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Article first published November 2015, updated December 2020
While newsletters and one-off email campaigns will always have a place in your email marketing strategy, today, more and more marketers are setting up customer journeys. These journeys send emails automatically based on triggers defined in their email marketing tool.
This shift happens because automated emails are more personalized and effective than a one-off campaign, as they’re triggered to send based on something unique to each of your customers. But far too many marketers don’t use automated journeys. They think creating an automated journey takes too much time, experience, or resources, or they don’t know where to begin.
In this guide, we’ll first explain what marketing automation is and why it’s an important strategy for every business. We’ll also show you how to build your own customer journey in Campaign Monitor. There’s a bonus at the end—seven customer journey examples you can start sending today!
Marketing automation is the process that takes place when software automatically sends campaigns to your customers and prospects based on triggers you define. As opposed to newsletters and one-off campaigns that you create and send to a whole list of people in one go, customer journeys are set up once, and then sent out each time a subscriber meets your pre-defined trigger.
For example, imagine you run an online store and want to send new subscribers a 20% off offer to encourage them to make a purchase. They’ve expressed interest in your products, and a discount like this could get them to make a purchase.
Manually creating and sending a campaign to each new subscriber as they sign up would take an enormous amount of time. With marketing automation, you can create the email once and have it automatically sent to anyone who joins your ‘newsletter subscribers’ list.
This represents a huge time saver. Plus these types of automated emails get results.
In fact, studies show that automated emails like the one described above get 86% higher open rates, produce a 196% increase in click-through rates, and generate 320% more revenue than standard promotional emails.
There are a number of email automation types you can include in your email marketing strategy when you are looking to automate your email campaigns. Two of the most common include:
Drip campaigns are a type of email series in which emails are sent according to a preset time interval. A good example would be an email course.
Triggered campaigns are a series of emails that are sent out according to the way a subscriber interacts with your emails or website.
You can use both types of marketing automation in tandem so as to bolster the impact of your email campaign.
Automating your marketing helps you turn your sales funnel into a journey your customer will enjoy.
Here are a few reasons why the customer journey is important:
A well-designed customer journey makes it easy to transition your customer from one stage of the funnel to the next.
Another reason customer journeys are important is that they increase engagement. Done well, they are more like an interesting television series that your customer always looks forward to.
Due to the way they ease the journey through the funnel and the way they keep customers engaged, customer journeys result in an increase in revenue.
They say a person needs at least 7 touch points before they make a commitment to become a customer. This is exactly why customer journeys are important. They enable you to gain your prospect’s trust by giving you opportunities to engage with your prospect multiple times.
Once your prospect is converted into a customer, it is easy to turn them into a loyal brand ambassador through the same customer journey or a different one that is designed to serve that exact purpose.
Because customer journeys are automated, they help save precious time that would have otherwise been used on nurturing each customer individually. Not only do customer journeys help save time, but they also help you to scale as automation helps to eliminate human error and increases efficiency.
Before you create a customer journey for your subscribers, you have to map out that journey first. It’s called customer journey mapping.
A customer journey map is simply a visualization of the steps your customer will take as they travel through your sales funnel. The purpose of a customer journey map is to ensure that your customer transitions from each stage of the journey effortlessly. By mapping out your customer journey, you are better able to pinpoint potential friction areas and remove or alter them to give your customer a seamless experience.
Neglecting to create a customer journey map will result in customers dripping out of your sales funnel in areas that have friction, resulting in your campaign not living up to its potential.
Creating a customer journey map is not at all difficult, as there are many customer journey mapping tools available. If you are a Campaign Monitor client, you have access to our visual journey designer, a powerful tool that simplifies the customer journey mapping process.
Now that you understand what marketing automation is, let’s dive in and explore how you can set these up for your business.
Before you start designing emails and writing copy, it’s important you understand and define what the goal of the automated email series is.
Is it to try to convert new subscribers into customers? Is it to remind people of an important date? Or is it to re-engage lost customers?
The key to establishing the correct goals for your automated emails is to align them with your company’s wider marketing goals and KPIs. By spending a few minutes thinking about what the goal of the emails is and how it aligns with your wider goals and KPIs, you can ensure the customer journeys deliver value to your business.
Although you can do a basic welcome email with just an email address, most automated emails, like birthday or reminder emails, require you to have more in-depth data about your subscribers.
So once you’ve defined the goal of your automated email series, the next step is to ensure you have the right data to power it.
There are two main ways in which you can get the data you need into Campaign Monitor:
Rather than simply asking for an email, consider adding fields for other information about your subscribers, such as their birthday.
Topshop does a great job of this with their email subscribe form. Along with asking for the email address, they ask for first name, last name, date of birth, country, and student status.
With all this information on their subscribers being collected in their account, they can easily create and send automated emails. These emails trigger based on a subscriber’s birthday and are customized to their country or student status.
Important to Note: To be GDPR compliant, you’ll need to ask for explicit permission to email your subscribers and also ask whether or not you can track their activity. By the way, you should also check with your privacy and legal team to ensure your email marketing provides the right information to your subscribers in the right way.
It’s likely you have all the data you need to send automated email campaigns to your subscribers. It just lives in the other systems you use to run your business.
For sales organizations, the necessary data usually lives in your CRM tool or, for online retailers, that data will exist in your chosen e-commerce platform.
To start sending automated emails, you can leverage our suite of integrations to bring this data into your Campaign Monitor account. We integrate with CRM tools like Salesforce, as well as e-commerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce to enable you to migrate data on your customers into your account and use it to trigger automated emails.
With a clear goal for your automated emails, and the right data to power them, the next step is to define the trigger and rules.
Triggers refer to the criteria that start the automated journey (i.e., a person joins a list, anniversary of a date, etc). The rules define what happens during the automated journey (i.e., sending an email, waiting 3 days, sending another email).
Depending on the goal of your automated emails, the trigger, and associated rules could be different.
For instance, if your goal is to convert new subscribers into customers, then your trigger might be “When someone joins a list,” and your rules would be to send an email as soon as they join the list. On the other hand, if your goal is to send an automated birthday email, then the trigger would be the “anniversary of a date,” and the rules would be to send an email on that date, or a few days before, if you’re offering them a voucher to dine at your restaurant on their birthday.
So, before you dive into your Campaign Monitor account and start putting it all together, take a moment to think about what the triggers and rules might be for your automated emails.
Bearing in mind the goal you set in Step 1, it’s time to think through the content and offers you want to send in the automated emails.
If you’re trying to convert new subscribers into customers through a welcome email, then you may want to include content that thanks them for subscribing and offers them a discount on their first purchase.
If you’re trying to remind recipients to book an appointment or service, then you’ll want to include content that makes it clear to them why they need to book, when they should book, and so on, and include a clear call-to-action button to make a booking.
By taking a moment to plan out your offers and content in the context of the goal you set in step 1, you’ll help ensure you create a focused email that drives results for your organization.
With everything ready to go, jump into your Campaign Monitor account and start setting everything up.
After naming the journey and selecting which list you want the emails to work off, you’ll be asked to select the trigger event for the automated emails.
The right selection here will depend on what you decided in the earlier steps. If you’re sending a welcome email, “Subscriber joins the list” will be the trigger you want. For birthday emails, “Anniversary of a date” is the right trigger.
Next, you’ll need to add steps to the journey to define what happens once the trigger conditions are met.
Within Campaign Monitor, you can send an email, wait a period of time, or create a condition that changes the course of the workflow (i.e., If gender = Male, then send them Email A, but if Gender = Female, send Email B).
If you wanted to send a welcome email as soon as they joined the list, then you’d select the “Email” step. If you wanted to send it a day or two later, you’d add the “Delay” step followed by an “Email” step.
Now, with the triggers and rules built, you’ll want to create the emails using the content you planned out earlier.
Just like standard campaigns, automated emails can be built using the intuitive drag-and-drop email builder, which makes it super easy to create a beautiful, responsive email campaign.
Since you’ve defined the trigger and rules and created the content for each email, you can turn the journey on and start driving results for your business.
To understand how well your welcome journey performs—and ultimately how you can understand your audience and create a journey that performs even better—you’ll need to study your metrics.
Click on the Insights tab and choose “Automation” to see all of your journeys. You’ll see data for all your automated journeys combined, and you’ll be able to click into each individual journey as well.
You’ll be able to choose whether you want to look at “Recipient Activity,” “Link Activity & Overlay,” “Social Sharing & Forwards,” and a few other options. Each metric tells you something specific about your campaign, so it’s important to understand the insights offered by each one.
If you see low open rates and low engagement on a journey, you’ll want to rethink your email design or content and consider how you can improve engagement from the start.
With so much potential to save time and grow revenue, it’s easy to be excited about marketing automation. But what other type of customer journeys are there?
To help answer this question, we’ve curated a list of seven of the most effective customer journeys we see from modern marketing organizations today. While anything is possible when it comes to different types of automated emails, these seven are proven to help grow your sales and revenue.
When you’re introducing yourself to new subscribers or new customers, it seems obvious that you should explain your product or services. However, don’t forget that your returning customers could also benefit from a next-steps series.
You can design a journey that explains how to take your product to the next level or shows how more advanced customers—or even customer personas—take advantage of all your brand has to offer.
Sending a reminder based on a date is a great opportunity to deliver a time-sensitive message to your customer and keep them buying your products and services over time.
A strategy most businesses can relate to is following up with a customer after they purchase from you—maybe to remind them to schedule a follow-up appointment, or to collect feedback through a post-purchase survey.
In the process of selling a car, for example, Nissan collects a good deal of information about their customer, including the date the car was bought. They then use the purchase date to automatically trigger a reminder email six months later to schedule the first service appointment. Since maintenance fees represent a huge portion of Nissan’s revenue, sending an automated email represents a low-cost, high-value tactic.
The timing of an email like this depends on the use case. For Nissan, it’s tied to their maintenance schedule, but if you’re reminding a customer of an upcoming payment, you may want to remind them a few days or a week before it’s due. If you’re sending a post-purchase survey, send it within a few days while the experience is still fresh.
Design the email so the call to action (schedule an appointment, make a payment, take a survey) is the predominant message. Adding complementary content—like an article from your blog—is an option, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the primary CTA.
To ensure your customer reads your email and takes the desired action, you could consider adding a condition to your automation: for those who open the email, assume they received the message and will take action if they choose to. For those who don’t open the email, resend the email two days later with a more urgent subject line. Sending the second email a few days later takes minimal upfront effort but pays valuable dividends later.
Sending your customers a special offer on their birthday is another effective tactic to drive revenue while also increasing customer happiness.
The first step is to collect your customer’s birthday and add it to your email list. Many companies, like the jewelry retailer Monica Vinader, make this a required field through the online checkout process, while others ask for this information when someone signs up for their email list.
Once you have your customers’ birthday in your email list, you can set up an email to automatically send on that date. While the primary message should be celebrating your customer’s birthday, this email presents an opportunity to generate revenue. Try including a special discount to encourage recipients to make a purchase.
If you want to proceed with a more advanced approach, you could also try segmenting the list, and sending different content, based on the subscriber’s age, like Monica Vinader does. Since they know the age of their customers, they’re able to use this data point to send a more classic style of jewelry to their more mature customers and something more contemporary to their younger ones.
By investing just a little extra time in creating two different emails, you deliver a much more personalized offer to your subscribers and increase the chance they’ll click-through and make a purchase.
Research suggests it costs 5x more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, so it makes sense to set up a series of automated emails that make your VIP customers feel special and keep spending.
Cosmetics retailer Sephora does a good job of this. They have a VIB (Very Important Beauty) Program which offers early access to new products and special promotions for those customers who spend a certain amount of money.
Once someone spends the required amount, they’re entered into the VIB segment of the email list and automatically receive an email introducing them to the VIB program.
This email includes an exclusive VIB-only offer that encourages customers to make further purchases and drives revenue for Sephora.
If you’re thinking about implementing this in your business, you could also consider adding multiple emails to the customer journey. For instance, you could send an initial email the moment someone becomes a VIP, then follow it up with a discount on your most expensive products a week later, then an offer to sign up for a loyalty card shortly after. This steady drip of compelling offers will help make your best customers love your brand even more and keep them coming back.
Losing existing customers can cost your business a lot of money. In fact, a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%, according to Bain & Co.
Winning back lapsed customers can be challenging, but setting up a series of automated re-engagement emails that entice former customers to spend money with you again can be an effective way of increasing profitability.
St. Jude’s Hospital does this well. As a non-profit, they depend heavily on donations from their base to keep their programs going. When someone hasn’t made a donation in six months, they send them a re-engagement email informing them of the good work St. Jude does, encouraging them to make a donation.
After a customer makes a purchase or interacts with your team, don’t be afraid to ask about their experience. It’ll provide you a chance to learn and improve and will ensure your customers feel heard and respected.
Set up a journey that sends a request for feedback, a survey, or even a review a few days after your customer converts:
You probably know what your customers think and look for as they move through your sales funnel. Consider creating a journey that anticipates your lead’s pain points and the weak points in your funnel in order to keep people moving forward to a conversion.
These promotional emails are not only effective in the short-term, they keep your brand top of mind to increase sales and loyalty in the long run, too.
Leveraging marketing automation technology to trigger customer journeys represents a simple yet effective way to grow your business, generating 320% more revenue than standard promotional emails.
By using Campaign Monitor’s intuitive marketing automation features, marketers like you can easily create automated emails that drive great results for your business.
If you need inspiration on creating customer journeys that yield results, check out our article on how to create customer journeys that convert.
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