific mailing.

  • Interesting! How were y’all tracking which performed best for a mailer?

  • Julia Correa

    Great article… having worked at Reader’s Digest, I could not help but recognizes some of the direct mail tactics now been used in email marketing, such as interval between mailings and changing subject lines but not content.

  • Chris Valerio

    Hi Tracey! By all means do. My company is White Cup Espresso in Sequim WA USA. When we sign up a new customer for a rewards AppCard, they sign up with their mobile number. I believe one can also add email to their account. We tell them we text about once a month and so far only a few object. The other 4,000+ love receiving texts from us with offers! Those not wanting future texts can easily opt out- but few ever do. We run AppCard through our ShopKeep POS and can quickly create and schedule to send texts. Obviously one does not want to send out too many texts and annoy customers, but sending out a couple per month works for us. A great way to keep in touch! As a matter of fact when I’m busy and miss sending a text, customers start asking where the monthly text offer is? Building up a customer base through AppCard is easy and the numbers grow much quicker than one thinks! Sending out a text instantly boosts business while regular texting keeps our customers coming back!

  • Thanks for the info, Chris! I’m going to forward this over to our product and biz dev team. Would you mind if we let AppCard know that you’re the person who recommended them? This sounds like a great opportunity!

  • Chris Valerio

    Good info, but we find instant TEXT messaging even better than email! Most of our 4500 customers read our monthly texts! We usually offer something FREE and that keeps us frequently on the mind of our customers! Those who do not want to receive texts simply opt out. We do this through our POS and a rewards card service called AppCard.

  • Great write up Ned. :) I hope BigCommerce opens up their API to allow abandon cart info to flow soon. Thanks and good luck with your company.

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