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Email marketing is a powerful revenue channel, particularly for eCommerce businesses. When a team uses modern email features such as automation and segmentation, results follow. That’s proven true for Chatbooks, a business that creates photo books from customers’ social media posts and the photos on their mobile devices.

Chatbooks is in the business of helping people hold on to what matters, and they’ve used email marketing to encourage both subscribers and loyal customers to click and convert. Through the use of automation, personalization, and segmentation, as well as beautifully designed emails, Chatbooks is on top of its email marketing game.

Chatbooks is using email marketing across every aspect of their business. They use it to promote new products, collect feedback, nurture sign ups, market new sales, celebrate seasonal specials, and even more. They also use it for over 30 different transactional communications, such as order confirmations, password resets, and shipping confirmations.

That’s why we sat down with Chris Carson, who runs lifecycle marketing, to learn how email and marketing automation helps boost conversions and revenue for Chatbooks.


Can you share little about Chatbooks, and your role at the company?

CC: Chatbooks helps people hold on to what matters by printing their digital photos into physical books. Our customers can connect our app to their Instagram account, Facebook account, or their camera rolls and create 60-page photo books for only $8 per book. We have a native iOS app, a native Android app, and a web app.

I’m in charge of lifecycle marketing, which means I lead customers from the time they download the app through the rest of their lifecycle as a Chatbooks customer. I help them create their books, answer questions, encourage them to purchase and keep them from churning. Email is one of the tools I rely on heavily to lead customers through their journey.

How do you use email marketing at Chatbooks?

CC: We use email marketing across the business in many different ways. We use a hybrid of Campaign Monitor’s transactional emails and automated customer journeys. We use the existing custom fields, and also have API calls that trigger transactional emails based on customer behavior.

For example, when a customer makes their first purchase, they’re put into a workflow where they’ll receive a series of 7 emails over the next 6 months. This helps us stay in touch with the customer throughout their journey, reminding them to come back and purchase again.

We love these automated workflows and have used them for several different things. For example, when people sign up for a giveaway, we use a workflow to confirm their participation and give them any relevant information.

How does email marketing tie directly to revenue?

CC: When a customer creates a book but doesn’t purchase it, we know they’re relatively interested in making a purchase. To capture these subscribers, we have a customer journey we call “Hurry Hurry Buy Now.”

If they have not purchased their book after three days, we send them an email that reminds them about their book or series of books and offers a promotional code for a discount on what they’ve already created.

Here’s the email subscribers receive three days after creating their book or series of books:

Here’s the email they receive six days after creating their book or series of books (three days after the previous email):

We can tie that email directly to revenue. We can see how many times the promo code has been used, making it easy to track. In the short time we’ve had that email running, it’s already on pace to generate 6 figures in additional revenue from last year. The magic in this email is that we set it and forget it– it’s constantly working for us. As our subscriber base grows, it does even more work.

Then, if you look at that being just one journey, we’re on pace to use email marketing to generate more substantial revenue. We’re setting up several workflows to increase conversion rate, as well as lifetime value of overall customers. We’ve set up another journey that encourages customers to order an additional copy of their series to send to mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, or whoever else might like a copy, and we give them a deal on the second series.

Our customers automatically receive this campaign 30 days after they order their book:

We also send an email encouraging customers to add on prints. When someone orders a book, we remind people they can add additional prints. This email is also on track to generate significant additional annual revenue.

These new emails are set to grow revenue by more than 4-6%, and we expect that to grow even more as we dive deeper and deeper into email.

We also have new welcome emails and have seen success from those as well. We’ve noticed that customers who receive the welcome emails will spend 2% more and make 10% more transactions than those who didn’t open the welcome emails.


What other advanced features are you using to create emails?

CC: We A/B test every email, even if it’s just the subject line to optimize for open rates. Our plans are to move into optimizing for clickthrough rates as well.

One of the things we’ve used– and would like to use more of– is dynamic content. This allows us to personalize the emails. It’s so powerful to send different emails based on segments. We’re really excited about this, and we’ve dabbled in it a lot already. We’re using our custom fields to populate emails as well. There’s quite a bit of personalization that we’ve put into these emails.

We’ve experimented the most with our transactional emails— we’ve used dynamic content to make it easy to create emails with different messages with information relevant to subscribers.

A great example is our order confirmation emails. If you order a series, and you haven’t activated prints, then we’ll add an advertisement into your order confirmation email to add prints. Otherwise, if you already have prints, we’ll give you another message.

Chatbooks starting using Campaign Monitor recently. What went into your decision-making process?

CC: We knew we needed a new email service provider and were looking at lots of different options. We decided to go with Campaign Monitor mainly because of how easy it is to create emails.

We loved the functionality of the drag-and-drop email builder, the ability to make responsive emails, and knew we’d be able to build these emails very quickly without too much help.

We have a team of designers who designed and coded our emails in the past, but with Campaign Monitor, we’re able to make these emails quickly and easily without any coding knowledge.

We also cared about marketing automation with customer journeys, custom fields, and the ability to get in and customize. We wanted to be able to edit our transactional emails quickly and easily without involving our developers– that was key for us.
Additionally, Customer Support was huge. We worked with Ryan and Ros to get going, and they made it easy to get started with Campaign Monitor. I can’t say enough good things about how the team helped us along.

What other successes have you seen since you implemented Campaign Monitor?

CC: In the first few months after implementing Campaign Monitor, our open rates increased by 113% and our click-through rates increased by 174%. Our unsubscribe rates have gone down increasingly over the last few months, and so have our spam complaints. Virtually all the metrics we’ve been tracking have improved.

Our first goal when we started with Campaign Monitor was to increase engagement, and that has happened, and we’re absolutely thrilled about it. By leveraging Campaign Monitor’s features, particularly transactional emails and automation, we’ve been able to improve our metrics.

What’s been your experience with the drag-and-drop email builder?

CC: The process of coding an email used to take our designers about half of a day. Whereas, with Campaign Monitor, I can now go into the drag-and-drop builder and create an email in a matter of minutes.

I estimate that using the drag-and-drop builder, we save at least 20 hours per week.

We’ve been able to create email templates that save time for both me and our designers. Now that we have these templates set up, I’ve literally created emails in two minutes, which has been phenomenal. It’s gotten to the point where the designers can now dedicate time to other things, and now they only need to send me a few images for each email, rather than sending me a new design every time.

This saves us an incredible amount of time. In fact, Chatbooks would probably need to hire one more designer full-time if we didn’t have the drag-and-drop editor.

Any final thoughts or advice about email marketing you can share?

CC: I’m constantly learning, and I’ve really enjoyed the Campaign Monitor resources— the blog articles and the resources page– which help keep me informed. As I’m trying to learn more about the tools and features, and all the opportunities we have, it’s a good place to spend some time. I try to spend at least a half hour every week going through a new article on Campaign Monitor.

I also think marketers should really think through segmentation– see where and how you can create segments based on behaviors and demographics. Really focus on delivering the right message to the right people at the right time. Segments allow you to do that.

The other fundamental piece is to leverage automation. Set up these emails based on certain criteria so that they’re always running the background. You’re able to do so much more if the tool is working for you.

Wrap up

Chatbooks is a prime example of how powerful email can be when marketers are working hard to leverage their opportunities. Chris and the team at Chatbooks have been diligently working to increase open rates, click-through rates, and overall revenue from email marketing.

Their story serves as an inspiration for all of us working to generate results from email, and we can’t wait to see what features Chatbooks leverages to move forward even further.

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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