Discover curated products from our exclusive brands

Shopify marketing

/ 5 mins

How to create an email marketing strategy for e-commerce

Rudi Eihenbaums profile picture

Rudi Eihenbaums

Dec 8, 2023

email marketing

Return on investment (ROI) in email marketing can be as high as 4,000%.

That’s even higher than search engine optimization, which I’ve found can range from 200-2000%, depending on the industry (and many other factors). As another reference, when running social media ads for nearly 50 e-commerce brands, OpenStore’s head of marketing Seijin Jung typically aims for a return on ad spend (ROAS) of around 400%.

A well-crafted email marketing strategy is the key to good results. Email marketing allows you to personalize your communication with potential and existing customers, foster brand loyalty, and drive more conversions.

You have more control over this marketing channel than others. Unlike advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Google, TikTok, or elsewhere, there are no algorithm or platform constraints for email marketing, aside from spam and technical network filters.

Here are 23 steps to get you started:

Understand your target audience

Don’t skip this.

It’s the most important step toward creating impactful email marketing campaigns. By tailoring your communications to your ideal customers, you can enhance relevance and ROI.

Personalization isn’t just about addressing your customers by name; it's about understanding their shopping habits, preferences, and needs, and then crafting a strategy around that research.

  1. Run interviews with existing customers, send out surveys to prospects, or do market and competitor analyses. Take detailed notes or record your interviews.

  2. Identify characteristics among your target customers like age, gender, income, personality, hobbies, location, and where and how they interact(ed) with your brand.

  3. Pull out two to four customer personas initially.

“Customer personas should also be adjusted over time as you learn more about your audience so that your marketing consistently remains as personalized as possible,” adds Seijin.

Draft a strategy

  1. Decide which customer personas will benefit most from email marketing and what their pain points are.

  2. Position your value propositions as solutions to these pain points. Come up with messages for different stages of their journey.

A good email marketing strategy is a roadmap of how you will systematically share key solutions and capabilities of your product(s) to the personas that you’ve identified.

Ask yourself how you can build deeper relationships with each persona to increase retention, conversion, or engagement.

Build a bigger list

You might already have email addresses of potential or existing customers. Growing your email list should be a continuous effort since each new subscriber represents a future opportunity for compounding engagement and conversion. You can use tools like lead magnets or pop-ups to grow your email list.

  1. Create content that resonates with your customers’ needs. You could offer insightful articles, instructional videos, blogs, and guides to draw in traffic and encourage email sign-ups. Think new product launches, helpful tips, or industry news.

  2. Implement pop-ups with offers and discounts in exchange for email subscriptions. Make sure they’re user-friendly and don’t slow the page down.

  3. Use the checkout process to entice customers to join your list with incentives like discounts or exclusive access to products.

  4. Put a sign-up form in your store’s footer.

Segment the list

This is where you bring it all together.

  1. Segment subscribers based on their interaction points and personas to further tailor your messaging. Avoid a generic approach.

Get these segments set up in your tools as customer lists. For example, OpenStore’s email marketing team uses Klaviyo for segment-specific communications, and Glew for additional segmentation to automate and enhance.

So, for example, if a long-time customer leaves a product in their cart, a targeted email with a personalized subject line and a loyalty discount code could entice them to checkout.

  1. Treat your audience segmentation as a marketing funnel. Start by identifying users engaged with your brand at the top of the funnel, then those who have viewed products or added items to their cart, and finally, your past customers.

  2. When your list is bigger, you can enhance segmentation with data like VIP customers, those at risk of churning, or those with high average order values (AOVs). To encourage reorders, develop campaigns that reward loyalty.

  3. Regularly clean your email list to remove unengaged subscribers, ensuring your content reaches those most likely to convert, while maintaining healthy open rates and avoiding spam flags. (And see the final point in the next section.)

Automated campaigns

Implementing automated campaigns can address different stages of the customer lifecycle:

  1. First-time subscriber? Congratulate them on their purchase, set expectations from the newsletter and your brand, and ask for a review.

  2. Order updates: inform buyers about the status of their order and any new deals to encourage another order.

  3. Customer nurture: target interested customers who have consumed content before. Share educational content to establish your brand authority, and eventually offer a discount coupon.

  4. Cart abandonment: entice customers to complete their purchase with a series of emails at preset intervals.

  5. Browse abandonment: encourage window shoppers to complete the transaction.

  6. Upsell and increase AOV by suggesting related products or upgrades. These emails should suggest products that complement what the customer has already shown interest in.

  7. Before you remove inactive subscribers, set up re-engagement automations to try to rekindle interest via compelling offers or updates.

Marketing automation is a key tactic in OpenStore’s marketing strategy when managing multiple e-commerce businesses running on Shopify.

Measure success

  1. Consider using tools like Klaviyo, Mailchimp, Sharpspring, Omnisend, and HubSpot for analytics and automation.

  2. Regularly test different email elements to determine the most effective strategies. Most email marketing software allows for A/B testing.

  3. Measure campaign effectiveness with metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, bounce rates, and unsubscribe rates. Always iterate based on analytics to refine your approach and improve engagement. Make sure your campaigns are properly tracked in Google Analytics 4.

Alternative to an email marketing agency

Email marketing agencies can cost e-commerce businesses up to $2,000 per month.

OpenStore Drive is an e-commerce management solution for Shopify stores that pays you passive income for 12 months.

OpenStore’s team of experts runs your business, handling everything including email marketing strategy, logistics, shipping, and all other operations.

Turn your Shopify business into passive income

Our experts will run your Shopify business for 12 months while you receive guaranteed monthly payments. OpenStore analyzes your business’ performance to calculate your monthly payments.


Discover more