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Learning about all the terms and tactics you need to know to grow your ecommerce business isn’t necessarily difficult. A quick Google search reveals definition and an overview of what these things like retention marketing or customer acquisition cost are and how they probably apply to you.

The hardest part, as always, is actually implementing these things in a way that’s easy, not overly resource-intensive, and also relevant to your business, products, and customers.

Read on to discover 12 different follow-up emails that you should be sending to your customers.

What are follow-up emails?

Follow-up emails campaigns that have the goal of engaging your customers and encouraging a specific action from them, like connecting on Facebook or Twitter, or making another purchase. Follow-up emails can be singular, or they can be automated in a series.

Follow-up emails coincide with the broader concept of lifecycle marketing, which has a very clear definition and goal.

The idea behind lifecycle marketing is that every customer will follow a certain path through your business (i.e. their lifecycle), and your goal is to engage customers in such a way that you help them progress through those phases. These phases can be visualized like this:

chart showing customer lifetime value over time, from prospect, to one time customer, repeat customer, and loyal customer, crossing over "at risk" customers and lapsed customers

The way you would generally do that is to interact with and engage your customers at key points during their lifecycle. There are multiple channels and mediums through which you could do this, but the most effective channel still remains email.

A framework for follow-up emails

Before examining the 12 follow-up emails that you should be sending, let’s look at this framework:

four quadrants to identify campaigns that cover goals (engagement up to revenue on the x axis) and impact (long-term, indirect up to short-term, direct impact on the y axis)

Each of the 12 follow-up emails fits into this framework. The way to use this framework is to give every email a primary goal (either revenue generating or engagement) and a focus in terms of how direct (short-term) or indirect (long-term) it is.

Some emails might also be spread across the spectrum, but it’ll be beneficial to your lifecycle marketing strategy if you identify a primary goal for each email.

Types of follow-up emails

Let’s jump into the examples of the emails you could be sending. We’ll divide them into series based on the various stages of the customer lifecycle.

Part 1—welcome series

Welcome series emails are designed to welcome new and first-time customers to your brand. The way we recommend doing that is by being personal, putting your best foot forward, and allowing your new customers to immediately get to know you better.

1. Introduction email

This is the first email in a welcome series. Use this opportunity to tell your customer more about your company, team, and values. Communicate the insights of who you are or the stories of how you’ve grown the company until now. Be human and give your customers a look behind the scenes of the company with which they’re doing business.

You should send this email within the first hour after a first-time purchase.

If you’re using CM Commerce, use a text component to tell your story and share behind-the-scenes insights. Include a team photo with an “Image” component to show your customers who you are.

2. Discovery email—social connection or content marketing

This email should build on the stories or insights that you shared in your introduction email. It also has its own specific purpose: to help your customers discover where else they can connect and engage with your brand.

For most stores, connecting would be via a social profile. Or, if you do a lot of content marketing on your website, direct your customers to your blog or some of your most popular blog posts.

How successful is this? In 2013, 43% of ecommerce stores surveyed leveraged their blog to convince prospective buyers to make a first purchase. And since then, content marketing has only become an even bigger marketing channel.

Send this email within three to five days after the first purchase.

If you’re using CM Commerce, use the socialize component to include beautiful buttons to your social profiles. Or use the “RSS Module” to share the latest article published on your blog.

3. Discovery email—product catalog

Until now, this email series was about the company, team, core values, and origin stories. This email is about stepping up the momentum. Now it’s time to talk about your products, why they’re special, and why other customers love them. You can also include some personalized product recommendations to help shoppers explore products that they’d love but didn’t yet see when they made their first purchase.

Send this email 14 days after the first purchase.

If you’re using CM Commerce, use the similar products upsell component and customer data will automatically determine which products are shown to whom, giving customers a very personalized experience.

4. Incentive email

Industry statistics shows that customers are most engaged in the 30 days after their first purchase. The same stats also prove that repeat customers are much more profitable to your business. Once a first-time customer makes that crucial second purchase, they’re much more likely to keep spending money with you.

This email is sent at the tail end of that 30-day window, and the aim is to use a discount coupon as an incentive to get your new customers to come back to the store and make their second purchase.

Send this email 21 or 28 days after first purchase.

If you’re using CM Commerce, use the discount upsell component to automatically include a unique discount coupon that allows your customer to get a percentage or flat monetary discount on their next purchase. Limit the expiry date of the discount to 48 hours to urge customers to take immediate action.

Part 2—post-purchase series

This series is directly linked to and triggered by a specific purchase. The goal of this series is to engage your customer about a specific purchase and elicit feedback about the product and customer experience.

post-purchase email series for all customers, sending 5 different messages across 30 days after purchase

5. Get feedback email

We all make mistakes and, sometimes, things slip through the cracks. Unfortunately, many disgruntled customers who had a bad shopping experience will never say anything, and will also never return. Use this email to ask for feedback and create an opportunity for you to identify disgruntled customers. The flipside is also true. Use positive feedback to identify your happy customers and use their feedback as testimonials to grow your brand.

Send this email three days after the purchase. Or, if your average delivery time on orders is slightly longer, extend it to five or seven days.

If you’re using CM Commerce, use the feedback module to give your customers a quick and easy way to give you feedback. You’ll also be able to quickly respond to customers via your feedback dashboard.

6. Product reviews

Displaying customer reviews of your products can boost your revenue up to 18%, since reviews are more authentic and credible compared to marketing copy. We propose using a 3-step process to getting customer reviews: sell a great product, craft awesome customer experiences, and ask for feedback. This email is all about the final step in that process.

Send this email seven to 14 days after a purchase, after your customer has had time to unbox the product and use it.

If you’re using Campaign Monitor, use the product review component to ask your customers to review their most recently purchased products.

7. Discount reminder

Even though we’ve found that including a discount in your email receipt is a massively successful marketing opportunity that leads to significant additional revenue, the reality is that many customers still don’t use that discount. This email thus serves as a reminder, and is sent 24 hours before the discount expires.

What’s great about this email is that it has a built-in sense of urgency, which means many customers make impulse buys as a way to avoid losing this discount.

Send this email 24 hours before the expiry of a discount coupon from an email receipt—typically 14 or 30 days after purchase.

If you’re using CM Commerce, use the reminder of unused coupon follow-up email rule alongside the discount upsell component, and all the discount settings (like discount amount and expiry date) will be automatically determined based on what was set up in your receipt.

8. Cross-sell email

Upselling and cross-selling is an important part of your business and helps you maximize customer lifetime value. The aim of the cross-sell email is to help your customers discover other products that they might like and could buy.
Send this email 14-21 days after purchase.

If you’re using CM Commerce, use the similar products upsell to generate personalized product recommendations for each customer. And if you’re already sending email #3 above (Discovery email – product catalog) to first-time customers, use the conditional logic and customer segments to only send this email to repeat customers.

9. Loyalty email

This is the perfect email to send to repeat customers that have made yet another purchase. Our assumption here is that repeat customers equal happy customers, which is why they’re making multiple purchases. This means that they’re in a great position to tell their family and friends about your business and products—so why not incentivize them through a referral offer? Case studies suggest that referred customers end up spending 13% more with you than customers acquired via other channels.

Send this email approximately 28 days after their purchase.

If you’re using CM Commerce, include the refer-a-friend module, which incentivizes your customer and the prospective customer in a “Give $10, Get $10” model. The platform automatically handles everything for you, from acquiring your newly referred customer to rewarding the loyal customer who referred a friend.

Part 3—win-back campaign

Every store will have a mixture of first-time and repeat customers. One of the best ways to increase your revenue is by increasing your ratio of repeat to first-time customers, because repeat customers generally spend much more money with you (and you also don’t have to invest as much into marketing as your retention improves).

Unfortunately, what happens is that many customers will make one purchase and, over time, they’ll become inactive and never make another purchase.

win-back campaign for all inactive customers, sending an email one hour, seven days, and 14 days after customer becomes idle

10. Win-back email

The purpose of this email is to re-engage those inactive customers and incentivize them to make another purchase. We define an inactive customer as someone who hasn’t made another purchase in X days, where X is equal to three times the average days between orders of your best customers.

We recommend a three-mail sequence to effectively re-engage inactive customers:

  • On the day that the customer becomes inactive, reach out and give the customer a small discount to make another purchase. Be as emotive as possible to urge the customer to come back.
  • Seven days after becoming inactive, use an alternative approach where you remind the customer of the discount you sent them the week prior and also show them some personalized product recommendations.
  • Fourteen days after becoming inactive: This is a last-ditch effort, where we increase the discount offer, but also limit the time frame (to 48 hours) to create a sense of urgency.

If you’re using CM Commerce, this campaign has already been created in the platform, and you can use the customer segments functionality to properly identify your inactive customers. On top of that, the email sequence will stop if, for example, the customer makes a purchase before all of the emails were sent—so the first email (with a small discount) might be enough to entice the customer to come back.

Part 4—abandoned cart and anniversary

Depending on who you’d like to believe, about 40% – 70% of all prospective customers will abandon their shopping carts.

That represents a huge missed opportunity.

abandoned cart campaign for all customers, sending a message one hour, one day, and three days after cart has been abandoned

11. Abandoned cart email

The reality is that it’s impossible to recover all of those abandoned carts. But a well-timed email sequence can bring back up to 10% of those customers, who’ll then complete a purchase.

In terms of sending, it’s good to start with an email sequence that consists of three individual emails sent at various intervals:

  1. One hour after cart is abandoned: The aim of the first email is to ask for feedback and try to determine whether the customer encountered a problem that made them abandon their cart.
  2. One day after cart is abandoned: In this email, include a discount coupon to incentivize the customer to come back to their cart and complete checkout.
  3. Three days after cart is abandoned: As a last-ditch effort to incentivize the customer to complete the checkout, remind them of the discount that was sent two days ago, which is about to expire.

If you’re using CM Commerce, an abandoned cart campaign has already been set up based on best practices. All you need to do is to review the messaging, review the discount via the automated discount upsell component, and activate the campaign to start recovering lost revenue.

12. Anniversary email

This is a novel and fun approach to re-engaging your customers.

anniversary email for all customers once year after last first purchase

Send them an email on the anniversary of their first purchase and celebrate it by giving them a discount to use on a purchase that day. The surprise factor of this email is sure to convince some of your customers to make another purchase.

Send this email one year after their first purchase.

If you’re using CM Commerce, use the delay from first purchase sending rule and send an email 365 days after their first purchase. Use the discount upsell component to include a unique discount coupon to celebrate with your customer on that day.

Wrap up

Remember that framework we showed you in the beginning of this guide? This is what it looks like when we consider all the emails we just covered:

four quadrants outlining goals and impact

What’s important to visualize here is that you’re sending emails that apply to all four of these quadrants. It’s important to both engage your customers via email and also pursue new generating opportunities for a healthy stream of revenue. Doing this in both the short and longer term is also vital, going toward actively keeping your customer engaged with your brand

Many of these campaigns are already created and set up for CM Commerce customers. Learn more here and sign up today to start driving more revenue for your ecommerce store.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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