Everything You Need to Know About Email Marketing for eCommerce - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Getting started


If you own or manage an eCommerce store and you’re not email marketing to your customer base, you’re leaving money on the table. Even though it's one of the oldest channels for online marketing, it's still very relevant in today’s online marketing landscape and can deliver a high return on investment. Here are a few ways to maximize the tool.

Get mobile friendly

Before using email to boost your eCommerce business, you want to have a responsive - aka mobile friendly - website. Mobile commerce is predicted to hit 20.6 per cent of overall eCommerce sales, or $79 billion in 2016, and a BI Intelligence report states that by 2020, mobile commerce will make up 45 per cent of total eCommerce, equaling $284 billion in sales. Sending traffic to a site that isn’t optimized for mobile will likely render all your hard work for nought. Starting with a website optimized for mobile is critical for the success of not only your email marketing campaigns, but your overall eCommerce goals. Read more about how creating a unique experience for mobile users increases conversions.

Define your goals

Of course you want your email marketing initiatives to increase sales, but there are other objectives that can be achieved from building an email list and sending compelling, engaging and informative content to your subscribers.

Examples of these include:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Increasing website traffic
  • Building brand loyalty

Budget your resources and track your ROI

As with any online marketing tactic, you will need to budget time and resources to ensure effective implementation and to measure the effectiveness of each campaign to determine your ROI.

As you are working to set your budget and timelines, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How much time are you willing to commit?
  • Who will write, design and publish your email?
  • How many hours (total) does this process take and how much does it cost you?
  • How often will you send email campaigns?

We recommend starting small and measuring ruthlessly. Analyze your campaign reports to decipher the key performance metrics, including:

  • Open rate
  • Click Through Rates (CTR)
  • Website traffic
  • Number of social shares
  • Total sales generated

In reviewing the performance of your email campaign, calculate your return on investment for each. Track your ROI in a spreadsheet to use in campaign planning for the next year. This will help you to identify which seasons, content and times of day generate a higher ROI, which will help to inform future campaigns.

Create and grow your email marketing list (legally)

Building an email list from the ground up may seem like a daunting task, but there are many ways to get your customers to subscribe to receive your content. If you already have a healthy list of subscribers, growing your email marketing list should be integrated into your content marketing strategy objectives, as email marketing databases naturally degrade by about 22.5 per cent every year.

It’s a marketer's job to ensure your list is constantly growing by adding new potential customers (aka subscribers). Purchasing email lists may seem like a quick and easy way to build your list, but it’s never the right solution - as good email addresses, that belong to people who know your business and would potentially buy from you, are never for sale.

Tactics for growing your list
  • Sign-up forms integrated throughout your website. Key places to consider are your website's homepage, the main page of your blog, your 'About Us' page and your 'Contact Us' page.
  • Add a link to your employees' email signatures that directs people to a landing page where they can sign up for your mailing list. Social Media
  • Add a signup button to your Facebook business page
  • Tweet a link to subscribe
  • Use the active Instagram link as a signup form and encourage subscription in your posts’ captions
  • Add calls to action and URLs in your YouTube videos to encourage people to subscribe to your list
  • Pop-up on site with offer, i.e. "Save 10% off your first order when you subscribe to our newsletter." (Be careful with these, some studies have shown brand perception can be negatively affected by annoying pop-ups. Make sure you’re offering something of real value to your users in exchange for their personal information).
  • Run a sweepstakes contest. Harvest emails in exchange for an entry into a contest - just make sure you’re getting explicit consent from users upon entry.
  • Create a free online tool or resource and have users sign up with their email address in order to access it. Again, just make sure it’s providing good value for users so they don’t feel cheated for providing their personal information.
  • Paid search. Leverage paid search/social media ads to link to a landing page with email sign-up form (eg: boosted Facebook post, Sponsored Tweet/ Instagram Post with sign-up button).
  • Collect email addresses at time of purchase in retail locations or at other offline events. Send these contacts a welcome email that confirms their opt-in to your list.
What do you mean by legally?

In 2015, the Canadian Government enacted Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) in an effort to deter email and text spam and discourage misleading commercial representations online. This means your subscribers must consent to being a part of your email list, and as a marketer, you need to be transparent about who is sending the email and create an easy way for the subscriber to opt-out of the email list. For more on the CASL, click here.

Email list segmentation

Segmenting your email marketing lists improves open and click through rates. Segmentation means splitting up your list into different segments, or audiences, in order to send the right message to the right audience at the right time. For eCommerce stores, there is great data to be harvested and used for segmentation (ex. checkout totals, customer location, etc) and targeted content creation. According to a MailChimp Report analyzing 11,000 segmented campaigns to almost 9 million recipients, segmented campaigns produce higher open rates (by 14.41 per cent) and higher clicks (by 63.75 per cent) than non-segmented campaigns.

How to seamlessly integrate segmentation into your list building process:
  • Be crystal clear about what you’ll get if you sign up
  • Segment the subscriber by adding drop downs or radio boxes to separate sign-ups into audience segments, i.e. I want to receive emails about 1. Discounts, 2. New Brands, 3. In-Store Sales
  • Segment customers into customer types, i.e. repeat customers, bargain shoppers, big ticket item customers

MailChimp vs Constant Contact

You most likely don’t have unlimited funds to put toward your email marketing software. Thankfully, either MailChimp or Constant Contact won’t break the bank. Both these email marketing softwares are committed to constantly improving their tools and releasing new functionality to keep pace with marketers’ ever-growing demands. Together, these two platforms comprise 65 per cent market share of email marketing platforms, and have become the industry standards. Here’s an overview of both tools.


MailChimp offers a “Forever Free” version for up to 2,000 email subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. Paid email marketing service starts at $10 per month for unlimited emails up to 500 subscribers and it increases $5 per month for every 500 subscribers added. All paid plans have unlimited email sending capabilities throughout the month.

MailChimp also offers a “Pay as you go” option to purchase email credits for $0.005-$0.03 cents per email, making it easy to scale up or down depending on seasonality, slow periods, fluctuating database sizes or in order to send one-time campaigns to a large list without permanently increasing your subscriber plan.

High volume senders that send fewer than four times per month to a large list may opt for high volume, CPM pricing. In this model, you can purchase email credits starting at $1.25 per thousand, which decreases to as low as $0.40 per thousand depending on the amount of credits you wish to purchase. All non-profit organizations receive a 15 per cent discount on MailChimp paid accounts.

Constant Contact

Constant Contact offers a 60 day free trial period in which you can email up to 100 contacts, with an unlimited number of emails. After your free trial runs out, email marketing with CC starts at $20 per month for up to 500 contacts, and it increases to as much as $85 per month for up to 10,000 contacts.

Constant Contact also offers an “Email Plus Plan,” which includes surveys, registration forms, coupons, and more. Email Plus starts at $45 per month for up to 500 contacts, and scales to $110 per month for up to 10,000 contacts. You can receive ten per cent off your Constant Contact account if you prepay for six months in advance, or 15 per cent off for a year in advance. Nonprofits get double the incentive to prepay, with a 20 per cent prepayment discount for six months and a 30 per cent prepayment discount for annual payments.