Email is king, if not all most of us will agree to this statement. Apart from being the oldest mediums to reach out to online audiences email better than Facebook & other social networks for engagement. The Radicati Group’s 2017 email research report established that there are currently 2.7 billion email users in the world growing at 3%, bound to grow beyond 3 billion users by 2020.
Email is also a proven medium when it comes to achieving better Return on Investment (ROI). The Direct Marketing Institute (UK) conclude in their 2015 research that the Email ROI for every $1 has gone up from an estimated $34 (2016) to $45 (2017). Putting all other facts aside, a resounding 72% customers responded that they prefer email marketing apart from all other methods in a research conducted by Marketing Sherpa.
In this article we take a look at what email funnels are, how they work, and what best practices allow you to make ideal use of email marketing funnels for eCommerce business.
What is an Email Funnel ?
Just before we jump into the how it works, we look at what an email funnel is. To understand the email funnel, we must understand what a marketing funnel is.
Unbounce defines a marketing funnel as a “… model describing the various stages of a prospect’s journey from the first interaction with your brand to the ultimate goal: conversion. Conversion rate optimization is about moving people through your marketing funnel, turning them from prospects into raving, repeat customers.”
Considering the above an email funnel is a visual representation of how you wish to put email marketing in motion. A marketing funnel incorporates consumer behavior and consumer psychology to attract, prepare, engage, and then recall prospects as loyal buyers.
Paul Ramondo defines email funnels as “…an automated chain of email marketing messages which guide a lead towards a desired action – in a non-invasive way.”
In essence, email marketing paves the path for prospects towards:
- Awareness – Buyers get acquainted with your products & services,
- Consideration – Discover solutions to their issues,
- Conversion – Convert into loyal buyers, and
- Loyalty & Advocacy – Become loyal consumers and brand advocates.
I do want to mention at this point that the email funnel is not the same for every audience or every prospect. This can be demonstrated by a simple example.
AliExpress is an established brand, requires almost no branding for those acquainted with the brand. Shoppers normally signup for an AliExpress account voluntarily on the website. Since these buyers are already in the email funnel routine emails for campaigns, sales, events and special offers will encourage them to return as loyal buyers.
Consider a smaller eCommerce store than AliExpress. A new eStore will need to start from scratch with an email funnel marketing strategy, much like the one indicated by the diagram above.
Best Email Marketing Software & Apps for eCommerce
For those of us new to the concept of email marketing funnels, fret not, there is an abundance of email marketing apps & software to do the job for you. Shopify eStore owners can find a long list of amazing email marketing software, both free & paid, on the app store.
Here are five valuable email marketing apps to consider for automation:
- MailChimp for Shopify
- Easy to use
- Elaborate FAQ & Knowledgebase
- Preset Templates & Customization available
- Free Version available
- Email marketing by Remarkety
- Easy to use
- Diverse features
- Brilliant Online support
- Preset Templates & Customization available
- 14 days free trial, $25 per month
- AWeber Email Marketing Automation
- Email Marketing by OmniSend
- Klaviyo Email marketing for Shopify
The great thing about email marketing automation apps is that you get a brilliant selection of features. These include email scheduling, free email marketing templates, email analytics, data accumulation, pop-up add-ons and much more. Brilliant email funnel apps significantly cut down the time for eStore owners allowing them to concentrate on other aspects of the business.
Stages of the Email Marketing Funnel
According to several digital marketing & eCommerce professionals, there are five unique stages of the email marketing funnel.
The process usually begins by identifying where your buyer lies in the buyers journey. As I mentioned above that a prospect may already be aware of your brand, they may just be looking for an ideal solution for they problem. There can be different sales funnels for different groups of visitors.
Unless you are a billion dollar Fortune 500 Company with a prominent brand name, you will have to take your leads to school. Brand awareness will be the first stage of your email marketing funnel. Emails in this stage of the funnel will educate your prospect buyers informing them about the company in addition to products & services.
Provide your leads (target audience) educational content about your products and how it helps the user. Simultaneously, create rapport with them and try to build a relationship rather than asking them for emails like conventional marketers. This is where you establish your company as an idea leader. Let prospects view your company as a helper not a seller.
A great example of awareness stage marketing content for a health supplement eStore can include creating an eBook for healthy living, a blog on healthy foods etc. It can also include medical research, white papers, professional interviews on health & wellbeing etc.
Once prospects are aware about your company, products & services, and how it helps them this is the stage they prefer your solution to the competition. Potential buyers should be intrigued to learn more about your offering and what additional value you offer them.
The consideration stage allows you to deliver engaging content and events to get the potential buyer to consider your products & services. These include blogs, webinars, Facebook Live sessions, real life case studies, infographics, videos etc. to better understand your products and how they work for you.
It’s great to deliver this content to your prospects routinely and invite them to your website with links in emails. This is also a brilliant stage to identify prospect pain points, layout the benefits of the product & how it helps them, and create the need for your products. A great example for the consideration stage includes a blog on the best health supplements. Store owners can also include a comparison of the best health supplements while including their own products in the mix.
The conversion stage is the time we have educated and nurtured the lead to become a prospect buyer for. If your awareness and consideration stage emails were done right, conversion emails will get the prospect to make a buying decision.
At the conversion stage of the email marketing funnel you create urgency (using apps or conversion techniques) around your products. At the same time it’s finally time to convince your prospect to choose your products over others. A conversion stage email can offer amazing offers like discount coupons, free shipping, BOGO etc.
As you will notice this is not an easy stage to progress through. Conversion requires first that you eliminate all arguments in buyers’ minds, eliminating all barriers to purchase. Second, it is ideal to include Call to Action or “Buy Buttons” in your emails. Third yet most important, the experience the buyer gets on your eStore should be the same as you have given through your emails.
Since the buyer is ready to purchase at this stage, the ideal email to send out can contain a 25% discount, a buy one get one free offer or a trial with money back. A health supplement eStore can use this opportunity to send out deals and trial offers to get going. A thankyou email is also recommended once the customer has purchased, also requesting a review from them.
Ok, the hard part is done and you now have customers purchasing through your eCommerce store. But, keep in mind just how difficult it was to get your lead to convert into a buyers. Keep nurturing the relationship with the buyer, engage them appealing content. You can start with a thank you email once they have made purchases from the store.
Supporting content is the ideal way to proceed in this stage. For instance, if you sell drones make sure you educate buyers through email about safe conditions to use the device, cleaning and maintaining it. This will trigger the simple of human impulses, they will believe that you care.
My conclusion for this stage is that it basically tries to reduce after sales dissonance and bring the customer back to buy again. Always remember that there are a lot of issues in ecommerce, but ensure never attract “buyer’s remorse” in customer reviews.
It is essential to keep connected with the buyer, a great email at the loyalty stage can include a blog educating the buyer about using health supplements properly, on ideal workout routines etc. You can also request the customer to share their feedback on how well the product has worked for them.
The advocacy stage is when your customer evolves from a loyal buyer to a brand ambassador. At this stage your customers will tend to refer your products to friends and family. Do remember that it takes a massive effort to delight the buyer to get them to this stage of the buyer’s journey. Content that deliver in emails, the services you provide and advice you offer must be flawless.
This is the stage where you reward both your advocate and their referred customers. A great way to reward your advocate is by sending them brilliant product catalogs in email that they can share with others.
Another excellent email idea can be sending out referral codes or discounts to your advocate that referral buyers can use. Sellers can go further to reward their advocates by sending them free gifts (t-shirts, bands, caps etc.), sending out free products (e.g. 1 supplement for 20 referrals) etc.
6 Email Funnel Best Practices
Email is the preferred medium to reach your target audiences, customers and leads, yet there are some best practices that must be followed to ensure desirable outcomes. These email marketing best practices are essential if you wish to delight your buyer and convert them into advocates later on in the customer lifecycle.
Here is a list of best practices that I follow myself and eCommerce professionals highly recommend.
Know Your Audience
Who are you creating the email for? You must know who the audience is and which stage of the funnel your audience fall in. Are they looking for a solution, or are they looking for alternatives for their issue? Also consider important demographics like education, age, income etc.
Also segment your list based on what they are interested in, their age, income, region etc. This will allow you to interact with customers better and build trust in their minds & hearts.
Create Your Own Email Lists and Segment Them
Most new eCommerce store owners get this aspect all wrong. Don’t buy email lists, consider accumulating your own through forms, signup popups, Instagram, and Facebook. When you purchase lists of thousands of emails there is no surety that the addresses are even active anymore. This will lead to most of your emails going to a spam/junk folder.
Emails that you have received through your own website or social pages will be more relevant, in addition to being active interested prospects. These leads will also be more interested in your products & services, therefore will provide more value in the long term. There are several apps on Shopify to allow you to capture more emails and get more signups.
Remember to segment your email lists depending on which stage of the email funnel prospects arrived from. For example, if lead come through a blog about healthy living they are still in the awareness stage, compared to a prospect who came through an article review comparing top 5 diet supplements (consideration stage) for muscle gain.
Personalize the Experience
Prospects and customers alike will love to connect with you if emails offer a personalized experience. The simplest trick is to address the prospect by name and talk to them like a human. It is a great idea to analyze which landing page the prospect/customer arrived at, design your email around their needs.
As I mentioned above, it is a great idea to segment your email lists, creating personas for each type of visitor. Evaluate customers & leads based on demographics, interests, purchases. Later on you can use this personal data to offer a delightful experience to customers.
For example, you can send out birthday greetings, wedding anniversary wishes, holiday greetings etc. Using location based and personal information is essential if you wish to convert your buyers into loyal advocates one day.
Show You Care
All successful eCommerce professionals will agree here that it’s better to care and be helpful than start selling from day one. Jim Daly mentions in his GetVero blog the very crucial fact that your audience is already receiving a large number of marketing emails, most going straight to their junk folder.
Instead of sending out spam emails selling products & services, consider providing value to your prospects first. Use your lead magnets to entice leads to read more about your brand and products. Offer free trials, downloads, coupons, beta testing requests, and white papers that address reader issues.
Listen to your prospects and understand their issues. Create lead magnets to educate leads, give them a solution, and make them feel comfortable. If prospects & even your customers see that you simply don’t care (except for selling to them), they will find attention elsewhere.
Remember to Add Your Link
So you’ve crafted the perfect email, now it’s time to see where and in what context to place a link to your ecommerce website. Be careful though you shouldn’t include your link anywhere without building a relationship with the reader.
A reader in the awareness stage will love to know more about benefits of dietary supplements, or some kind of research/white-paper listing all benefits. Such a reader will want to visit your website to know more, so add a button or hyperlink with the text “Learn More”.
Similarly, a prospect in the consideration stage will love to know about product benefits, compare prices and see social proof in the email. Entice this user by offering them a discount, money back guarantee, free trial pack etc. and add a “Try Now” or “Learn More” button to the email.
Optimize Emails & Landing Pages for Mobile
It is essential to optimize your emails and landing pages to fit mobile screens. Ayat Shukairy provides an amazing infographic that visualizes important facts of mobile eCommerce. Mobile users have statistically proven to buy more, and have higher conversion rates. Also, 95% mobile users tend to research brands immediately after receiving relevant emails.
Always make sure your landing page works seamlessly on mobile without malfunctioning elements. Also ensure that your email text, links, pictures, videos, and logos are perfectly aligned to fit mobile & tablet device screens. Consider using responsive email templates and an HTML editor to ensure your email scale by screen size and not pixel size.
Load time is also one of the few reasons that visitors and even buyers leave links. Never use rich media unless it’s absolutely essential for the recipient, use graphics with a smaller size, and avoid loading the email with irrelevant media that will increase load time.
Email Funnel Marketing Templates
It is a great idea to get inspiration from how other eCommerce stores are connecting with their audiences. You can also consider downloading templates especially designed for eCommerce. Here is an interesting list of websites who offer ready to go email marketing templates:
- Mail Bakery (paid)
- Practical Commerce (free samples)
- Theme Forest (paid)
- Opti Monk (paid & free samples)
- Pinpointe (free samples)
See You Again Soon
I hope you have enjoyed this installment of mu email funnels and best practices guide. I will be rolling out updates for this guide soon, so stay connected for more email marketing best practices, templates and interesting facts.
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