The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Ecommerce

Are you looking to generate more sales from your existing customer base or social media following?

If you answered yes, then you have come to the right page as Email Marketing ticks both of these boxes and when done right, can generate you more sales, build customer loyalty and get better ROI out of your other marketing strategies.

And in this guide, we cover everything from building your email list to optimizing your email campaigns, so let’s get started…

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is a form of direct digital marketing that involves sending targeted and personalized emails to a large group of potential or current customers. It is often used as a way to promote products or services, build customer loyalty, and drive sales.

What Are The Benefits of Email Marketing for Ecommerce Businesses?

Many websites and marketing gurus preach about the importance of building an email list for your online store but what are the actual benefits of doing this?

1. It Is Cost-Effective

Email marketing can be a very cost-effective marketing method because:

  1. Setting up email marketing is relatively inexpensive and sometimes free
  2. Getting people to sign up to your list requires no upfront cost (in most cases)
  3. Running an email campaign can be done for free (depending on the size of your list) 

To help you build your email list, you can piggyback off other marketing activities such as running ads or SEO, which will help to improve the ROI of all your marketing activities and once you have a list, it is one of the cheapest ways to contact them directly. 

2. You Have A Targeted List of Potential Customers

One of the main benefits of email marketing is that you can build a list of people who are interested in your business, whether they signed up through being a customer or via your sign-up form.

And targeting warm leads is much better than targeting cold ones as they are likely to be more receptive to your emails, meaning that they are more likely to spend money on your products or services. 

3. Measurable

Even though most marketing will offer some form of tracking and analytics, not much compares to email marketing as most software will allow you to see important metrics, such as:

  • Opens
  • Clicks
  • Conversions

And you can use this data to allow you to refine your email marketing strategy so that you improve all of these analytics, which leads to more sales and better ROI of your marketing efforts.

4. Increase Customer Loyalty

One of the main aims of email marketing is to generate more sales and this can be done by building customer loyalty so that they become repeat customers and this can be done by giving them early access to new products, exclusive offers and discounts so that they are being rewarded for being part of your list. 

5. Brand Building

A secondary benefit to email marketing is that you can use it to help build your brand by providing value to your customers as you can send them informative content such as guides to tutorials, either in the form of a blog post or video that can be helpful to them along with info on products and special offers/discounts. 

6. It is Your List

Having your own email list is one of the few marketing tools that you have near complete control over and aren’t reliant on third-party, yes, you will likely use email marketing software but what we mean is that you aren’t reliant on search engines or social media to connect with your audience and you can choose how and when you contact them and with what content. 

How to Build an Email Marketing List

So we know that email marketing can be an effective tool for your online store but how do you go about actually building an email list? 

Well, there are a few different options that you can consider. 

1. Pop-up Form

One of the most popular methods of getting people to sign up to your email list is to have a pop-up form on your website, so when a customer lands on one of your site pages, a pop-up appears with the email sign-up form. 

These can be very effective if they offer an incentive to the potential customer, such as 10% off their first order or a free gift etc but they can also impact user experience, especially if it has a significant impact on page performance and there is no incentive.  

2. Notification Bar

Email Signup in Notification bar

Most ecommerce platforms will allow you to put a notification bar at the top of your website and you can use this to promote your newsletter and if combined with an incentive, this can be a very effective way of getting people to sign up.

You may need to create a landing page for this announcement to link to but as your announcement bar sits on every page of your site and doesn’t impact on user experience but sits prominently on the page, it could be worth trying. 

One of the more subtle options is to add a sign-up form in your sites sidebar and/or footer and while this can generate sign-ups, it does need to be eye-catching and include an incentive in order to do so as a generic sign-up to our newsletter form will be overlooked by most people. 

4. Checkout Sign Up

Adding a checkbox to your checkout can be a great way to get people to sign up to your email list as they are already on their way to becoming a customer but you need to make it an attractive proposition to get them to check that box and that is where things like:

  • Get early access to new products
  • Get 10% off your next order
  • Get a free guide

Can all be used to encourage people to sign up as they are going to be getting some value by signing up to your list but don’t have the box auto-checked as this falls foul of data regulations such as GDPR. 

5. Social Media

You can use your social media to get sign-ups to your email list and you don’t need to run any competitions, instead, you want to use incentives to get sign-ups, such as:

  • Early access to new products
  • Exclusive offers
  • Info regarding new products

For some platforms, this is going to be easier to do than others as you can add signup buttons to your Facebook page but this is more challenging on platforms like Instagram but you could add a link to your email signup landing page in your Insta bio for example. 

6. Collect Emails In-Person 

This is a great option for businesses that have physical locations or that do events as they can collect email addresses from people face to face as a way to keep them up to date with new products, where they are going to be etc.

When it comes to collecting email addresses, you can do this in the old-fashioned way of people writing down their contact details or you could use something like an Ipad so that they are automatically signed up, plus it is less work than inputting them all manually. 

Things to Avoid When Building an Email List

There are many great ways to build an email list but there are some things that you want to avoid…

Buying an Email List

It can be very tempting to purchase an email list but it can be false economy as:

  1. You don’t know if any of these people will turn into paying customers
  2. You can really annoy people as most people don’t like receiving unsolicited emails from companies that they never signed up to

It could also put you in violation of some data regulations, so it is best to build your own list with people who are interested in your business/product.

Running Competitions

This is a common tactic that marketers recommend and companies use to build an email list but it might not be as good as you think as the majority of people who sign up to your email list in order to enter the competition:

  1. Will never become a paying customer, they just want to win the prize
  2. Will unsubscribe once the competition is over

And while you may get a few people as part of your list who are genuinely interested in what you sell, does this cover the cost of the prize, the admin to run the competition and the general time spent on it?

This will vary from business to business but in many cases, that time and effort could be better spent building a list of targeted customers. 

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Email List 

Maintaining a healthy email list is very important as this can help you keep costs down by not sending unnecessary emails to people who aren’t engaging with them, so what are some things you can do to maintain a healthy list?

  1. Regularly remove inactive or invalid email addresses from your list
  2. Segment your list based on factors such as demographics, interests, and purchase history to send more relevant and personalized emails
  3. Use a double opt-in process to confirm that people want to receive emails from you, which can help reduce the number of inactive or unengaged subscribers on your list, this is also a requirement for some data regulations
  4. Offer your subscribers the option to choose which types of email they receive and the frequency at which they receive them as this will help ensure they are only receiving emails that they are interested in
  5. Promptly action unsubscribe requests to ensure that you are not sending emails to people who do not want to receive them

This will ensure that your email list is working for you and as most email marketing platforms charge for the number of subscribers and number of emails sent (outside of their free plans if they offer them), maintaining your list can save you money and lead to better ROI. 

Crafting Effective Email Marketing Campaigns

Building your email list is only half of the battle as you can have a large and very targeted list but if your emails aren’t very good, then you are going to struggle to generate sales, so what are some things you can do to create an effective email marketing campaign?

Create Clickable Subject Lines

Arguably the most important part of creating a successful email campaign is to create a clickable subject line as just like heading for pages and social posts, this is what is going to get people to actually open your email and there are a few things you can do to do this:

  1. Keep the subject line short and sweet so that it is brief and to the point, this is because long subject lines may be cut off or truncated 
  2. Use actionable words that encourage readers to take action, such as Discover, Save or Get
  3. Personalize the subject line by using the recipient’s name to make it more relevant and compelling
  4. Use numbers and lists as people are often drawn to subject lines that include numbers or lists, this can also be combined with personalization to create something like “Dave, check out the 5 best open world games this year!”
  5. Create a sense of urgency with words like Limited, Now, or Last Chance to encourage readers to open your email

Finding out which type of subject line is going to work best for your business and audience will require ongoing testing, so keep experimenting with different subject lines to see which ones perform the best, and use that data to optimize future subject lines.

Use High-Quality Content

Getting people to click on your email is stage 1, stage 2 is convincing them to click through from the email to your website.

One of the best ways to do this is to create a good quality newsletter that is visually appealing and includes good CTA’s (Calls to Action) to encourage people to click through, you can also go beyond the initial subject to include other helpful things that can also improve click through rates, for example, if you were sending an email about a range of products you had on sale, you could include:

  • A product list of some of the sale items with a button they could click to see all of the sale items
  • A snippet from a related blog post
  • A preview of a new product that you have coming in the next few weeks

This is a newsletter and comes across as more than just a sales pitch to try and get them to buy the stuff you have on sale as it provides them value in numerous ways, especially if they are interested in that type of product. 

It can also be helpful to create images and buttons to enhance the visual aspects of your email as while plain text emails can work, they are quite boring to look at.

One important thing to check with your emails is that they display properly on mobile as lots of people use their phones to check their emails. 

Create Personalized Emails

One of the best ways to increase opens and click-through rates is to create personalized emails as people feel more of a connection to these than generic emails and there are a few things you can do to personalize them:

  1. Use the recipient’s name – one of the simplest but most effective ways to personalize an email is to include the recipient’s name in the subject line and/or content
  2. Segment your subscriber list – with most email platforms you can segment your list based on things such as demographics, interests, and purchase history, which helps you send more targeted emails
  3. Use information to personalize the content – Using information and data such as their location, past purchase history, and interests can help you tailor the content and offers you send to your subscribers
  4. Use dynamic content – dynamic content can be used to display different content to different recipients based on the subscriber’s data, preferences, and behaviors

By creating personalized emails, you will not only increase open rates but also click-through rates as the email will contain content that is relevant to them and many of the marketing platforms that are out there are making it easier to create personalized emails. 

Analyzing Your Email Marketing Campaigns

We have briefly covered this in this guide but you want to be actively analyzing your email marketing campaigns so that you can see what is working and what isn’t as this will allow you to optimize your future campaigns to hopefully lead to more sales. 

The Key Metrics To Track 

When it comes to analyzing your marketing campaigns there are a few key metrics that you want to keep an eye on, including:

  1. Open Rate – this is a key metric that shows the percentage of recipients who opened your email, which indicates how good or bad your subject line is at encouraging people to open your email
  2. Click-Through Rate (CTR) – this is the percentage of recipients who clicked on a link in your email and shows you whether your emails content and calls-to-action are working with your audience
  3. Conversion Rate – an important on for online stores as this is the percentage of recipients who went on to make a purchase as a result of your clicking a link in your email email
  4. Bounce Rate – this is the percentage of emails that could not be delivered to the recipient’s inbox and a high bounce rate could indicate problems with your email list
  5. Unsubscribe Rate – this is the percentage of people who have unsubscribed from your email list after receiving your email and a high unsubscribe rate usually means that your emails are not relevant or engaging to your audience

By analyzing this data, you can then begin trying new things to optimize your email campaigns such as creating different subject lines if your open rate is low and most email platforms will provide this information and in some cases make recommendations to help you improve your next campaign. 

Optimizing Your Email Campaigns

So we’ve talked a lot about optimizing your email campaigns in this post but how do you actually perform testing so that you can figure out what works and what doesn’t, well one of the best ways is to do A/B or split testing, which basically means create two versions of your email and send version 1 to half of your sample size and version 2 to the other half and analyze the results. 

To get the most out of your A/B testing, we’ve listed a few tips for you below:

  • Test one element at a time – it can be tempting to do two completely different emails and send them out but it makes it difficult to figure out what work and what didn’t, so just change one element on each version such as the subject line or your CTAs
  • Use a large enough sample size – this can be difficult with small lists but you want a good sample size when conducting testing as this will produce more reliable results 
  • Use a random sample – unlike segmentation, you want to split your sample group randomly as the results are going to be more reliable

These tips will make it much easier to analyze the data that you have available to you and you can check your two tests using the metrics we mentioned above to help you figure out what worked so that you can use this in your next email campaign. 

This type of testing is something you want to be doing on a continuous basis as there are always ways that emails can be improved and also audience’s behaviors can change over time. 

Email Marketing and the Law

Make Sure Your Website is Legal

If you are going to be conducting email marketing campaigns then you have to make sure that you are compliant not only with any laws and regulations in the country where your online store is based but also those of the countries where your recipients live because if you don’t, then you could find yourself in some serious trouble and potentially facing big fines or worse! 

Below are some of the laws and regulations you need to be aware of for North America, the UK and Europe:

  • The CAN-SPAM Act is a law in the United States that regulates the use of email for the purpose of advertising or promoting a product or service. The Act requires that emails contain certain information, such as the sender’s identity and a clear way to unsubscribe, and prohibits the use of false or misleading subject lines or content
  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a law that regulates the collection, use, and protection of personal data in the European Union (EU). The GDPR requires that businesses obtain explicit consent from individuals before collecting and using their personal data for marketing purposes, and gives individuals the right to access, rectify, erase, or object to the processing of their personal data
  • The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is a law in Canada that regulates the use of electronic messaging, including email, for the purpose of promoting products or services. The CASL requires that businesses obtain consent from individuals before sending them marketing emails, and provides individuals with the right to unsubscribe from future emails

There are also many other country-specific laws and regulations around emails and data protection, so make sure you read up on these but most email marketing platforms have many of these things built in, such as:

  • Showing the information of the person/company sending the email
  • An unsubscribe link/button that automatically removes them from the email list
  • Double opt-in, so that people confirm that they want to join the mailing list

Just make sure that all the information you enter on your email account is correct before sending your first email. 


If you are thinking about adding email marketing for your online store then you absolutely should as it can be a great tool to help you grow your business, generate more sales and make the most of your other marketing activities.

And as mentioned at the start, it is one of the only marketing methods that gives you near full control and access to your target audience but making the most of this method does require some work to not only build your list but also create campaigns that encourage people to come back to your website and potentially place an order. 

But as you have access to the data regarding your email campaigns, you can easily run A/B testing to help you optimize your emails so that they are generating the best ROI that they can. 

Hi, I'm Paul, the Owner and Founder of EcommerceGold.
I ran my own Ecommerce Business for over 7 years and now help others start their own online retail empires!

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